The Tale of Teokiya Talltotem
((Finally got round to writing my druid's backstory. As explanation, Teo was originally a hunter on Defias Brotherhood, but I dropped him as I didn’t like that server.))
The Tale of Teokiya Talltotem
The long grass rustled. The tauren knelt on one knee nearby, hidden partly by a tall tree and watching intently. His right hand lay on the back of a small lioness, crouching ready to pounce. Couched within his left arm was a boomstick, its metal rough and dented yet well-oiled and clean. The rustling in the grass stopped. The tauren tensed. He released his hand from the lioness and she began to creep forward. With a slow deliberate movement, the hunter raised his rifle so that he could sight along the barrel. Suddenly the grass began shaking violently and out burst a giant bird, a plainstrider, pink feathers bristling and gored beak snapping at the air.
“Go!” hissed the tauren. The lioness leapt and grabbed at the running bird’s neck with her jaws and paws, knocking it off balance but not off its feet. The hunter levelled his rifle onto the plainstrider. He held his breath and paused, waiting for a clean shot. He didn’t want to hit his pet, his comrade in the hunt. As the cat wrestled the powerful bird to the ground, the tauren squeezed the trigger. With a fizz and a muffled crack, the flintlock mechanism snapped shut and a plume of smoke shot out from the barrel. An ounce of bronze shot collided with the plainstrider’s skull. The tauren hunter whistled quietly and the lioness backed off from the carcass a few paces.
Shouldering his weapon, he walked over to the dead bird. Quickly, he drew a sharp knife and gutted the animal, throwing its glossy entrails to his pet. She devoured them greedily, purring quietly to herself in satisfaction. When his work was done and his pet sated, the hunter heaved the carcass up onto his broad back and began the slow trudge back to Bloodhoof village.
Teokiya smiled sadly to himself as he stood over the small grave plot, marked with a small standing stone. He remembered their time together in the old days, the good days prior to the collision of the world at large with his homeland and the fall of the World Tree. He sighed and thought back to the day she had died.
Hunting plainstriders brought in good coin, but was little challenge to an experienced pairing like the hunter and his lioness. The real challenge lay in the kodo hunt. Kodo were placid beasts, but fierce when angered. A goring from their nose horn could tear a tauren in half. It was little wonder that the warriors of Thunder Bluff rode them into battle. Over their years together the pair had taken the odd kodo, but today they hunted the fiercest of them all: Koro’chea. Koro’chea roamed the plains and hillocks of eastern Mulgore. Many had tried to take her, but all had failed.
The lioness had her scent and she and her master stalked the mighty beast. Near Red Rocks, they cornered her before a crevasse. The mighty kodo roared with defiance as she found herself trapped between the hunter and a fifty foot drop. She bellowed and trampled the ground. The earth rumbled under her great weight and the hunter felt he might lose his footing. He crouched into a firing position and hissed to his pet to attack. She sprinted in, cutting right then back in to attack the beast’s flank. The hunter fired. He missed. The lioness sprang at Koro’chea but she bounced back off the thick skin, creased and gnarled like an ancient tree.
The hunter cursed as he reloaded, then anger turned to fear. Koro’chea reared up over his pet. He fired wildly at the kodo, but in his panic he had failed to prime his weapon correctly. Too much gunpowder. The barrel split, explosively. Flames, hot metal and cloying smoke hissed forth from the fissures. The hunter’s hands and clothes caught light and he threw himself onto the ground. The kodo’s wide front feet slammed down onto the tauren’s pet with a sickening crunch.
Rolling on the grass, the flames licking around the hunter were smothered. But now Koro’chea turned her attention to him. She charged, snorting, head and horn down low to the earth. The tauren braced himself. The kodo’s grim horn impacted sharply with his body, tossing him into the air. As he passed out, the last thing he saw was the wild eye of the beast staring at him over her foam-flecked mouth. The hunter saw fear in that eye. He knew then that he had done wrong.
“At least she died quickly,” Teokiya Talltotem sighed, “She was a good cat...” A single tear rolled down his wizened old face. In his head, Teokiya pictured his old friend. He muttered a secret word to himself and in a flash he turned into a lion himself, a lion with horns. Over the grave of his lioness, Teokiya let out a pining keening. A cat’s lament for the dead.
The hunter, Teokiya, awoke. He was groggy and felt numbing pain all over himself. He opened his eyes and looked up. He found himself in a hut, which he recognised after a few seconds as his own. The tired tauren tried to get up, but the pain told him not to. He was alive at least though he guessed that his pet, his comrade would not be. The young Talltotem sobbed quietly, his body racking with the effort and igniting in pain. He passed out once more.
Several weeks later, the elders had done their best and patched the tauren up. Yet he was still weak. His old strength did not return with time and Teokiya became one of the faceless ones, those who did not die in battle or the hunt, but who decayed slowly, broken bulls. During the long years of war with the centaur and the dark days of the heroic times, he stayed in Bloodhoof. He saw no action in the wars and spent his time living off the kindness of others, his old family and friends. He faded into a shadow of his former self, little more than a spectre. The years turned his black fur grey. In the battle with Koro’chea he had lost one of his horns, and he would idly finger the stump and think of his lost friend, and ponder the bleak times through which his people now lived.
Teokiya wandered out on the plains of Mulgore. His face was impassive as he thought of those old days of weakness. The strength that now flowed through his body was tempered by a knowledge of how fragile such gifts were, how easy to lose if a hunt went badly. The memory of his old pet now gave him strength where once it had weighed him down. With a faint muttering he turned into a cheetah and sped out across the grasslands, thinking back to how he had rediscovered his steel.
The old tauren sat quietly on the steps outside the great tent in Bloodhoof. He soaked in the sun’s rays and tried to forget the residual aches that constantly nagged at his old body. Then a surprising thing happened. Teokiya saw a walking corpse. A walking corpse wrapped in thick plate armour. A walking corpse riding astride a kodo! He was perturbed, surely such a creature was an abomination of nature? How could it be allowed to ride happily through his village?
Teokiya stared. The undead warrior saw him staring and smiled at him, broadly. The tauren was taken aback, this foul thing seemed friendly, disarmingly so! The undead jumped down off his mount and sauntered over to Teokiya.
“Hello, old man, you look a little upset by my presence?”
Teokiya nodded, suspiciously. The undead smiled again, the toothy grin of a sunny disposition in the torn and rotting face of a monster.
“I’m of the Forsaken, you have nothing to fear from me. Your people and mine are allies. And I am especially friendly to your folk. I’ve travelled the world widely and I can honestly say I’ve never felt more at home than here in Mulgore. But why do you sit there idly? A strapping lad like yourself ought to be out and about, fighting, hunting and living the good life!”
The tauren looked down at his feet. It was true that he was large and once strong, but he was hardly young any more. He sighed. The undead stepped forward and clasped his shoulder. He raised the tauren’s chin with his other hand and looked him squarely in the eyes.
“Find your old strength, Teokiya,” he smiled, “Go speak with the Archdruid in Thunder Bluff. I see a spark of life in you yet and he can help you nurture it.”
Teokiya was perturbed. His mind raced. How did this strange creature, abhorrent to look at and to smell yet so very personable, know his name? What spark did he see in him? The undead smiled again his happy grin.
“Good hunting, friend. We will stand together on the battlefield one day, I am certain of it.”
With that, he remounted on his kodo and galloped off. The tauren hunter pondered their meeting. What did it mean? Should he do as asked? A new resolve began to awaken in him. He would go see Archdruid Runetotem as the friendly abomination had suggested. What harm could there be in it?
Teokiya slowed from his run and padded softly forward. He smelt the air. Kodo. He shifted from cheetah to a bear form, again horned. The bear was immense, shaggy coated and of grim visage. He roared into the wind. Korro’chea was now long dead, but her offspring Arra’chea roamed these plains. Sniffing the breeze, the bear began to stalk his new prey.
Teokiya knelt before the Archdruid. Runetotem leaned forward and smelt the long hair on the back of Teokiya’s neck. Taking him by the arm, he helped the kneeling tauren to stand.
“Yes, yes,” nodded the druid, “I smell something of the wild in your sweat, Teokiya. Nature runs deep in your veins. You have the gift if you wish to seize it.”
The hunter was shocked. Him? A druid? He wondered what it could mean. He had always been close to the Earthmother of course, a hunter must know the heartbeat of that which he stalks, but he had never felt any power beyond that of his own bone and muscle. Teokiya pursed his lips.
“Trust me, Teokiya,” Runetotem emphasised, “We can unlock this strength together if only you trust me.”
The old bull nodded, he wanted his old strength back and he wanted to trust the Archdruid. Runetotem grasped Teokiya by the shoulders and leant his forehead against that of his new pupil. Teokiya felt a spark in his heart, then a rushing in his mind. A roaring. Claws. Fangs. Horns. Blood. Then darkness. In the darkness there was a purring, and out of the depths stalked a lioness. His lioness! Teokiya called a greeting, but it came out in a roar. The lioness roared back. Then a third presence, the lion Runetotem was there too. He roared with Teokiya and the lioness. The pupil looked down at himself and saw that he too was a lion. Together the three big cats roared then ran towards one another. They collided, merged, blood and sinew, bone and claw. The former hunter’s mind flashed white, blank. He passed out.
He awoke. He felt a throbbing. His pulse. He listened. He could hear the hairs rustle on his pelt. He sniffed the air and caught a thousand aromas. Baked plainstrider. Kodo dung. The fresh smell of a new born tauren. Teokiya opened his eyes and looked down at his grey fur. It bristled. His heart beat strongly, his aches lessened. He smiled.
“Excellent, apprentice,” grinned Runetotem, “This is your first step. You will find great strength in time Teokiya. Do not return to your former self. Stay strong. For your tribe. For your people. Strive to maintain nature’s balance. For the Earthmother.”
Teokiya stood up and nodded. “I will, Archdruid, thank you.”
Arra’chea burst out of the small copse. He charged towards the bear, bellowing loudly. The ground rumbled ominously. Teokiya stood firm and roared. The kodo veered right. Teokiya watched, then leapt. He caught the dwarf hunter’s head firmly in his jaws and tore off his bearded face. It gurgled and died. The bear tossed the corpse to one side. Arra’chea stopped and turned. The great kodo’s panic subsided. His deep call resonated through the ground. The tauren returned to his own form and saluted the mighty beast. The greatest of kodos would continue to tread the plains of Mulgore. Nature’s balance was in order. Teokiya smiled and fingered the stump of his horn, “Thank you lioness.”
((I like it!))