Once upon a time, BarryTheWhite (yours truly) fell victim to assault and battery, and in return began a minor gang-war.
That’s right, you read that all correctly; ATTACK, GANG-WAR, VICTIM.
Sounds like a typical news subheading doesn’t it? Well don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, ‘cause I came out of it in the black morally, and financially.
So lets set the scene a bit…
Monday the 10th, the year of our Lord, two-thousand and eighteen…
Deep in the dense jungles of Stranglethorn Vale, just South of the Nesingwary Expedition on the banks of the Nazferiti River.
Teeming with the wild and exotic beasts of the Southern Penninsula of the Eastern Kingdoms, the moist and vibrant landscape I found myself traversing was also a dangerous one. Great Apes, Tigers, Panthers, Raptors, Crocolisks, Crazed Trolls, and Malign Ogres were around every tree, hidden in every bush, and awaited each step on the banks of the great river. Besides these dangers, the entire territory was contested by the two great factions of Azeroth as well as by several smaller factions who had so far laid claim to larger portions of territory in the area.
I was on the hunt for the large cats and raptors in the northern reaches of the Vale, and had so far experienced nothing more outrageous than the occasional unexpected Frenzy Fish when I strayed too close to their secluded spawning pools. Unfortunately, it seems I was fated for more than the simple life of a Hunter, and I was soon to be destined the start of a great war, one which would rage only for a few hours, but which would claim hundreds of lives, and further divide the two great factions of Azeroth for the many years to come.
As I raked through the underbrush of the deep jungles of the northern vale, skinning the pelts off my most recent kill – a young Stranglethorn Tiger –I heard the step of something in the mid-distance ahead and opposite my position some few hundred yards east of the Bal’lal Ruins, in a relatively un-traveled copse of trees. I was not instantly on edge, as over the past hour or more I had seen trace of alliance and horde alike; but this sound, at this time, and the lack of perception I could glean from my mystic tracking talents was all the more concerning. I cautiously, and quickly finished with my kill, and stashed the pelt within my travelers-pack. The fear of death was not what ruled my existence, as the Spirit Healers are quick and judicious in their allowing adventurers’ souls to return to their bodies to live another day; but the quickening of my pulse came none-the-less. Perhaps it is just a holdover from my ancestors’ time of veritable purgatory before arriving in the fertile lands of Azeroth, some genetic link to the primal, bestial nature of the world before the Spirit Healers were so common.
I stood from where I had knelt, and quietly summoned my companion, a once malnourished bear – probably a runt kicked from its mothers den the season before – Fuzen. I had named her for her oddly thick pelt, and she was now a dangerously loyal and vicious companion who had saved my skin more than once over the last few seasons together. She pawed noiselessly over to me, and scented the air; she sensed something was amiss, though she too had difficulty finding the source. I unslung my bow from my shoulder, and knocked an arrow, transitioning my mystic talents to being aware of hidden enemies, and began swiveling my head from side to side. My vision sharpened, my nostrils flared; the world around me became immediate and focused. The hunt was begun.
The brush underfoot crunched, but only barely audibly. I stalked forward placing the outside pad of my foot on the ground first, then rolling in to the ball of my foot, and finally settling back to my heel. Knees loose, back tense – taught and ready to act. Something was definitely wrong; the creatures of the forest were quiet, and the faintest whiff of something acrid seemed to be moving about the area.
Was it some assassin hired by the Venture Logging Company to revenge their losses by my hand?
Some malign spirit come to haunt me from the musty halls of Shadowfang Keep, after I had plundered their halls with some welcome help from the local guild?
Or, as my nervous tension seemed to portent; was it a devious rogue of the Alliance, come to place a dagger in my back, rend my scalp and tusks from my head as a trophy, and steal from me the honor I had built since I became a proud member of the Horde?
Silence was soon replaced by the return of the vale’s usual ambience, and the animals began to return. All seemed to be returned to normal, and after a few seconds more of scanning the area around me, I decided the danger must have passed; whatever it might have been.
Some time later I had finished collecting enough pelts, teeth, and other materials from the wilds to satisfy local merchants, and made my way towards the Nesingwary Expedition camped out on the banks of the Nazferiti. The congregation of tents and hunters was a familiar sight, and welcome after having been on edge guarding myself from the dangers of the territory. My safety was not guaranteed though, and no sooner had I entered the boundary of the camp had I spotted the next source of immense danger.
Just across the clearing, opposite my position, on the Northeast side of the camp, was an Alliance cleric and her companion; a stout looking warrior who sported a large, gleaming sword. The two seemed seasoned, but not overly so; I reckoned them both to be only a few years my senior, and though their language was foreign to my tongue, their words seemed relaxed and peaceful. Perhaps my fears were unfounded, and the two would not break the unspoken rules of the camp and would refrain from violence.
I stepped into the camp, and approached one of the merchants. She greeted me as every other time we had dealt, and I began to off-load a portion of my burdens to her table, a hefty sack of monies forfeited to me as payment. A good haul for the past days work.
It was then I sensed – more than saw – movement behind me in the camp.
I turned to see that the cleric’s elven companion had trotted into the camp, and was now positioned just within charging distance of me. He seemed to have a dangerous look in his eyes, and though he had not drawn his weapon from its scabbard, I could see a tension in his arms and shoulders that seemed a portent of something climactic. My eyes flicked to the Cleric who had slowly made her way to the Northern side of the camp, well behind the warrior, though far from out of range of my bow, or Fuzen’s charge. My eyes returned to the warrior, and I could see a definitive change in his disposition; had he construed my glance at his companion as threatening? I decided I should try to mitigate any issue before it worsened and someone ended up dead.
I smiled as best I could and raised a hand to wave at the elf. The tension in his shoulders seemed to abate slightly as I did so, but his position remained. Beads of sweat ran down both our faces, and Fuzen let out an anxious chuff that sufficed as her version of a dog’s whine. The camps activity was hardly slowed by our instance of frozen time, and I was acutely aware of the danger of remaining any longer in the presence of the two Alliance members. Licking my lips, I again smiled, and straightened up, rolling my shoulders, and stretching a bit from the stiffness of standing so still; the elf flexed his hands, and watched my motion eagerly. Leaning down to again pick up my pack, I tutted to Fuzen, and we both turned away from the warrior, and started away from the center of the camp.
Whistling wind, and incredibly fast foot falls sounded behind me, and before I could even think to turn I knew it was over. Fuzen was quicker to react than I was, but her ferocity could only slow the warriors martial prowess so much. As Fuzen attempted to intercede between my maille’d melee attacker, I attempted to quicken my pace to get away. I chanced to look over my shoulder only in time to see that my flight would be for not; the cleric had joined in the fray and had nearly finished casting some holy spell which I was sure would end my life just as fast as the swing of the warriors blade.
In the next few seconds I was slain, and I found my consciousness and spirit in the presence of the Spirit Healer. She bid me to run quickly to where I had fallen that my spirit might re-enter my corpse, and so I ran toward where my body called to me. The distance wasn’t far, and the speed of my spirit far out-paced that of my mortal form.
I awoke with a start, leaping to my feet as my lungs coughed up their last remaining clot. Alive again, and sore from my murder a short while prior, I sat down on my haunches letting my pulse and breathing slow. I whistled for Fuzen to come to me; I knew she wouldn’t be far from where I had fallen, her training set her to remain close even after such an event. She appeared beside me panting in her usual manner letting me know her relief that I hadn’t been lost forever. My ears rang slightly, trying to catch up to the renewed connection to the world, and my stomach growled signaling a tremendous hunger. My body was beginning to heal, but it would need an influx of energy to do so properly; I reached into my bag reflexively, pulled out some rations and tore into the dried meats like a… well, like a dead man returned alive I suppose.
As I sat, regaining my strength, I let my anger suffuse and breathed as peacefully as I could. The camp was still around me – though now I was on its edge, and I did not see or sense the villains who had released me from my mortal coil a short while ago. After a fashion I again stood, flexing and stretching my reinvigorated limbs, and breathing deeply the thick jungle air tainted by the stench of humanoid settlement. The scent of pitch, fire, sweat, dirt, food-stuffs, ale, gunpowder, wax, and of course, blood filled my sinuses. It felt good to be alive again, and though my death had been brief, I had no desire to quickly return to the greyed void of death.
The camps business seemed unfazed by my encounter, and my return to the fore dealing with the other merchants was uneventful. A short while later my business was done and I set out West along the Nazferiti towards the Vile Reef, of which I would then follow the shore South to the Horde base camp of Grom’Gol. I had business in Booty Bay on the farthest Southern tip of the Strangelthorn Peninsula, and it seemed a far more prudent plan to purchase a taxied flight on the back of a Horde Windrider’s wyvern rather than make the trek wholly on foot. At the very least I would be saving my feet half the journey, and my nerves quite a bit more; the ruins and beasts between Grom’gol and Booty Bay were far more deadly than in the Northern parts of the vale.
I again neared the Bal’lal Ruins, and had wrapped my way along its Southern ridgeline – the beach and ocean waves now fully visible through the thinned forest. The trolls of the ruins kept their distance, and I had been able to shoo away and deter the beasts in my way as I pushed towards the warm sands. But as the sound of the crashing waves grew louder, I became keenly aware of the decided lack of faunal presence. My mystic senses told me that the creatures of the vale had fled, just as before, and the hairs on my back stood at attention. Fuzen had also noticed the change, mane bristling and teeth bared, the memory of her masters defeat perhaps reinforcing her killer intent. I drew my bow from over my shoulder and reached for an arrow in my quiver. And then the world was dark.
I was aware of a dull pain in the back of my head, and a wet feeling on the back of my thigh, but my vision was dark, and my physical senses completely muddled. I knew I had been attacked by a rogue, most likely of the Alliance; no beast could have sprung such an immediate and debilitating assault. As my vision cleared I began to make out the shape of my assailant; a human rogue, obviously of immense capability and years more experience than I. He was clad in rather flamboyant leathers gilded by fur, and he veritably danced in front of me, giggling like a child playing with a toy. My life was most certainly forfeit, but this killer was going to entertain himself with me before sending me on to the Grey World.
I tried to react, but before I could flex my muscles to move my feet from where they had planted themselves I again became dazed by the pommel strike of the wily man who leapt and cartwheeled about me. I was aware of Fuzen roaring and swiping with her powerful claws, attempting to rend the flesh from the mans bones, but he was a nimble and confident opponent, far beyond her capabilities. After a short fashion, he turned on Fuzen and killed her before me. Several deft cuts and precise stabs into her haunches and neck and I heard her fall to the forest floor. I felt a keen rage and despair fill me; I was entirely powerless to repost my enemy, and he was merely playing with my life like a cat with a mouse.
Before long, he tired of his game. The cuts and contusions he had laid upon me were numerous, and I could feel my life force waning, and he too must have felt the time for his game was short. As I again regained my feet and stood as tall as I could with blood pouring from my wounds, and breath coming hard, I saw the fun leave his eyes, and he stepped in between my feet thrusting his dagger deeply into my chest.
For the second time I appeared before the Spirit Healer and again flew to my body through the grey wash of the spirit realm. For the second time I awoke gasping and gagging on the clots in my lungs, cringing and wincing from the soreness of my muscles and wounds. This time though, I would not have the chance to sit down upon my haunches and recuperate.
Ahead of me I could see the silhouette of the man who had slain me. His shadow was only just visible in the foliage some hundred feet or more from me, and though I could not actually see his face, I knew he had a wicked smile upon his lips. His stance and lack of action seemed to call to me telling me in no uncertain terms;
“Run. Run and I will chase you like the feeble prey you are.”
(continued in PART 2 – Gang War On The River)