It’s been a long while since I’ve written any stories about Niqora and since she just had a dramatic turn in her in-character life, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to revisit her again. I’ll let the story speak for itself now.
The air was thick with moisture despite being rather cool, gathering in soft mists in basins and shallow dips in the ground. The clouds may have closed themselves up again but the droplets of rain were still filtering down through the many layers of leaves and branches that composed the canopy. One large drop slipped down a broad waxy leaf and plopped wetly onto a furred black ear. Niqora flicked her ear instinctively, not truly irritated by the dampness.
Moss and a few sprigs of hardy grass softened her hoofsteps rather gracefully, springing back into place as soon as she took her next stride. Here far below the canopy, a soft breeze wound its way between the massive tree trunks and brought with it the scent of damp soil and the fresh rain. Occasionally Blacky would pick up the scent of some beast or another and would wander off with her nose glued to the ground. As soon as she would be about to leave her hunter’s sight, she would conveniently become disinterested and trot back to the Shu’halo’s side.
Niqora’s packs bulged on her back now that they contained the many layers of fur and leather that she had been wearing underneath her armor in Northrend. Feralas was noticeably warmer than the slopes of Icecrown so the hunter had opted to wear a single layer of water-proofed hide under her mail. Her crossbow and halberd were fastened securely to her back as well as evidence that she was not worried about being ambushed in such a place. The creatures here knew well enough to keep a safe distance from the dark-furred pair as they wandered aimlessly among the trees.
The sun was still a couple of hours away from setting when they stumbled across a small stream. Evidently it was usually little more than a trickle but now the rain had fed it and the water gurgled pleasantly as it made its way towards the nearest river.
It was with automatic motions that Niqora gather dry bits of wood, built a fire, cooked a pot full of stew for herself and her beastly companion, and laid out her bedroll. And it was by habit that she kept on her armor as she sat before the small fire, staring into the flames but not truly seeing them. She saw instead her son Tuyok smashing a chair against a stone wall after she told him of Mysthowl’s death. And she saw the bold lines of anger and grief that now formed his back and shoulders as he stormed from the apartment, intent on finding something more useful to unleash his rage upon. She had not followed, for she had recognized the same look in his eyes that she knew was in her own…the need to be alone with only his thoughts, to work his own way through the pain he felt. There were no words she could think of to comfort him either, for she did not take comfort in them herself. And who was she to say she knew what he was going through anyways? She had lost her husband; he had not only spent most of his life in an orphanage, knowing that his family was dead, but now one of only two parents he had ever known was gone as well.
A twig snapping brought her out of her thoughts and caused Blacky to raise her head from where it had been resting on her paws. Both the wolf and the Shu’halo realized who their follower was so Blacky laid her head back down with a sigh while Niqora rekindled the dying fire.
“You look famished,” the hunter said to a hazelnut bush, raising the half-full stew pot to it in offering. Blue flashed over green eyes as a sheepish-looking Saraku pushed his way through the bush and accepted the food with a grateful nod. He settled on the free side of the fire in his plate armor, the three of them forming a triangle with the warm flames at its center.
The dragonling ate the stew in silence as Niqora watched him thoughtfully. His armor appeared as unkempted as her own, making it all the more apparent that he had been trailing her since she had set off from Thunderbluff many days ago. The light of the fire only highlighted the dark circles under his glowing eyes and the deep lines of strain around his usually smiling lips. The Shu’halo only shook her head as she stirred the fire; only Saraku would take her misery so hard.
Blacky’s ears pricked up and her tail thumped against the ground as she sensed the blood elf in diguise had finished eating his fill. He passed the pot to Blacky out of habit more than anything, the wolf happily licking it clean.
The two humanoids did not speak, Niqora because she was not the one to pour out her feelings in such a way, Saraku because he knew her well enough to know that sympathy and pity would ring hollow on her ears. So distant howls of wolves and hooting of gorillas were the only backdrop noises for the soft murmurings of the stream nearby and the snaps of the flames. It was in this silence that Niqora took a little bit of comfort in being with her two closest friends.
Blacky was the first to drift off, sleeping with the half-alertness that only beasts seem capable of. Saraku followed shortly after, curling up on the hard ground without caring to remove his bulky armor first. Niqora only slept in fits where she was sitting, her bedroll laying untouched beside her. Her dreams were dark and empty so it was with many starts that she opened her eyes during the night, relaxing again at the sight of the wolf’s ears twitch in her own dreams and the gentle rising and falling of the netherdrake’s chest.
The sky was just tinged with the pink of dawn’s twilight when the Shu’halo began to quietly clean up the camp. Blacky rose with her, gently bumping her head against Niqora’s hand on occassion and drawing a small smile to the hunter’s lips as she softly petted the wolf’s coal-black fur. Saraku slept through the entire process and Niqora did not mind at all, relieved to see food and sleep had softened his features and returned a little colour to his cheeks.
All her belongings slung onto her back, she looked down at the still ashes left by the fire and unbiddingly was reminded of the small apartment in Dalaran that belonged to Mysthowl and her. How the fireplace must be sitting cold and empty after she had gathered her packs and left shortly after Tuyok had. Blinking rapidly, she forced the thought from her mind and took fierce hold of her need to travel, to wander, to impress self-exile on herself once again.
She couldn’t help but pause and stoop down to lightly brush Saraku’s black hair, fully aware that he would be on her trail again as soon as he woke. She was like his own personal geas, never letting himself rest while she was so restless herself. She closed her eyes briefly and shook her head again as she straightened. Inclining her head slightly towards Blacky, the pair set off as quietly as the breezeless trees around them, leaving the sleeping dragonling to wake with the coming of the dawn.