These stories are about Steadfast, my Tauren Hunter. He was the first Horde character I created on The Sha’tar PvE Roleplaying server. I had applied to join the Bloodhoof Militia and as was usual on Roleplaying servers they asked new members to write a short story to explain the background of their character.
“Hunter of Mulgore” is intended to be read first with “Wolf in the Fold” taking place immediately afterwards.
PART 1 : Hunter of Mulgore
STEADFAST, HUNTER OF MULGORE
===“Mist swirling around their legs, they stealthily
moved towards the higher meadows where the
livestock of the Clan grazed. Unseen eyes
watched them go...”
It had been a harsh winter in the lands around Mulgore and this drove the Prairie Wolves closer to the Tauren settlements. The thoughtless and unrestricted hunting by the Venture Company Explorers further deprived the wolves of their natural food. This caused the wolves to be bolder than usual. One pack in particular, lead by a cunning and brave wolf the local Hunters had named “Whitepaw”, kept straying uncomfortably close to Bloodhoof Village.
While normally sympathetic to the plight of the natural carnivores in Mulgore, this particular pack was disrupting the Spring Planting ceremonies so the Elders began to discuss what to do about the problem. In a close community these discussions were of course overheard by the young Tauren of the village. Those near adulthood talked of defeating a wolf and bringing the hide back to show they were worthy of taking part in the rituals which would mark them as full adults. Every young Tauren wanted to take part in the ceremonies in the spring so that they would have all summer to hunt and show their prowess. The thought of having to wait another six months till the autumn ceremony then sitting through a long winter indoors was particularly galling. The wolf-pack occupied their thoughts... to the exclusion of common sense.
Early one dawn, just as the first glimmers of morning light were paling the stars in the eastern sky, a group of five young Tauren slipped out into the mists around the village. They were clad in whatever leathers they could scrounge and any weapons they could take without arousing suspicion. A couple had spears. Two nervously clutched old rifles. They all had an axe or knife apiece. Mist swirling around their legs, they stealthily moved towards the higher meadows where the livestock of the Clan grazed. Unseen eyes watched them go...
Slipping the leather loop back over the fence posts, one of the Tauren hauled the gate to the meadow closed. Here among the sparse trees, the mist was particularly thick. One or two indistinct shapes could be seen moving through the deep haze and instinctively the Tauren drew together. Now this didn’t seem like such a good idea after all but due to their age, each didn’t want to be the first to suggest this to the others.
Ears and eyes straining, the group searched the mists for any clues as to the whereabouts of their chosen prey. One of the Tauren with a rifle sniffed deeply and muttered a single word... Wolf!
Almost as if this had been the signal the hidden wolves had been waiting for, there was a short bark and the mist all around them erupted as shaggy grey bodies hurled themselves at the unprepared Tauren. They were surrounded! Trapped!
The retort of the gunshot rolled around the hills, causing sleeping birds to take to the air in panic. The Tauren who had scented the wolves had fired and his aim was true. While it may only have been an old blunderbuss, at close quarters it was deadly. One wolf was blasted from the air in mid-leap but the others threw themselves upon the group of young inexperienced hunters... who panicked!
The other Tauren with a rifle tried to shoot but in the damp air the gun misfired and missed its target. At this setback, four of the Tauren fled back into the deep mist towards the meadow gate, yelling for their companion to follow them. Whether he heard them and was unable to comply or just chose to ignore them, he did not follow.
The wolves let the fleeing Tauren go - they had their quarry now...
As any Hunter with experience of wolves will tell you, a single wolf will not get in the way of a charging Tauren - they are not stupid. Anything but, in fact. They will work as a group to bring down a victim who may weigh as much as eight times as they do. They will encircle their target and take turns to dart in and bite or nip, then retreat and rest. All the while, their target tires and weakens. Only when their target truly knows they are defeated will the entire pack charge. They wait... and they work together...
The single Tauren swept his massive horns around in a wide arc and quickly scrambled to get his back to a tree. This was not unexpected to the wolves - they fanned out and kept out of range but every time the Tauren tried to break free from the circle a fang-filled jaw would greet him and those behind would dart forwards for a nip at his legs and tail. Tossing aside the now useless gun, the Tauren hefted his axe in sweating hands and tried to find the pack’s leader. This might be his one chance - find the leader...
One of the other things any grizzled old Hunter will tell to a crowd of attentive youngsters is that all wolf packs have a leader - defeat the leader and you defeat the pack. Wolves are brave, yes, but they recognise bravery in others. The key to defeating a wolf is not to show your fear. Be confident. Be bold and strong.
The mist parted as a single wolf padded forward to take his place in the circle. He was slightly larger than the others and the steam rising from his flanks carried his scent through the chilly air. He also had one white paw!
The young Tauren’s eyes narrowed and he turned swiftly to face this new opponent. Dropping his tiny axe, he crouched into a fighting stance. This brought his horns down closer to the level of the wolf. Relying on the tree to cover his back and knowing that even wolf teeth would do very little to the thick hide over the hairy hump between his shoulders, he flexed his fingers and waited, staring Whitepaw in the eye. He waited...
When Whitepaw dropped his rear haunches to pounce, the Tauren sprang first. That had been what he was waiting for. The other wolves would not interfere with anyone fighting their leader. If the leader won, they would all feast. If the leader lost, they would flee and elect a new leader. The enormous bulk of the young Tauren slammed into Whitepaw, flattening him to the ground and squeezing the breath from his body. Together, Tauren and wolf rolled over and over, a snarling mass of claws, teeth and horns flinging leaves and dirt into the air as each sought an advantage over the other. The Tauren realised that while he may have had bulk on his side, Whitepaw was experienced at this kind of fighting and sooner or later, experience would tell, so he had to be quick. The Earth Mother had given the Tauren their mighty horns but She had also given them a good set of teeth. Sinking his face into the mane of coarse fur on the back of Whitepaw’s neck, the Tauren bit deep and hard.
Whitepaw barked and howled in pain. Eyes wide with fear and humiliation he tried to break free from the crushing weight of the Tauren but he could not. His rear legs were pinned and the more he struggled, the less he could breathe. Yelping, he rolled his eyes and met the steady gaze of the Tauren inches from his own. Spitting wolf fur and blood from his mouth, the Tauren released Whitepaw, rolled to the side and sprung unsteadily to his feet, hand closing on the the hilt of his discarded axe. Seeing nothing but death in the Tauren’s eyes, Whitepaw struggled to stand but collapsed into the mud several times before he could regain his footing.
The Tauren glanced once at the axe then turned to face Whitepaw. Reaching a decision, he raised his free arm towards the hills and grunted hoarsely... “Go!”. When Whitepaw only responded with a whimper, he raised his arm again, stamped a muddy hoof and again growled, eyes blazing... “Go!”. At that command, the entire wolf pack melted away into the lifting mists, Whitepaw limping behind them.
His sides heaving as he gasped for breath, the Tauren turned to try to find his missing gun... and saw the three figures in the mist about fifty yards away. Two of the adult Tauren Hunters were kneeling in the mists, rifles aimed. The young Tauren recognised one of them as Yaw Sharpmane, the Hunter Trainer from Bloodhoof Village who had so often told him tall tales of hunting wolves. The third figure was Seer Greytongue, one of the most respected Seers in all Mulgore. At a signal from the Seer, the two Hunters lowered their rifles and stood. Head bowed, the young Tauren approached the group and knelt at the Seer’s feet, his sides still heaving from his exertions.
“Stand, youngster.” the calm voice commanded. “What is your name?”
“I am... my birth name is Kodoto Longhorn, Revered One.”
“You are far from home for a Longhorn calf, boy. Stand so I may see you...” the Seer demanded.
Head still hung in fear of imagined anger, the youngster stood. Despite his youth, he easily matched the seer’s height. With his eyes wide, he glanced at the two Hunters, trying to read from their posture how much trouble he was in, but Yaw Sharpmane was grinning! Confused, the Tauren met the Seer’s gaze.
“You are a foolish youth, yes... but brave too! You, alone of five, stood fast against your foes. You, alone of five, listened to the advice of your Elders... well, most of it anyway! You are lucky, yes. You are brave, yes. It is long past time you were sent for Training.”
With a glance at Yaw Sharpmane who nodded affirmation, the Seer continued...
“As soon as your... friends... returned to the Village, we came to look for you. If you were still fighting the wolves, we would have tried to shoot them and spare you if we could. Better a bullet than being torn apart by a pack of wolves! That is a painful death! Instead, you survived. And more importantly, though you were strong, you showed mercy too. You understood the teachings of the Earth Mother. You knew in your heart that your foe, although beaten, was one of Her creatures and you spared him.”
“You stood fast. You fought bravely and with cunning. In this place I say your Given Name shall be... Steadfast, Hunter of Mulgore.”
The young Tauren bowed deeply and knelt again before the Seer who spoke once more.
“Hunter Sharpmane here orders that you present yourself to Red Cloud Mesa tomorrow to begin your training. In the meantime, return home and find someone to tend your injuries. That is an order... Hunter Steadfast!”