The shaman wiped the mixture of rusted dust and sweat from her brow. She filled her healing totem from the filthy, swampy river, choked with flesh and weapons. Bodies of dragonkin and Onyxia’s children were already infested with joyous maggots: the living cleaning up the dead, wasting no time, wasting no flesh. The water tasted metallic and sharp, reminding her of the bitter raspberry-colored water around Bloodmyst Isle, infused with bad magic and salts. But it would have to do. The small fissure in her totem leaked almost more water than it held, and stained the infused-light surface with misleading pink streaks: its festive appearance was macabre.
When the first explosions shredded Theramore, Mataoka was on the wrong side of the lines. She was near Dustwallow, near the Orc and Tauren encampments, helping her cousin gather herbs. Why her cousin was there in that too-small naval town was obvious, although incredibly reckless: love for the lieutenant kept her there, against her nature and better sense. Mataoka lost Ceniza, the sounds of the shrapnel and bombs singing a hell’s choir in her head. The ground between them had been ripped, Ceniza on the Alliance lines, and Mataoka on the Horde.
It was not as if Mataoka didn’t know a storm was coming, but lately, her inner instrumentation had been off by huge margins. She had all the instincts but none of the logical guidance to defend herself. The beauty of Theramore was deceiving as well. One could not have asked for a more beautiful morning than this morning.
The fighting drifted closer to Theramore’s port. She was disoriented from the explosions, but heard the distinct sound of canon fire from the ships, and deceptive sounds: some voices that were miles away, carried by the odd acoustics of the sea, went right to her ears, while other sounds closer to her were faint. She barely heard the groan of the young Orc male, but she caught a whiff of his pungent blood.
Filthy, dirty things, Orcs. He smelled. He had soiled himself, and there was another smell, too. His blood reeked like the fel-fields of Outland: sharp, sulfurous, and bitter. Some of the ancient eredar had this smell, too. It was pervasive in the Black Temple. It overpowered the musty grassy smell of Dustwallow, it overpowered the smell of gunpowder and foul breath of screams. It overpowered all, and forever would be in the front of her memories.
He wore a stolen Alliance uniform, though it must not have fooled the humans or Draenei long with his green skin, which was covered in black-red blood soon enough. In Outland, we are all taller. We are all stronger. We are survivors. But in this human place, we are weak. We break. She was not aware of these thoughts; they became a subconscious rhythm, like breathing. We are weak. We break. The human world was always a brittle one at best.
He was crying. His shame was palatable. He knew he was dying, and he was not ready. No one is.
Her robes, woven with the tendons and tiny bones of protective spirit animals, were streaked with shit-brown bloodstains from her own wounds and fear, and it was as if the animals’ blood had found a voice from the grave. “So this is what it’s like to go insane?” she thought to herself, “This is when I don’t come back.”
She did not belong here. She did not belong here. She wanted to go home. She—blood seeping through bandages—she belonged to--the emerald green grass and lavender haze through Azuremyst bachelor pines, so named because the female species’ seeds were always leagues away. The pines were fertilized by the efforts of birds and animal spoor: it had taken generations after the devastation of her ancestors for these trees to grow again in the strange lands. They were just as invasive and unwelcome as her people were, but had found a home in Azuremyst.
But she was a fighter, and she was a healer. What others would consider high treason, she considered her duty. He needed comfort and reassurance. Her healing instincts and sound judgments won out over her fears. She brought him water. She tried to stop the bleeding as best she could. She washed his face, and cradled his head in her lap, all the while him mumbling in Orcish: she managed to understand a few words. Like most dying soldiers, it’s always the same song: Tell her I love her. Tell her I died a hero. Tell her I am sorry. Tell her I will see her on the other side. She didn’t have to speak Orc to know.
His light was nearly extinguished. Mataoka turned when she heard a thundering Tauren triumvirate headed towards them: in the lead was a female Tauren, a druid by her markings and trappings: the two males, warriors, grabbed Mataoka by her arms, dragging her away from the Orc, her hooves finding no purchase in the spongy ground, while the Tauren druid knelt by the Orc to try to save him with green leafy-infused winds and prayers. One warrior held a dagger to her throat, and the other twisted her arms back. They could kill her in a heartbeat, and would be within their rights. War breeds death.
The Orc passed. The Tauren looked at Mataoka, and Mataoka saw her rich, emerald green eyes. Green eyes the color of Azuremyst hills. Green eyes the color of life. With a gentle nod of her head, the warriors released Mataoka, pointing the way back to medics near the Alliance lines in Theramore. But she did not run the instant she was released: she bowed deeply and in humility and respect to the Tauren. The Tauren bowed in return. They knew the language of mothers, of healers, and would care for each other's wounded, the sons and daughters of all. They bowed to one another as shaman and druid, not Tauren and Draenei.
They each walked back to their sides of the rift.
Let the Drummer Kick/Citizen Cope
Writer's Note: This vignette has been kicking around in my head for some time. I had promised Navi a story, and was inspired by her generosity of spirit months ago. I am so honored to know her. I admit that I find it somewhat superficial that 'in game,' we have to take sides. It's not in my nature, nor do I think it's inherently in her nature either. We are real humans navigating a real world, and its dangers and disasters. I believe, as much as I trust anything, that my friendship with Navi supersedes all barriers--I mean think about it!? How cool do I get to have a virtual pen-pal a world away, and still feel connected and befriended?
But--it is a game of war after all. And in war, there are sides. But I know the healers in the world are the ones who mend up the rends, and steer us back to peace and life.
As far as Bear's challenge of being able to self-critic my writing, I think some of the parts that can either be edited, revised, or embellished may include the mention of why Mataoka is there in the first place: seems like a bit of a thin premise to be helping Ceniza. Ceniza was just lonely, the lieutenant being otherwise preoccupied with deserting soldiers and protecting Jaina. Ceniza has her own story to tell, but this was not hers.
And my own litmus test when I'm writing: if I make myself laugh or in this case, cry, I know it's done.