Alone (Linedan RP circa 2005)
This is a story that I wrote in August of 2005, back when Linedan had not quite reached level 60 yet and was still struggling along as an arms warrior. I had originally given him the last name “Granitehoof,” because the original Linedan, my warrior in Everquest, had taken the last name “Granite.” And, y’know, Lin’s a Tauren, so, yeah, “Granite…hoof.” Get it?
Yeah, I hated it too after a while. So I decided to ditch the last name…and this story was what I came up with to do it. The story of the “curse” and the slow decline of the Granitehoof clan had been part of Lin’s background since I created him, this was just the culmination of it. To this day, four years later, Linedan has no last name. I wanted to get Exalted with all of the other Horde factions before getting it with Thunder Bluff, but things didn’t work out that way; nevertheless, Lin doesn’t use his “of Thunder Bluff” title and I pretend like it doesn’t exist. He is, in my mind, still “one-named,” somewhat dishonored before Tauren society, and will remain so until something happens that would allow him to join another clan, or even (should he marry) found one.
I put the story below a cut because it’s long, about 2600 words. So without any further exposition, here it is…”Alone.” I hope you like it.
“Hey. Hey! Hey, cow!” A hand, poking him in the shoulder again and again, stirred him from sleep. Linedan grumbled and rolled over awkwardly in the hammock, looking into the face of a goblin.
“Oh, good, you’re alive,” it squeaked sarcastically. “You Linedan Granitehoof?”
“Mmmfyes,” he sleepily replied, rubbing his face to try and wake up. When he dropped his hand, the goblin abruptly thrust a parchment into it, sealed with the seal of the goblins’ post service. “This is for you.” The goblin innkeeper walked off without another word, yelling to one of his underlings to clean up the mess left by a drunk dwarf in the opposite corner.
Blinking, Linedan unfolded the parchment and read the Taurahe runes within:
I wish this found you in better times, young one. Your mother Mautha has taken gravely ill and the healers are unable to aid her. Her mindsickness has gotten much worse, she no longer recognizes me or my grandmother most of the time. She cannot tend for herself, so I have placed her in my tent. Return to Camp Narache soonest, for I fear she may leave us soon.
May the Earthmother guide you and your mother in this difficult time.
He sighed and closed his eyes. You knew this day would come, but that makes it no easier… He slowly and stiffly got up from the hammock, blinking again in the glare coming through the door from the bright Tanaris sun, still bruised from hunting the Un’Goro gorillas the day before. “Innkeep,” he rumbled. At the goblin’s curious glare, he tossed a couple of silver coins at him. “I’m leaving. See to it that my kodo has been fed and watered.”
The goblin greedily snapped up the coin, turned, and laid shoe-leather to the backside of a smaller goblin near him. “You heard the cow…uh, Tauren. Get his lizard, now!”
He began shrugging on his armor as quickly as he could as the goblin headed off to get Chekata. Earthmother, he prayed silently, if it be your will, let her not pass through to the spirit world before I can see her one more time…
Mulgore was abloom with the flowers of spring, alternately warmed by the bright sunshine and watered by mild rains, abuzz with life. Any who traveled its plains could understand why the Tauren considered themselves chosen of the Earthmother, that she would grant them this place to be their home.
Chekata pounded down the road from Thunder Bluff at a ground-shaking trot, moving fast without urging from Linedan. The kodo knew where they were going, and could find his own way, allowing Linedan’s mind to drift.
The curse. The curse had been a part of his life growing up. It had, if one believed such things, reduced his clan, the Granitehoof, from one of the greatest of the Mulgore Tauren, to one of the least. It had taken his older brother, and his father, and his father before him, and uncle…back ten generations, to a time when a proud, haughty clan chief named Gralia Granitehoof had–supposedly–delivered a mortal insult to the honor of a great Tauren elder crone. What this insult was varied depending on the storyteller. Some said that Gralia spurned the crone’s advances; others said that he had dallied with her and then rejected her; still others said he had laughed at her ugliness; and others still said he cursed the Earthmother in front of her. Some even maintained that he had done nothing to her and had been cursed unjustly…this version was, of course, most often told by a Granitehoof, and few others believed it.
Whatever caused it, the curse itself was a part of local Tauren lore. Most retellings agreed that before an assembly of all the clans, this unnamed crone stood and cursed the entire Granitehoof clan, that their cows would be barren, their bullfolk die, their hunts failures, and their clan name erased from the Tauren in the span of ten generations.
And indeed, her curse had slowly, through the intervening generations, come true. Gralia himself was the first to feel it, dying in battle with the Kolkar scarcely a season later. Slowly, slowly, through the years, the once-large Granitehoof clan began to shrink. Young males died in battle, in accidents, in duels, in feuds, on hunts. Their females had fewer, or even no, younglings to replace them. Other clans would not give their daughters in marriage to Granitehoof males. Their fortunes fell, and fell again.
Linedan’s mother Muatha was of the tenth generation since the curse. Her husband, Linedan’s father, Ayapatha, died when Linedan was but six–and in the most ignominious fashion possible, clawed and pecked to death by plainstriders, of all the cursed things.
And then there was Inchafa. Inchafa, Linedan’s older brother, the first of the eleventh generation of Granitehoofs since that fateful night, the first born outside the curse. The personification of the great hope that one day, the name “Granitehoof” would be spoken with respect among the Tauren, and not, as now, with derision. He was the firstborn, the elder, the chosen by his mother; a gifted student of the spirits, impressing the elders of the village, it was assumed that one day he would be a mighty shaman, as Gralia had once been. Mautha doted on him, and Linedan worshipped him. This, truly, everyone thought, was the ending of the Granitehoof curse.
Until the day they found him at the bottom of Red Cloud Mesa, dead, his body twisted and broken by the fall.
Mautha was devastated, and so was Linedan.
No one ever knew what happened. The spirits remained silent despite the pleas and divination of the shamans. There were whispers, and more than whispers, that a rival–perhaps even Linedan, as a jealous younger brother—had arranged for his demise. Linedan still remembered the first time someone had ever said that to his face, in the sparring circle. He also remembered how six Tauren had to pull him away to keep him from killing the calf that said it.
From that day forward, Linedan pushed himself harder and harder. He knew it now fell to him, the last of the Granitehoof aside from his mother, to be the one to break the curse and rebuild his family. But his mother, while caring for him and loving him, never believed in him. He knew that. She tolerated his warrior training, never encouraging it…or him. Her hope had died at the bottom of Red Cloud Mesa, and no successes, no triumphs, no glory that Linedan Granitehoof had been able to gain in his time in Azeroth, had resurrected it.
Chekata climbed the hill to the mesa, still pounding up the road at his steady pace. Linedan’s palms were sweating, his muscles tense, his stomach knotted. He had polished his armor for the occasion, spent a few precious minutes in Thunder Bluff at the forge and anvil to hammer out the dents, oil the joints, arrange everything just so. His shovel remained tied to Chekata; over his back he wore the massive bulk of Blanchard’s Stout, with a great dark-red hammer hanging from one hip. He looked the part of the mighty Tauren warrior, the fearsome, unstoppable, armored death machine of legend, the boogeyman that human mothers had used to frighten their children into obedience during the Second War.
She has to see now, he thought. She has to finally see what I’ve done.
Chief Hawkwind brushed aside the tent flap and allowed Linedan to enter. “Thank you, Chief, for your kindness,” Linedan whispered as he stooped inside.
“It is nothing, for your family,” he replied. Linedan felt a brief flare of anger, the same anger he felt whenever someone would patronize him as a child, would show pity instead of friendship. He quashed the anger…He’s helping your mother, fool. How dare you give offense.
The tent was dimly lit by a fire in the center, and one dim magical lightstone. In one corner knelt Chief Hawkwind’s grandmother, and beside her, on a pile of furs and skins, lay Mautha Granitehoof.
Linedan couldn’t help but gasp. She had always been small and slight for her race, but now…age had shrunk his mother even further. Her ribs showed through, her skin hanging between them. Her face was lined, her snout gray, most of her mane fallen out. She looked far, far older than she was.
He licked his lips, steeled himself, and cleared his throat. “Mother.”
The shape on the furs stirred, opened her eyes, looked toward and through the source of the sound, spoke with a creaking voice that sounded like the reopening of a door long-closed. “Inchafa? My son?”
Linedan bent. No blow with a hammer could have struck him harder. Chief Hawkwind put a hand on his shoulder, seeing the flinch, and said gently, “It is her mindsickness, young one. She does not recognize me most of the time, rarely knows where she is. She calls for your brother and father often.” Hawkwind stopped, and a question, unasked and unanswered, hung in the air between the two of them…But does she ever call for me?
“No, mother,” Linedan said quietly. “It’s me, Linedan.”
“Linedan,” she sighed, turning the syllables over as if she could not place what they meant. “Yes…son. You are…here?”
“Yes, mother,” he replied, moving to kneel near her. She raised her head slightly, and Linedan saw her eyes…cloudy, dim, lucidity flickering in and out of them like a dying fire. She sees the spirit world more than she sees this one now, he thought.
“My…son,” she croaked, and reached out a hand to touch him as if trying to prove that he was not a spirit, that he was in fact real. Her hand moved from his face, down the front of his breastplate, nails grating on the polished metal. “You…it has been a long time.”
“Yes, mother, it has. As soon as the Chief sent word, I came as quickly as I could.”
“Hmm. Are you…are you still…where have you been, my son?”
“Fighting, mother. Many different places, many different things.”
“Fight…no. Son. Incha…Linedan, you know I am going to be with our ancestors soon.”
“Yes, mother.” It’s true, why was that so damned hard to say?
“And you…Inchafa was the first, but now you are too, not under the curse any more, I think.”
“I…my son, you must return to Mulgore.”
The statement caught him unaware, and he just sat there, open-mouthed.
“You…you must return here, to Mulgore, you must give up this wandering you…do.” A rattling cough. “Consorting with orcs, with those blue-skinned things, those foul undead…no. You must return here, and live, and rebuild our clan.” Her voice was stronger now, and her last statement had a finality to it.
“Mother, I…I cannot. There is…”
“You cannot? Or you will not?” There was an edge there now, steel underneath the dry bones of her age.
“I cannot, I…”
“You refuse me?”
He knelt back, stunned. This was not how this was supposed to be… “Mother, I…”
“Linedan Granitehoof, do you refuse me?” Her manner shifted…the words she spoke were formal, a form of Taurahe normally used only in assemblies. And she never used his full name.
An uncomfortable silence hung in the tent for heartbeat upon heartbeat.
I’ve never refused her before…but my destiny is not here, it could not be here, I haven’t bled so much, sweated so much, gone so far, to spend my life on a hill overlooking Bloodhoof hunting kodo…
He straightened his back. “I cannot come back to Mulgore, not yet. If you insist upon me saying it, then I will. Yes, Mother. Ancestors forgive me, and I am sorry, but I must refuse you.”
She stared deep into Linedan’s eyes for an eternity. The fire in those eyes burned brighter, perhaps for the last time, chasing away the cloudiness, but it burned not quite under control…a fire stoked by madness as much as consciousness. Then she flicked away to look over his shoulder.
“Hawk…wind. You are here?”
“I am here, Muatha.” His voice came from the back of the tent, quiet, grave.
“You are witness to what…I am about to do.”
“Silence.” The word was barely audible, croaked, but it had the command power of a word from Thrall himself. It held Linedan captive, frozen, as he watched his childhood world fall apart around him.
She raised her head a handspan from the pillow, tried to raise both hands but only succeeded in raising one barely a fingerswidth. “Before the spirits of my ancestors, before the Chief of my village, before the Earthmother who gives all life, I declare that Linedan, son of Ayapatha, son of Tayadel, called Granitehoof, is fayada before me. Never again shall he be called Granitehoof, never again shall he be called my son, blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh.”
“Mother.” The word came out as a sob.
She ignored him and continued. “Let the spirits curse him who is fayada who would call himself my son, my clan. Let his ancestors withdraw their wisdom, let his bow break and his blade dull, let the Earthmother withhold the sun and the rain and the moon from him, let him become as the dust, never to return.”
Her head collapsed back on the pillow. Sweat sheened her face as she turned to look at him. “You have completed the curse, Linedan. The Granitehoofs shall die with me.”
He frantically turned and looked at Hawkwind. “Chief…”
Hawkwind shook his head. “I am sorry, Linedan. She is the oldest of the clan. She has that right, to declare you of the Disowned. There is nothing I can do. If we hear of you calling yourself Granitehoof, you know the penalty is death.”
Linedan sagged under the weight of the words. Fayada. Disowned. Dishonored. Literally, translating from Taurahe to Orcish, “one-named.” Unable to use his clan name, or indeed, any clan name, unless the shamans and elders agreed for him to found a new one.
He turned back to his mother, flat on the furs again. The fire in her eyes had gone out, the act of pronouncing the disownment draining it. “Mother…”
“Go. I know you not.”
No rogue could have struck to his heart more efficiently, no frostbolt could have made him feel colder. All he could do was rise to his feet, brush past the Chief, and leave the tent.
She died that night. The next day, the Tauren held the funeral procession for her, down the hill to the circle at Bloodhoof Village, where her wrapped body would be exposed on the platforms to be taken by the swoops and the vultures, the scavengers, picked down to the bones, and thus returned to the Earthmother who bore her.
As Disowned, Linedan was not even allowed in the procession, not allowed to be the one who called her name to the sky, who beseeched the spirits to guide her to the other side, the spirit world. He had to stand, far off to the side. By then, every Tauren in the villages knew what had happened–news traveled fast. Many eyes were upon him, with a mixture of pity, contempt, derision, sympathy.
Soon, the ceremony was over, and the crowd dispersed. After all the others left, he walked to the bier, to the platform where her body lay, the vultures already circling overhead. He looked up at the wrapped form of his mother, the last of the Granitehoofs, and spoke.
“You have made me Disowned, One-Named, and that was your right, Mother. I never could live up to what you wanted Inchafa to be. But I swear, before the Earthmother and all the spirits here, Mother, though you disown me, I will not disown you. I will not forget who I am. And if my name no longer is Granitehoof, then so be it. I will find another name, another clan. And I will honor you. Whether you like it or not.”
He turned on his heel and walked away, toward the center of Bloodhoof Village, where Chekata waited for him.
Behind, the first vulture settled to its meal.