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RiktheRed21

((WR - August)) Responsibility

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A warm wind whipped the field of sunflowers into a frenzy as Nagoda tried to pick them. He clamped down the stack in his basket before they could take flight. Time was running short; he could not afford to waste time losing what he’d already gathered.

The young Tauren carefully picked a flower from the tough earth and gasped as a ladybug flittered up from the pedals and landed on his snout. He giggled as the bug tickled his skin. Gently, he offered his finger for the bug to crawl on and watched it skitter about his palm exploratorily.

“Nagoda!” a woman’s voice called.

The boy started, spooking the bug into flying off. Nagoda sighed, wishing not for the first time that he could fly away, too. He stood and gathered his basket. “Coming, mother!” he called back, running to where her voice had come.

He was breathing hard by the time he skidded to a stop by his mother’s side. His head came up to her thigh – he had never been a particularly tall child – and he squinted against the sun as he looked up at her. “Did you get all the flowers you needed, Little Goda?”

The boy nodded and showed her his full basket. “I picked the best ones I could find! Auntie Mayha will love her wreath, won’t she?”

Mother mussed his hair, smirking. “Of course she will, Goda. But just in case, we’ll be sure to weave in some extra love as we work.”

Nagoda smiled and followed as Mother walked back to the village. The double-row of tents had been set weeks in advance to give the women of both families plenty of time to decorate and plan the arrangements. And yet, the place was still in a mad rush now that the day of the wedding had come. Nagoda didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but he took his duties as part of the procession seriously.

He smiled as his mother’s sisters hung wreathes of multi-colored flowers from the tents on the Goldenfield side of the village. He and his mother had spent the last few weeks roaming Mulgore’s flowery spring fields to prepare their decorations. His back still felt sore from all the bending over he’d done.

Mother stopped before a lavish zhevra-skin tent and patted Nagoda’s shoulder. “You know the rules, Little Goda.”

Nagoda nodded and replied, “No boys get to see the bride until the ceremony.”

Mother smiled and poked his stubby horns. “Run along and see if your father or uncles need any help.”

“You’ll tell Auntie that I picked out the sunflowers, right?”

“Of course I will.”

He grinned, satisfied. He ran off, carefully avoiding bumping into the mass of tauren milling about. He straightened the collar of his ceremonial vestments as he trotted along the kodo-trampled dirt path that led to the upraised platform where the bride and groom would speak their vows before a Speaker.

His uncle’s tent – a reflection of the bride-tent but in shadowcat skin, black with grey stripes – stood taller than all others in the village, and nearest to the dais. Nagoda rushed to it, only to be stopped by his uncle Cassowary.

The gruff brave was painted in yellows and whites, the colors of their family. He carried no weapon, though it made little difference. He, like all braves, was built so strongly that nothing could stand against his charge. Of Nagoda’s paternal uncles, Cassowary was by far the largest, and the quietest.

“Hello Uncle,” Nagoda said. “Mother sent me to help, if I’m needed.”

Cassowary grunted. “Go in, calf.” Nagoda did just that.

Inside the tent smelled of paint and firewater. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the gloom, but he heard his uncle laughing easily enough. The man’s voice boomed like a wardrum, especially indoors. Nagoda stepped closer as he and Nagoda’s father talked, not noticing the boy just yet.

“Oh, brother, tell me you didn’t say that!” Uncle Kimba wheezed between laughs.

Nagoda’s father Kord stood tall and resolute as an old oak, his smile warmer than the sun and just as distant. His golden-brown fur looked brighter than ever as he stood beside his midnight-black brother Kimba. Kord replied, “I did, much to my embarrassment. I thought it was rather impressive at the time.”

Kimba was having trouble catching his breath due to laughter. “Who in their right mind calls his enemy ‘ruffians’ when demanding surrender? Next you’ll tell me you captured a ship full of pirates and called them all bilge-rats and scallywags!”

Kord chuckled while his younger brother guffawed drunkenly. Nagoda saw his father laughing and joined in, not quite certain of what was funny about it. His father caught notice and turned to look at him. “Ah,” he said, “Hello, son. I trust you finished that task your mother had for you?”

Nagoda nodded enthusiastically. “Auntie is going to look amazing with all those sunflowers!”

Uncle Kimba snorted. “Oh yes, and them picked for her by a little fawn on her wedding day. Just like a fairy-tale, wouldn’t you say, kid?”

Nagoda frowned, his ears wilting abashedly. Kord eyed Kimba sternly. “Don’t upset the boy, brother. He helps his mother. Should he be ashamed of that?”

“At his age, we did a lot more than pick flowers, Kord. I don’t know why you don’t put a spear in the boy’s hands and take him hunting before you—”

“Enough,” Kord said. He did not shout, but his firm tone was enough to choke the words from Kimba’s mouth. Father stroked his braided beard for a moment before breaking the silence, “The ceremony will not start for some time yet. Nagoda, do you think your uncle has the right idea? Shall we go out to hunt for the afternoon?”

Nagoda felt his stomach churn at the thought. A hunt? The boy had never killed anything before, not even the smallest of ants. He was hopeless with a bow or a spear. And yet he was his father’s only son; the reputation of their family rested on him. He had to do this.

The boy nodded. “Yes! Let’s do it!”

Kimba grinned. “Finally, something enjoyable amidst the hassle of marriage.” He set down his clay cup of firewater and walked past Nagoda, patting the boy’s round cheek with a hard hand. “C’mon, squirt. We’ll find a weapon suitable for your level of experience.”

---

Half an hour later, they stalked through the tall grass west of the village, listening to the wind, the chirps of birds, and the steady hum of crickets and cicadas. Nagoda focused all his efforts on not tripping over the long spear his father had chosen for him. The two adults carried bows as well as hunting spears. Uncle Kimba had had a mind to shoot some quail or duck if they came across any by the water. By the steadily approaching sound of croaking, Nagoda guessed they were nearing their destination.

Kord looked back at Nagoda as they walked. “How’s your grip, son?” he asked, watching the boy’s hands. “Attaboy. Just like your dad showed you.”

Nagoda beamed at the encouragement. Curiously, he asked, “When did your dad first take you hunting, Father?”

Kimba glanced over his shoulder and answered, “I was maybe four or five, so your daddy would have been six, maybe seven. We valued going out and taking what we needed back then. Not like now.” He grumbled something about the Horde and ‘kids these days,’ which made Nagoda feel small and hopeless.

Father harrumphed. “You undervalue the prosperity Thunder Bluff and the Horde have brought us, Kimba. Before the Horde, we had one path: survival. Now we have the power to choose a new path.”

“Like learning about our history!” Nagoda chimed in. The lorespeakers in Thunder Bluff had always held great interest for the boy. Sometimes he would buy bits of paper and ink to write out stories of his own or draw the heroes his teachers told him about.

Kimba scoffed. “History. What you should learn from history is that you have to be ready for when the wolves are poised to pounce. You must be strong enough to fight a threat you didn’t even know was there. Our people took a heavy blow from the Burning Legion, but we survived because it’s what we knew best. You think when your boy’s generation takes over for us that they’ll be prepared to do the same?”

Nagoda looked to his father. The golden brave got his usual far-off look that always came on him when he considered the future. “Yes,” he answered, “I do.”

Kimba sighed. “Well, I’ve followed you this far. I guess I won’t give up on you now, brother.”

---

A few hours later, the sun neared the horizon, casting long shadows and a bloodred light across the field of Mulgore. Nagoda stood beside his father, adjusting his vestments again as the other guests shuffle to their positions on either side of the village walkway. Uncle Kimba knelt before the Earthspeaker – an elderly man in elaborate feathered robes – and awaited the beginning of the ceremony.

Nagoda looked up to his father. “Did you mean what you said to Uncle, Father? Do you really think I can be like you someday?”

Kord looked down at his son, his face riddled with shadows. “Like me?” he replied, “Perhaps. But what I know is that you will be you, son. And I believe you will be the sort of man this world needs.”

Nagoda beamed, though he felt a weight press down on him. Responsibility, he thought. But his father believed in him. He would not let him down. He never would.

Drums beat as the bride emerged from her striped tent. She was radiant in the red light, adorned with a dress of golden flowers and pelts. She strode confidently down the walkway with the strong gait of a warrior. Kimba rose and descended the steps of the dais to meet her. He took her hand and led her up to the Earthspeaker, where they both knelt together.

When they spoke their oaths to each other, and to the Earth Mother, the light of the sun set, and the gathered guests lit their torches. When Kimba planted a kiss on his bride, both sides of the village converged in the middle, offering welcome to one another’s family. Nagoda got swept up into the rush of tauren bodies, rapidly calling out welcome to whomever he could.

Then Father lifted him onto his shoulders. Nagoda cheered and called out welcomes to everyone, towering over them all for once.

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