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Tahzani

((WR-September)) The Elder

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My Mother says he moved here a few years ago, I barely remember the day he first visited the village and even after he settled in he never made an impact. He would visit every seven days like clockwork to trade the herbs he had gathered and the fresh carcasses of a few Plainstriders for other goods. Then he would wander off back towards the lonely hut  on the outskirts of the village.

He had done this for five years apparently, never joining the village for celebrations, stories, or even the meetings of the elders. He was so devoted to not making any impact I could not help but notice and wonder why he is the way he is.

Mother says I am being nosy and that I should respect the wishes of the elders. Father is unhappy that I even think about venturing out that far alone, but something about him rubs me wrong. He's hiding something, and I am going to prove it.

Day 1:

I snuck out after dark to spy on him. He apparently turns in early but I still saw him out and about. For an old man he moves fairly easily. He has a slight limp and I think his right arm is damaged, he stretches and rubs it a lot and favors picking things up with his left. There's a worn path from his hut that leads into the base of the mountains, likely the path through the trees to where he knows the herbs grow.

Tonight he was looking over the only other spot of interest in his plot. A fenced off garden. I know what carrots are and the ones he's growing are far too large to be them. He never brings in any mutated crops like this to trade, just what is he plotting?

Day 5:

I need to have a better way in and out. When I got home, Mother caught me immediately and gave me a loud scolding. She did not care about the outsider's mutant crops and she wouldn't let me go out and play until today. Tonight I am going to talk to Orda and have him vouch for me that we went to the lake to play. I'm going earlier and I am going to see more.

When I arrived, he was skinning hares. At least a dozen pelts had been put on the rack and the meat had been put into a stew pot. I should have eaten before I came, even the bland, lightly spiced but probably tasteless stew got my stomach growling.

Which tipped him off.

Bloodied and with a knife in hand, I was not about to let him find me.

Day 10:

I haven't had time to visit lately thanks to the orders Father has been receiving but after a few days of hard work he's being lenient. I was able to grab dinner and go to spy on him again. He was not there yet he left a plate with cornbread on a table outside. The birds had been picking at it, did he leave it for me? That does not sound right.

He was likely out gathering at the mountain's base and I was not going to let this opportunity go to waste! I finally had good light to look at his carrots, and that is what they are. Carrots, massive, me-sized carrots. He has a trough for gathering water out back but the watering can seems to be fed by a special jug. I recognize the markings as Pandaren but when I opened it all I smelled was water.

I hear in the city that some people will pay ridiculous amounts of money for special water taken from far off glaciers. Is this Elder stupid enough to fall for that?

Looking into the hut revealed far more than I could have expected. He's not much for decoration. He doesn't have anything that looks like what we have in my home or anyone's homes. No pelts, no crafted goods, just locked boxes and pictures.

I could hear his dragging hoof outside. I would have to fiddle with the locks another day.

Day 17:

He's a creature of habit. Like clockwork he visits the village to shop and trade every seven days. I decided that maybe he did the same with other activities. I left earlier than before and went back to his hut a week after the last time. I was right! He was out gathering!

I am no good with locks though so I searched for what was unlocked.

The pictures are not of family, I wonder who they are? One is of a land of falling leaves and he's kissing a Pandaren woman in formal wear. Another is of a small horde of orc children and an old grinning matron. Another was of an assembled group of armed guards. The Tauren standing at the side with a blank expression must be him when he was younger. Another veteran perhaps?

More pictures show what I can only assume are his allies, blood elves in shining armor, an older orc with an eye patch, A forsaken that was gripping him with a cheeky grin, obviously enjoying the elder's annoyance, and more. He was definitely in the Horde's armed forces once upon a time.

The rest of the boxes are locked but there were two pieces that wouldn't fit in them. A well-worn spear, the craftsmanship was amazing but it had seen so much use judging by the scars and wear in the blade. The other was a shield that seemed to be made by someone far smaller.

Is that it? Father said that many veterans of the fourth and subsequent wars come here to Mulgore to be away from the noise, in desperate need of peace. But is that all there is to it? What about the mutated carrots? Why is a soldier like this so boring?

I'm going to have to do something. I need to see what's in those chests, and for that, I will need his keys or to break the locks.

Day 32:

He's a slave to routines but today was just bad luck. He came back early. I barely got out in time but he saw me leaving. He's old though, he probably didn't see who I was. Please let him have poor eyesight.

Day 33:

For the first time in five years he visited in the middle of the week. He did not know my name but the moment we locked eyes, I saw recognition. He's old, but those icy blue eyes are keen as a hawk. I tried to run but he was waiting for me at my house! Mother gave me a lashing so bad I think I am going to spend all summer working! I've never seen her so angry!

Day 34:

I have to help him now. I wanted to get close but now they're having ME assist him! I don't want to be eaten by his carrots! That has to be how they get so big! I'm going to hide when I am sent out tomorrow.

Day 35:

Mother took me to him, not trusting me to walk there myself. She SAW the mutated crops! She saw them! She was surprised and I thought for maybe a second she would change her mind.

Instead she bought some ridiculous story about 'Enriched waters from Pandaria'. He was stupid enough to pay money for water from a distant glacier and SHE fell for it? CARROTS DO NOT GROW THAT BIG FROM WATER!

He put me to work setting snares around his garden. Apparently the mutated crops draw hares in hoards. The number of traps is just as unsettling as the vegetables' size but so long as I don't go near them I think I will be fine.

Day 42:

Now I have become like clockwork. I'm to work there every week on this day. Today he had me help him grind herbs down. He mixes what we crush it into a paste... For his scars. He asked me for help with the ones on his back. It's gross but he really is an elder. A decent amount of muscle has withered away over the years and his hide bares so many patches where the fur is gone. Burn marks, blade wounds, bullet wounds, and lasting injuries I don't recognize.

The paste is mostly for the older burns but a few others as well. He has to tell me which though. It leaves my fingers slightly numb afterwards... He must be in a lot of pain.

Day 49:

It's strange that I never even knew his name before I grew suspicious. How few mentions he received even in the village but I think that is what he was aiming for. He wants to live out the rest of his days and be... Forgotten? That cannot be true.

But today he told me it was Megeda, Megeda Dustrunner.

Day 56:

I asked what kind of soldier he was today as he was showing me how to properly care for the carrots, as it turns out the water does make a difference but he imports most of it from Pandaria. Something about the spirits that far south produces incredibly nourishing water for plant-life. Anyway, he says he was not a soldier, nor a bandit, and the more questions I asked, the more defensive he became. Is he afraid of letting someone know?

Maybe I was right all along, maybe he's wanted, hunted even! Like one of the old Grimtotem.

Day 70:

He did not want me last week, I think I might have shaken him with my questions. Today though, he told me he was a sell-sword, a mercenary. Specifically, he was in charge of the main base's defenses. He trained guardsmen and assessed the fortifications. A very orcish job it seems and I think I understand why he's not preachy and vague like most other elders I have met.

I asked to see his weapon today and when I touched it, I felt a strange hum. A buzzing from inside the metal and a tingle in my palms. When I told him it seemed to make him sad and he had me spend the rest of the day weeding while he went out to get something from the woods

Day 77:

My mother thinks I have learned my lesson and says I no longer need to go there to work. But I still visited today and amazingly, he had visitors! A machine the likes I had only heard about was idling by his home, it had four wheels and was made of some strange black metal. There were three younger people, two orcs and a troll. I wondered if maybe they were the children from his mercenary days.

But the laughter was wrong. There was no joy in it, just mockery. One was talking to Megeda as the others walked around his property. He raised no fuss when one sneered at his garden and stomped the mutated crops. He didn't even flinch as the orc started yelling in his face, something about respect and an unsubtle threat. But his attention did stray towards the hut as one of them went in, only to return a few minutes later with an armful of items.

 The bag of gold was of no consequence to Megeda, the spear tossed into the dirt hardened his eyes, but when the boy went to toss his picture frame out he finally spoke.

"Don't."

When they tossed the picture to the ground and laughed at him, he was quick to silence the mockery. I had seen his hand shake as he held a basket of herbs before but when he struck, there was power and precision behind the blow. When he moved, there was no shaking and it was far from slow. Every strike was met with a scream of pain or a snapping noise and within seconds it was over.

He did not pursue them as they staggered back to the machine. Only pulling out a cloth to clean the blood from his walking stick.

When I approached, he tried to dismiss me. He seemed to regret what I had seen but I refused to walk away. When I pushed further, he broke and began talking to me. He had many stories, and most of them seemed to be about a life of loss and violence.

He was a few seasons older than me when some abomination came to his village and slew dozens including the last of his family. He turned to a life as a mercenary, unable to live there any longer and desperate to eventually track the monster down. Everything he had gained in that life was taken away in time. The demons of his past claiming his friends, obsessive rage taking his mentor, and eventually, his own mistakes as a leader leading to the deaths of others. For all he has given in pursuit of the monster, I am uncertain if he ever caught it.

But he sought the death of someone, and he found plenty of death along the way.

He's scared and tired. He did not want to fight the boys but he recognized it as the only way to get through to them. Now he worries about the night and the next day. What violence will cost him in return when their wounds have been licked.

Day 78:

I spent the day wondering. About my village, my parents... Everyone. I thought about how it had all just ended so fast for him. What would I do if the same were to happen to me? Would I take up arms? Would I wind up leading the same life as him? Would I be an elder living in fear with nothing near the end of my days?

No.

Father said our elders have the weight of years burdening them with wisdom. We respect them. We learn from them. From Megeda I have learned that the violence ends when both sides walk away but also that the back and forth will never begin if it is broken at the start. If the tragedy has someone to prevent it from occurring in the first place. People are always going to need people to guard those who cannot protect themselves. Tomorrow, I am going to ask him to train me, to pass on what he has learned so that maybe my village will never end up as another Kaur'he. I won't take no for an answer, he cannot deny someone who now has the same fears he does.

We all need a break in the routine anyway.

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