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  1. It had been some time since Armagh had ventured into the ancestral burial grounds. The cataclysm had been unkind to his people, to say nothing of their own predilection of violence. He had come to...he was not certain. The centaur centered, and stopped. Kerala's form manifested silently behind the glowing shards of a crystal formation. She was near enough to spook the intruder, but just out of reach should his reaction be physically violent. She stepped out into view at the same time that she called out to him. "Lost, runt?" Armagh started and looked to the shadowy figure. "No runt am I." He puffed up his chest and stamps his hooves. "I am Armagh, son of Kotarg, and I have come to seek wisdom of my ancestors and you do not frighten me." Kerala cocked her head, taking in the centaur's appearance and posture. She looks for indications of clan membership. "You speak well enough," she said, surprise evident in her tone, "but you must be stupid, to come here, or lost. Your ancestors have nothing for you." "No, they have everything I could need, ghost." The centaur trembled a bit, unsure. He appeared to be Magram, or a sect thereof. "Are you a cherished ancestor, or something else?" Kerala laughed. "You lie, little runt. You are dry of blood (terrified), I can see the quiver in your limbs. Turn back, lost one, before you find the spirits you seek and they make you one of them." "No. I seek their knowledge. Seek to correct their course." He grunted, taking a step back. Kerala eyed the boy. "What secrets do you think they can share with you?" She advanced the distance he gave up. He took another step back. "Why they fought the wars they did. Why they wield the magic they do. Our traditions are flawed, and have split like rivers from the source." Kerala cast her senses out to see if perhaps she was mistaken, and this lone centaur is not alone? But he was. Nothing living or dead followed his footsteps. "How did you get through the Maraudine? Who are you?" He grabbed a nearby bone. "As I said, I am Armagh, son of Kotarg, and I have come to seek wisdom of my ancestors and you do not frighten me. I have done as many have, and I walked in." Kerala's form darkened, and she leaped at Armagh, her expression furious and full of hate. He made a clumsy swing with his improvised weapon, a meager strike of lean skill. Kerala easily ducked away from the swing and made as if to backhand Armagh. She stopped before contact might be made. "Dead," she announced. "Tell me again how you will survive to ask anything of the spirits roaming these caverns." "May your prey be infested," he cursed. "Bravery must see me through. And why do you rest in these tombs?" Kerala ignored the question again, highly amused that this centaur who is not afraid of her clearly just nearly soiled himself. "You are weak. Begone. You waste your time here. The khans wander this tomb, yes, but they cannot see you. They will not hear you. They cannot help you." She waved dismissively, and backed off a step, half-turning away. "Then what magic has called me here? I heard a voice calling me to my ancestors."
  2. Kerala


    Kerala had found him in Thunder Bluff waiting for her. It made her happy to see him, even at a distance. But it was at a distance, and the fastest way to fix it was also the most fun. The druid in sparrowhawk form folded her wings and plummeted, aiming for Lupinum like an arrow to his heart. Fast and faster, the gap shrank and he grew in her vision. Better! The tiny falcon dive-bombed her partner like a bluejay, buzzing so close that she felt her wingtip brush his face. He smiled at her, not startled at all. Perhaps he was used to this type of greeting now from his mate. Undaunted, Kerala instead burned away more of the chemical rush in aerial displays. She barrel-rolled, she flared, she made another racing stoop down to the very grasses of the plains far below, dipping into the contours and then letting the rise of a hill throw her back skyward. She changed the angle of her wings to let momentum and a gentle thermal carry her back up to meet him. She almost made it, but weight finally outmatched speed. The druid flapped twice, propelling herself up the rest of the way. She shifted, landing in a crouch at the bluff's edge grinning. He clapped for her. "Impressive, Kerala." He smiled and chuckled as she spun a circle with her arms held up, the triumphant performer. "My bat can only do so much, I can't imagine what it's like to fly... yourself." "It's fun!" she said immediately. Then she let herself plop down to the ground. It was also tiring. She'd been gone all day. As her heartbeat began to recover, the real answer to his pondering surfaced, so she blurted it aloud too. "Freedom.... The only thing I have to worry about up there is a storm... or bigger birds." "Bigger birds?" Lupinum giggled again. "Eagles are scary!" she told him, indignant. "I'm faster, though." "I can see that, and very mobile." She nodded. She liked the form of the kestrel much better than the crow, and said as much. "Do you get to... choose? What you become?" he asked. Her head tilted, sending the curls of her mane off-kilter. "...sort of? I don't really know how it works, just that some forms come easily, and some take" A lot of work. Lupinum nodded slowly, remembering the demonstration she'd given him. "Maybe that's part of the magic," she said, still playful. "Perhaps somewhere along the way, a crow, a lion, and a bear all got together and said 'Druids, we like you, we'll teach you how to do it'.... and creatures like wolves or... I don't know, kodos... didn't." Another thought occurred to her. "...I bet I could be a kodo." Lupinum giggled. "Would you WANT to?" "I'd lead a stampede! We would awesomely go... somewhere. In a hurry, and dare anyone try to stop us!" she laughed, and he did too. She asked him what he would shift to, and his answer of ogre was surprising. Of all the creatures... an ogre? It was funny though, that he'd want two heads to drink with. The imagery of him with a jiggling ogre beer belly and a smelly loincloth set them both laughing, and she was happy. "You got new clothes, I see," she remarked. He wore deep red robes and a dark mantle, even his staff was different. His attire was built to frame and showcase the tabard worn over it, it seemed to her. "And so did you you, they look very nice." This made Kerala pause, blinking, because she had no idea what he was talking about. She looked down. Oh. She stood. "Oh." She considered the minimalist covering wrapped across her core. It was poorly constructed, homemade. She waited a moment, but memory did not bubble up to the surface. "Yeah... I lost my other ones." she finally said, dodging the gaping hole in her mind. "Lost?" Lupinum stifled a giggle. "And you decided to put on... a harness?" "What? I'm all covered! It's hot," she complained. WHY was it so hot all the time? She briefly considered the merits of bedding down in a snowbank, before recalling that she hated snow. Still... the siren song of powdered ice was powerful. He cracked another smile and soothed. "You're right, I'm sorry, sit down." She refocused and obeyed. He let her steer the discussion of clothes away from her own mysterious ones and back to his own. It was sobering to hear that he'd changed himself based on whispered comments. The red apparently showed outward proof of his new office as an Irredeemable of the Grim. She didn't like it. She pointed out that Khorvis didn't wear a uniform, and she was fairly certain Awatu wore whatever he wanted too. Her dislike for the new ensemble was more than plain. "Are you going to throw these into some lava too?" "Hmm. Only if you provoke me into biting your head off." Her reply was meant to be as light-hearted as before, but she didn't quite manage it. Sure, she disliked the clothes enough to destroy them if given the opportunity, but what was even more terrifying was the reality of the words themselves. She wasn't sure, but she thought maybe she could become that irrationally angry, and the discovery of that potential fact terrified her. She didn't want to hurt him, or anyone. If he noticed the slip in tone, he chuckled anyway. "I'll keep that in mind." The silence stretched. Her happiness was ruined, even here with him. It wasn't enough. Her gaze went up as she tried to catch that fleeting feeling again. When she failed, her eyes were drawn West, to the lands she could not see beyond the mountain walls. Lupinum followed her aim. "What's on your mind?" Many things. Frantic things, tumbling in and out of focus one after the other at a dizzying rate. She snatched at one. "Lupinum, do you know how to grow plants?" "I uh... I can't say that I do, beside the basics." he answered. "Seed in ground, water and sunlight." He chuckled. Kerala nodded. "That's about all I know too. I might go to Pandaria. Besides, they have such giant vegetables there...." "What for?" "To learn how to grow things. Better, I mean." "Oh." Then he giggled. "You could grow a whole meal for yourself." "I could grow me a house! Have you SEEN the size of some of those things?" She recalled the fields viewed from aloft as she followed Kex'ti to the titan complex in the mountains. Vegetables large enough to be seen individually, even from that far. It was mind-boggling. "I can't say that I have... I spent very little time in the Jade Forest before coming to Draenor." "How many pandas are there? They need melons and lettuce and gourds that size?" she pondered. "They're also... large." The skinny tauren giggled. "You mean fat." He corrected and agreed that they were very fat, but Kerala was already on another track, following one of the many ideas she'd thought up. "Maybe I just need some of their dirt.... or their worms, maybe their worms make their dirt special, and that's how they grow such big crops." "Worms!" Lupinum exclaimed, "Who cares about worms!" His mate tilted her head at him. She blinked long-lashed eyes, just staring silently. He began to feel uncomfortable. She was wondering too. Who cared about worms? She needed them, but she couldn't remember why. Worms... and crops.... vegetables? She couldn't believe she'd lost it so fast. She didn't have a lot of time. Under her wordless stare, Lupinum decided he must have erred somewhere, that the fault was his and not hers. "I suppose you do, I'm sorry" he apologized. "I don't care about worms. They are little squishy tubes of gross meat," she told him. He frowned a little, scratching his head while she tried to logic it out loud. "They're for the dirt. The dirt is for the plants." These remembered things were true, she felt, but there was more to it.... Lupinum nodded, unsure about the pause. "And plants are good, so worms are good for something!" he finished for her, somewhat sheepishly. Kerala didn't look up to smile at him and end the awkwardness, or show him any reaction at all. For a moment she seemed to be ignoring him, then he saw the insect. An ant wandered up onto her fingers as they hung idly down from her lap. She was watching it crawl higher, becoming hopelessly lost in the curly wurls of fur. He watched her while also feeling lost, like the ant.