Been working on this one for a while.

This story is called “Sunwalkers”. It’s the tale of how 2 of my characters I’ve created for World of Warcraft essentially change classes. I had a lot of fun writing it over the course of a few weeks, and I hope you enjoy.

“Do you truly think this will work, Tahu?”

Tahu Sagewind looked up from the vials in front of him to the direction of the voice. He knew it well, and smiled at the source. “Yes, Aponi. I have consulted with the shaman and the druids. They concur with my findings, and have even helped the process along. I’m confident this will work.”

Aponi Brightmane shook her head in amazement. The act made the plate armor she wore creak softly. “I’m amazed Elder Runetotem was willing to help. I confess I thought he wouldn’t support the new order. That he would be angry you turned away from his teachings.”

Tahu looked as his friend reproachfully. “You do the Archdruid a disservice with your words, Aponi. The Elder is a wise one, but he is not arrogant enough to believe he understands everything. He was not only supportive of us, he was thrilled. Like me, he understands that this is balance. Mu’sha has her sect of druids dedicated to her, and now An’she shall have her own as well. Balance.”

Aponi nodded, looking slightly sheepish. “You are right, of course. I should not have been so afraid. I am a warrior of the Sun goddess now. Fear must have no place in me. Only the warmth and wisdom of her light.”

Tahu nodded, and turned back to his work. After a few moments and the pouring of a few more vials of ingredients, he held up a flask of gold-colored liquid.

Aponi studied the flask. “Is that it?”

“Yes. Once imbibed, it should give us the sight of An’she. We shall see those whom she would call to her bathed in her golden rays. And hopefully, more will join the Sunwalkers.” Tahu tore his eyes from the flask and turned to his friend. “You should gather the others. We shall pray for An’she and the Earthmother’s blessing, then you and I shall imbue the sapta. And then…we shall begin our ‘recruitment drive’.” He laughed softly.

Aponi smiled and ran off to find her fellow Sunwalkers.

Meanwhile, on Thunder Bluff’s Middle Rise, another plate-clad tauren sat down on a log before the great fire in front of the High Chieftan’s tent. The tent was empty at the moment, as Baine Bloodhoof was elsewhere on business, and the rest of the rise seemed oddly empty. That suited the seated tauren just fine, as he did not feel like company, or being stared at from afar. He was used to being stared at, given his condition, but it still wearied him. He had once been a rising star in his tribe, but his black hide, ubiquitous to the Grimtotems had long ago drained of color. Now it was an icy blue-white, much like his eyes. Both marked him as a Death Knight of the Scourge. The fact that he sat at the fire peacably rather than attempting to slaughter every living creature in sight marked him as a Knight of the Ebon Blade, a Death Knight freed from the Lich King’s control to rejoin his Horde compatriots. And this particular Death Knight, one Shadothi Grimtotem, found himself wondering yet again if the stares he was constantly subjected to were because of his undead state, so very anathema to the ways of the Earthmother, or because he was once a Grimtotem, regarded now by all Tauren as vile traitors who had engineered the death of their beloved High Chieftan, Cairne Bloodhoof.

It was still ridiculous on the face of it. Shadothi had been shamed and all-but-exiled from the Grimtotems after his brother had deserted and defied their matriarch, Magatha. He had even been killed not long after that. After regaining his mind, he had publicly embraced the brother he had equally publicly vowed to kill before his death. And when the vile Magatha’s treachery took hold, when the many homes of the Tauren people were taken by the Grimtotem, Shadothi had joined Cairne’s son in helping take them back. Baine had never once questioned his loyalty, nor his brother’s. He had welcomed them into the fold, never ordered them watched, and even battled at their side. When forcing the surviving Grimtotems to kneel and disavow Magatha, he didn’t even twitch an eye in their direction.

And yet, people stared. In curiousity, in fear, and even rarely, in anger.

It was extremely wearisome.

He looked away from the fire, up to the afternoon skies. It was a bright day, no sign of the rainclouds that plauged Thunder Bluff when it was under constant assault by the Elements. Those invasions had been repelled, and the Bluff mercifully had escaped any real destruction when the world had Shattered. Word had reached him of the many changes to Azeroth, of the Twilight’s Hammer cultists that were rising up all around the world, perfoming their dark work in Deathwing’s name. Shadothi shuddered slightly. Deathwing. He had only heard legends of the Dark Aspect’s evil, and yet he had wrought as much death and destruction in merely days as the Lich King had in years. He knew his runeblade would be needed soon, but he felt tired. His undead state should have precluded such a thing from happening, and yet, that was how he felt. A few more days rest, and he would move out to the new fronts, where he was needed.

Hoofsteps approached. Shadothi tensed a little, and turned his head in the direction they came from. When he saw who it was, he relaxed again. Grothi Grimtotem, Shadothi’s brother, and the one Tauren he felt comfortable with, soon sat next to him.

“You look tired, brother.”

“I am undead, Grothi. I don’t get tired.”

“You know what I mean, Shadothi. Your mind seems weary. Your soul.”

Shadothi sighed. “Do you receive them too, brother? From the others?”

A puzzled expression came over Grothi’s face. “I am not sure what you mean.”

“The stares. From the other Tauren around us. Do they stare at you as well?”

Grothi looked to the fire and thought for a moment. “I had not noticed. But I have been with the other druids much lately, communing with the Dream, since the upheaval. Why, are you being harassed?”

Shadothi shook his head. “No. Not directly. But I seem them staring. Whispering. Even stepping away in fear. And I don’t know why. I have fought hard for our people, and the Horde. In Northrend, I battled the Scourge and our other enemies there. I defended this city from the elements. And when our former kin took over, we both helped the High Chieftan take it back. We killed our own kin, honorably, to save the others from Magatha’s evil. And still, they are afraid of me!”

Grothi could only listen. He had never heard such emotion from his brother before, not since his return as a Death Knight. He placed a hand on his shoulder, where the Plate did not cover. His skin was as cold as it appeared, but Grothi endured it.

Shadothi quickly looked back at him. “That has always hurt, you know.”

“What has?”

“Your touch.”

Grothi’s eyes flared open in concern, and he quickly lifted his hand off his brother. “I…am….sorry. I did not know I was causing you pain.”

“Nor would I have ever told you, normally. I feel nothing but cold numbness. But when you place your hand on my shoulder, or embrace me, or even heal me with your spells, I feel the faintest warmth. Enough to remember faintly of what it felt like to have warmth of my own.”

“Shadothi…”

“Do not pity me, brother! I do not wish to be pitied. No, despite the pain they cause me, I find I cannot go without that feeling. It is why I come here so often since the city’s retaking. To feel the warmth of the sun all over me. To remember, however dimly, and even for a while, of what it felt like to be alive.”

Grothi smiled. “There are several hours more before An’she retreats in the wake of Mu’sha’s advance. Let us sit, and enjoy her warmth together, then.”

The two sat. After some time, Shadothi turned to Grothi again. “You have heard of Tahu Sagewind’s new order of Sun-based druids, I assume?”

Grothi nodded. “Yes, the Archdruid told us all about them. He seemed very excited about these Sunwalkers. I find myself uncertain. We druids who focus on the Balance path have recently learned to make better use of An’she’s light…”

Tahu Sagewind and Aponi Brightmane emerged from the central totempole onto the Middle Rise. Their eyes gleamed with the same color the sapta had been. Already they had visted the other Rises, An’she’s light leading them to several potential members of the Sunwalkers. Most were Warriors, who like Aponi, would probably focus on the more martial aspects of the order should they accept. A few had been Druids, and even a couple of shaman had been called by the Sun goddess. They would likely join Tahu in focusing on wielding the light of the sun to heal and bolster more directly, becoming Seers. The Middle Rise was their last stop. Many other Sunwalkers had joined them, but as An’she had noted candidates to them, they had sent their compatriots off to them. Now the pair were the only ones left on the walk. Aponi’s eyes began a slow circle around the Rise, but Tahu’s remained fixed on two Tauren seated at the fire’s circle.

“Aponi, look there.”

Aponi turned and stared in amazement. Two tauren sat next to each other, both bathed in An’she’s light that only they could see. The light seemed more intense than any they had seen thus far, but that wasn’t what struck Aponi. It was the identities of the two Tauren, she knew both of them. “Grothi and Shadothi Grimtotem? Can it be?”

“It would seem so, sister.”

“But Shadothi…he is dead, Tahu! The cold clings to him like his own skin! How can An’she’s light flow from such a being?”

Tahu again looked reproachfully at her. “It is not our place to question An’she, Aponi! We have been led to them, and we must deliver them her call. I have studied with Grothi as well. I know his story. His love of the natural world saved him from the corrupting evils of his Tribe. It would seem futile to ask him to leave that behind, yet we must. And remember, Shadothi himself was saved from that very evil by becoming a Knight of the Ebon Blade!”

Aponi sighed. “Yes, you are right, again. Come then.”

The pair approached the brothers, who had been talking so animatedly, they had not noticed them approach. Aponi called out softly to them. “Grothi? Shadothi?”

“Grothi? Shadothi?”

Grothi jumped at the sound of the soft female voice. Shadothi did not. Both turned to regard the newcomers. Shadothi spoke first.
“Tahu Sagewind. Aponi Brightmane. We were just speaking about you. Come, join us.”

The two Taurens sat on a log opposite the brothers. Grothi regarded them curiously. “A rather odd set of circumstances, wouldn’t you say? We were talking about your new order, and suddenly there you are? Wait…” Grothi stopped suddenly, and shifted forward to look more closely into their eyes, turning back and forthi between them. “I know that light. You have consumed a sapta. What is going on, Tahu?”

Tahu turned to him. “You are correct. This is a specially created sapta I have made at the will of An’she. Rather than allow communal with the elements, as most saptas do, this one allows Aponi and I to more clearly see where An’she’s light is shining. And it shines very brightly on the two of you”

Grothi and Shadothi looked at each other, then back to Tahu. Again, it was Shadothi who recovered from the shock first. “What do you mean?”

Aponi regarded Shadothi “He means that An’she is showing us those she calls to herself. She would have us deliver this call to you. And so we are here. We want you to join the Sunwalkers.”

Grothi’s face registered even more shock. “What? Tahu, you cannot be serious. Unlike you, I do not question the Archdruid’s teachings. I am a druid of Balance, I wield both An’she and Mu’sha’s light. I know my path, and have no desire to change it!”

Shadothi looked Aponi directly in the eyes. “I am dead, Aponi. The most I can hope to feel from the light of the sun is a slight reduction in the chill of the grave that I am. To say this to me…I cannot believe you would be so cruel, Aponi.

That set Aponi off. “Cruel? You believe I would do such a thing, Shadothi? You are the cruel one if you think so ill of me. I know what you are, and I also know that An’she has not led me astray yet! If she calls to you, then she would have you channel her light and her warmth, dead or not!”

Her words caught Shadothi, who was already starting to rise, off-guard. He sat back down, looking pensive. His eyes turned downward as he thought.

Tahu turned to Grothi. “Yes, Grothi. I know of what the Balance druids have learned. But you are a teacher yourself these days, are you not? You yourself have always taught the new druids that the day you stop learning is the day you stop being a servant of the Earthmother, haven’t you? Perhaps you must now learn more from An’she, since you have learned so much from Mu’sha. Perhaps An’she wishes to teach you more about her light. But perhaps you, as a student of Balance, must take a new step towards achieving that Balance. An’she and Mu’sha are two halves of the Earthmother, Grothi. Are you so sure you are in the Balance between them?

Grothi paused and considered Tahu’s words. They struck him hard. He had to admit to himself he had been wondering if the druid’s recent forays into wielding the Sun’s light were enough to be in balance. Perhaps he needed to do this…to combine what he knew of the Druidic ways already and learn from the Sunwalkers, to bring himself into Balance. Perhaps that was why he too enjoyed the sunlit days so much lately.

As he considered his words, Shadothi suddenly looked up, right into Aponi’s eyes. “I will do it.”

As Aponi and Tahu smiled, Grothi looked to his brother. “Are you sure, Shadothi?”

Shadothi turned to him. “You speak of Balance in all things, brother. I am no druid. I know little of these things. All I know is that I am tired. With the Lich King dead, the undeath that empowers me has felt…weaker in me, day by day. It does not sustain me as it once did. I feel pain from the warmth, more and more each day, and yet I yearn for it! And now, the Sun goddess comes to me in the form of her servants, and calls to me? If you will not say yes, then I understand, but I cannot ignore this, brother. I must do this, for the sake of my own sanity, if nothing else.” He returned his eyes to Aponi’s. “I will join your Sunwalkers. If An’she will warm me again, I shall shine her light wherever she wishes.”

Tahu smiled and extended a hand. “Then welcome, brother Shadothi.”

Shadothi clasped it, again feeling that warmth from another living being. Somehow, it didn’t hurt as much this time.

Tahu regarded Grothi. “And you, my friend? I see the uncertainty in your eyes. An’she speaks to you now. Will you listen?”

Grothi regarded him again. “I do not know, Tahu. I have given my life to the study of nature, of druidism. It saved me from a life of degridation at the hands of my old tribe. How can I turn my back on that? I feel the truth in what you say, in what your group aims to do, but…”

Tahu nodded. “It is difficult, I understand. But I think this may have always been your ultimate destiny, Grothi. I think the Moon called to you to save you from a life of evil specifically for the sake of the Sun. And now that An’she’s call has been heard by the Tauren, perhaps her sister is now giving her what is truly hers. You. Me. The other few Druids who have accepted. I believe, truly, that we were cared for by Mu’sha in trust, knowing that one day we would be able to fulfil our true destiny, as devotees of the Sun.”

The words sank into Grothi. He felt the truth of them. He shut his eyes, focusing his thoughts on the spirits of Nature. He did not feel the anger he expected. In his minds eye, he saw them embracing him as one embraces a friend who is leaving them. And then he saw a formless pale light which surrounded him, enveloping him, and filling him with emotions of equal measure sadness and joy. He knew then that Tahu’s words were true, because this was an avatar of Mu’sha, bidding him farewell.

He opened his eyes, and smiled. “Tahu? I’m in.”

They had taken the two of them to the Elder Rise, into the main lodge. Grothi had spent most of his days here, as it was the home of the druids, yet today, it was surprisingly deserted. Tahu had explained that Hamuul had given them the lodging for the day for their initiation rites, and even agreed to share it afterwards. Grothi could not help but marvel at his former mentor’s wisdom and graciousness.

He and Shadothi had cast off their armor and weapons for simple linen breeches and been sat in the middle of the lodge, facing each other. Aponi had explained that this was to be their Rite of Initiation. The pair of them would be overseeing it personally, as the other candidates had already finished theirs and were now training with the Sunwalkers. Their heads and horns had been anointed with oils, and they now knelt, facing each other.

“We show now begin the rite. It will start with us praying over you, and then calling to An’she for her blessing to fall upon you. When that happens, her light shall embrace you, and you shall be given a vision of her. What she shows to you is not for us to know. When this is complete, you will be imbued with the knowledge you need to wield her light. Be warned, though. Once this takes place, all previous candidates have forgotten what they once knew of the previous callings. I tell you this because it can be an extremely disconcerting change. You should be prepared for it. I know you expect this, Grothi, but Shadothi, I confess I do not know what will happen. You are the first Knight of the Ebon Blade to be initiated. ”

Shadothi shook his head. “I am not worried. One way or another, my….existence as this, ” he said, slapping his blue-white arm, “ends now”

Aponi nodded at Tahu. Together they shut their eyes and lifted their arms to the sky, softly beginning the ritual prayer.

Grothi shut his eyes and awaited his vision. He listened to the words Tahu and Aponi spoke, indistinct things he could not hear. He supposed he would learn them in time. He thought of all of the rituals that his mentors Kym Wildmane and the Archdruid had taught him. Would any of them be useful in his worship of An’she? Would he even remember them? Kym Wildmane…she had been his first teacher, the druid he had been ordered to assassinate but instead fought his kin alongside. Did she know of his decision? Would she be angry with him? He didn’t even know how to tell her.

He suddenly became aware of how hot he was. At first, he thought this was the emotions of shame he felt, and he resolved to quell them.

Then he realized it wasn’t from within him. It was from outside. The sun’s light was beating hard upon him. He raised his head and began to open his eyes, when suddenly a wave of coolness washed over him.

He opened his eyes. But he did not see his brother. Or Aponi and Tahu. In fact, he saw nothing of Thunder Bluff at all.

He was in a forest. One much like Ashenvale. As a young druid, he had spent much time adventuring there. The sky above was brightly lit, but the light had difficulty casting its rays through the thick forest canopy. And as he moved his head to the right, the day seemed to recede, and the sky became starry. The forest became much darker, lit only by the light of the moon that now was visible  above.  He turned his head back left, and night became day once more.  Inspiration struck him, and he moved his head and body just so that he could see the world in both day and night at the same time. It was a marvelous sight. As he looked, he understood that this was his old life as a druid in front of him, the Balance he had always been working to uphold. But he also saw that the world itself was not in Balance. For too much of the sunlit area was still cloaked in the night of the tree’s shadows. The sun could not come through properly. He closed his eyes to blink.

When they opened again, he was not in the forest. He was in the plains of Mulgore. He knew this because he could see the huge mesa which Thunder Bluff sat atop. All around him, the world was brightly lit by the sun. As beautiful as he found the sight, he was troubled too. For here, the world also seemed out of balance. The light of the Sun was everywhere.

And then he saw it. The huge shadow cast over the plains by Thunder Bluff. And still more shadows, smaller ones, caused by trees, by hills, by the animals, everything around him, covered in the reduced light. 

Then he was flying, high above Mulgore, and then away from it, until he could see both it and the forests of Ashenvalue, and then he understood. Together, with both worlds, with both Orders, the balance was possible. He flew back down to Mulgore to admire the world that represented An’she. The light she cast was almost tangible, and as he reached out to it, he felt it take root in him, and he knew that he could use it to heal those in need. He walked over to the massive shadow of Thunder Bluff, and reached into it. It felt cool, even welcoming, to his touch. Here too, he felt it sink within him. The darkness was where evil felt safe, but it could not hide from him. An’she had given him the darkness to turn back on them. There would be nowhere evil could hide. The warmth of the light and the coolness of the dark made their way further into him, and almost danced together at his core. He had never experienced something so marvelous.

And somewhere in the back of his mind, he became dimly aware of the sounds of screaming. They proceeded to get louder and he grew concerned. He wanted to help them. Then he recognized the voice.

Shadothi.

His eyes snapped open in the real world, back in Thunder Bluff, but he did not look around. His eyes were glued to the sight before him. Shadothi was screaming in pain, as a shaft of intensely bright light poured in from the top of the tent,  seemingly searing him. Burning steam poured off of him in a thick cloud. Grothi was forced to rise to his feet and back away as it assaulted him. Coughing and trying to keep the stinging pain from his eyes, he backed into someone. Turning, he saw Tahu Sagewind, looking terribly afraid. Both looked back into the cloud, but could not approach it.

Then the screams stopped and a loud thud could be heard from within the cloud.

“Shadothi!” Grothi tried to go into the steam cloud, but it was still too hot. Suddenly it began circling and rising upward. Both tauren looked up to see a cyclone funneling the hot air out of the lodge. Grothi cast a glance at the entrance. Hamuul Runetotem himself was there, casting the spell that created the cyclone. Soon the steam was gone, nothing left but a minor mist. Grothi was horrified by the sight that awaited him.

Shadothi lay on the ground, facedown and unmoving. So afraid was Grothi for his brother that as ran to him and reached down to grab his shoulders, he only barely registered that he did not feel that the supernatural chill that usually eminated from him, only the natural coldness of death. But as he rolled Shadothi over, the tears that had begun to flow from his eyes were suddenly stopped.

Shadothi’s chest rose and fell.

It was only then that he began to look closer at his brother. His hide was no longer the pale icy blue it had been. It was a faint gray, and even as he watched, color continued to flood back into him. His horns darkened first, then his face, and slowly, it spread to the rest of his body. The black hide of his former tribe. Grothi could only stare in amazement.

Within seconds both Tahu and Aponi were next to them, expressions of shock and surprise on their face. Aponi put her hand to Shadothi’s chest, recoiling back as it rose underneath her touch, then fell again. “Shadothi?” she called softly.

Shadothi’s eyes opened. His natural eyes, Grothi noticed. He had not seen them in years, replaced by the necromantic magic that had risen his brother into undeath. “Brother, are you okay?”

Shadothi opened his eyes. He didn’t remember closing them. He didn’t even know that he could anymore. Since becoming a Death Knight, he never needed to blink or sleep, so the notion of closing his eyes just went away over time. It was a very strange sensation. And what was that faint whoosing noise? Was the wind blowing that hard? It sounded so strange, especially how rhythmic it was.

Then he realized it was breathing. From him. He was breathing again. He hadn’t done that in years. He was dead. There was no need to breathe. What was going on?

He looked up at the Tauren surrounding him, finally finding his brother’s eyes. Grothi stared back at him, a mixture of joy and confusion in his eyes, and extended a hand toward him. Shadothi reached up to take it, but as his own arm came into his view, he stopped.

It was black. Why was it black? Black and warm. Warm? What had happened to him?

He felt another hand touch his shoulder. He looked to his left, and saw Aponi there, weeping. “It’s a miracle. An’she…she…” and then words seemed to leave her. She  wept, joy evident in her eyes. Shadothi did not understand. The last thing he remembered was seeing the sun and feeling happy. What had…

And then he understood. The breath, the color of his skin, the warmth of the others….he was alive. An’she, the eye of the Earthmother, had purged the death from him and restored his soul. As the full weight of what he had been given sank into him, tears stung his eyes. He took the arm of his brother, and Grothi hauled him up into a hug. He reveled in the feeling of his heart pumping once more, whispering thanks to the the lady of the Sun.

He knew, with her guiding him, he would never be cold again.

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  1. I like it! Thanks for writing this!

    How is Shadothi enjoying his new role in life?

    • Lou Gagliardi
    • January 28th, 2011

    I like it. You’re a good writer, BMan.

  1. February 22nd, 2017

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