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She-Wolf: Chapter One from Threska Tetherfang's blog

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Three weeks earlier

Fenris Isle, Silverpine Forest


“Och, yer gonnae break it, lad.”


Hillier Oxworth slammed his hammer against the red-hot blade of iron in frustration. “Damn it,” he growled while wiping soot stained hands on the thick leather apron he wore. His skin itched and tingled. His true form snarled beneath the surface as his frustration grew. The more he tried to force the metal, the more the Wolf pushed at him.


He caught the plump form of Anve striding over to the barrel of water with an empty mug, a frown on her face.


“Tis a wee thing,” she said, lifting the mug toward him once she filled it. “But ye shouldnae ruin a perfectly bonny day on a scrap o’ iron that doesnae want tae bend. Now, take it lad. I can see a bit o’ fluff sproutin’ from yer ears, ye ken?”


Hillier growled with a shake of his head. Working the anvil and bellows always calmed him enough to retain the shape of his human guise. Metal work normally seemed to satiate the Wolf long enough for him to don regular trousers and shirts, real boots, and the apron to protect his hide. But lately these brought him no comfort. Something nagged at him from the back of his mind. It was as if the Wolf sensed something his human counterpart could not, and it set him on edge more than usual.


When he looked out into the lane from the smithy, he sighed, holding his hand out for the mug. The water tasted of smoke and ash. “If Derrington would just send for good iron from Ironforge, armor and weapons would last longer than this scrap.”


Anve nodded in silence. For a dwarf, Anve Shorthammer was not as tall as her kin. Her yellow blond hair was pulled into a tightly braided bun, leaving most of her round, wide face a perfect canvas for grime, grease, and dust. She wore a standard leather apron over her simple top and pants. Her arms were bare, but like Hillier, she protected her skin and arm hair when working metal with thick leather gloves. She was not a pretty woman, even by Dwarven standards, but Hillier knew she neither cared or sought to please anyone besides herself. She was plain, lightly freckled, and meaner than piss when she was drunk. She was, as it stood, the only woman he knew with a full beard.


“Aye, it would do for the men tae have better weapons, lad,” she said. “But ye ken Derrington doesnae like tae make such requests tae the king unless he has a need. And killin’ the dead around here isnae like killin’ Orc. So long as they keep behind their walls, we’ll be keepin’ watch o'er Fenris Isle.”


Hillier tossed the rest of the water onto the cobbled floor and set the mug aside. He grunted, turning away.


“It willnae hurt ye to just say I’m right, boyo,” Anve added as she returned to her anvil and the shield she was working on.


Hillier undid the apron, hanging it on a hook. His fingers were dry and cracked when he slid them free of the heavy gloves. He reminded himself to oil the inside of the gloves next time he came down to help Anve. From a table he grabbed his Wolf-sized clothing and disappeared into the back room to change into them.


Anve looked up when Hill emerged in the oversized clothing still looking human. “An’ where do ye think yer going? I know ye usually come to help us wee folk when ye cannae get yer head on straight, but ye promised tae helped today ennaway.”


“I’ve got an officers meeting,” he said. He tugged at the giant lapels of the billowy shirt which hung well past his knees. Were it not for his grip on the britches, he’d have lost them as well. “This is either the Commander’s doing, or Garrick has something important to share.”


“Och, Garrick, lad? Weel, then I can guess what this meetin’s all about, eh? Ye plan tae drink and cry like women o'er yer troubles like ye always do. An’ ye didnae think to ask me again.”


Hillier brushed a hand over his beard to hide his grin. Like the Wolf’s fur, his beard was a dark, course tangle he rarely bothered to trim. There were only a few times he fell to his human guise, working iron being one, so he didn’t see the point in combing and trimming his beard or the hair on his head. In thinking about it, he reached up and pulled loose the club of greasy hair and ruffled it free about his face.


He readied himself for the Change, then thought better of doing it out in the open. Anve stood there watching him, twirling a finger through her golden beard as if expecting him to strip naked. Her little lips were curved at the corners. “Weel, go on then, lad. Isnae like I ne'er seen a Worgen change before.”


“And I’d rather Change in the back, I think.”


“Och, I promise not tae look, lad,” she said, winking.


“You’ve never been good at playing cards, Anve,” Hill noted. He curled his toes then turned on his heel to pad toward the back room once more.


“Aye, and yet ye’ve lost to me countless times just the same.”


_________________________________


Outside, Hillier found the fort busy with the usual bustle of people. Soldiers meandered between the repaired buildings of the original fort, or sparred with one another to the laughter of their comrades while under the watchful eye of a superior. Several common folk were plying their wares while ferriers transported men and women from shore to island from the south western. To the north, the great walls of ruined Lordaeron rose up and formed a barrier between Silverpine and Tirisfal Glades.


Hill looked up as the flow of wyverns and zeppelins flew silently overhead to the ruins and toward the little town of Brill some miles northward. The skies were unusually busy, and had been for a number of days. He’d never been to Undercity, or to Lordaeron that he could remember. He often wondered what appeal the dead found in living in rot and decay. The thought reminded him of the Gilnean prison before the Wolf came. There was no end to the wails of broken men slowly dying in their own filth, or the smell of mold and decomposition. When the walls had been torn asunder, Hillier had stepped out of one nightmare into the sharp jaws of another.


Unintentionally, he snarled as the dark thoughts threatened to eat at him. A woman walking toward a merchant stall yelped, scuttling past him and into his shadow. She glanced behind her once before hurrying behind the counter.


He passed the dock slowly. A small squad of men and women were getting ready to take the ferry to the main shore. He could tell they were green and eager to patrol Silverpine by the sounds of their excited chatter and laughter. Their sergeant should have stepped in to cut the talk, but many of the soldiers posted to Fenris Isle were barely old enough to see war these days. And fighting the Forsaken, as Anve put it earlier, was different than fighting the rest of the Horde. These were young men and women embolden by the fall of the Legion who were fit for fighting, but not fit enough for the larger, veteran regiments. Those that did well here at Fenris often transferred out after proving capable enough to serve under the main banner of King Anduin. Many in the squad weren’t even Gilnean. Stormwindians, dwarves, a couple of gnomes and even a lone Night Elf, made up the eager faces of Commander Derrington’s latest batch of recruits. When the ferries berthed at the dock, they filed happily into the boats oblivious to the true horrors of battle.


Hillier growled, wishing his thoughts would just leave him be. He turned down the next lane. The sweet smell of ale was on the air and following him. He lifted his muzzle into the scent as another Worgen drew up beside him with a salute. It was Sergeant Foy, one of his own men.


“May I join you, sir?” the soldier asked.


“It’s too early to drink, Sergeant Foy,” he chided.


Sergeant Foy laughed. “Margot had the baby this morning, just after midnight. I didn’t think there’d be any harm in having a toast in celebration, sir.”


“Let’s not have it happen again, sergeant.”


The other Worgen hissed out a laugh. “After this one, I think my wife would kill me if we had another.”


“A boy this time?”


“Another girl, and our fifth.”


Hillier gave the Sergeant a sorrowful look, then patted him on the shoulder. “My condolences.”


Sergeant Foy laughed. “I’ve already got my hands full with five other females in the house, now we’ve gone and added a sixth.”


They stopped to wait outside the main hall to allow others to go inside ahead of them. Hillier ran a claw through the tuft of grizzled fur at his wolfish chin. An ear flicked as he and Sergeant Foy caught the low hum of something in the distance, and in turn they both lifted their muzzles to the sky well before the zeppelin rumbled overhead. Those who were not Worgen or equipped with better hearing did not look up until the pointed shadow of the large airship covered the building. The Alliance and Gilnean banners hung from the building’s battlements whipped viciously in the machine’s wind.


“There seems to be a lot of their ships lately,” observed Foy. His Worgen form was lanky, much like his human one. His fur was a soft reddish-brown, his eyes the mystical blue most Worgen seemed to possess. Hillier had not known him when they were both humans, though he’d seen the sergeant’s human form once or twice. Like many of their kind, their Wolves took precedence over their former selves, but each one was as varied as anyone else. And, for Worgen like Sergeant Foy who had children, he had little risk of transferring the Curse to his offspring, something Hillier was grateful for.


His thoughts wandered as his sergeant carried on. His wife’s face stirred with his memory, of her holding their newborn son, her head on his very human shoulder. He could almost hear her say, “We made this. Bless the Light, Hillier, we have a son.” And then they were gone, swallowed by burning guilt and anger.


A low growl burbled out of him before he could catch himself. Sergeant Foy fell silent, taking a step back. Hillier ran a paw down his furred face and apologized.


“No apologies needed, sir,” Foy began, “I sometimes forget not everyone is lucky enough to have a spouse, let alone children-” The sergeant snapped his mouth shut, his eyes growing wide. “Damn it, Hill, I didn’t mean-”


“Och, yer makin’ it worse, laddie.”


The two Worgen turned to see a plump, red-faced dwarf barrel up to them. Not one to be looked down on more than he was already, the dwarf climbed the steps until he could meet the two eye to eye. He gave a firm salute to Hillier, a nod to Sergeant Foy. “Did I hear ye goin' on about tha' sword in Silithus, Foy?”


“You did."


“Weel, ah’ve got a cousin out Ironforge way tha’ heard from a lass he fancies tha’ there are great gobs of mineral shootin’ from tha earth in Silithus. An’ tae a dwarf tha’s as close tae heaven as ye could get tha’ didnae involve ale o’ a lass oan yer knee.”


Sergeant Foy shook his head, grinning. “Speak Common, man, I’m not drunk enough to understand you. Anyway, I was just saying before, well…” He paused to clear his throat, giving Hillier an apologetic glance. “There seems to be more movement from the ruins lately.”


“Oh aye,” the dwarf said over his shoulder when he turned to go inside. He pushed taller bodies out of his path allowing Hillier and Sergeant Foy to follow in his wake. “Tis what this meetin’s about lads, if I ‘ad a mind tae it.”


“You mean it’s not to promote the Master Sergeant here to Sergeant Major?”


Hillier snapped his teeth in disgust. “I’ve already told Garrick no once.”


The dwarf procured the three of them a spot near the front. Sergeant Foy fell into conversation with the rotund dwarf, leaving Hillier time to look around. Almost all of the enlisted officers were present save for those on duty. Fenris Isle had only a handful of high born officers, three Knights, a Knight-Captain, the Lieutenant Commander, and on rare occasion, the Commander himself. Presently three were gathered around the tall form of Lieutenant Commander Garrick. He raised his hand to call the meeting to order and the three officers took their seats reserved only for them.


The hall remained oblivious to their ranking officer’s gesture. Suddenly, the dwarf stepped forward and cupped his meaty hands around his mouth. “Quit yer guffawin’ ye sacks o’ boars shite!”


Immediately, the hall fell silent and all eyes turned to the red-faced dwarf. Even the Lieutenant Commander could not help but stare, though the slight quirk of his mouth betrayed his amusement.


“Bless the Light for having the lungs of an ox, Sergeant Drunkhammer,” the Lieutenant Commander chortled.


“Tis the only way tae get them tae quit talkin’, sir.”


One of the officers in the crowd shouted, “Eh, the chuffin’ only time Ralf’s not goin’ on is when 'e’s tossin’ 'is stomach in the lake!”


“Whisht, ye wee ragged arse! I’d drink ye under the table enna day!”


“Aye, and ye’d beat 'im there too,” someone else yelled as the hall filled with laughter.


The Lieutenant Commander let the noise die down once more before he began again. Hillier crossed his arms over his chest as the usual report was read with updates in between being presented by the other officers. Then the Lieutenant Commander’s disposition changed as he once more took the center after the last report was given.


Lieutenant Commander Garrick was a tall man of blonde hair and fair skin who still held the face of youth despite his few years in service to Gilneas and now to the Alliance. Hillier knew both sides to the man: commanding officer and friend. The look he now leveled over the crowd set Hill on edge.


“Now to the more urgent of matters,” Garrick began. “We’ve received word that the Horde is marching across the Northern Barrens toward Silithus led by, we believe, High Overlord Saurfang. Because of this, Commander Derrington has offered to send several men including Sir Hackett Derrington, who,” and he motioned toward the two knights, neither of which was the one in question, “seems to be missing at present. We will also be preparing to send more as needed while leaving Fenris Keep still protected and under Alliance control. In the meantime, I want to cut down on the frivolity and start preparing should anything happen.”


A collective roar of shouts and anger rose up at the news as people looked to one another. Fenris Isle might have been a blip on the Alliance’s map, but they were all very much loyal to the King of Stormwind and many more to his adviser, Genn Greymane. Garrick called for order once more.


Sergeant Foy leaned in to Hillier, whispering, “My wife’s not going to be happy I’ve been called to arms again.”


“If I’m not mistaken, it’s being home so much that you found yourself in your current predicament,” came Hillier’s reply as the Lieutenant Commander continued with his report and directive.


“Ah, when you put it that way, sir.”


“Aye, an’ when ye were away las’ time, twas I tha’ kept her comp'ny, laddie. Tha’ bairne is part dwarf, mind.” Ralf elbowed Hillier in the hip as he wasn’t tall enough to elbow any higher. He grinned toothily, then snorted.


The movement and sound caught the Lieutenant Commander’s attention. “Is there something you’d like to add, Sergeant Drunkhelm?”


Ralf blushed. “Oh, aye, jus’ tha’ I’ll be ready tae cut down any Horde ye throw ma way, sir. Jus’ tell me where tae go and I’ll gut 'em for ye.”


The hall fell to snickering and jokes.


The Lieutenant Commander gave an exasperated shake of his head. “Right. Well, you may get your chance, sergeant. Now, is there anything anyone would like to add before we finish here? No? Then you’re all dismissed.”


Sergeants Foy and Drunkhelm turned to leave. The dwarf elbowed his way into the crowd, leaving Foy behind.


“You coming, sir?” Foy asked.


“Not yet. In the meantime, take Ralf and gather the group, then meet me in about an hour outside of Anve’s shop. I need to speak to the Lieutenant Commander.” He nodded his head toward Garrick who was scowling at something being whispered to him by one of the knights.


“Hackett wasn’t here today,” Foy said, his wolfish eyebrows rising high. “It’s the third meeting he’s missed, if I’ve been keeping track right.”


Lieutenant Commander Garrick nodded to the knight, patted him on the shoulder, then turned toward Hillier and the other Worgen. Hillier caught the anger in his friend’s eyes, the annoyance in his posture.


“So it is,” Hill managed. “Go on and gather the others, like I said. I’ll be there soon.”


Foy nodded. “Right, sir,” he said. He saluted both men and headed for the entrance.


Hillier called out after him, his tone seemingly brusque. “Oh, and Sergeant Foy.”


“Yes, sir?”


“Tell Margot congratulations.”


The Worgen beamed. “Yes, sir!”


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