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To Fight Another Day

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She knew it, she knew it would happen. This was what happened when you didn't go forth swinging, pushing them back, far away from your home.

Kalonaya was glad when the shouts reached her tent that she so rarely removed her armor, for if she'd needed the time to don it, she would not have survived the attack.

The first of the black-furred shapes kicked aside the tent-flap and entered with a glower on his tattooed face, as he hefted a blood-slick war-axe. Out across the mesa, the sounds of battle swelled and spread.

She did not know yet that the Chief was dead -- all she knew was that the Grimtotem had finally thought to take her city. The one enemy she had been so reluctant to ever face in her first life, for they so resembled her own tribe. Always quilboar, centaur, harpies. Never raised a blade against her own. That's what you did when the Lich King's steel boot had stamped out your free will, only in a distant nightmare, not ever something she could do while awake.

The blood all over his axe, the scent of fresh blood, pierced her mind as he edged forward. He sized her up with dark eyes, pausing at the sight of her armor, spiked and dark like a sinister carapace, and her lamplight eyes of the dead. But whatever doubts the Grimtotem had about facing her vanished when two of his comrades sliced open the tent walls and jumped to his aide.

That blood, her people's blood, Thunder Bluff blood, good people blood, civilian blood. It was all over their blades, all over their hooves. They had come to her land, her city, her very tent, as always she had feared would happen. Shu'halo or not, they had interrupted what little sense of sanctity remained.

They were going to die. She would let no one dare turn against her nation again.

In a flurry of ice and shadow, the first was downed. Frost slowed the other two, and as she opened their bellies like they had opened the kodohide of her abode, their spilling blood erupted with a vicious, bubbling boil. When the bodies fell, she cleaved their heads from their necks to be certain they'd take no parting shots as she stepped over them and exited into the fray.

The battle flew by as the more cognizant part of her mind settled back to let the warrior part take control. She retained enough sense to distinguish friend from foe, and let instinct do the rest. Soon, the runes of her blade could not be seen, their light obscured by blood and black fur.

But this battle was not going well. It was senseless, chaotic, and too sudden for the populace to properly react. There were too many civilians, all dying, no one ready, few but the guards armed. What an honorless coup, like a dirty hyena leaping suddenly from the grass, only its savage keen to warn you of its attentions. Cutting down the young and unarmed, pah! Like the massacres the Scourge had staged, this display of underhanded force went against the values of the Shu'halo.

And because of their disgusting cunning, the foe was winning. Where was Cairne? She did not hear his thunderous voice and maces drumming. Just blood, and burning, and dying.

And Kalonaya was dying, too. Again. Her thinking mind, still receded beneath the battle-rage, thought back to the first time, back when she still felt pain and fear of not going home again. Now she merely held an awareness of self enough to recognize an injury, but no pain. Without squirm of stomach she activated a red rune and watched some of the bleeding reverse and congeal, sealing the wounds. It was not much, but it kept her standing.

She stood and fought against them as long as she could -- how long did that battle last? She could never remember, it felt like seconds and eternity at once -- but she was wearing down like the city was wearing down and there were just too many of them to fight any longer.

Do not... back down... Do not... let them take my home...

But home, right now, was already as good as taken.

Do not surrender. Finish the fight. Finish it. Take out as many as you can. Go down with a Grimtotem on the sword. Do not surrender. Don't.

But there were just too many, she would never win this one. She would be covered by them, smothered and killed; she was already bleeding out so much. She forgot what death felt like but she knew she was dying. Her energy waned, each rune feeling heavier in her mind, harder to will to life.

But what if SHE is here?! This is your HOME, you NEVER let them come to your home!

Kalonaya summoned what energy she could to freeze their feet to the earth as she backed towards the lifts.

You'll never live down your failure! You can't fail again! You'd rather die than run, what are you doing!

She leaped on the lift as it began its descent, and collapsed onto one knee.

This is how you use your gifts? Escaping?! Where's the warrior from Ravenfeather, soldier of the Argent Dawn, who never backed down from a fight?!

She died in the Plaguelands. And I will not die again.

Halfway down, the lift suddenly plummeted as the Grimtotem cut the rope; it tumbled end over end in the air and dropped Kalonaya with a CRUNCH of bone and armor on the platform below.