For the second time, I am shamelessly ganking someone else's character for my own nefarious purposes. This time, 'tis the master of the Blueberry Workshop over at Stabilized Effort Scope who makes an appearance.
As much as the Argent Crusade rubs me the wrong way -- something about the human inability to just do the right thing without ascribing the will of some higher power to it -- this tournament seems to have been a good idea. It's relaxing, mostly; a way for those of us hardened in battle to showcase our skills without lives being on the line. Not to mention that mounted combat is uncommon in the field, so a little practice in being able to handle a weapon (any weapon) from the saddle could prove to be an advantage in some situations.
And yet the harsh reality is never far away. You can occasionally glimpse Orgrim's Hammer or its Alliance counterpart floating over the horizon, and it's impossible to get here from Dalaran without coming in direct eyesight of Icecrown Citadel. So as much lip service as they give to the grounds being for tournament use only, it's not at all uncommon to find people on the sidelines appropriating unused target dummies for standard combat practice.
I purposely strip out of my heavy combat armor when attending the tournament. I see no use in getting it any more beat up than it has to be -- it's fairly expensive to repair, and the closer to top condition I can keep it, the better. And I've gotten well-practiced enough as a valiant not to need such heavy protection, anyway. The offshoot of this is that when I do choose to practice my standard combat, it's without the powerful enchantments that Sayriha and others have channeled into my armor and weapons, specifically my treasured polearm. So they're weak shots, and my aim isn't always as sharp as usual, but improving my skill without those accoutrements can only help me in the long run. At least, that's what I told myself as I watched yet another bullet go careening at least two finger widths from the center of the bullseye.
In the half-second it took the shot to reach the target, a soft golden glow appeared around it, and the air seemed to arc around the bullet, careening it directly into its mark. I'd barely had a moment to recognize the effect before a familiar voice rang out through the cold air in lilting Common. "Seems as though the lady Riverwing is losing her touch, eh?"
I rolled my eyes, turning around to face the draenei who'd walked up behind me. "The lady is at a distinct disadvantage, boy," I snapped, offering Rilgon a weary smile. "This is my jousting gear. It ain't made for shooting." (It's worth noting that I didn't say it quite so clearly -- my Common is even more harshly accented than my Orcish, but if Brann Bronzebeard can be conversational in all twelve of Azeroth's major languages, then I can at least figure out how to speak properly to the Alliance.)
He chuckled under his breath. "Good to see that Durotar has its champions as well," he replied, his chest puffing out a bit beneath the tabard of the Exodar -- I was on par to receive Sen'jin's equivalent by nightfall. He reached into his bag and produced a small chunk of meat, which he tossed to Micropterus, exchanging some soft clicks with him. I reached up to stroke Ayamiss' head gently, to which she responded with a polite nuzzle; showing affection to another's pet is one of the more common greetings between hunters of all races.
"Azeroth needs champions now," I said curtly. "She don' care where they be from."
Rilgon gave only a soft nod in reply. We'd had only brief discussions regarding the politics of our world, but enough to know that our opinions of the mortal races' conflicts in the face of such grave evils was similarly low.
"Hunting good of late?" I shielded my eyes from the bright sunshine as a cloud moved out of its way.
"Well as can be expected. More battle than hunting, lately." His tone softened. "My guild is beginning preliminary expeditions into Ulduar."
The dread temple-prison of the titans; just as menacing a view from northern Icecrown as the Citadel itself. Rilgon and I had first met in the Borean Tundra under the auspices of the red dragonflight; my own guild had struggled in battle against Malygos and his drakes, and I was frustrated with my ineffectiveness. I'd trained as a beastmaster from my tenth season on, but my dear Pumpkin was sorely thwarted by their aerial maneuvers, and I just plain wasn't strong enough a shot to make up for it. I decided to take the plunge, to trust my tiger friend to his own devices and focus my energy on my marksmanship. Questioning a few other hunters, I heard his name come up several times, and sought out his guidance.
"Indeed." I bit my lip. "We've done some work against the defenses outside but not moved in yet. Xendayr has called for a meeting tonight, so I imagine we'll be moving in further soon..." I grinned. "I'd think that defense system would be right up your alley, all those mechanical bits and things to blow up."
"Well, of course." Some of the light came back to his face then; he's always been more an engineer than a hunter. "I've nearly mastered most of them. As soon as the others catch up it will be rote."
"You're ahead of us then." My mind flashed back to seeing a priest fly helplessly over the Flame Leviathan, the flash of light from his fingers just before he hit the ground barely enough to keep him conscious, let alone functional.
"I'm sure with you along they'll be fine." He offered a comforting smile. We were poor at keeping in touch -- it's not exactly easy to get someone in Warsong Hold to take a message to the Exodar, and I'd imagine it works no better the other way around -- but these conversations were among my favorites, when we did manage to cross paths on neutral ground. Amid the clanging shields and stomping mounts of the tournament grounds, it was impossible not to realize that each such meeting may be the last.
I think I was as shocked as he was when I leaned forward to embrace him, though he returned the gesture in kind with little hesitation. "You be careful, squid face," I chided, poking him gently in the ribs. "I need you around so I have someone to try and be better than."
"And I'm no teacher without a student, two-toes," he replied, patting my shoulder gently. "You be sure to do the same."
He called for Tempidormi then, heading towards the flight master to retrieve her from the stables. I couldn't keep a weary smile from my face as I picked up my gun, taking another cock-eyed, poorly aimed shot.