Track’s Note : This isn’t an informative article by any means. Trackhoof was born on Ravenholdt-US, a Role-Playing server. In the spirit of the thing, I wanted to let him go out in the fashion that I swore to the last time I “quit” – just walking away and retiring.
Where has the hunt gone?
Trackhoof thought about this as he sat astride his wyvern, the warm Nagrand breeze blowing through his mane. It was a bright, glory-filled day, all the more perfect for finding worthy prey, and ending the night with tales of the day’s deeds at the World’s End in Shattrath.
He wondered again.
Where has the hunt gone?
The prey had changed many times. He loved coming back here; it reminded him of home. Rolling hills, acres of green, and beasts that dwarfed the kodos he and his friends hunted in Mulgore. He relished those first hunts; the hours of preparation with the others and the master Hunter, learning the ways of the wild before he thought them worthy to track their foes.
He remembered the thrill, the anticipation of his Ueharahe. The “worthy prey”. The kill that proved to Cairne Bloodhoof, leader of his people, that he was worthy of moving beyond their borders, and that he earned the blessings of the Taurahe.
It was massive. It was bigger than anything he’d ever seen; it stomped with thunder and shook the earth when it fell. That day, he had found himself in the spirit of the hunt. His arrows flew fast, and his companion, the Cat named Spear, was fierce. If he had died, it was a good day for that; but he lived, and it was a good day for the hunt.
He was told to go out, and find the hunt wherever it lay in wait for him. Seasons passed, and as his friends changed, so did the hunt. Some days it was beasts, and demons. Others, it was Men, of the Alliance.
These days, he relished. These Men, the “pinkskins” – they were a proud people, but they were hardly warriors, or hunters. They used magic. It was their crutch. They did not commune with nature; they saw land as a right, rather than an ally.
The short ones, the Gnomes and Dwarves, were of the earth, too. But the Gnomes’ troubles were of their own making. He had seen what they had done to Gnomeregan; He thought it a shame that a people so close to the earth, in both size and spirit, should seek to ruin it so.
The Dwarves, Draenei, and Night Elves, however, he saw as kindred. They all know the hunt. The Elves share our love of the Earthmother, and I have seen their warriors change into bears, with the blessing of Elune…Even the Dray-ni, the ones not from here, still know the earth better than the Men do! Hah!
And the Dwarves? He looked at his gun. They made this. And I like this. They can’t be that bad.
When he was forced to kill another Hunter, he said a silent prayer for them. He knew that the spirits would not let them rest for long, but said it anyway. It was a sign of respect.
But the Gnomes… they stabbed his ankles, dealt with demons, and were more annoying than threatening. Why couldn’t they ALL have been lepers?
The wyvern roared, and he found himself flying over the plains. The day-dreaming always helped make things go faster when he was riding wyvern-back; the flight was slow, but he could not afford the more fleet cousins of his mount.
He was a skinner by trade and by principle, and it was the sense of principle that made him poor.
As he rode, he asked himself again. Why am I here? The hunt is not here. The thrill is not here.
He pulled the reins, and the wyvern landed, throwing dust up as Trackhoof stepped onto the ground.
He looked out, and finding only Clefthoofs, he sighed and sat down. From his bag, he produced a small flask of Halaani Whiskey, and took a long swig.
It had been a month since he had adventured with his friends, the Guild named “Project X”. Nothing had changed; they had gone into Karazhan to clear out the ghosts, skeletons, and forces of the supernatural again. Medivh was a crafty dead bastard; it would be only a week before his essence revived the evil in his castle, but Trackhoof went nonetheless.
It was at that point he began to feel the growing, gnawing distance in himself.
The hunt wasn’t here anymore. The hunt wasn’t in the lairs of Gruul or Magtheridon, the unholy, massive beasts that the thought of which once froze his blood, or in wiping out the armies of Illidan.
It was gone from him. The spirit of the hunt had vanished, and he was left with nothing.
You are a Hunter, he thought. To not want to hunt, or know what to hunt, is not who you are!
But I’m tired of this, his mind said. I do not wish to keep hunting. I grow older, and who will care for an old hunter when the spirits are done with me?
He took another drink.
More than anybody else, Trackhoof had crossed over to the spirit side. Many days, he cursed his bad luck; others, his slowing reflexes. In his younger days, it came as a shock to him that he was not able to die naturally, as his grandparents had. It was something Cairne told him about before he left.
“You, Hunter, are marked. You cannot see it. You cannot feel it. But you must do what you are told, for you cannot join the ancestors until you do. They will not let you. You have been blessed; you will live an extraordinary life, and you will know extraordinary people with the same blessing.”
I never wanted this. A blessing? Hah. A curse is more like it.
When he was young, he tried to kill himself. Mostly out of boredom, but mostly because he and his friends were also “blessed”. The game was jumping from the highest, furthest, and most dangerous place they could find.
It was a sick joke, played by temporary immortals.
He knew friends who charged into danger with hardly a care. Limb was torn from limb. Burns, frostbite, acid, axes, arrows, spears, all were deadly, and all were inconsequential.
It was never easy to get used to. Seeing it, that was. It was hard to fight that instinct of fear, sadness, and rage when you see your own friends die, even knowing they’d be the same a moment later. It was the constant defiance of all natural order and what he had been taught.
How would he feel when, after all that, they couldn’t get up?
Where was the thrill, the rush of cheating Death? The hunts that brought him close enough to the Void’s cold stare, only to bring him back out again?
He had to set his own limits. He pretended he was like the tribal warriors back home; the ones that were careful with their weapons, knowing the consequences of death. His skill improved dramatically, but it felt hollow.
What could he do? He was not a young bull anymore. He taught his ways to some willing students, the ones who saw the potential of Surviving, but he relied more and more on his beasts. By channeling them, he got back some of his speed. It was enough to convince others he was still strong, and still dedicated to the hunt.
He had heard talk of Northrend. It intrigued him, but he debated whether or not it was worth it. He could keep going, and hone his war-craft further. He’d heard from scouts that Hemet Nesingwary himself had moved there, seeking still bigger game, and taking his hunters with him.
But Nesingwary wasn’t a hunter. He was only satisfied with corpses, not kills. That is not how a hunter thinks, Trackhoof thought as he took another swig.
A real hunter knows not just his prey, but his own abilities. His prowess is not measured with the count of bodies, but the skill it took to make those bodies; not how large the gun at his side is, but how it fires under duress.
Track looked around at the Clefthoofs. There was a time, years before, that Hemet Nesingwary told him to kill them by the dozens, promising him a chance at the greatest hunt he’d ever see – a true blood-sport.
Trackhoof took it. These large brutes were hardly a challenge. The Queen Elekk, the beast with wings for ears and horns that gored the Ethereals mining the mountain nearby, she was the last great hunt he had.
And at the end, Hemet did what all good hunters must one day do; give their weapon to the next good hunter. And Trackhoof used it well.
To hear that he had taken up The Hunt again was… disconcerting. Give it up, old dwarf. Track thought. There is always something bigger, always something stronger, always a tougher prey. Eventually, you will be The Hunt for another Hunter…but it will not be me.
He heard the talk in World’s End from adventurers, excited by the news of taking the fight to Arthas, and the unexplored corners of the map that awaited them. It put a smile on his face, but he did not share their reasons.
It was like seeing himself in a mirror. Once, he was eager to see Outland, and what challenges he would find with The Hunt there.
It would be as it was, as it would be, and would ever be. Northrend was just new territory. And his horns ached with age. Not like these young ones. They were so excited, their words hardly made sense. “ZOMGWTF! I HERD ARTHAS IS THERE N WE GET TO FIGHT HIM!!1!”, said one Warrior. “LOL NUB PLZ, I CAN SOLO ARTHAS.” A mage chortled these words, pleased with his own power.
Track smiled, but weakly. They hardly knew what they were getting into. They didn’t know about The Hunt, but they knew adventure. Most of them would end up dead. The lucky ones like Trackhoof would come back, again and again – but to what end?
Walking out of the bar, he found his way to the Scryer rise, his home away from home. He looked up as he rode the platform, and saw the Arcane giants that guarded the Blood Elves from intruders. They loomed tall above everything else, even him; and they dwarfed their masters’ size thrice over.
He saw a younger Hunter, an Orc, sitting next to one of them, gazing into the distance. He had the marks and trophies of one who’d recently been exorcizing Karazhan as well. But his bow was hardly one that deserved a hunter of such promise.
“Orc, rise. I have a gift for you.” Track said.
The orc looked up. “Me?”
“Last I checked, these giants weren’t small and green; I’d imagine I mean you.”
“What sort of gift?” The orc was caught offguard.
“A gift,” Track sighed, “From a Hunter who’s seen better days, and better hunts.”
With that, Trackhoof produced his prize; the rifle that the giant Worgen in Karazhan had swallowed. A poorer hunter had lost a truly wondrous weapon, but his loss was Trackhoof’s gain.
“Take this. Are you familiar with the custom?”
“What custom?” The greenskin still didn’t get it.
Orcs, Track thought, I swore I heard they were a race of tradition. Either I’m going deaf as well, or they must be getting too dumb for rituals…
Regardless, he continued. “It is an old tradition of the Hunt; I give this to you, because it is MY weapon. I pass it to you, and when you feel as I do, you will pass on yours to another Hunter.”
“But why, Tauren?”
“My name is Trackhoof; and I give you my gun, for I have no use of it anymore. Hunt well, and shoot straight.”
Trackhoof walked off, leaving the stunned hunter with his rifle.
He deposited his things at the bank, bought some more comfortable clothes, and with a parting goodbye to his guild, they sent him to Mulgore with their blessings.
There was a celebration upon his return, but short-lived. His hero’s welcome gave way to everyday affairs, and he settled down. He found a female, had a family, and when he finally died, years later, the spirits let his body rest. He drifted away from his body, leaving his grieving family behind.
The Ancestors cheered as he floated towards them. They were countless in number, of every race he could imagine, and ones not seen in aeons.
He smiled as his spirit joined theirs.
At last, he thought.
The End of the Hunt.