It was noisier than Silvermoon. Was it noisier? It seemed that way. It looked bigger but smaller too. More crowded. It smelled. What were those smells? The sea, someone cooking something, the body odor of the man that just passed by. And why was it so loud?
Tala hated Stormwind already.
They were walking through the trade district heading for the leatherworker. Katlynn seemed to know which way to go, but it was like she was also avoiding more densely populated streets to make Tala feel more comfortable. She was grateful for that. She was also grateful for the fox at her side. Krystal usually walked at Katlynn’s heel but ever since they entered the city, the large blue Gilnean fox had stayed close to Tala. It was like she knew.
It was the first time Tala had been around anyone other than Katlynn and Krystal since the Void consumed her and spat her back out looking…different. She felt like every eye was on her, and why wouldn’t they be? She looked unnatural. She felt unnatural. Her skin tingled like the feeling she got when she stood too close to one of the goblins’ electrical contraptions and something just under the surface felt like it was trying to get out. Then there was that ever-present feeling of someone or something lurking behind her about to grab hold of her neck. The humans could see it. They had to.
“Everyone is staring at me.” she whispered to Katlynn.
“Well as we established, you are very pretty,” her partner quipped, “And they’re not all staring, they’re looking at us to make sure they don’t bump into the two hunters and their fox. If their eyes linger too long, then they’re assholes. Pay them no mind. We’re almost there.”
They passed a few more shops but Katlynn suddenly stopped in front of one of the city guard who were looking at the both of them.
No no no no no no…
“Hey, Sinclair. How’s the family?”
Oh good, she knows him.
The guard replied in a gruff but tired voice, “Same as ever. Who’s your friend?”
“Ah, this is Tala. I was hoping we could meet with the other void elves and get her accustomed to uh…stuff.” Katlynn was the worst at dodging awkward subjects.
Used to being Void-corrupted is what you mean, Kat.
Now the guard was eyeing her a bit too much. Just as Tala was expecting him to draw his sword, he instead looked back at Katlynn, “You just found a void elf wandering about the forest, or is this that partner you’ve mentioned?”
Katlynn smiled an raised her hands in a mock-conciliatory gesture, “You got me. She’s my partner. I couldn’t do this job without her.”
Sinclair’s tone changed immediately, “So you confess that you’ve been collaborating with a blood elf for at least the last year and some months?”
Shit. It had been longer than that, but still, shit.
Katlynn took half a step back but then a smirk crossed her face and she took a step forward toward Sinclair, “I confess that I collaborated with a blood elf to recover your uniform after it was stolen by bandits as collateral against your gambling debts.”
Tala didn’t know human skin could turn that pale.
“Yes, well,” Sinclair cleared his throat and tried to compose himself, “it seems she’s an invaluable friend to the kingdom and the Alliance would be lucky to have her in our ranks.”
Katlynn smiled brightly, “I thought so too! Now, where might we find the other void elves?”
Shopping at the leatherworkers was brief. The shop owners were friendly enough, but Tala had still felt out of place. They had bought a new pair of pants and pair of boots for her as well as another pair for Katlynn. The new pants were alright, but Tala thought she would hold on to the pair she was wearing for a while. Though the pair Katlynn had bought for herself looked comfortable too.
They walked along the canal rather than going through the Dwarven District, Katlynn commenting that it would be less crowded that way. It was more peaceful too. There was something relaxing about the canal waters…the canal waters that were rumored to be full of crocodiles that King Wrynn fed Horde prisoners to. Maybe not so relaxing.
“An embassy. We’ve had beings from other worlds crash on Azeroth and discovered two islands full of talking bears that we brought into our ranks but only now did they add an embassy.” Katlynn was still going on about the embassy for some reason, “You’ll like the area though. Farmland, a lake, some trees…”
Tala stopped and looked down into the water of the canal. She didn’t see any crocodiles, but she did see herself. It was the first time she had seen her face since she changed. She liked her new hair. The blue skin would take some getting used to. But those eyes…there was something wrong with those eyes.
“You will damn your friend,” a voice said behind her.
She spun around quickly. An elderly human in robes was only a foot away from her, “I-I’m sorry?”
“Your choices have lead you to this path where the Light cannot help you,” the priest looked as though he was trying to maintain a calm and kind demeanor but his words were full of venom, “There is no going back for you, but those around you may yet be saved. You damn them with your presence, and you will only drag your friend into the Void with you. Spare her before it is too late.” then he continued walking past her to the bridge leading to the Cathedral District.
Tala’s heart sank. Was he right? Was she hurting Katlynn?
She looked ahead to where Katlynn had been walking but didn’t see her, “Katlynn?” her heart began to pound in her chest as she looked around. Plenty of humans about, but not her human. Krystal whined at her side and then took off running into the crowd. The crowd. Were there this many people before? So many of them now. All looking at Tala. Her breaths were becoming more and more shallow. Her blood was running cold but that tingling under her skin had increased making it feel like every inch was a thin layer pulsing over something dark within, barely containing it. She started to back toward a building, to the safety of a wall behind her but she was jostled by bumping into someone. She barely heard a mutter of an apology before all sound went away.
Then everything went black.
Everything. All around her. An endless plane of nothing. No…not nothing. Something was there with her. Something that was coming for her. Her chest tightened and her breathing became more desperate. There wasn’t enough air here. There was nothing. She was going to suffocate and then she would belong to it – the thing in the darkness.
A hand came down on her shoulder. It was a gentle touch, warm and comforting. Clear as day she heard a familiar voice behind her, “Tala? You’re okay. I’m here.”
She turned around and saw the familiar face and cropped black hair of her friend, her partner, her human, standing in the darkness with her. Without a second thought she hugged Katlynn tightly and closed her eyes.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. I didn’t realize you’d fallen behind.” she felt Katlynn’s arms embracing her back, “Stay close to me, okay?”
Tala opened her eyes. They were back in Stormwind by the canal and the darkness was gone along with the presence that she had felt. She awkwardly broke the hug, “I’m sorry, there was–…it was nothing.” she felt Krystal licking her hand and scratched the fox’s head.
“We’ll have to pass through the auction house and bank area of the Dwarven District to get there but it’s not as crowded as the one in the Trade District. After that it’s open air – no walls until we get to the embassy.”
“When we get there you don’t have to stay with me anymore. I’m-….whatever I am, I may not be safe for you to be around.”
Katlynn frowned, “You’re not getting rid of me that easily. We’re a team and we’re going to stay a team.”
“But I could go all…’rawr!’” she put her hands up like claws and bared her teeth for emphasis.
For a moment, Tala was certain the eyes around her were not on her but on her human companion who began laughing hysterically. It actually made her feel a little more comfortable and cheered her up.
Katlynn wiped a tear from her eye and slowed her laugh to a chuckle, “I don’t think you’re going to go void creature on me. Besides, that’s what this embassy trip is all about. Figuring out what all of this means for you and how to handle it. And I’m going to be with you every step of the way. Now…do that ‘rawr’ thing again because that was adorable.”
Tala laughed and lightly shoved her friend, her partner, her human, and her anchor. She hoped the priest had it wrong.