Name: Ehawe Spiritwalker
Birthplace: The Barrens
Professions: Skinner / Herbalist
Affiliations: Proud Warden of the Night Vanguard
Appearance: Ehawe has a brown hide with a slightly lighter face. Her eyes are a soft blue and her short, curved horns are tan. Two braided strands of hair hang on either side of her face. She is clad light leather armor with a large war hammer slung across her back. At times, she can be seen assuming an animal form; either a giant, shaggy bear, an stealthy cat, or a seal.
Dreams, at least in Ehawe’s world, were always peaceful. Generally, she would be out picking flowers or assorted herbs, running about in an open field encased by a verdant grove of trees. On rare occasions, when the Earthmother smiled upon her, she had dreams of lakes and of rivers. She would frolic about in the water so much that her mother would compare her to one of the small fish, but Ehawe just giggled. The Barrens were a hard, dry land and any time that one could spend playing in the water, one did. This dream was one of swimming. At the moment she was preparing to jump off a rock into the water, she felt a tugging at the edge of her consciousness. No doubt it was her father trying to wake her up. Ignoring the nagging pull, she jumped toward the water below. When she hit it, she expected her world to change into an aquamarine paradise.
Instead, it turned to flame and bitter smoke.
Naturally, Ehawe was a bit surprised and more than a little afraid. At first her mind could not grasp her situation. She delicately reasoned that while, yes, she had abruptly woken up from a dream, that was not a very good reason for the tent to burst into flame. Her stream of thought was interrupted by her father barging into the tent. He was howling something at her which she didn’t pick up. She reflected that perhaps the fire was not her doing, because her father seemed frightened rather than angry. As he pulled her languid form out of the tent, she heard something akin to thunder; it was a dull, load roar. Lighting had caused the fire! She turned toward her father to tell him this new insight. When she looked at him, she saw an emotion that she had never seen in her father before that night; it was the fear that frequented the glazed-over eyes of the elderly in their last minutes, a soul-killing burst of terror before the end. Ehawe was dumbstruck by this; nothing had ever put this fear into her father’s eyes before, even the giant lizards to the south. She tried to ask her father what was so frightening, but the thunderous roar swept away her words as soon as she could form them. Her father continued to pull her along the winding paths through the tents at a full run, nearly dragging Ehawe behind him.
As they rounded a bend, she saw a group of Tauren that were also running along the same path. There was a large male standing to one side of the trail, facing away from them, who she recognized as Etu, one of the elder warriors of the tribe. He suddenly recoiled and a massive, shadowy beast leapt over the divide and onto the path. Her father froze in place and pulled Ehawe behind him. She stared on in horror as the warriors clashed, the fiend forcing Etu farther and farther back. In the blink of an eye, the creature reversed its weapon, slamming the Tauren in the sternum, stunning Etu. The monster then brought its massive axe slicing across the guard’s front, nearly cutting him in two. Ehawe let out a blood-curdling scream as she watched one of the tribe’s former warriors fall to the ground. The shaggy brute snorted in victory, then turned toward Ehawe and her father.
The marred, shattered face that Ehawe saw next burned itself into her mind, an effigy that could never be cast out. The shaggy hulk stood taller and was broader than most Tauren. The chest was that of a man, but the lower body belonged to a sort of cursed Zhevra; it was covered in black, matted hair and scars. While the physical size of the creature was frightening in its own right, the eyes were what terrified Ehawe; they shone of murder. It strutted leisurely toward them, hefting its axe up for a killing blow. Ehawe shut her eyes and dove into the dirt, hiding her face in her hands. In that moment, a triumphant whistle shot over her head and there was a loud roar. She looked up toward the brute for a moment and saw it rearing up on its hind legs. Looking back the other way, she found several Tauren firing off their bows in rapid succession. She heard the soft thuds of the arrows impacting the chest of the creature, followed by a deafening roar. The brute had risen up on its hind legs and was clawing at the arrows imbedded in its chest. The archers advanced; they fired more and more arrows at the target, until eventually it could take no more and collapsed with an earth-shaking thud. A rough hand pulled Ehawe up from the dirt and turned her away from the arrow-threaded corpse. She looked up and found an elderly hunter; one of his horns had been sheared off at the halfway point, and his fur was a dull gray. He smiled down at her and said something she didn’t quite catch. She vaguely remembered her father running up to her before she passed out.
Small wisps of smoke drifted off the decimated camp. The battered survivors of the night’s attack looked over their previous home, shocked beyond grief. Somewhere in the crowd of survivors, a young girl woke up from a troubled sleep. She came to suddenly, trying to shake the nightmare out of her head. As she drifted back into consciousness, the events of the past night flooded back to her. She sat up and found her father, haggard but otherwise well, looking down at her.
Her father kneeled down in front of her and put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s alright, Ehawe. The raid is over, and we’re all safe.” His words were soothing; despite the exhaustion so evident in his voice, Ehawe found comfort in it.
“What happened, daddy?” She spoke in a half-whisper, almost as if she didn’t quite believe something had occurred.
“There was an attack on the camp by the Centaur.”
“That’s what they were? Centaurs? I’ve never heard any elders talk about them.”
He sighed. “The elders don’t talk about them because we haven’t seen them for a long, long time, many years before you were born. We hoped that they had left the Barrens for good, but it appears we were wrong.” The statement was heavy with regret.
“I don’t like them, daddy. They scare me.” She was quiet, and her thoughts were lost in her nightmare. She remembered how she had come back from picking flowers to find the camp aflame, watching the murderers slaughter her people. Her father’s weary smile brought her back to the moment at hand.
“You’re not the only one that they scare, Ehawe.” He rubbed her head affectionately. “Why, I don’t think there’s a sane Tauren that doesn’t have a healthy fear of the Centaur.” He heard the light rustle of footsteps behind him and turned.
“Hadras!” The elderly shaman called out to her father from a distance, leading a group of men. “I’m afraid we have some grave business to attend to.” He said these last words as he approached.
“I know, Flathoof.” Her father turned to her. “Ehawe, stay here. The shaman and I have to go down to the camp, and I don’t want you to see.” The girl’s eyes began to well up with tears; the last thing she wanted was her father to leave her. She began to ask where her mother was, but he pressed a finger to her lips. “No, my daughter, I must go. I’ll have Boorand stay with you. I’ll be back soon, I promise.” He smiled at her and stood. The shaman nodded at both of them, and led him away.
Soon thereafter, an elderly guard showed up; she recognized him as the hunter from the night before. He flashed her a toothy grin. “Hello there! Remember me?” Ehawe nodded. “Well, I hear they’re passing out spiced bread over near the main tent. Want some?” She nodded again. He laughed. “You’re quite the talkative one, I see. Well come on, we don’t want to miss out.” The guard led her over to where the elder matrons of the tribe were passing out the food, and she felt a rumbling in her stomach. She ran over to the closest basket and one of the elder women smiled and handed her a piece. Boorand walked up behind her and was also handed a piece. He thanked the woman and walked with Ehawe over to a low tree.
While they were walking, Ehawe asked, “Why’d they attack?”
“I don’t know, little one.” The guard laughed. “Well, I guess I do, but you won’t understand. You’re far too young yet to understand what’s worth killing and dying for.” Boorand put a hand on her shoulder.
“I wish I understood,” Ehawe pouted, “because then I would understand why it killed Etu.”
“You saw that?” The guard grimaced.
“Yes, I did. It was terrible… he didn’t do anything!” She looked up at Boorand. “It just wasn’t right.”
“I had guessed you did,” the guard sighed, “little one. It is not something that anyone of your age should ever have to see. The battlefield is no place for a child.” They shared a few moments of silence. “As to being right, I’m afraid that in the real world, what is right tends to fall behind what is easy.” He looked down on her with a deep sorrow in his eyes. She brooded for a moment, then asked, “Well, how come everything is back to normal now?” “Nothing ever really goes back to the way it was, but we adapt.” He patted her on the head. “Now, off with you. There’s flowers to be gathered, and your father told me that you’re the best flower-picker that the Tribe has.” He grinned and she beamed at him. She started to talk, but he silenced her. “Go. Over where we got the bread, they’re meeting. Listen to the old ladies. They’ll tell you what they need.” He watched as she skipped away, grinning.
“So as there are young, there is a purpose for the old.” He leaned back against the tree and laughed.
All throughout the trip, the elders had been very sad. Ehawe didn’t understand why; they were out picking flowers, after all! There was no reason to be sad. To compensate for their dreariness, Ehawe skipped about and picked her flowers with reckless abandon. However, when they returned, and the purpose of the flowers was made clear, she understood.
She stood now next to her father, watching as the mass burial took place. The elder women she had gone picking with were laying a single flower on the chests of the deceased, saying a prayer, and moving on. She would have cried, but her eyes had long since dried up; she had spent all her tears earlier. She fell back into her memories…
After they returned from the flower expedition, she found her father waiting for her. She ran over to him, giggling, intending to tell him about all the wonderful blooms she had found. She was halted in her tracks by the look on his face; there was a deep and painful void in his eyes. He motioned for her to follow without speaking, and led her into the village. After a long walk, he stopped at a small clearing, at the center of which was a corpse. He turned to Ehawe and spoke very carefully. “Ehawe, my little girl, I am sorry.” Tears welled up in his eyes and he tried to blink them away. “I should have been there for her, but… I… I just…” He looked down at the ground, and Ehawe ran over toward the body. She looked down, instantly recognizing the face, but she refused to believe it. Her father put his hands on her shoulders, and she felt a tear land on her head.
“Mommy?” Ehawe had started to cry. She fell to her knees next to her mother’s body. “Mommy, wake up!” She gently pushed the body, willing her mother to wake up from an awful sleep.
“No, Ehawe,” her father said in a shaking voice, “she won’t ever wake up. Mommy is in a dream that we all have, at one point.” Ehawe’s tears were flowing freely now and she hugged her mother’s lifeless form.
They stayed there for what felt to be a century; eventually, Ehawe stood. She pulled a necklace that her mother had made her and put it on her mother’s chest. “Goodbye, mommy.”
The ceremony ended, and the nomads packed. They set off toward the nearest clan village; they were off to find the Bloodhoof Tribe, and unite with them. En route, the head of the nomads made a stirring announcement, declaring that the Centaur would pay for their crimes. The crowed let out a bloodthirsty cheer. Most wanted the blood of their attackers spread so thick across the Barrens that it would resemble a marsh. Some wanted genuine, lasting peace. One little girl didn’t care about revenge or peace or any of that nonsense; she just wanted her mommy back.