by Pook

Pook had come a long way in a relatively short amount of time.

Just a mere year ago, one full turn of the seasons, she hadn't been able to speak, had been living in a cave on Teldrassil like an animal, had almost never had contact with other people. In just a year she'd been changed, for the better and for worse - corrupted, redeemed, married, had a child, experiencing so very many things. But under it all, she was at times still an animal at heart, a creature that had been cared for and kept company by a Nightsaber most of her long life.

As such, she hated seeing animals in captivity. She hated seeing them being captured, enchanted and trained as beasts of burden, saddles and harnesses forced on them, their natural eyes shining with the unnatural glow of the magics used to make them docile and obedient. Her own adoptive mother had met just such a fate and Pook had been forced to buy her. She seemed to carry her of her own will faster than Pook's feet could go, but who could really tell now?

It was still something she felt guilty about, usually buried in the back of her mind, but every once in a while it would well up in her - the way she seemed to be abandoning her past, the things that used to be important to her.

It was just that frame of mind that had seized her that night, gnawing away at the pit of her stomach while she tried to sleep. She stared at the ceiling of the sleeping quarters in the Zul'wind, the waves of the harbor gently rocking the docked ship, No's sprawled form reassuringly solid and fuzzy against her hip as he snored softly. Her infant son Daltrien shifted slightly in his sleep but didn't wake, releasing a small sigh. Normally all of it was soothing but tonight she was restless.

She used to live by her nose, but she could hardly scent things out anymore. She used to sleep on a rock, and now she was uncomfortable without a soft bed, pillows and blankets. She used to wear hardly anything at all and now...okay, well, her clothes were still pretty not-there, in general. But STILL. She was growing soft. Tame...P'kow.

Something had to be done! It was time for ACTION!

Slipping out of bed, she hastily dressed in dark clothes. Stealth was called would be a dangerous mission, but it had to be done. For the good of the animals...for all animal-kind...

"Wark?" The black-colored Hawkstrider said at her quizzically, its head tilted in birdlike puzzlement.

"Go! You're free!" Pook whispered hoarsely, waving her arms.

This was not going well.

If Pook were to pick a race that had most likely done terrible things to enslave animals to their will off the top of her head, which she had, it would have been the Blood Elves. Haughty and callous, they'd enslaved a Na'aru to force the Light to their will...who even knew WHAT they were doing to the poor Hawkstriders in captivity to turn them into docile mounts.

Or so she'd thought, when she'd snuck into the Hawkstrider breeding and training grounds in Eversong Woods. Confident she'd find a terrible place where struggling Hawkstriders were penned, tormented and prodded until their minds were taken from them by magical force she'd slipped in and flung the surprisingly large and well-tended stables wide open in triumph, waiting for the animals to flee their oppressive captivity.

"Waaaaark..." a blue Hawkstrider said peevishly, re-entering its pen.

"No no no! You're FREE! Run away!" She growled, shooing the large bird out again. It glared at her resentfully.

She didn't understand what was wrong. These weren't the ones that had been enchanted yet, and yet they were just...milling. Grooming their feathers, rubbing beaks against the wooden pen walls, eyeing her with blank, perplexed looks.

All right, clearly their spirits had already been broken, she thought to herself. She would have to take drastic action. Once they were loose in the wild again they'd find their way back to their natural instincts again...

Her body shifted, growing fur, fangs and claws lengthening, her glowing green pupils going slitted. Puffing up threateningly, she let loose a fearsome roar at the hapless birds. There was nothing to scatter a flock of animals like a predator in their midst.

As one, the birds' heads turned to regard her, beady eyes glinting in the night. There was utter silence for a few moments as the gears seemed to turn in their heads. Finally, one of them tilted its head, blinking.


This seemed to break the spell and they all returned to milling, shuffling, grooming and hunting around for scraps of food.

Pook blinked herself a few times and then shifted back to her Elven form, skulking out of the barn defeatedly, her shoulders slumped. What kind of animals were these, anyway? They didn't even WANT to be free! She'd never seen anything so stupid or frustrating or--


A beaked head bumped into her back. She turned to regard the purple and pink Hawkstrider that was following her, peering at her curiously.

"No, shoo! Go back! Go back to your life of captivity!" She said, waving her arms widely at the bird.

"Wark?" It said, confused, tilting its head in a gesture that was quickly beginning to wear on her.

She sighed and turned to go again. "Whatever. Stupid bird."

She only got a few more steps before the Hawkstrider bumped her again. "Wark?"

"No, look, I'm going! See?" She growled, taking a few more steps back. The bird followed her, pace for pace.

", you can't come with me. I don't need a bird following me..." Pook said, frowning, backing away more rapidly.

"Wark?" The Hawkstrider said, keeping up with her easily.

"Mmm...hmm. All right then, I'll have to take drastic measures..." Her body shifted once again, this time into a cat with spots, her fastest form. She tore away off into the underbrush, darting around trees in the forest handily avoiding the Scourge and the huge bats and spiders that filled the area. She almost felt sorry for the poor bird if it was still trying to keep up with her swift, lithe for--

Her hind paw got tangled under an arched root, sending her spilling end over end, her arms and legs lengthening and shifting back to her Elven form in pure instinctive surprise and thudding rather solidly into a mass of bird.

"Wark?" The Hawkstrider said as she shook her head, spitting out a single pink feather.

" did you...I was..." Pook stammered, frustrated and annoyed. "UGH! Just...go home!"

"Wark!" The Hawkstrider exclaimed excitedly, ducking its head between her legs and charging forward, lifting her up and over onto its back, albeit backwards. She flailed, alarmed for a moment as she righted herself and the bird looked back at her expectantly.

"I...ah...I don't believe in animal subjugation, you see..." She said uncertainly, rubbing the back of her neck. She leaned to one side slightly and the bird followed the movement naturally, preening with pride. Experimentally she leaned forward and the Hawkstrider started to charge sure-footedly through the forest, fluttering its wings as they cleared a small fence.

After a short distance she sat up straighter and the bird stopped completely, ruffling its feathers happily. Pook slid down off its back with reluctance, giving it a lingering pat. "Look, you're a good bird, but I just don't believe in riding animals, all right? Go now, go back to your pen or be free."

She started to walk away...and taloned feet padded happily after her, completely oblivious. She sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose, and turned to look at the bird.

"Fine, fine. You can come with me. But I'm not going to HEY!" She exclaimed as the bird scooped her off the ground again and took off.

"All right," she said, resigned. "If you're going to stay with me you're going to need a name..."

"Wark?" The bird said, tilting its head back at her even as it ran ahead, narrowly missing a tree.

"Okay okay! Fair enough...Wark..." she said, scratching the Hawkstrider's head lightly as the bird ran delightedly into the night.

((So, how does someone who hates riding animals for RP reasons reconcile themselves with having a mount when their class can't naturally travel at anything like mounted speed? That's how! >_> ))

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