Stormclaw @sahqoreyth
The Fangs of Ashamane

The Fangs of Ashamane

Laronar and Thaon knelt, as did their new students, and the Ancient panther rose above all of them, with what almost looked like a smirk upon her visage. "It seems we've a small problem, my loyal kittens. Two of you are worthy of baring my Fangs, but there can be only one Alpha. How shall we resolve this issue? Any thoughts?"

Laronar glanced at Thaon who, like him, was the only one with his eyes upon the Ancient. He arched a brow at Ashamane then, and the panther winked at him. An unnerving chill went up his spine. The kind he got before entering combat. He had a sudden sense of foreboding, like this was what the Ancient had been waiting for. Delandros spoke up from behind them, though he kept his head down. "A duel, mistress. A test to see who best wields your form."

Ashamane purred, and those gathered felt her approval. "Yes…nothing gets the blood racing like combat…let this battle between brothers be the first of many, in this place. A true test of honor, and skill…"

Laronar had pinched his brow at Delandros' words, but Thaon was glaring at the novice, who yet had his head bowed. The pair had not engaged in proper combat in ages past for a reason: both their forms were quite deadly, and both were capable of inflicting serious wounds. Despite their rivalry, they liked each other enough to not wish the other dead. They also knew how two Feral masters fighting for dominance would appear to their fellow druids, but that was no longer an issue, with their current audience.

Laronar opened his mouth to speak, but Ashamane cut him off. "I will be making sure neither of you does any…lasting harm. You've my blessing, both of you. Duel. Prove your superiority…"

Laronar glanced at Thaon, who shrugged, and at the same moment, they shifted, and took up places on opposing sides of the raised mound of fertile earth. Ashamane moved to the northern end, and the others followed her, still mostly in awe. Getting a good look at them now, Laronar noticed that there were quite a few females amongst them. That had been the case in the grove as well. It seemed that, without Malfurion and Tyrande's influence, these Kaldorei had eschewed social hierarchy entirely. In this verdant paradise, it seemed everyone was allowed to practice the arts.

An echoing roar that put their own earlier ones to shame rang through the glade, and Laronar knew they had begun. He melted into the shadows, appearing to walk to his right, towards Ashamane, but once hidden, he moved left. Thaon had charged forward with a roar, but even with his speed, Laronar had vanished long before he came close.

Claws whirled in a circle around the purple and white tiger as he lashed out, but they hit nothing. Once more, Laronar had hidden himself well from his rival, and evaded being struck. That meant first blood was his…if he could get close enough. Thaon stood still then, reaching out to his surroundings as he tried to sense the land's reaction to one as strong as Laronar. There were quite a few strong presences gathered, but the Fangs showed him what he wanted.

Each of them had kept one upon shifting, but before Thaon could move, he felt claws raking down his back, as his old rival effectively stunned him, for a moment, and began tearing into his cat form. Their fight devolved into a swirling mass of bites and claws. Blood flew from each strike, and Moonfire rained down on Laronar repeatedly, but each time he landed a hard, tearing blow on Thaon, the damage to the black furred druid seemed to heal. Given how fast the two were attacking, the flashes of green were quite quick.

Evenly matched as they were, their duel came down to a test of endurance in the face of constant wounding. Blood spattered the grass, and Ashamane watched every move as Thaon's attack power desperately tried to overcome his rival's healing abilities.

Then, in a flash, they leapt apart, as elves once more. Green healing energy swirled about Thaon as he began casting a quick healing spell, but Laronar's mending was much swifter, and before his apprentice could heal the cuts that covered his body, he found himself pinned beneath the bulk of his once more healed and rapidly shifted rival, his pair of massive fangs pressing against his neck.

A single word snarled from Laronar's throat, barely more than a growl, and though the speech was unfamiliar with this mouth, he wasn't exactly being eloquent. "Yield."

"Neverrr…" Thaon snarled, shifting his form from beneath his mentor, who suddenly found his fangs embedded in the shoulder muscle of his former student's cat form, quite by accident. A pair of hind paws slammed into Laronar's stomach, and he grunted as he felt himself tossed through the air. He landed on his feet, sliding back on the grass from the momentum.

Thaon had managed a swift heal as well, though it was a spell that worked on wounds over time, rather than instantly. Thaon had a slight hitch in the wounded shoulder, but he could wait now. The longer he did, the better his chance of winning became.

Laronar melted back into the shadows, and Thaon's amber eyes widened. He began slashing the air around him in three second intervals, not enough to run forward for another sneak attack. Thoroughly stopped, Laronar bided his time, and let his opponent run out of energy by hitting nothing. When it became apparent that Thaon could keep his defense up all day, Laronar switched tactics.

Ashamane's words came back to him, and he recalled a story she had once told him, involving wolves and a much younger version of herself. He grinned, and moved behind Thaon's whirlwind of claws. Then, in between attacks, he roared suddenly, and loudly.

Expert that he was, Thaon whirled, and charged towards the sound, but Laronar, still hidden in the shadows his power bent around him, had leapt over the form of his charging student. He pounced then, and began shredding the other cat's back, tearing it to bloody pieces in his ferocity, not giving him a chance to counter, or yield. There was, evidently, only one way this would end. Thaon tried to heal through the pain, but the attacks came too quick, and were too strong. Eventually, he found his form fading, and Laronar paused in the abuse he was dealing to his old student.

Now pinned on his stomach, and in his elven form, Thaon's body was suddenly surrounded by deep green light, as was Laronar's, and their wounds closed. Moreover, their energy returned. Laronar felt like he ought to be dashing through the forests of this verdant paradise, but he resisted the urge. A look at Thaon's usually impassive face, now in a grin, told him his fellow druid was feeling the same.

Laronar let him up, as he shifted back to his elven form, and the two clasped arms, hands on each other's wrists. "As always old friend, your tenacity is impressive."

Thaon chuckled. "I knew I should have studied Restoration magic…I thought any enemy I faced would go down long before what healing I do have was needed."

Laronar smirked. "I considered that as well, but ultimately, I prefer healing to damaging spells. I got enough of that as a H- …when I was younger." Thaon nodded, understanding. Like most of Laronar's contemporaries from the early days of druidism, he had been told of the druid's lineage, and respected him enough to keep from mentioning it publicly. When he explained how old he'd been when the War began, most of his fellows had shrugged, and wondered if he'd ever really even been Highborne at all. He'd had just enough freedom to avoid being molded by the sense of superiority, though his skin tone gave him away, as he was pale and light blue.

Ashamane stood then, prowling towards the two. "An impressive display, as expected of my favored students." The two druids bowed low, and the Ancient turned to regard her other students. It is decided. Thaon Moonclaw shall teach you the basics of using my form, and Laronar Stormclaw shall make you into masters of using not just my shape, but others as well, to become truly deadly to those who would defy nature."

The group of students regarded the two masters, and then in unison, bowed. The one called Delandros, who was evidently the speaker for the novices, stepped forward then. "We accept your will mighty Ashamane, but I must ask…how are we to learn when your shape is yet kept from us?"

The panther Ancient's amber eyes flared, and the forms of the gathered novices shifted into the familiar cat form, though each of their coats was now as black as Laronar's. "My form is yours. You, shall be my Ashen. Learn well, little ones." With that, she glanced at Thaon, who stepped towards the group, placed the borrowed fang back upon the pedestal, and shifted once more before leading the pack of novices to a suitable place in which they would train. To Laronar, she said "Come. We should speak more, while we are able."

The other Fang floated over to him, and with both in each hand, he felt his power surge. He had a sudden urge to take his cat form, but resisted, as the great panther moved towards a cave carved into the cliff nearest the raised mound of earth that played home to her Fangs.

Once settled in, she spoke to him once more. "I know what you intend to ask of me…but there is a reason I have yet denied Stormrage's request. It goes well beyond petty words."

Laronar raised a brow, "It does? What keeps you from giving your form then?"

The panther shifted uncomfortably, her form shrunk from the massive size she'd displayed to her newly minted Ashen. "My strength is not what it once was…the power of my Fangs that you now sense should be ten times as potent…but without being able to walk the world, my strength has waned after millennia of empowering your Circle. With your battle, you and Thaon have given me some strength, enough for the Ashen, but if I am to continue sharing my power with druids, my Fangs must be made stronger…"

Laronar eyed the Fangs, and nodded. "I know several runes we could carve into the bone, that would draw on the power of the land, but I have a feeling you've another suggestion."

The panther grinned at him. "I do. You're not going to like it, either…but seeing as how Thaon is busy, and you proved the stronger, there is a danger festering in the lands surrounding what was once Suramar that you must face."

Laronar's eyes widened. "Suramar yet stands?"

The Ancient nodded. "In a manner of speaking, yes…but those within are sealed off from the world, and have no desire to join it. They have, unfortunately, taken to exiling members of their society by warping them outside of their shield. These elves, soon driven mad by the lack of a mana source, were given aid by one of your fellow druids. The fruit of a tree bearing the power of both nature and the arcane."

"Such a tree still exists?" Laronar tilted his head, genuinely curious. His own people had suffered a similar hunger for magic after the land broke, and magic fruit, with aid from Nordrassil, had been tried as a substitute. Moonberries, while delicious, had done little to curb the growing hunger for the arcane though. The ultimate result had been the creation of Moonwells, pools of water from Nordrassil's own source that could rejuvenate a Kaldorei. Over time, the Night Elves had weaned themselves off of needing mana, and between Elune's light and Cenarius' teachings, they had found other sources to subsist on. It appeared the elves of Suramar had no such luck.

"It did. The tree showed promise, but ultimately exploded in failure due to a potent source of arcane power deep below the chamber it was placed in. The arcane imbalance overcame the natural power, and caused the tree to explode. My instinct says that this source, whatever it is, may be the key to empowering my Fangs, and restoring my strength. Between that, and your runes, I should be able to give my power freely once more." The panther eyed him expectantly.

Laronar sighed, and then bowed low. "I will seek out this source of power…though you haven't mentioned what exactly is 'festering' down there…"

Ashamane shifted again, and averted her gaze. "I know not exactly what…only that it is foul, corrupted by the wild magic left over from the tree's death. Go to Falanaar. You will see for yourself, but be warned, that town was heavily broken in the Sundering…the shattering of the world may have released something quite evil in its depths…stay hidden. Stay safe. Come back alive."

Laronar nodded, and then slid the Fangs into the belt responsible for holding his kilt up. "I will…but before I go, I need a favor…" He produced the crafted bark gauntlets from his pack. "I seek your blessing for these. Gauntlets crafted from discarded bark by Nordrassil. I know your power is limited…but I figured I should ask. I can always find a Keeper or something if you cannot muster the strength."

The panther gave him a look, and then nodded. He placed the gauntlets before her, and they flared with orange power as her amber eyes fell upon them. "May they endure the use of thousands of years…and act as your claws when my own are unavailable to you." The fingers of each sharpened into formidable looking claws, and then, the light sank into them. "That is all I can spare…now go…" The Ancient yawned, and faded from sight as he sensed her falling asleep. She must have given quite a bit of her strength if she needed a nap afterwards, but with the Fangs and his newest piece of armor, he felt more than ready to face whatever Falanaar had in store for him.

Falanaar – Outskirts of Suramar

The trip had been relatively short, and the sight of the massive arcane dome in the distance almost drew the curious druid away from his purpose. He was half tempted to try to contact those within, but first, he had a mission to finish. Ashamane was proud, and did not lightly ask others for aid. If she needed his, it was because her need was dire.

His form felt much stronger now that he had both Fangs on his person. He had never been so stealthy, and what danger he had encountered after descending into the shattered town's depths had been ghostly in nature. While most had been vestiges of genuine Priestesses, and had let him pass unmolested, some had appeared to have gone mad, and had attacked when they sensed him. They hadn't lasted long against his fangs and claws when he'd needed to dispatch one or two. He hoped whatever was below fell as easily.

It took some searching, but eventually he found what he assumed his patron had been referring to. One of the walls of the local temple had been shattered, and led to a deeper series of tunnels beneath the temple. The passages ran deep, but nothing seemed to live within. The chambers Laronar prowled through were ancient, covered in dust, but ultimately empty.

Finally, he came upon one tunnel that led even further down, and as he sensed the magic, he knew he was close to what he sought. Naturally, that was when he noticed the first of the webs. Stealthy as he was, spiders are quite good at sensing their prey, and even the finest control of the shadows cannot hide the tremors made by soft, careful steps.

They eventually found him, though he had no idea what they even were. Their features seemed elven, but their bodies were more akin to spiders, and though they'd sensed his treading over their webs, actually spotting him was a different story, as the druid remained still as soon as they appeared.

They spoke in the elven tongue, which only confirmed his suspicion that they had indeed once been Night Elves, likely from Suramar, who had been cast beyond their shield and fallen into this darkened labyrinth. He had seen the exploded tree above, and sensed the same chaotic magic in these creatures, but whatever had caused that tree to blow apart was a symptom of what lay beneath these ruins, not the cause.

He leapt quickly at the spider elves, drawing their attention as he did so. His agile form pushed off the roof of the tunnel in mid-air, and he spun, claws flashing as he dispatched the two abominations by tearing their throats out. Their dying screeches were strangled, and their bodies sent heavy ripples through their webs as they fell. This time, Laronar was the one to feel the webs shake. He knew then that he'd woken the nest.

He decided to forgo stealth entirely then, and charged through the skittering masses that came his way. Most of them were spiderlings, small, but still big enough to be a threat in the numbers they assaulted him with. Thankfully, the power from the Fangs was more than enough to dispatch them. His claws flashed in circles as Thaon's had when trying to separate him from the shadows, and the wounds he left on the spiderlings ended them in moments.

As he came to what he sensed was the lowest part of these tunnels, the magic emanations he felt were magnified. He resumed his prowling through the shadow as he entered the large room, the last of the tiny spiders having long since been dealt with. What he saw, he did not understand, and so he watched, and waited.

The warren before him was a large bowl shape, and though many smaller tunnels connected to it, leading elsewhere, he knew this was the deepest, in tune as he was with the land. It was crying out to him in pain, and it didn't take long to discover the source.

A strange mineral formation, the likes of which he'd never seen, protruded from the center of the bowl-shaped room. More of the spider-elves surrounded it, and many came and went through the smaller tunnels. They each seemed to be drawing immense arcane power from whatever this mineral was, and the more they did, the more he felt nature beg him for intervention, if only to make the pain cease.

He was severely outnumbered, however, so he waited, and listened. The patient hunter was the one who got the prey. It was thankfully not long before his patience was rewarded.

"There mussst be a way to draw more…" One of the spiders hissed to another. The one who'd spoken, a female who looked to be a queen, or at the very least a matriarch of some importance, was hissing to the others gathered around the strange gold and blue rock protrusion. "Asssssk the prisssoner…he hasss been mossst helpful with hisss…knowledge…"

The group made a strange sound then, and it took the hidden druid a minute to recognize it as laughter. Whatever had initially changed these elves was now being magnified by this source of mana in the form of a blue and gold rock. It was also likely what caused the imbalance in the tree he'd seen. Such things were not unheard of, though they were quite ancient, a leftover from the days of early Kaldorei society, when the Highborne had still yet held respect for nature, and not just the arcane. He'd thought such things little more than myth, until he'd seen it with his own eyes.

Several minutes later, the spider-elf charged with speaking to whatever unfortunate soul they'd captured returned, with said unfortunate soul in claw. He was bound, but Laronar recognized him as a fellow Night Elf. His hair was a similar shade of green to his own, purple blood dripped from several cuts across his body, new and old, and the robes he wore were those of a mage, not unlike what the Moon Guard had worn.

Their stronghold had been nearby, and he surmised that if Suramar yet stood, and survived, then the ancient guardians of the empire might yet have done the same. If that was the case, that meant there was a source of magic-using elves who, unlike the Highborne, were not inherently corrupted by obsession with power. Not entirely, at least. Such elves could be useful allies, should the Legion return.

The queen-like female in charge regarded the prisoner. "We sssseek more…Night Elf…we mussst have more power…"

The elf responded by spitting a glob of purple and black blood at the spider's clawed feet. He said something as well, though Laronar was as yet too far away to hear. He'd tensed at the sound, ready to spring into action by sheer instinct, though he knew not why. Perhaps his form's senses, enhanced by his patron's Fangs, knew the time for combat was coming.

The spider queen lifted the elf's face then, and all sound left the hidden druid's ears. It was bruised, bloody, and a bit aged since the last time he'd seen it…but that sneer was unmistakable. Vehlar Stormclaw yet lived, or so it seemed. He felt the rage within him rise then, though whether it was directed at his brother for his past abuse, or the spider-elves for torturing his brother, he did not know. It was a complex set of emotions, but ones he would examine later.

In either case, he decided to use his rising fury. He began prowling closer towards the central bowl, as the spider-elves once more focused on the strange rock. The more they drew, the more pain he felt from the land. The caverns themselves began to shake, and he knew he'd never get a better chance to strike.

He sliced through Vehlar's bonds around his wrists first, and then leapt into the circle of distracted monstrosities, taking down the weaker ones in quick succession. His eyes were burning with rage, the amber orbs were the only part of him that was visible in the near total darkness of the deep cavern.

As Vehlar rose, free of his bonds, one hand shone blue, while the other turned an all-too-familiar Fel green, drawing its power from the dying spider-elves, he combined the two orbs of power together, and fired them off at the male spider-elf that had dragged him from his prison, and presumably, had been in charge of his torture. The abomination exploded as the two opposing magical forces mingled, and canceled out, right in front of his mangled face.

Seeing herself suddenly outnumbered, and outmatched, the queen scurried into the nearest hole in the burrow. That gave the elf and the amber-eyed panther a moment to regard each other. Vehlar spoke first. "I suppose I should thank you…whoever you are…I had heard the druids my people had become were strong, but I hadn't seen their strength first hand…I thought I was doomed to die alone down here..."

Laronar decided that that moment would be the ideal one to reveal himself, though he stalked towards the mineral first. He had his back to Vehlar as he resumed his elven shape. "I do believe…that is the first time you've ever thanked me for anything, Vehlar Stormclaw."

Roots rose up around the rock, and broke off the largest piece of the protruding blue and gold mineral. After some quick manipulation of the earth, Laronar sent the broken node deep, and the pain he felt receded, slightly. Hesitant to touch the strange arcane mineral, he grabbed the bundle of roots instead, and began to head for the exit.

"How…do you know my name, stranger?" Vehlar's usual sneer had faded as the younger brother glanced back at him, amber eyes still gleaming. The look on his face suggested he knew the answer to his question, but Laronar humored him anyway.

"I might be old, but I can still recognize the face of my own brother…now come. They will be back, and in greater numbers." He shifted again without another word, the roots of his bundle wrapping around his broad chest and resting upon the shoulders of his cat form.

Vehlar, for once, decided to listen rather than argue, as thousands of tiny spiderlings emerged from the holes in the chamber. Not long after, more spider-elves followed, as did their queen. But by then, the two were well on their way up the tunnels, past the many, many dead corpses of tiny spiders that Laronar had left in his wake on the way down. The piercing shriek of rage informed them that she'd discovered the theft of their power source, and seconds later, the thunder of thousands of spider-legs echoed up the tunnels behind them.

With a fierce roar, the speed of the elf and the panther picked up, fueled by Ashamane's power and sense of urgency. She was awake again, and Laronar felt her focus on the rock he'd recovered. "Seal the tunnels…you must bring that to Val'sharah…those following you will not follow to the surface…"

As the two sprinted out of the tunnel and into the underground structure of Falanaar, Laronar shifted, and turned towards the entrance they'd come from. "What are you doing? We need to go!" Vehlar muttered, but his gaze soon fell on the bundle of roots his brother had placed beside him as he focused.

Green nature magic wreathed his hands, and the pained earth was all too glad to respond to his call. Especially if it meant trapping the spiders that caused it such pain. The tunnel collapsed, filling with massive, unmovable boulders. Laronar suspected the spider-elves would find a way past them in time, but for the moment, it would do.

He clenched a fist, suddenly, as he sensed what his brother was reaching for. The bundle's sharp thorns extended into a fierce bramble, and before the mage could draw upon a fire spell to rid his prize of the irritation, he felt five sharp digits, not dissimilar to claws, at his neck.

Laronar's visage was one of cold fury as he said, "I would not touch that, if I were you…brother of mine. Ashamane requires it, and after what I saw you draw upon down there, you can rest assured that you will not be taking this anywhere…I should report you to the should know better than to play with Fel."

Vehlar's sneer returned, and arcane flames appeared in his hands. "I am master of both the Fel, and the Arcane. Order, and disorder. I wield the demon's own vile energy against great effect. The Fel cares not what it draws upon, mortal or demon." His eyes narrowed then, and for the first time, Laronar got a good look at them, and recoiled in disgust at the sight of the macabre socket's protruding bone, holding a twin pair of Fel flames where silver eyes had once existed. "It seems we are at an impasse than…brother. I need that ore…the weapons I could craft with it…" The greed was evident on his face, but Laronar hardly cared. It took about a second for roots to rise up, and bind around the mage's hands, ruining the spell he'd been weaving.

The druid loomed over his estranged kin then, and realized that for the first time, he was the stronger of the two. Without the Well to fuel his magic, it was much, much weaker. The roots pulled Vehlar down, forcing him into a kneeling position, and yet more came up, surrounding his body, and further ruining his robes as they bound him in place, and made struggling painful, as the barbs grew large, and sharp.

"What an idea…crafting a weapon from an ore like this…you'd think such a thing would be an obvious choice for such a potent mineral. I think I will take that to heart, but for now, Vehlar Stormclaw, you and I shall part ways. You will not be welcome in Val'sharah, nor any other Kaldorei land…you have consorted with demons for that Fel power, do not deny it. You're little better than a Satyr...and you smell like one, too. Have fun with the spiders…" With that, he grabbed the bundle of thorns again, returned them to their previous length, shifted, and began ascending out of the ruined temple.

What ghosts were in his way were quickly dispatched, and as he neared the top of the structure, he heard the rage in his brother's voice. "Laronar! You will not get away with my prize!" But escape the druid did, soaring into the air on strong wings as he made for Val'sharah with the bundle in his owl form's talons.

The power it gave off drew much attention as he soared towards Ashamane's Fall, and he spied the ghostly form of his patron, surrounded by Thaon and the other Ashen as he descended. They were in a defensive ring around the great panther Ancient, and he saw at the southern end of the raised mound that other druids, as well as a Keeper, had arrived. He didn't have to wonder at the reason. His bundle was radiating arcane power.

He landed between the two groups of allies, and turned towards the Keeper as he resumed his elven form, keeping his prize bound to him as he did. He bowed. "To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit, Keeper?"

The jade-skinned Keeper walked forward on his four strong, stag-like legs. "I am Varethos, Keeper of these lands. You carry with you a strange power, druid. Who are you, and what have you brought to our home?"

"I am the Archdruid called Laronar Stormclaw. I discovered this strange ore in the depths beneath shattered Falanaar, where it was being used to pain the land itself by the foul denizens who live there. Spider-elves, twisted by the energy of an exploded tree that seemed arcane in nature. Whatever this ore is, I believe it is the cause of the imbalance that caused the tree to fail. Though I know not where it comes from." He brought the ore forward then, and let the vines drop to the ground as he displayed it for the Keeper.

A strange thing happened then. The gauntlet that touched the ore flared a bright orange, as did its twin, and strange, wonderful sensations flooded Laronar's mind. Knowledge, tactics for deploying an army of Feral Druids, ideas for half a hundred spells that would be incredibly useful to both him and his fellow druids filled his thoughts. He was dazed for a moment, and then noticed that Varethos had come closer now, as had everyone else. He held up a hand, and shook his head.

"I'm…I'm fine, sorry, that…I touched it, and it…mmm." He looked up at the Keeper then. "Whatever this is, it is bound to our world in ways I can only guess at. In either case, I intend to use it to empower the Fangs of Ashamane. This will, I believe, turn them into a weapon that can handle demons quite easily. Furthermore, it will do much in restoring our patron to full strength." He gave Varethos a meaningful look, and the Keeper nodded. He was aware then, how weak she'd become, and exactly why the Feral Druids had lost the use of her form.

The Keeper placed a gnarled finger upon the ore then, and winced, withdrawing the limb by pure instinct, as if he'd touched fire. "I've never seen an ore like this…but I sense you are correct. We can put this to good use, for the defense of the world. I will send our blacksmiths to aid you in-" Laronar held up a hand.

"This should be crafted by those with the closest ties to Ashamane. I don't know how to explain it but…I know this must be so. Just touching this ore…gave me that insight. My instinct says it is correct." Laronar eyed the ore again, wondering what exactly it really was. Or where he could find more.

"Very well…" The Keeper said, eyeing the ore as he did, "But I will remain to keep watch…just in case you need my aid…" Laronar nodded, and then turned towards the pedestal that had held the Fangs before. He laid them down then, and the other Ashen surrounded him. Thaon took up the position opposite, and with their combined might, they focused on the ore. Surprisingly, they were able to shape it as they would a tree, and slowly, over the course of several hours, bonded the strange metal to the essence of their patron.

Once the light blue mineral was fashioned into both the blade surrounding the Fangs themselves, and the handles they'd used, small branches from nearby Shaladrassil, Thaon and Laronar carved in the appropriate runes for rejuvenation, healing, and enhanced spell power. The one who bore the Fangs would find their cat form to be as strong as Ashamane's favored. If not stronger.

When the work was finished Ashamane appeared before them again. "I am…renewed…whatever this is, it is exactly what was needed. You did well in retrieving it, Laronar. Take up my Fangs. They are rightfully yours."

The druid eyed the Fangs then, glanced at Thaon, who nodded, and then looked back at what they had wrought. Vehlar's visage came back to him, his unnerving Fel eyes alight with greed. "I…I am honored, but…but these are now weapons of incredible power…I should not carry them about so casually... Nor should any of us, I think." He looked up at the smirking visage of the Ancient panther. "We should only draw upon these in times of dire need…and until such a need arises, we shall ward them, and guard them. This will fall to the most skilled of the Ashen."

Thaon nodded in agreement, seemingly pleased that his rival had denied the gift. "I agree. I know such a ward, one of the many benefits of learning Balance spells." He gave his old rival a meaningful look. "I think this is the right decision. Such power should be defended until needed, and in the meantime mighty Ashamane, you can regain your strength, and share it with our brother druids once more."

The panther Ancient regarded her two strongest disciples, and then nodded, seemingly satisfied with how Stormclaw had handled the chance for more power, gained relatively easily. Her eyes closed, and her body became slightly more incorporeal, but otherwise she seemed fine. "It is done. Your Circle may once more take my shape…now go, Thaon, train my Ashen. Make them into the strongest of the Feral Druids."

Thaon nodded, bowed, and once more left with the cavalcade of Ashen initiates behind him. Ashamane turned her amber gaze on Laronar then. "I am proud of you, little one. You resisted the urge for yet more strength."

Laronar raised a brow at her. "You were testing me?"

The Ancient panther chuckled. "In a manner of speaking. You are the right one to bare my Fangs, but you are also correct in keeping them safe, and secure. When the time comes, I expect you to take them up."

Laronar eyed them again, and shook his head. "I do not think that destiny is mine…besides, I am strong enough without them. If I ever become so weak and infirm that I need such tokens to take my Cat Form, I'll know my time to pass on has come." The two chuckled at that, and spent the rest of the evening sharing stories, as they often did.

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