Slagathorn the murloc stood at her post, though she would have been severely reprimanded for slacking in her duties had she been seen by Ranglash the Spotted.
It wasn’t her stance that gave away her inner turmoil – she stood up straight and held her polearm at the ready. The long, colorful spines that lined her back lifted at the proper angle to show her current status as an outer guard for the colony. Nor was it her expression that would have gotten her in trouble, for it was was suitably solemn and businesslike.
No, it was her skin that gave her away, the bright patterns that lined her froglike back shifting from green to blue to purple and back again, her vivid excitement spilling in uncontrolled pigment across her back for anyone to see.
Luckily, she was alone and had no superiors nearby to accuse her of inattention, no fellow guards to try and pry her secret from her.
Although she seemed outwardly calm to a casual inspection, inside she danced with jubilation.
She was going to be promoted! To guard captain! She! She was one of the youngest recruits in the southern guard station, yet they had chosen her anyway. She had deported herself with honor at the Battle of Gurmurgle, when the neighboring clan of Marshwomp murlocs had attempted to invade their coastal village. It had been she who had sounded the alarm, and it had been her polearm that pierced the heart of the murloc that nearly killed the Western Guard Captain.
He had said he was going to put in a good word – he must have put in a very good word indeed.
Oh, she was so excited! When she was naught but a tiny tadpole, her father had told her she could be whatever she wanted. Her mother had disagreed – told her she needed to face facts and be happy to find a nice murloc boy and raise some eggs of her own.
But she wanted to be a guard, just like her father, and just like every one of her fifteen older brothers. Every time they came home on leave, they told such incredible stories of bravery and glory that she felt her heart must surely burst. She’d forced them to teach her how to use a polearm, using long cattaiil whips instead of weapons. Begged them to tell and retell every story until they laughingly cried to for her to stop and let them get some sleep.
She had dreamed of this moment for so long, and yet she’d never dared hope it would come so soon.
She, Slagathorn, daughter of Grundmar the Croaker, was going to be Captain of the Guard! The entire southern shore ground force was going to be her responsibility. All patrols and sentries would be her duty, and the colony would depend upon her for their safety.
It was intoxicating and she didn’t even try to control the wild and thrilling skin pattern shifting that gave away her excitement.
Without warning, a sleek rectangular head parted the tall water grasses at her left, a wicked array of jagged teeth darting forward and snapping dangerously at her torso. She barely managed to leap back in time to avoid being gutted, and drew her polearm around to jab at the beastly head.
While she defended, her mind raced. A raptor? But raptors weren’t native to this part of the…a hunter! A landwalker hunter! She had to give the alarm!
She opened her mouth to sound a rallying cry and an arrow buried itself in her throat. The sound died before it escaped and she felt the raptor give a bone-chilling trill just before it kicked forward and slid its crescent claw into her side.
Three more arrows found their mark and she fell to the swampy ground, her blood drifting in delicate ribbons away from her body. With effort, she lifted her hand and slapped the water briskly, three times in a memorized pattern. If the next guard was close enough, observant enough, and quick enough, they might be able to catch the warning on the current and protect the colony.
As darkness crept around the edge of her vision, the pain from her wounds faded. She was dying, and she knew it. She tried to lift her arms, but couldn’t. Helpless, she lay on the ground and waited for the end.
The landwalker hunter finally moved out of the reeds and stood over her body, turning her turtle-skin bag inside out and picking through her belongings with careless ease. It was one of the longears – the sun-lovers. She carelessly threw aside the shell that Slagathorn’s father had proudly gifted her with on the day that she’d become a guard. The webbed pouch given to her by a tearful mother in hopes that she would still one day settle down and find a suitable murloc fellow to present it to. Idly, the landwalker tore through all of the small items and trinkets that made up Slagathorn’s life, looking for anything of value.
Just before the final darkness claimed her, sending her spirit to the Great Sea to swim in the dark depths of the sky with her brethren, Slagathorn heard the sunlover call out to a companion, “The magistrate wants us to turn in five Saltspray Command Idols, but I don’t see one here.”
“Only the guard captains carry those – this one’s just a regular guard. We’ll have to keep moving in to find the captains.”
“Oh, right. Well, let’s get going, Roshii’s getting bored here…oh for the love of stardust, here comes a whole troop of the bloodletting fisheads.” The landwalker gave a frustrated sound. “Aaaarg! I hate murlocs! They always travel in packs and sneak up on you. Impossible to pick them off one at a time. Let’s get out of here and try again later, that’s too many for just the two of us.”
When the Captain of the Western Guard came to Slagathorn’s broodhome to deliver the news of her death, they presented her father with the broken tip of her polearm and told him that she had died in honor, as a warrior, and that her warning had possibly saved the colony from a landwalker invader.