As Drognan stood before the enclave, he heard the whispers behind him. “He is old,” the voices said. “He is ready to die.”
Even as an infant born into the Deadhorn Tribe, Drognan heard the whispers. “He is dead,” said his father. And the rune of Death was etched into Drognan’s flesh, and Drognan, stillborn, was taken from his weeping mother. Only Drognan would not be dead for long.
When he was a strong calf, it was the Elders whose whispers puzzled the young Drognan. They would look his way and smile, speaking to one another in hushed tones. He would begin his studies early, and study under his shaman father. They would teach him of the Deadhorn ways, for who would understand the dead better than one who has been there before?
By the time Drognan became a brave of the tribe, he had proven himself a noble warrior and seer. Yet it was the visions that haunted him, the visions of the shadows of death. His tribesman called him “deadwalker”, and suspiciously eyed the runes he bore on his body. He was young to adorn such runes, for few of his tribe saw the full pantheon of Deadhorn spirits at such a young age. Few less were met by Quorugardth himself, the Key Spirit, the very embodiment of death. And Quorugardth whispered to him, “You are my chosen. And you shall die.”
As the dark moon crossed the sky on the day of sacrifice to the spirit Sejemussis, Drognan was made an Elder. The camp celebrated his life and told stories of his many conquests, but one they would only speak of in whispers. Quietly, the braves would gossip to the younglings, “He bears the mark of death itself.” “But how does he bear such a mark,” the calves would ask, “if he has not yet died?” And the champions among the Deadhorn would shush the braves and bow their heads, recounting the tales their parents passed to them.
On the eve of Drognan’s birth, it was said, the shaman Dragan Dreamweaver, who bore no lineage from the three great Deadhorn Clans, spoke to the spirits. So adept at peering into the spirit world was Dragan, that the Clans referred to him as the Spiritwalker. So adept at the rites of death was he, that Dragan bore the rune of Sejemussis proudly across his chest. So adept at his communion with spirits was he, that all three great Clans sought his advice and teachings. But it was Dragan who sought out advice from the spirits, for he had foreseen the death of his only son. “He is meant to die,” they told him. “But in his death, the Deadhorn teachings will be passed from Deadhorn father, to Deadhorn son.” And Dragan Dreamweaver knew what needed to be done.
The funeral procession brought a grave silence across the camp. The dead would be celebrated, but before the revelry for the dead began, Drognan’s mother cried. She did not cry that day over the loss of her child, but for the loss of her husband. On a stone altar, the aged body of Dragan Dreamweaver lay. Were it not for the infant calf snuggling on the chest of its father, the dark rune of Sejemussis would have stood out brilliantly against the gray fur reflecting the sun’s light. “You will tell your mother I loved her,” a voice said. It would be a voice whose whisper would haunt the child for many years to come.
“He is old,” the voices said. And Drognan was old. He had achieved the age of eleventy-one, and had witnessed the resurgence, and ultimate decline, of his tribe. He had fought alongside the Boneshield Clan against the rise of the Scourge, and had traveled with the Ashenhoofs to the Undercity to bring his people and the Forsaken together. He had lead his tribe as Sagamore and Cacique of the Dreadbare Clan, spreading the teachings of the Deadhorn Tribe to all who might listen.
“He is ready to die,” the voices said. But Drognan only smiled, for these whispers had become his friends. What the voices did not know is that Drognan was ready to die the day he was born, and die he did.
“I live in death,” the Sagamore said, “for I am the last of my ilk. And when Quorugardth takes me, I will follow willingly. But until then, I have more to teach you.”