That night, wind was out of the north, sweeping down out of the mountains – clear and cold, certainly, but also pushing the ever present scents of fish and sailors and a city on the water out over the ocean. It made for a pleasant (if chilly) night, with stars high above echoed in the ship lights and city down below.
Aunne was immune to cold, certainly – but not to the beauty of it. Her hooves echoed off of nearly-deserted-late-night-cobbles, and she took her time to trail along the water to drink it in
No walk was without purpose – and in this case, she was on the trail of a Priestess, one who had joined in with the others in their games of truths and lies. A priestess that wasn’t someone that knew her well but had always seemed kind enough. Those were the necessary ingredients.
It didn’t take her much walking, for the Priestess hadn’t gone far at all. In fact, as Aunne exited the alleyway, the three girls on the corner pointed her to the shop directly across from them. Sweet smells of coffee and pastry wafted out the door as patrons moved in and out of the establishment.
Two flights of stairs to reach the top, where the death knight was instructed to go, and Alistair stretched out on the couch before the fire, book in hand and a blanket pulled to her hip as she leaned against the arm for her back support.
Aunne was never good at being a social creature. The smile she assumes is a little too wide, a little brittle, her posture a little … too proper. Hard to put a finger on, but they’re certainly some kind of defense mechanism, some way to seem less intimidating and more… well. Normal.
It almost worked. Almost.
“… uhm. Skianei’Lei-.. ” She sighed, breaking off – remembering the right word. “Priestess – I.. are you to having a moment? I am sorry if I am to disturbing
Alistair jumped a little at the sound of another voice. Even going as far as to curse softly in Darnassian. Still, she sat up, pulling her legs off the couch as she smiled at Aunne. “Good evening. Aunne, was it? You are not disturbing me at all. I have a moment if you need.” The priestess set the book down on the table in front of them and adjusted the blanket to lay in her lap and down her legs.
“Yes. I am to being sorry – I was to seeing you at the gathering, and … I can to go, if I am bothering? I am bothering. You were to reading, yes?” Aunne winced. “I am sounding like I am a.. the word is novice, yes? Again. I do not knowing why I am being so… ” She waves at herself. “This.”
She straightened. “I am .. needing advice, from.. someone who is not to being all nice and to being reassuring because they are knowing me well. And I was to thinking of you – who will being honest, yes? And.. I was to hoping you would to having.. time.”
Alistair patted the arm of the chair to her left, offering her the empty seat as Aunne stumbled over her words. “Slow down.” The priestess said with a smile, settling back into her spot as she pulled her hand back. Her hands came to rest folded in her lap, back straight and proper posture held. This was almost a natural rest position for her. “Start slow. I will follow the best I can and ask questions where I do not.” ]
“I will.. trying, yes?” Aunne drew her runeblades from their simple sheathes on her back, setting the crystalline things upright in the corner nearby. It was a deliberate gesture, disarming herself of the bulk of her magic – it always seemed to serve to put others at far more ease. She then settled into that chair, a hand unconsciously coming up to cover the wound on her chest, visible behind that simple shirt. She started talking, even and slow, and just let the words spill out.
“My people… are being connected to the Light. It is being a part of us, always, yes? We believe that, when it is we are dying, we go back to it, to joining it again – there to see all of those who left us, and to waiting for those who are still to coming, when their life is done. This.. you are knowing, yes?
“When – I was dying, and when I was to given the Curse? I did not to touch the Light any longer. All was darkness, and shadow – I do not remembering what it was like to being truly dead. For a long time, I did not to remembering things Before. He – Arthas – ” The name takes effort to say. “Was cruel. Most do not really knowing. It was not being enough to having servants – he needed pain as we were made to needing it too, and he.. found satisfaction into harming those who were raised to his service. Having tools, yes – but it was best when the tools… hurt. And so for each? He chose fates that were to being… mm. It is hard to explain, but you are to understanding?”
“For me, he was to making me .. forget. To remember only the things that would to hurting most. All that I had failed. All those I had to harmed. Each life I was to ending – before. Before I was being a healer. And now I was not.”
Aunne shook her head. “I do not to say these things for pity – you must to understanding. Much has changed, yes? But. I do not remember the time after dying. Only the moment of dying, and then to standing again, in Acherus.”
She went on – “I am Draenei now – in the fighting of the Legion? Many things happened. But I went to the Exodar. I saw. I was to fighting with the Lightforged. I .. chose. To change what I was being, and was to taking the Praetor’s oath. And now?”
Aunne looked up at the priestess then – and that rune the Draenei carry, when they connect to the light – it faded into existence, faint and wavering on her forehead, and.. for just the smallest of moments? Her hands flared with faint traceries of gold. For the briefest of moments, as all Draenei can, she touched the Light.
Oh, how it burned! She could feel her body around her, the reality of death crashing in, the hollow emptiness of her chest, her lack of a heartbeat, the coldness of her skin, the pressure of the world around her. It seared her, and she felt her death.
The priestess sat there, listening with all the length of her long ears, nodding when she understood. The mention of Arthas caused her to frown. Icecrown was not a pleasant experience for her. Her hands came away from her lap and wrapped around her stomach, fingers idly rubbing at the fabric of her dress. “The Light causes you pain, but you need not shy away from it. One can hold their faith, it can beat deep within your heart and soul. Some… just cannot handle it’s touch, but that does not mean you can’t have your faith.”
“It… is more than that. I have… to know. Does this to mean I am having a soul?” Aunne asked, carefully, a flat, quiet question. “I do not know that I do. And.. I am to going mad. If I do not knowing this… If I do not? Then..”
She trailed off, tried again.
“I am not Aunne’keva.” No, that her was long dead, buried in the Plaguelands. “ I am being Aun’ne. Is Aun’ne a thing that….. is… ” She waved a hand at herself.
The priestess face softened. Her smile was warm. She spoke quietly, “Souls are… a difficult thing to explain. I believe every thing has a soul. My daughter would tell you even the trees and the earth under our feet. My brother, I believe is less likely to believe it. Aunne’keva, a beautiful name by the way, I believe you do.”
“I am.. going mad ,yes? Touching… becoming Draenei? It has… it has to made things… real. I feel my body, yes? Everything is..” Aunne shook her head again. “It wars inside. And I must to resolve this – I am seeing ghosts, memories. I am .. it is /hurting/, and I have not to hurt in many, many years.”
Quietly, the undead Knight went on, “I am going to the Forge. As the ghosts are asking. And .. if I do not to have a soul? It will to being my end. It will to being pain, and Light, and then I will .. cease, yes?”
“Oh dearest Starlight, the war within you happens with everyone. The Death Knights? They have a much harder war to face than the rest of us. We must make peace with who we are, and sometimes… that means making peace with everything that haunts us.”
Alistair moved her left hand toward Aunne, holding it palm out, offering it to take. She asked after a few moments, “Do you need help?”
Aunne…took that offered hand slowly. “I do not know. I do not truly to knowing what is .. real. What is not. I do not… know even what to being asking.” Those faded, glowing blue eyes of hers studied the priest. Aunne took note of her smile, the set of her ears. “I am doing a thing by faith, that… the ghost of one who I loved, yes? He will not to tell me to do a thing that is wrong. But I do not to even know if he is real. But he /is/ to being right. I cannot to exist divided in two. I cannot to endure the Shadow and the Light together. I cannot to being the monster and the dream, yes? I must choosing. And I.. do not wish to ….I .. wish to exist. If it is not to being living. I am afraid of the dark, yes? Twice, I have died in body – twice, there was /nothing/.”
Alistair’s heart broke at that. Her hand squeezed the cool one in hers. This was certainly a difficult topic for her, it was written on her face. The furrow of her brow, the tension in her jaw.
“I will let you in on something not many know.” Ali’s dark eyes met with Aunne’s. “I have also met the world beyond once. Elune saw that I was not done on my path.. after much begging, I assure you. The dark is terrifying if you do not make it your friend. Our cases are very different though, I’m sorry the Light was not able to save you. Now though, it’s time for you to decide what you can do about it. Embrace it or deny it, it is your choice to make. But as I said, you can still hold your faith, even if it does not hold you back the same way.”
Aunne considered that, gravely. “I have hurt so many. I have to done so very much wrong – even.. when it was I was.. forced, yes? I ..enjoyed the horror I was to causing. For many years, I have.. tried to being good. Being worthy. I do not.. always succeed, yes? The Forge must having a soul to … remake. If I do not to having one, all that I am being will end.”
“The maybe you need to atone for it?” The priestess bit her lip. “We do not all succeed at being worthy. Even the worthiest of us fall short sometimes. The life you live now, is it one you want to keep living?”
That hand in her own was some sort of comfort for such a serious topic. Alistair looked over the Draenei at her side and offered a small smile.
“But what happens if you do. Are you bound to it? Will you still have life?”
“I do not to having ‘life’ now. I do not to think this will change.” Aunne passed by the first question, it’s implications a bit much for her. “I could to return to Acherus. To embracing the shadow – but I cannot. They have.. changed. What they have done? It is.. not to being right. I do not to know what I will.. be. After. But.. I will not being /this/, yes?”
“Do you have friends or family? A clan to call your own? Those are life, those are what give you the drive to continue to fight. At least for me it does.” Alistair nodded, heart feeling so heavy for her. She shifted her weight, giving the undead draenei’s hand another soft squeeze, an attempt to reassure, although she felt as if it was not helping. “What can I do?”
“I.. have daughters, yes? Two. They are not.. of my body, but..” The Death Knight actually smiles – a real one. “Ygraine and Maisy – Ygraine is .. mad, yes? But kind, and strong. Maisy is learning so very fast – she is.. one who was raised on the Broken Shore, and now? She is… taking care of me, yes?”
Aunne tilted her head, thinking. “They.. and the Templars.. are to being my clan. There are being no others – Aunne’keva was alone, except for her son. And he is gone now.” She left how he died as a silent thought, but she could not help but think it, regardless
“My Luciellen is mad as well, but strong. Always learning who she is and how she can do it better.” The priestess chuckled, oh how she missed her daughter. “Children do not have to be of your body to be yours. I know that first hand.”
“Maisy is… coming with me. She was to insisting. It is good – you are allowed to bring one, yes? Who will protect you as you are to .. experiencing the Forge.” She doesn’t show it much – but the worry there still shines through. “I tried to tell her no? But she would not accepting – and.. I am comforted in this. It is good, yes?”
“To have the support you need? Yes. Your daughter is strong and will be what you need.” Alistair smiled and nodded. Knowing if she were faced with something that difficult, she would have the support.
“She is. She is very strong – nearly as strong as I am being, yes? Perhaps more now – divided, I am.. not being what I was.” Aunne keeps hold of that hand, shifting to cover it with both of hers. “You are really thinking I am having… I am … not empty?”
When the hand enclosed around hers, Ali was brought back to this plane of existence and nodded. “I believe you are not empty. Someone without a soul… they wouldn’t be so worried about the things you are.”
“Everyone is to saying this. I do not to understand. How are you .. certain?” Aunne … was certainly skeptical.
“History, my dear, history.” A warm smile and the priestess leaned in. “History has proven many a time that we are full of life, we are full of hope and this… energy. It gives us compassion, it gives us heart.” She smiled once more, hopeful for anything that came Aunne’s way.
“Perhaps.” Aunne considered that – and spoke quietly, even bluntly- “But the Cult of the Damned – they do not to having ‘compassion’, but they are to having souls. Have to seen them. Orcs? They… made the Path of Glory. For my people, there was no compassion. And they are to having souls. Your people- they suffered much. The Forsaken may have to burned the Tree, but the Orcs helped, yes?”
“Just because you are savage, does not make you without a soul. We often see the world one way. However you were raised, you know that to be the way of things. What I see as savage acts, they see as natural life. As for the cult of the damned? They do it in subservience, they might do it for their families. But they have reasons. Does that make sense?” Speaking of the Tree obviously put her heart in pain, yet she still tried to put a smile on.
“I am sorry, Skianei’leila – I do not wishing to bringing you pain, yes?” Quietly – “I was there. When she attacked – I tried, yes? Until all was.. until the bones showed. I could not to staying any more. I wished to save them all, but I could not. When I had.. mended? Still, we stayed. So many were taken, and we were to freeing them and to leading them over the mountains and the wood.” She grimaced. “I killed many Forsaken, many Orcs. But it was not to being enough.”
“My people suffered a great loss that day. Not only our home, but our people and the ones -she- raised.” Alistair looked angry, but only for a brief moment did the heat rise in her cheeks as she wished she could have screamed. “I was there… my daughter was safe. A mutual friend of ours got her safely out of the burrows. We did not know how far the “queen” would go.”
“No. No one knew.” Aunne added softly – “The Draenei should have to known. I do not know that it would to have mattered? I am sorry. But. Yes.” And.. with a sudden motion, she simply surged forward to hug the priestess, fiercely – nevermind the awkward angle. “Thank you. For to talking to me, yes? I know I am being a bother. And.. I have to bringing up bad thoughts. You have.. to given me much to consider.”
Alistari was just opening her mouth to speak as the Draenei embraced her with such passion. Her hands held for but a second before returning the hug. “Thank you for feeling safe enough to speak to me about such delicate matters.”
Aunne leaned back, offering the elf a wry smile – “Thirty-nine, yes?” So many friends – it never ceased to surprise her. “You could not to hurting me. Not really, no? But I will to worrying about you. I can to seeing your hurt.” Aunne settled in to kneel there, next to Ali’s chair. “Most to running away when I am to hugging them. You see? This is to making you special too.”
“Thirty-nine?” She blinked, but leaned her head against the Draenei’s for but a moment before she was gone. “I do hurt, but the more people I find in my life. The less it hurts. One should never run from a hug though. Truly, neither knows which one needs it more.” Ali looked over Aunne’s face and smiled.
“I am going to braving the Forge. Perhaps I will not survive, yes? I do not to know.” She patpats at Ali’s hand. “But I am brave. And perhaps you are right. And I am knowing that if all does not to going well? I will to being remembered. And .. if there is being nothing? There will always being that. But I am less afraid, yes?”
There was a small faint warmth, Alistair could feel it. She couldn’t be sure if it was just the moment between them, or maybe the fire caught a fresh bit of wood. Whatever it was, it made her smile brightly. “I’m honoured to have been here to speak to you. You will be remembered, no matter what is done.” She reminded her kindly.
“mm. This is all I can to hoping for, yes?” Aunne stands – fluid and easy. “I have to told my children of the family they did not to know – so someone will to remember them too. I must to speak to Aralynn – and some others. And then I will go. It is seeming so simple, yes?”
“It does.” She smiled, watching her stand so gracefully. “Will you… keep me in mind and send mail when you can?”
Aunne was rather surprised by the idea. “You.. would wishing me to? Oh. I. Yes, if you are liking? I .. did not know you would to worrying.”
“I would. That way I can know what has happened. You are a kind person Aunne. I would very much like to be a part of your life adventure.” Alistair shrugged. “I tend to worry more than I need to. But.. the people in my life deserve it.”
“I am.. glad you are saying I am to being in your life, yes?” Aunne chuckles, soft and hollow – “You have only just to really met me – we have to talked some few times? But… now you are knowing more.”
“I think… sometimes it doesn’t matter how long, but the connection.” The priestess smiles again, still unmoving from her place. “You will let me know, if you want?”
“Yes. You are wishing. So I will to making it so.” She moves to the corner – the runeblades floated to her, coming to her call as she reached for them she sheathed them with practiced ease and felt their murmer of satisfaction, heard their whisper.
When she left, it was with lighter step, and softer hoof.