The pleasant ache of honest, hard work in her arms made Cael pause a moment as she sat back on her heels and regarded the fruits of her labors. The sun was out today, and warmed her in happy contrast to the cool breeze from the north that ruffled her ruddy fur, though she still wore her cloak, hood down, just in case. The weather in Stormheim was fickle at best. And her healed skin was still sensitive, her regrown fur not quite thick enough yet to cut wind or rain properly. It would fade, of course; it always did, in the end, but till then she did try to be careful. 

Healers are amazing, Cael thought absently, as she regarded her arms. Long and lanky, powerful corded muscle hidden under her reddish fur… They looked almost the same as usual, almost, the fur a sliiiiight bit redder where it was regrown than on the rest of her. If she didn’t know the damage that she’d sustained mere days ago, she would never have guessed. 

It’s a pity my armor can’t be healed. The quartermaster isn’t going to be happy with me. 


…Again. 


But there’s no salvaging it. Fire really wrecks things. No wonder battlemages are so feared. 

Cool, wet loam caked her halfway up to the elbows, and she knelt in the dirt in regular, warm clothes of leather and linen. A book sat next to her, page open to a drawing of a familiar plant: Fjarnskaggl. Native as it was to the area, it needed lots of water but did not do well in the heat, according the book, whose spine read: “A GUIDE TO COMMON NATIVE FLORA OF AZEROTH”. 

She was a little proud of that book, even if the mage who sold it to her kept giving her funny looks. (Eight foot plus worgen warriors in plate armor did not often come wishing to learn about plants.) It was the first book she’d ever bought for herself, after all. 

Koryander will be pleased. I can finally tell her I have a… hobby. Even though I still think practice counts because I like practice. But anyways. I wonder what she would think of my plants. It’s probably silly. But… I like it. 

Yes. Yes, strangely, she did. There was a sense of calm and quiet and peace here, up nearly to her elbows in dirt, weeding and digging, with the scent of earth and green things in her nose. 


I can… help grow things, not just… kill them. 

I think I- I think I like that. I like that a lot. 

The wolf, of course, preferred killing. 

It was a problem, that she could tell that- that it was close enough to her, to the surface of her mind, that she could feel it. At times, things were worse than ever. She felt like her control was slipping, and that… the level of panic and fear that created in her threatened to swamp her even now. Cael took a few deep breathes to calm herself, concentrating on that smell, not blood or felfire, but life and fresh turned earth. 

….And yet. 

The second time. This is the second time that… She swallowed. Cael didn’t want to admit anything; the wolf was bad, the wolf killed, the wolf was a monster, the monster she tried so desperately not to be. 

But less than a week past, the wolf had saved her, saved her for the second time from that damn demon, and other too through her, most likely. The first was under the most extreme duress, of course, and she remembered the way it felt, not having to fight it. (And then, following that, the haunting, painfully sweet memory of being alone in her head, human, fully, amazingly, impossibly human, for some glorious short minutes as Zenrozem demonstrated his latest trick, with her as the test subject. She remembered how it felt when she changed back, and the wolf in her was renewed in it’s fury, so much so it almost seemed harder to control than ever before, even here… even now.) 

She remembered the invasion of her mind again. She remembered the fear- then the feeling, the feeling of someone, something else, fighting back when she could not. 

Cael felt it before she heard it, that terrible, familiar mental tickle- she yanked back so fast from the bars she slipped on the cold stone floor of the keep’s jail and landed hard on her ass. Fear, all consuming, slammed into her; but following it, so quick it threatened to drown out the terror, was the roiling rage of the wolf. 


“Just what do you think you’re doing?” 


It could almost be a pleasant tone, even friendly, if the edges didn’t scrape her brain like a rusty cheese grater. The young worgen warrior clamped hands uselessly to her ears, hunched and trembling, every muscle tight as she tried to fight her fear and the wolf at the same time. But all she could remember was how her legs didn’t work before- her own body a traitor- controlled, caged, collared– Cael throttled that line of thinking. Down that route lay gibbering madness. Instead, she focused on controlling herself, controlling her wolf, controlling-


Zen was saying something, but it barely registered, as the demon spoke again. A thin, ragged, pained noise came unbidden, agony blooming around the words. Her hands clenched so hard the nails pierced the leather there and bit into her own skin, drawing blood.


“While I do enjoy our little games, I felt like I had to stop by and remind you please don’t break my toys.” 


The words had feeling associated with them, an almost gentle touch, like a single finger down the spine, with an echo of the pleasure, the happiness that could be if they just obeyed; that tasty morsels and great rewards could come from this hand as easily as it dealt terrible deaths and unimaginable torment. It was stark contrast to the unsubtle  sledgehammer of his will from the fight on the cliff. A soft, but inescapable, and rising, pressure built behind her eyeballs, spreading to her temples-


“Or I might have to break you back.”


The pain redoubled. Cael bent double on her knees, gasping, almost choking to breath through the searing in her nerves- He was there- he was in her mind he was in her mind no no nononononono NO NO NO not again I won’t let him wewon’tlethim NOT AGAIN-!  




          The mind is a funny place, moreso one to visit, especially if it isn’t yours. Sometimes, it’s a river, stream-of-thought and imagery. Sometimes, merely the power of his voice was enough to send the weaker-minded into insanity, what was left reduced to cowering in the corner. But mortals could be so interesting, too, and surprisingly resilient, though all would bow to the Legion in the end. They were such amusing diversions to play with, all so different, clashing against one one moment, banding together feebly the next. 


          It made the game so much more fun.


          While perception depends on the perceiver, true, that didn’t stop Zenrozem from looking around with avid interest at the strange place he found himself in. 


          Half resembled… a room, somewhere. Small, but cozy: wood floors warmed by a little fireplace, bed with thick furs, armor on a stand, battered but cleaned meticulously, sword and shield next to it much the same. On the nightstand were three books, and a red cloak hung carefully from a peg on the wall. A trunk for clothes sat at the foot of the bed. A pink tree, and a strange rose, and another plant or two, there in pots on the small table by the window. It was homey, and utterly boring. Nothing too fun here, except for the symbolism, the memories tied to them, waiting for him to pluck them like crisp ripe apples from a tree.


          And also on the little table… an inkwell, and an open journal. 


          Zenrozem arched an eyebrow, grinning, his interest piqued. Well, well, well. What DID they have here…?

          Something… growled. 

          It did more than split the air; the low reverberation was nothing human, not even remotely, and felt as well as heard. Deep, low, curling, it came again, a second time, louder, ending in a sound very like teeth snapping together. 


          The demon paused, deliberately. His mouth flattened into an unamused line as his eyes flicked to the side and he turned to look behind him. 


          Wood floor ended abruptly, the firelight’s luminescence fading to shadow and darkness where it did. Nearly twice as big as the room he first found himself in, the floor here was sand… But not all sand. Bones snapped, old, brittle, well-gnawed, under his hooves. The walls were rock, rough-hewn and high, with suspicious stains and missing chunks and scoring, some of which looked like it may have come from claws. A small, single strip of watery moonlight, cast cold and pale through a slit in the rock far above, was the only illumination here. Instead of warm burning wood-smell, the air was chill, dry, thick with dust and liberally laced with the reek of unwashed masses. Underneath those, and growing stronger as he looked into the darkness, the sweet coppery smell of blood tinged with bowel-stink, feces, and urine permeated the area. 


          Beyond where the moonlight lay, just enough to see the ground in his immediate area, lay darkness, black and absolute. 


          He took it all in without flinching, in mere seconds, the keen analytics of that genius mind untouched by the fel that now corrupted his very core. 


          Except… Except in that blackness, twin suns pierced the dark, the only thing visible- two eyes that burned, with wild hate and unadulterated rage and their very self for fuel, molten copper with pupils like the void. Something shifted on the sands, grains crunching slightly together in the otherwise oppressive silence in the dark. The eyes narrowed-




Augh! That- that brain BIT me!” 


Mercifully, amazingly, the pain ended as the pressure abruptly ceased in her mind. Cael gasped for breath, trembling, arms and legs like jelly, palms throbbing. Her nose was bleeding; she didn’t seem to notice. What- what was- what just-? Was that-?

Was that me-? 


Zen was speaking again, something smartass if she knew the resident mad druid worth a damn. The pounding in her head drowned it out, as she felt her nerves tingle, the old familiar burn of the wolf seeping into her. Cael fought for control, even as it gave her strength, and the wolf hammered at her, howling for blood, to pursue and kill and shred and show them, show them what happens to those who try to cage a wolf, make them pay, make them all pay for what they had done…


No, she snarled back. No. Justice was not revenge. This was not what a Templar was, and she WAS a Templar. She CHOSE that. She would not choose the wolf- not today, not ever. Zen, speaking again, something encouraging. The ringing in her ears was almost faded. 


Well then.” 


Now it spoke through Lodi, and Cael blinked, shaking her head to clear it, struggling to her feet. Her knees almost gave, but she clenched her teeth and used her sword to help herself up. The demon seemed… distinctly unamused. Even peeved

….Uh oh, Cael thought, swallowing.

“I suppose I’ll just have to remind you who is in charge here. Slave… Kill them.” 


Lodi sagged, marionette with strings cut, dropping bonelessly. Without thinking, Cael rushed to catch her before she cracked her skull on the hard stone floor, only just managing to do so. 


But something in the air crackled, thickened, power massing, given direction and command. She looked up, then at Zen, worried, unsure. 


And the ground underneath their feet rumbled. 


Both Cael and Zen froze. 


It rumbled again. 


“Looks like we just triggered a boss fight!” Zen yelled, whatever THAT meant, and threw himself to the side just as the floor in front of them exploded and Cael slammed her shield down in front of both her and Lodi to protect from flying rocks and shrapnel and dust. 


The “boss” being… 


“Oh, L-Light,” Cael cursed. 


Blazegore, the infernal they faced when they first tried to rescue Lodi, rising from the wreckage. She remembered him, all right, because he nearly killed half the rescue team, including her. 


Zen went on the offensive immediately, shifting seamlessly into that terrifying giant cat midleap. Cael, mindful of the defenseless girl behind her, kept herself in the middle of warlock and demon, blocking the attacks that came her way and countering savagely. Zen shouted into his guildstone, but here his reputation preceded him. It was only when Cael ducked a blow and spoke in a frantic stammer that the alarm was truly raised and reinforcements on the way. They held, the two of them, better than she thought they would have alone. 


But as reinforcements arrived, the battle escalated. Templars both familiar and not fought with all their strength, some of the newly come demon hunters assisting. A healer whose name she either didn’t know or had forgotten arrived to tend Lodi; Cael immediately put herself in front of both of them now as she pressed the assault. However, thier attacks just seemed to make it angry, damage notwithstanding. Cael took several heavy blows, and despite everything she could do, the healer did too, though she saw him take them for Lodi as well, and her respect for the unknown man grew. She lost her sword, embedding it in the demon’s stony back, leaving her with just the shield as felfire exploded around them, then from the infernal itself. The blistering unnatural heat blackened the leather fittings of her armor, warped the thinner bits of metal, the snaps and buckles, as flame seared her flesh – there was only so much she could block, protecting Lodi- and the smell of her own burning hair and smoke threatened to choke her, pain making her vision swim. She tasted blood, thick and sweet, her own. 


Zen took the blast full on, thrown across the room. Few Templars fare much better, battered from the close-quarters assault. The walls and ceiling hampered the demon hunters greatly and limited the mobility of all the rest. With Blazegore’s fire, longer reach, and crushing blows, the combination was deadly.


Not to say they hadn’t done damage, no. He was limping along on one good leg, clawed and slashed, oozing a green magma-like substance from the injuries. 


The druid tried another attack, rocket dragon something something? Where does he even get this stuff? But it’s deflected viciously, more fire thrown at all of them. Blazegore roared, unearthly and unholy both, shaking the entire keep. 


But it turned his back to her, and she could see her sword embedded there, like it was waiting for her. Her vision narrowed to the demon.


A hand scraped furrows as it clenched into a fist, and Cael struggled to get to her knees.

Have to get up…. Have to fight.


Cael coughed, wheezed, smoking and charred, eyes burning and BURNING, too. Her bleeding palms leave damp indents in the dirt as she somehow manages to get to her feet, despite her injuries. Those molten copper eyes aren’t human in the slightest, fae and feral and furious. Her wolf howled for blood and she nearly echoed it, managed to strangle the instinct, even as she hefted her shield. 


Still she growled as she EXPLODED forward on those long strong legs of hers, SLAMMING into the infernal with all her strength, shoulder tucked behind her shield, every pound of muscle and metal behind it. Stone met steel with a mighty CLANG from behind. Crippled from the Templar’s previous attacks, with only one good leg, it was enough. Blazegore went crashing down. Cael didn’t stop, let her momentum take her forward, onto it’s back. In a smooth, whirling motion, she grabbed her sword, yanking it free as she pivoted in a turn that looked more at home on a dance floor (or, for those who would recognize it, a Pandaren monastery.) 


One step, two, and, raising the blade high, Cael stabbed the thing- through the head, metal screaming as it went in, up to the hilt, through the mouth, and into the floor on the other side, pinning it there to the brick. 


Green light flared from the cracks, as Blazegore thrashed, and- and then lay still, in the sudden silence of the room. 


Zen recovered first, went to see to Lodi. Cael saw it from the corner of her eye. A prickle of guilt wormed into her. She’d have to revise her opinion of the elf. He might be as fruity as a produce stall on market day, but… he was a good person. A good Templar, even if he sometimes confused, or even scared her. 


Then her body reminded her of the damage it had taken, and she almost collapsed. 







Once was incredible, and lucky, luckier than Cael usually got, and she knew it. 

Twice? 

Twice… Twice was something else. 

I really wish I had someone to talk to about all this. But… not a lot of people get it. And I don’t help because I know I’m bad at explaining things, and I get nervous and then it feels like I can’t breathe, and all I can remember is… the very bad things I think I have done. And- what if this means I’m losing control more? What if they think I’m a danger, and make me leave? That thought threatened to bring hot tears to her eyes, and rubbed them away fiercely. No. No. I won’t think like that. I can’t. I won’t. That just makes me feel bad and I don’t know for sure so I shouldn’t think like that. 


Etsiyona is gone, and even if she wasn’t… she doesn’t have this problem. I don’t need someone telling me to be MORE wolf, even if I wish I could be, sometimes, at least without hurting people, because like… being able to track things better would be good sometimes. Or just not having to always worry would be nice. Blackwald-…. I don’t think he gets it, though he tries. And he has his own worries. A LOT of them. She sighed, heavily, a moment of deep worry for his life choices. Esre’s still healing anyways, and she deserves peace, especially after what the demon did to her. Mosur isn’t here right now. The Justicar and Kory are super busy. I don’t want to bother them. I’m not sure- they’re PALADINS. I’m not sure they’d get what it’s like, sometimes, not having control, being so close to doing bad things constantly, forever. Ryml… No, that whole- thing- with him… She studiously ignored the memory of a Pandaren voice in her head. That line of thinking was ludicrous and impossible both; dwelling on it was pointless. It’s complicated enough without my shit getting all up in there, and I don’t want the demon to find him and hurt him. Especially now that he is being nicer about the Templars. I’m really, really glad about that. I’m glad we can be friends. Though I do wish he would stop sending me strange things. “Necklace of Passion” or whatever my furry ass. 

She snorted a little. Honestly. Incorrigible, just as much as Blackwald. No wonder the two got on like a house on fire. 


I don’t want the demon to get Sage, or Kage again. Or Wei, Goldrinn and the Light forbid it. Aunne- 

The letter flashed in her mind. Cael yanked herself away from it, ignoring the faint guilty twinge in her stomach. Nope. Not going there. Nope. (In her heart, she knew she would have to deal sooner or later with the letter that sat buried underneath her clothes like one of those landmines made by the gnomes. That day, however, was not today.) 

Maybe one of the demon hunters? They know what it’s like- living with a bad thing in you. Some of them seem friendly enough. But… I don’t really know any of them, thought I would like to be friends. And they’re all… so old, and have been fighting so long. They know what they are doing. They HAVE control. Or they’d be dead. 

I’ll just- find a way to manage on my own. I don’t want to risk anyone getting hurt by me or by the demon. I can do it. I’ve been doing it. I’ll… I dunno. Meditate more? I’m usually calmer after that. Maybe that will help. Get stronger, too, practice more, because if I’m stronger, surely I’ll be a bit less scared of things. Maybe if I ask the monks next time I visit for more meditation type things, they will help. 

That was… something. Better than nothing. Hopefully, it would be enough. 

Cael deliberately turned her mind back to her work, looking at the book. The little pouch of seeds she’d gotten sat next to her. Instructions for planting fjarnskaggl were very specific, according to the local vrykul who were more inclined to trade good rather than swordblows. And the plant was odd looking, and smelled a bit funny, but it was useful in a variety of ways, and grew quickly, if it was going to grow at all. The tiny garden plot sat behind her tent, next to two helmets-turned-pots, dented bad enough that they weren’t missed. One had a strange, if beautiful, silvery-blue rose, almost metallic looking, sitting in it. The other had plain soil. Whether the wildflower seeds she’d gotten would actually grow remained to be seen. The sakura tree remained in her tent, a place of honor accorded out of the weather. As it was, even here she’d scrounged a bit of waxed canvas to guard against frostbite or the pounding rain that could pummel her fledgling garden into oblivion. 

…My garden. 


I have a garden. 


That’s a good thing. That is a good thing. (Surely, surely monsters didn’t have gardens.) 

Meditation, and practice, and more meditation. Maybe she could do it here, by the plants, by her garden, if the weather permitted. 

Cael paused, then, head tilted, ears akimbo, considering something, the new scar across her face crinkling as she did so. 


…Maybe…


Maybe now that I- since I remember now, better, I mean, than before, when all that crazy happened and I sort of lost it- since I was- since he made me be human- and since I remember it, what it felt like… Maybe I could try. Maybe practicing that would help my control, too, and maybe I can figure out why the wolf… did it, that thing. Again. 


Of course, it might just make it worse. It doesn’t like being human. Cael shivered, small, spasmodic, reflexive. 


But… It’s been a long time. A LONG time. I’m not safe. But… Maybe I’m not meant for safe. So maybe I should just… try anyways. 


…..Hmmm. 

She remained there, arms deep in dirt and thought alike, until the sun began to set on the horizon, and the distant rumbled of thunder heralded a grey wall of stormclouds, rolling in. 

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