The little pink tree -sakura, they told her it was a sakura tree, and it being very small was called a bonsai– sat with calm equanimity Cael desperately wished she could emulate.
Meditation was not going well, today. Not since her leap from the cliff and not since she was stuck in the damn infirmary when everyone else ran, flew, or stepped through a portal to help drive the burning legion back to the twisty hells it came from. Waiting, it seemed, was about five thousand times harder than actually fighting. Especially for her. The monks gave her many things- lumps, bumps, thumps onto the ground, bruises, a helping paw back to her feet, hot food, cool drinks, and a startling lack of judgement being chief among them- but they had not managed to instill patience in her. Or, rather, the right kind of patience. Waiting for an opening, circling the enemy, looking for weak points, these she knew without knowing how she knew them.
Not so much.
….I miss Pandaria.
A swallow. Cael sighed, looking at the bandages on her chest, arms, legs still. Every day the healers came and worked their magic, only once a day now, instead right before each meal. Every day she felt stronger.
One did not break many, many bones in one’s body and be moderately impaled on rock below and be brought back from bleeding eyeteeth’s edge of death by the grace of the Light and the Justicar and not bear some mark of it.
And I love Northrend. The sea and pines and snow. I do. But…
…I still miss Pandaria.
I haven’t had time to practice, either. She flinched at the pang of guilt, there. I should. Soon, if I can stand without being out of breath.
I hate this. This-…. being stuck. I can’t do my job like this.
A small mountain of neatly packaged medical triage kits, all ready to be delivered, showed what she’d been doing to assist the defenders, even incapacitated as she was. That was all well and good, true. But it wasn’t her job, the thing she was good at. It wasn’t… protecting like she wanted to. Being that wall, like Blackwald said.
The memory of the sea captain’s visit made her turn to look at the well-loved, leather bound book on the bedside table, next to a small pile of incredibly painstakingly written pages of parchment. Fading gilt gold letters embossed on the spine read: “A Treatise on Strategy” by Anduin Lothar. Hidden now from view, inside the cover were the initials A.W. She looked away, faintly guilty. The word family echoed in her mind, making her stomach twist a little bit. I never wanted to take it from him. But he insisted. I just- I’m not- he’s-…
Closing her eyes, she tried to search herself and through her feelings like her time in Pandaria had taught her.
…I think I’m- scared of… of not being- worth it.
That felt…. right. Ish. Mostly?
Something like that.
But I don’t know that I am worth it. I’m just… me. That’s not a lot. It wasn’t enough to resist the demon or help Idella. All it did was get me thrown off a cliff and nearly dead, because I won’t- we won’t- wouldn’t-
Sudden icy terror slammed into her, gripped her heart, frozen fingers running down her spine and plunging into her chest again as it suddenly throbbed with vicious psychosomatic pain at the memory of that voice, that feeling, inside her, so so sososososo SO much worse than her own personal demons. At least she KNEW them. This- this would do worse than simply kill without discrimination. This would turn her into a weapon of the very things she swore she would protect against; it would have her become the antithesis of everything she was working for.
How in Goldrinn’s fucking teeth and the Light do you even fight that sort of thing? Was I just… weak? Or-?
Her hands clenched briefly at her sides, shaking. She doubled over, every heartbeat painful in her chest. Long moments passed before the pain and panic did, and she was able to regain control of her breathing.
I wonder if Anduin Lothar ever had this problem.
I don’t know; I’m not that far into the book yet.
….I wonder if the Justicar does. I wonder if they will write books about her, some day.
If they do, they better include that she was human, too, and hurting. Even if she is the Justicar. She lost her husband. That….
I can’t even begin to imagine anything close to that.
The only thing even in the same realm, and even then only VERY distantly, was the frustrating thief Ryml and his continued attempts to drive her into an early grave with worry. Not to mention the flirting. That was weird. Like, really, REALLY weird. I’m… not sure what to make of it. Maybe he just does that to everyone? I hope so. I wish he thought better of Esre and Blackwald. People aren’t limited in goodness by how much money they have or don’t have. It’s what they do with what they are given that makes people who we are, right? And they help. I wish I could make him see that. I- I really- I don’t WANT anyone indebted to me. I- I- I tried to tell him that but he wouldn’t listen and I just- I don’t WANT that. I don’t want anyone to do anything that they don’t CHOOSE to do. I won’t be someone’s-
She wrenched her thoughts away from that so quickly she ought to add whiplash to the list of hurts in front of her bed on a plain sheet of parchment.
Trying to think of something else, anything else, she looked at the gift. Cael was only a few pages in, progress bordering on glacial in pace. It was not designed for beginning readers, and every few sentences she had to stop and look at the dictionary she’d borrowed from the keep’s library, but it was interesting, if frustrating sometimes. A book on how to fight or make war was how Blackwald described it. And she knew, from the first few pages -the prologue, which was NOT spelled like it sounded at ALL- that Anduin Lothar was one of the greatest fighters ever in Azeroth’s history, not just in physical prowess but also in tactics and strategy, which were two different things and not the same. Esre’s gift, also a book, sat underneath. Me. Owning books. Who would have thought? This volume was no scholar’s historical account. Big print, vivid illustrations, and simple but elegant storytelling wove tales of a knight in shining armor, who slew dragons, saved beautiful ladies (and a set of triplet princes), and in general brought peace and justice to the land whose king he served. There were several stories in it –anthology was the proper word- and she was almost halfway through the first.
She put the books next to the sakura bonsai, moving all three carefully from the edge, setting the little stack of papers under them. Being a first edition was special, and Blackwald talked like the book itself was a rare find besides. And while the tales of the knight were more commonly come by, they were special to her, because they’d been given to her by a dear friend. She treated both with the same reverent care she reserved for the sakura bonsai and small, fragile baby mammals.
Bed clear of distractions, she swallowed, and tried to close her eyes again. Like the sakura tree. Like the stone pawn. Just being, she reminded herself.
Meditation was, naturally, more complicated than she initially assumed. There were several different ways, used for different things by the monks. In between helping her get acquainted with the training ground’s dirt floor, they taught her several of the most bare bones, basic meditations, which she was (in theory) to practice until she felt comfortable and confident. Then, they would progress.
Of course, the Legion had other plans.
Cael straightened up, resisting the urge to fidget with the white pawn on it’s leather cord around her neck. Most of the monks meditated in a specific posture, but she wasn’t there yet. Instead, she shifted until she got comfortable, or as comfortable as she could be with the aches and pains in her bones. Cael closed her eyes.
Breathe naturally. Don’t try to control it; just let it be.
Focus attention on the breath and how the body moves with each in and out.
Notice the movement of your body as you breathe: chest, shoulders, ribcage, belly.
Focus on the breath without trying to control pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
Being, without control, without thinking, was an entirely foreign concept to Cael at first. They started her at two minutes. She was up to five, now, unbroken, trying twice a day, sometimes more. It was…. something. Not much. But something.
Five minutes, as it happened, was forever and a day in Cael-years. Especially in wolf-years.
Her wolf was not a fan of the meditation.
Which was precisely the point.
Belatedly realizing her mind was not on her breathing, Cael suppressed the flash of frustration under gritted teeth and swallowed.
Breathing. In. Out.
Cold air, even here, smoke-smell and resin-pine-snow-salt, underlayer of copper here in the infirmary.
Dull aching in the sternum, ribs, abs when she inhaled. Sore muscles hurting when she exhaled. Very little of her doesn’t hurt. But it’s better, I’m healing now, aches instead of stabbing-
Mind on my BREATHING. Breathing. Not the past, not the future, not the healings, not the hurts, not the wolf, even. Just breathing.
Thieves, gifts, demons, fear, gratitude, worry, she tried to put them all aside, focusing on the air going into her lungs and back out again. They’d all come crashing down sooner or later. But for now… she just had to breathe.