Seething shadows clawed at the group in front of the fallen tree, fighting as viciously as the Templars who blocked their path to the other party while they confronted Sielic for a final time. Above, watching silent as a gargoyle, stood Mosur, face impassive, arms crossed, unmoving.
The young worgen snarled wordlessly, fighting herself as hard as she fought the demonspawn in front of her, wrestling with her wolf’s desire to finish the hunt and kill the prey. How can he just- just STAND there, after everything- everything we- we-
She ripped her mind away from that. It hurt too much. Focus on the fight, hold the line, you hold that damn line, or all of this is pointless…!
“Cael!” Wei said, alight with sparking green energy, eyes bleeding lime lightning, the very air so thick with tension and power around her it could be cut with a knife. As Cael turned to her, a green dragon coalesced into being, made of that same chartreuse thunder, impossibly big and coiling and seemingly very much alive. Wei’s arms shook from the effort of her work. Cael looked at Wei, and Wei looked at her. Something passed in between them in the electric air as the green dragon roared.
“Into the mouth!” the monk added, sweat dampening her fur as she struggled with the energy the spell required. The very idea, was, of course, crazy. Completely, totally crazy.
RIDE a DRAGON made of magical who-knew-what like a rocket in hopes that it will take her a hundred feet or more into the air so she might confront the man she once called friend about his terrible life choices, without any sort of backup, him a shaman with the powers of the elements at his fingers, and she a mere warrior with a sword and shield?
Absolutely bonkers. Likely to get her killed, one way or the other.
Koryander isn’t going to be happy about this when she finds out. I hope she doesn’t tell the Justicar.
Cael bolted forward, scrambling inside the maw of the ancient beast, one hand wrapped around a spectral yet strangely solid tooth to anchor herself there (her palm tingled through her glove, static making her hair stand on end). Ozone, thick on the air, sharpened. Wei let out a wordless cry, part effort, part war call, part guttural bear roar, as the dragon LAUNCHED forward, echoing his mistress again loud enough to make Cael flinch even as she struggled to hold on.
And the two of them catapulted up, streaming green and crackling, that earsplitting bellow cleaving the air just like they did, closing the distance between her and Mosur at incredible speed. But it was high, very high, and she could feel the dragon start to slow, to lose power-
-Just a little closer-
As the dragon started to fade, Cael leaped into nothingness, into open air, an all fours type that had her rising up like a vengeful demon from below, fangs bared, claws extended, very much, in that instant, the monster of legend. Twenty feet long lay the gap between her and the former world tree Mosur stood on, twenty feet she flew across, a distance impossible for anyone save herself. There was a brief moment when Mosur’s eyes widened -fear? surprise? uncertainty?- before the young worgen warrior THUNKED down onto old wood, feet first in a crouch, sword embedding itself in the floor, shield in her other hand already bare, mere inches from the edge. A hundred feet below the dragon dissipated into a shower of green sparks as Cael’s compatriots fought on.
She stood, yanking her sword from the wood. The treants fought hard against the elementals with cracks and crashes of wood echoing like bullets and gunfire in her ears. In that moment before she looked at him, Cael steeled herself for whatever needed to be done, though her hands trembled and her heart shook. Part of me still can’t- can’t quite…. believe it. Him. A traitor.
But I can’t -I won’t- let him hurt anyone else. And I won’t let anyone else do this, either. I can’t. I won’t let him hurt them or let them hurt him.
I said no more dead Templars. I meant it.
Mosur spoke as she looked up.
“Little Pup, kill that tree.”
Cael stared at him, for a heartbeat, for an eternity. Too many emotions to be properly categorized flickered across her face- disbelief, pain, outrage, grief, confusion- but… He can’t answer my questions if he is dead. Goldrinn and the Light fucking take me, I can’t believe I’m doing this…!
Snarling, she turned and hurled herself at the treants, hacking and slashing in a furious bladestorm, eyes burning, teeth gritted so tight it hurt her jaw. Behind her, she felt Mosur summon something, throw it at the other. Damnably, they were a good team, a great team; where he threw, she came in behind, taking advantage of the openings created for her while managing to keep out of the way of his destructive elemental spells. The treants fell under the onslaught.
And something from below clawed it’s way up the trunk, shaking shaggy fur. A cat- no, druid, the worgen who had found her balance with her wolf by embracing it, or, well, something; what was her name? Etsi… Estiyona- hissed, ears flat, hackles up.
She put herself between cat and shaman as Mosur tensed, watching. The cat stalked forward, tail twitching, nails digging into the wood and leaving furrows.
Cael saw Mosur move from the corner of her eye to keep the worgen in between himself and the druid hell-bent on eliminating the threat. She circled with her, keeping in front still, frustrated, barely keeping her own wolf in check, gold eyes burning, burning, burning. “Y-Y-Y-You, you c-c-can’t kill him,” she managed. There was no point in going into the promise she’d made to the man she thought she’d known, as technically it wasn’t valid anymore, but for the agreement in her heart. And besides that… “I-I-I. I w-w-want. Answers.”
Mosur did something she didn’t see that made her shoulders hunch in anticipation, but the elemental advancing on them stopped and lowered its arms.
Etsiyona growled: a low and terrifying thing that would make any worgen proud. “Then you silence him if you want to save him. Or I will kill him.”
“…I-I-I have- q-questions. I w-w-won’t kill him.” Unless he absolutely makes me. Please, Goldrinn and the Light, don’t make him make me, let me find a way….“But.” Cael’s voice cracked with emotion, so raw she absently wondered why she wasn’t tasting blood. “…I-I-I w-w-won’t, won’t let him hurt- a-a-anyone else.” One of the elementals said something. Mosur murmured something back in the same language. She ignored it, praying that having her back turned to the enemy wouldn’t result in an ignominious death.
The druid tensed, her form… shifting a little?
“If you can’t or won’t, I will!”
Cat became bear in the space between eyeblinks and then several hundred pounds of muscle and fur and claw, intending to take them all three off the side of the tree, leaped for them, sacrificing herself to take out the threat that was Cael’s former friend, and, apparently, the collateral damage or potential threat of Cael herself. Mosur barely dodged to one side, saying something in the language of earth, and Cael threw herself to the other as Estiyona’s momentum carried her past them and-
And right off the edge! Only her reflexes saved her, those claws scrabbling for a grip on the old, mossy wood. Cael lunged for her.
Cael dug in, heaving, HEAVING for all she is worth, every muscle screaming as she fought gravity to try and drag the druid back on solid ground. No. No, no, no, NO- no more! NO MORE-!!
The earth elemental rumbled in response to Mosur’s commands -Byre, that’s Byre, I gave him my whetstone and he liked it a lot- and suddenly, out of nowhere, a wall, no, a ramp, a ramp of earth caught the druid under her hind feet and lifted her with surprising gentleness back to where she was level with the wooden floor. Cael, now overbalanced, fell on her ass, staring.
Those words, once such a source of comfort, hurt like a whiplash across her back. Cael flinched and turned to face him.
“Ready to go save Scout?” Mosur asked, and in that instant the world stopped, crumbled, and reformed. She stared. Just. Stared. It took her a long, long moment, before her stunned face cracked, emotion bleeding through, throat suddenly thick and painful, eyes welling up so that she has to wipe them on a gauntlet. This… This could only mean one thing.
Her nod was fierce and sudden and determined, new life in her now, new hope, even if the pain was still there. So much, it was so much, at once, all the time, and yet-
Mosur- Goldrinn’s teeth, Goldrinn’s fucking teeth and the Light, Mosur–
Etsiyona watched the exchange, confused and worried and apparently quite ready to pounce in for the kill should it be needed.
“Y-Yes,” Cael said hoarsely. “B-But. ….L-L-Later. I-I-I- I still w-w-want, want, want answers. Y-You-” She choked on the word, still struggling with herself. Part of her wanted to run to him, hug him, and never let go. But the rest is bleeding, bleeding, STILL bleeding, still hurting, still in pain. He’d betrayed her once before- but. But it was MOSUR. And she had to believe in this, if nothing else. “Y-y-you OWE me th-th-that.”
With a wave of his hand, the elementals dissolved into their component parts. The shaman nodded agreement. “Eh. We do not have much time. Nereus has come. Scout is close to falling.” The wall blocking the entry to the tree also dissolved, just as quick as it had come.
Cael, shellshocked and cracking stone and overall a jumbled, confused mess of feelings, swallowed again and turned to Etsi. “….H-He won’t h-h-hurt us,” she said quietly. There was no time for a mental break right now. She HAD to have control. She HAD to have control. So close to him, her wolf snarled and fought to kill, but she closed her eyes, drew in ragged breaths of oxygen until her hands stopped shaking. Breathe. Just breathe.
All doubt and narrowed cat eyes, Estoniya growled and looked between the two of them. “You’d better be right about this, young wolf.” Her fur relaxed and she stood down, still eyeing the two of them suspiciously.
For once, Cael was certain. “I am,” she replied simply, and turned to walk down the ramp, leading the way back to the group below.
Cael slept, for once, deep and dreamless, right through the next day and into the wee morning hours of the one after. She woke with the aurora borealis playing joyfully across the northern sky while snowflakes plapped almost inaudibly against the glass windowpane. The moon was out, gilding it all silver, and only the barest hint of light at the edge of the horizon hinted at coming dawn.
The young worgen shivered and rose to go poke up the little fire, flinching from the cold floor. I don’t think I’ve ever slept that long in my life.
It spoke of how incredibly bone-deep tired she was. There was only so much someone could take. Her shoulder and side, clawed by howling shadowmass, ached despite the healing.
But it was worth it.
It was worth it, every drop of blood and every tear.
It was worth it because somehow, incredibly, against all odds: she kept her promise, bringing Sielic in, alive, to be fixed and face whatever justice the officers saw fit to mete out on him.
It was worth it because- because Mosur was not the enemy, had never been. His flawless double agent act wrecked her, wrecked her utterly. To find out he was doing it to protect people, under Arialynn’s orders…
…The realization made her as dizzy as the crushing grief had.
Cael coaxed first a a rebellious flame from sullen embers, then a more spirited fire that finally grew into a steady blaze in the little hearth of her room at the inn. She returned to her bunk and burrowed back under the sheets, away from the everpresent cold.
I- I’m still hurt. I’m- relieved, happy, I- I couldn’t BE any happier, but- I’m also still hurt. It’s- it’s like I can’t, almost, go back to what… what it was yet. I thought everything would be back to normal, but…. it still hurts. And the Justicar knew. She KNEW. And she didn’t tell me. I- I guess I can get why. I’m not good at… anything but- but being a fighter. I can’t lie very well. I’m too open. This was too important to risk. A lot more was riding on it than just me and my stupid hurt feelings.
….But- but it still hurts.
Whether real or faked, his “betrayal” had left its mark on her. Maybe if… If I was older- or if I could remember things that weren’t…. bad- if I remembered Remy more, or having friends- But she wasn’t, and she didn’t, and that particular sucker punch to her heart when the Justicar broke the news to her that Mosur was a traitor was the absolute most painful thing she’d ever endured, even worse than the time she’d hung from a meathook in her ribs, because physical pain healed. Emotional wounds took much longer to mend. I’ve only been free less than a year, though- sometimes I feel like I’m less than a year old. I have so much to unlrearn and relearn and stuff. And it… He hurt me. He hurt me a lot.
I’m so glad he’s- Goldrinn’s teeth. I- I really, really… I’m really glad he’s… back to being himself. I- I just… I dunno if I-
We talked. But. I don’t know what we are now. I’d like to be friends. I want that more than anything, to keep being friends.
What if he does it again? What if he leaves you again? You barely survived last time, hissed a sinister thought in her head.And why would he stay, just for you? You’re nothing. He proved that when he left the first time.
Cael shook her head violently and closed her eyes tight. No. No. No. No. You’re wrong. You’re wrong.
Sniffling, she reached for a tissue. It wasn’t the first crying jag she’d had since saving the Templar’s number one enemy. Somehow, she didn’t think it would be the last.
How much more could one emotionally compromised worgen handle?
It was over, though. It was over. We… didn’t ‘win’. There was no…. winning this, I think. Not with the toll that has been taken on us. Not with the lives lost and the trust broken. But we did our best. We did our best. That has to count. It HAS to.
I kept my promise.
A thought occurred to her, laying there. Back around her neck was a cracked pawn on a string; Cael played with it meditatively. …..Yeah. I can talk to Mosur about that. See if he will do it.
I need to before Fors and everyone tries… whatever magic thing they’re going to do to put Sielic back together. In her head, she heard that grumbling over the guildstone again, about a naive young worgen. Cael swallowed, heart heavy. I hope- Light, I hope- I hope I did right by him. By them. But we HAVE to try. Sielic- they tell me he’s a hero. He got everyone out of that place when it was being pounded into rubble. He was a Templar. He was good. And the Templars ARE the reason he was brought back, and if that’s what screwed him up, then we have a responsibility to fix it… A responsibility to him, to ourselves, to other Templars- to, to, to… To doing what is right. We ALL made that oath. We will keep it. Even if some Templars seem to have forgotten.
Kanta flashed in her mind, vicious fire in his eyes, fury dripping from his words like acid, potent enough to burn holes in the cobbles, his arrows stopped only by a wall of living flesh between the hunter and his prey.
But can I really blame him? Sielic did so many bad things, too…. No. He hasn’t forgotten. That’s not fair to Kanta, even if he isn’t a Templar anymore. It’s just… he saw the benefits outweigh the costs. And if anyone has a right to be bitter, it’s him.
She sighed, trying to slip further beneath the thick woolen blankets layered to keep off the cold. All these thoughts racing around her head were not conducive to sleep, but Cael couldn’t help it. A side effect of humanity, she supposed wryly, with a snort at her own little joke.
I wonder if it’s cold in Pandaria. I wonder what I will learn there. I hope it’s not going to end badly. A place where emotions have- have teeth and claws… That hits a little too close to home. But if something happens, if… If I lose it… I know the Justicar won’t let me hurt people. Plus, if the monks there are anything like Wei, they ought to be able to handle a lot of things, maybe even me. Right?
…I should bring that pantless mage a cloak. I don’t know why she doesn’t have one and I heard she got hurt badly. Maybe the cloak, and some food, and maybe some of those little pills the healers give you for pains and stuff. Has she seen a healer yet? I’ll ask. We need to take care of ourselves, all of us.
I hope Mosur is sleeping and eating properly. I hope he’s ok. I should…. talk to him. Or something. Sometime.
I hope Koryander is ok, too. …Did she know? Not sure. Maybe- talk to her about stuff. She’s… been where I have, in some things. She gets it, kinda. Maybe she can help things hurt less. I don’t know why they do, but they do, even if it’s not right. She always makes me feel better. I’ll be sure I’m not bothering her when I do it. Taking care of the Justicar and everything else she does is a full time job. Maybe she’ll have new training for me too!! I’d like that a lot now that things are a lot less dire.
Maybe I will talk to the Justicar about… stuff. I don’t know why but- she always seems to have time for me, which is…. really kind, and very generous, especially with how busy she is and how hard she works. Maybe I can bring her something too. Like cider or tea. Which does she like best? I forget. Dammit. She’s looked tired lately. I want to ask her about the lessons with pole arms, and Pandaria, but maybe I’ll wait till she seems better.
I thought I’d be mad at her, about not telling me, but…. I get it. Mostly. I just- I don’t know how to- what to do or say to… make myself FEEL it, even if my head KNOWS it.
Why is it all the random thoughts come at night? Does anyone else have this problem? …..Probably. A lot of them are much more- more seasoned warriors. They might have nightmares of their own.
The bed was, thankfully, worgen sized for her furry form, so her feet only hung off a little from the edge. Cael pulled them back under, watching the fire in the dark of her room, letting the soothing banter of snaps and cracks and pops wash over her.
…..I wonder if they will let me be there when they try to fix him. Maybe I could ask-?
It will be nice having only the one guard shift tomorrow, now that martial law is gone. I can use the time to go running. Maybe farther out into the forest; I like the smell of pines.
Slowly, her eyelids fluttered downward. Slowly, her posture relaxed, from that coiled tenseness that characterized the young worgen for the last few months to something softer, quieter. Even her wolf was sleepy and full from dinner still. Slowly, finally, finally, after so long, she closed her eyes, and drifted off gently, dreamlessly, back to sleep.
It was time to rest, and recuperate, and reestablish the bonds of friendship sorely tested by this ordeal. It was time to heal, or attempt to heal, their wounds, from the greatest of the Templars to the least. It was time to reset the chessboard, putting the pieces back where they belonged, king, queen, knight, rook, bishop, and pawn. It was time to mend the torn tabard.
For it would be needed sooner than any of them (especially the sleeping worgen) could imagine, as a fel breeze began to blow in from the ocean into Azeroth, reeking of fire and brimstone and sulfur…