Koryander took Cael to her room, instead of the barracks. Cael did not resist. She was barely capable of putting one foot in front of the other. The paladin gently helped her get her gore-encrusted armor off, and with a few buckets of water and determination, helped get most of the blood out of her fur. She even changed the bandages on Cael’s leg where the arrows had bit into her, as Cael fought like the white wolf himself incarnate, like all the demons of the void- and looking like one too as she had been, stained dark red-brown with the drying blood of an entire army.
All the while, Cael….
Cael, still staring at the broken brick, nodded dumbly and put the tools back where she had found them. Then she returned to Mosur, standing awkwardly in front of him. “Y-You… y-y-you visited-?”
Mosur nodded his head. “Yes. Mosur promised he would take the pawn to Scout for Little Pup did he not? Maewood also asked Mosur to try and figure more questions out. See if he would talk plain to Mosur.”
Cael focused on breathing. In and out. In and out. Ragged, uneven, shallow, short, like she had to make herself, remind her diaphragm to move, her lungs to expand; like the very act of existing was completely and totally exhausting, and almost beyond her capacity to manage. The young worgen warrior stared at the wall, hardly blinking, letting Koryander move her here or there, woodenly following her gentle orders.
“Eh but gems do not speak to Little Pup the way that pawn will hum? Pawn reminds to stay cool, to pay attention to whole board, to keep moving forward. Strike when need to, but always forward.” For him it was a reference that the pawns could only ever move forward, even when they attacked, diagonal, but always forward, up another rank.
A gentle smile, a wise chuckle, cloven feet next to hers on a cliff.
Mosur exhaled through his nose his shoulders sloughing a little. “Little Pup, everyone they fight for different reasons. Dictator, Marksman, Maewood, and Mosur. Maewood fights because she has little babe and wants babe to grow up in world where is no war, to make better Azeroth for family. Marksman, he is having wife, having two little elves, he wants same thing. Dictator fights because has had hard life, and does not want other people to have same hard life, but in end she wants to go home to wife and forget all this ever happened. Eh Mosur, he fights because he has nothing left.”
Cael frowned in obvious distress, her heart suddenly reaching out for the old shaman. It took her a moment to work up the courage, to steel herself for it, but that slouch in his shoulders- no.
She touched him. His burly bicep, specifically. Cael reached out, and during a time when she had been seen to actively avoid all touching, a time when she couldn’t stand to be too close to hardly anyone…. She touched him, hesitant and featherlight, but at the same time, sure of herself. And she met his eyes again and didn’t move her hand from his arm as much as her instincts screeched at her that this was too close tooclosetooclose and it took active thought to initiate the gesture.
“W-W-Well, you h-have me,” she said, so matter of factly that it could BE no other way. “I-I’m not a wh-whole lot. And I d-d-don’t have anything l-left either, e-except this. N-not, not even my, my own m-mind is… But- but you have me, M-Mosur.”
Her hand tightened a bit on his arm.
“Y-You have me. And, and I’ll f-fight for you, too.”
Rare twinkling laughter in his eyes, the joy he got from the water elemental, his deep concern for her.
“T-Tell them th-thank you, f-f-for me. I, I, I’ve never s-s-seen… a-a-anything so- beautiful.” This, this moment, this memory, dancing waves and frigid diamond spray and rainbows, would stay with her for the rest of her life. Cael watched the water for a long moment. For the first time, she wished she had a talent with magic. But alas, she had not a spark, and no ability to learn it. She was barely literate, after all; that sort of thing was entirely out of the question.
Guarded yes, but also guarding, protecting. Keenly intelligent, mind ticking on the other side of the chess board. Big, strong, rough hands, gently shaping a piece of stone.
“All work, it is okay, but is drain. Besides if there are things that make Pup happy, she will want to protect them more hum? Is one thing to fight because is right thing to do but when Pup is protecting something, someone she is loving, hum, is purpose. Lets go on when is seems impossible. hum? Is not selfish to enjoy self on occasion. That is why we live, yes?“
The white pawn around her neck suddenly scalded her. Cael jerked to life, fumbling for the necklace, ripping it off as if it was poison, and throwing it as far away from her as she could manage. It tinked against the wall and lay as still as a corpse on the cold wooden floor. And Cael stared, mute and wide eyed, dry now because she had nothing left to cry, nothing left to give…. Nothing. Nothing.
All that remained of her heart was a bleeding gaping void in her chest, cauterized, for the moment, by all-consuming grief.
“…I-I-I don’t know. I’ve n-never- but- I guess- if, um, if w-w-we are friends…” And the way she said it was vulnerable enough to make her look at him, hopeful, but trying not to show it, because Cael could not presume to be such as much as she wanted to, “…Then- then I g-g-g-guess I m-might be better than, than I thought.”
“Heh, Mosur will be Little Pup’s friend.”
It was all nothing.
Numbness like bone-deep frostbite seeped into her while Koryander took care of her. Somewhere in her, she knew grief would turn to something else, and so she almost treasured the numbness, hoarding it close to her, because the pain would be unbearable when it wore off.
How many times had she thought, Mosur is my friend and will not hurt me?
He could have killed her at any time; why didn’t he? Why did he pretend to be her friend if he was with Sielic?
How many betrayals and letdowns and heartbreaks could one fragile soul take?
Children, gods- the faces of dead children flash in her mind, and Cael almost starts throwing up again.
How much weight could one set of furry shoulders carry?
What could she have done differently? How could she have stopped him? Why had she not seen? Each question added a thousand pounds.
He snorted once more at her answer but relaxed his shoulders as he watched her wilt. “If Little Pup is fine with then Mosur will be…agreeable.” That probably wasn’t the best word choice in Common. He frowned again as though he disapproved. “Little Pup… at least show Mosur where it hurts? Eh, he is not so happy to have friends hurting, hum?” He asked wondering what kind of sparring the pair had really gotten up to. Between a wall and a hammer of Light… his mouth crinkled again at the thought.
Cael hesitated still, watching him for any sign of disapproval and seeing it. It made her tense and wary and unhappy and anxious despite herself. But this was MOSUR. He wouldn’t hurt hurt as much as the Justicar wouldn’t. “I-I-I-I, I did ok f-first but, but the s-second round was harder.” Cael held out her arm for him to see obediently. There was no overt burns, not really, and her fur hid the blooming bruises.
“B-Besides. She, she, she w-wouldn’t hurt me on, on, on p-p-purpose any m-more than, than y-you would. Unless I l-l-l-l-lost, lost, lost, l-lost control somehow, and my w-wolf… Then- then I think she’d p-probably p-put me down, and, and, a-and that’s g-good, b-because I would need it.”
(The Justicar’s words lingered in the back of her mind, but against the numbness like glass over the howling internal hurricane of her breaking, raging heart, they were barely heard, barely remembered. The entire world had broke for her when she realized Mosur’s betrayal.)
“Little Pup only fails if she dies in vain.” Mosur spoke thinking over the rules she had followed and the things he knew Arialynn could do, he also thought about the things he could do. He was more offensive than Arialynn, though he knew she too trained with Koryander. His eyes narrowed slightly as he lost himself in thought over fighting the Light, a frown seeped across his face the longer he thought unbeknownst to him, this one without the fire of anger.
Cael blinked and looked at him.
And then, she smiled.
“…Th-Thank you. I, I, I kinda l-like that.”
Her words pulled him out of the thoughts and he looked to her in question until he realized what she was speaking of. With a soft grunt he nodded. “Is true. To step back or retreat to live and fight another time, is better than to fight battle Pup cannot win. What is noble about dying when is no chance to win? Cannot fail until cannot try again. Always there is time to succeed next time.” He rolled his shoulders back once and checked his posture. “Mosur has seen Pup training, but never seen Pup spar. tell how Pup fight Maewood.” He had a guess, but he decided not to make it aloud.
Cael blinked. That wasn’t… What she had gotten away from those words. But- maybe. It wasn’t as good as a death protecting someone, doing something good with herself, like she had imagined, but… He was already moving on and she had no time to ask about it.
“Maybe sometime Mosur will practice with Pup if she promises not to hurt him too badly hum?”
Cael flinched at the words, her body language screaming apology, ears flat against her head. Was he mad? He was her friend- how could he think that?
Monsters don’t have friends, hissed her wolf, and Cael tried desperately to ignore it.
She looked up, wide gold eyes sad and serious and withdrawn.
“…..M-M-M-Mosur, you’re- you’re my, my, my, m-m-m-m-my f-friend- I would never hurt you,” she said, with the air of one making a promise. (edited)
Mosur sat up a little straighter and tilted his head a little. “Right… Mosur meant this as joke. Eh See.. Maewood, she is eh well Maewood is acquaintance still she leaves Little Pup with hurt. Eh.. it is ah, to not beat Mosur so bad that you bruise his pride hum? Eh besides Mosur has probably been through worse…Haha Mosur is just meaning that he is sure Pup is probably better fighter than him so he will be on back line trying to dodge Pup’s punches hum? Hah.” He didn’t realize she would take it so seriously, or maybe that wasn’t the correct Common phrasing. Perhaps Koryander’s phrasing was just as harsh as she was.
….Why? she wondered, despondent, desperate, deeply heartsick. Why? Why?
Her only tenuous anchor to the present was a warm hand on her back, draping a blanket around her wordlessly, guiding her to the bed, along with the pains of her body, now all multiplied by her current emotional agony. The burning of her throat after throwing up so violently she felt like she wrenched something, the ache in her abs from the same, the gritty texture in her eyeballs from crying, the pounding headache forming between her temples, the throbbing where the arrows had lodged in her thigh,all of them felt a thousand times worse than they actually were, Cael was scraped so raw, defenses stripped so bare. Kory sat on the chair nearby, clearly guarding. She said something about rest. Cael knew, intellectually, what to do, body following habit, and lay down. She didn’t want to sleep but then- she was so tired. Resisting Koryander was difficult on the best of days. Today was… not.
But she knew she would never sleep. Not after this. Maybe not ever.
She was wrong, though. Exhaustion won the day. And with Koryander standing guard, Cael…. gave up, gave in, and closed her eyes. She had nothing left to be thankful for the older warrior, though she by all rights ought to be, and, in fact, she hadn’t spoken out loud since the flashback and panic attack that had rocked her and brought the worgen to her knees in front of the paladin, a writhing wrecked facsimile of a person bleeding out from a too-big heart and the knife thrust hilt-deep into it.
“Little Pup, eh, you are too kind you know this? Mosur, he worries for you okay? Scout, he is playing mind games, and Mosur will not beat around bush that Little Pup is saying. This is what Pawn is for, when Little Pup is flustered. Hold it, remember. Scout he is strong, and he is deceptive. He sees that Little Pup’s mind is weakness, because is certain he could not beat in fair fight, hum?” It was perhaps a little flattery, but what little of her training he had seen Mosur wouldn’t want to fight her. “That is how he will attack Pup. Confuse, Anger… these are his weapons. But these words are only something that Pup can protect herself from, if she is going to protect others she will have to do this, is understand?” His brows raised and his face tilted downward slightly giving her a questioning yet hopeful look.
Cael nodded, very serious, because he was being very serious. She bit her lip, processing.
They were going to try to help him, and Cael… Would rather Sielic didn’t die. But that didn’t make him any less dangerous. And Mosur was right, of course. In fact, the consequences of a lack of control in her part could range from horrifying to downright catastrophic.
“…H-How?” She asked, quietly.
Mosur grows very still and thinks his brows pushed together, he looked back up at her still speaking calmly. “Mosur needs little pup to believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes Little Pup just has to trust. Scout will say things, people will turn colors. But all things happen for a reason, and Little Pup must remember this. Pup says she wants to fight to keep people safe. Pup must keep self safe first or she can protect no one. It will be hard and there is little time for Pup to prepare.”
And a white pawn lay abandoned and slightly cracked now on the wooden floor.
And the nightmares, when they came, were worse than ever.
And Cael was not prepared.