The bath houses of Westguard were both a luxury and a necessity. Fighting the vrykul and undead that roamed the area -and more recently, demons and their masters- left a certain odor behind, and for the sanity of all involved, it was really better to have a place where one could cleanse the grime of the day from the body. That the place was a large, wooden, heated bath house, filled to the brim with steam and featuring multiple rooms and pools, was a luxury. And today, it was one Cael appreciated immensely. 

The Gilnean looked around nervously, and sighed with relief as she saw they were all but abandoned. One of the smaller pools, separated by a wooden wall, was empty and inviting. In her human form (being easier to clean and keep clean than all that fur!) Cael hurried forward and stepped inside, drawing the little curtain for privacy. Only then did she sigh, with both relief and a bone deep, chilly tiredness. 

After all, the last few weeks were a bit rough on the girl, all things considered. 

The newest injury showed as she began to gracelessly shuck off her plain linen and leather clothes: a pattern like mail, seemingly burned into her arm, starting on the back of the hand and reaching midway to the elbow- a memento of dragonfire’s kiss. It matched the patterns of her formerly sturdy steel gauntlets, which were plate and leather over mail, much like the rest of her armor. 

She’s about ten inches in front of the Justicar and on high alert- that was all that let her react faster than the leader of the Templars of the Rose. Another guest, one like they were and forcibly abducted into an illusion, was losing it. They accused the Justicar of all sorts of things, controlling them, with a madness in the eyes. The “Host”, a strange masked man who made her hair stand right on end, watched with that strange quirked smile and all the benevolence of poisoned honey. The other guests drew faintly back. Cael stepped forward to try and reason with them. 

It didn’t work. 

A fireball, formed by thought and a snarl and the gesture of one hand, rocketed toward the Justicar. 

Just as before, Cael didn’t think, just acted, and threw herself headfirst into the blast, her shield up and blocking even before the rest of the room had registered the attack. 


But the terrible heat of the flame was not like any mortal fire, and the fireball was too big to block entirely despite her best efforts. Impact turned the metal of her buckler first cherry red, then quickly cycled through to near white hot as it took the center of the explosion and the worst of the heat. Fire and superheated air licked her ears, singed her fur, made the leather of her armor warp and crisp. Behind her, the Justicar hissed in pain. Because it was holding her shield, her gauntlet shared the worst of the heat and her arm erupted first into agony, and then, into a strange cold numbness. Amazingly though, Cael held as the fire raged around her, blocking what she could. Cael dropped the ruined mass of metal with a cry of pain and ripped off her gauntlet, burning the fingers of her other hand as she did. It broke as it fell to the floor, fittings twisted into uselessness, revealing terrible burns where the chain mail had scorched through leather and fur to the skin beneath. The burns matched the ones on the Justicar’s face, and her heart sank at the sight of them, a blatant sign of her failure, even as the rest of the room reacted a heartbeat behind the worgen. 

They were, of course, healed now, pink and itchy and new. Thank the Light for healers, Cael thought, remembering the Justicar’s shining golden light sinking into her and mending charred flesh. The Justicar’s face was fine, of course, healed as well. Though why she tended to me first I don’t know. She needs to take care of herself. The Templars will survive without me, I signed up for this, and I’ve had worse. But we all NEED her, she thought, as she took off her boots, unlacing them carefully. That same arm was in a sling not a few weeks past after taking heavy, punishing blows from a vyrkul. In her time here with the Templars, she’d seen combat with regularity. Thrown into a wall several times, sprained her arm, stabbed, slashed, broken ribs, shot at, pummeled by rocks, burned… Cael set her boots by the side of the pool with the care of one who hasn’t had so many clothes that she can afford to be careless with them. Off came the shirt, exposing her muscled chest and back. The life of a warrior couldn’t be plainer than it was here, a history of violence memorialized in living flesh. The bruises from that rockfall on her back were nearly faded now, leaving the older scars there visible. On her right side, the impact of her ribs into a stone wall had left a black and blue mass now also almost gone. Both still ached a little when she stretched, as did her ribs, just a twinge or two. Her arm hurt when she moved it just wrong, but that was to be expected. Even healings only did so much with repeated poundings. 

Cael flexed it, thinking. I have to build up my strength in this arm. I’ll be taking a lot more blows on my shield, I think. I’ll figure out a way to do that, add it to my morning routine. The breastband joined the pile of clothes on the floor, all folded awkwardly but with care. 

Other scars of varying ages were also visible as she removed her clothes. 

A crosshatch of ragged scars marked her back. These were dark; healed, yes, but several shades darker than the healthy healing pink of those on her arm, raised and ugly and stark against her otherwise pale, freckled skin. Most were anywhere from four inches to, in one case, crossing from hip to the opposite shoulder. Starting at her shoulderblades and concentrated most thickly in her back, they went down her body- buttocks, the backs of her thighs, calves, to her heels. As she stepped forward and into the water, the soles of her feet revealed the same patterns. Other scars, easily overlooked in the light of the whip marks, came from different sources. 

Her sword arm was deeply scarred by the bite marks of some savage beast; these were older than all the rest, the most healed of any. Three claw marks raked her from her shoulder, across one breast, and ended just above her belly button. Several short scars at various angles dotted her front and back. One, longer and thicker, bites deep into the side of one thigh; how she survived, or even still has the leg remains up for speculation, as it looks like someone tried to hack it off with limited success. Similar to this is a scar just under the end of her ribcage on her side, another blow that should have been mortal- the attacker clearly tried to cleave her in half with an upwards stroke. Like the one on her thigh, it was visible on both front and back. Three circular, puckerlike scars sat within a few inches of eachother and her shoulder. Other, less remarkable nicks, pockmarks, blemishes, and signs of abuse dot her skin.

Cael sighed with pure bliss as she found one of the underwater benches and the water came up to her neck, just touching the scar she hated most. There was a reason she wore that ragged old scarf, though she had Kage and Sage’s lovely warm gift of a cloak. Even without it, the gorget of her armor usually hid it from view. About as wide as two fingers, it circled all the way around her neck, as clear a statement as any: it was the scar of one who had worn a metal collar for some time, likely years. 

Pushing her hair out of her eyes, she sank a little deeper, letting the warmth seep into her bones. Cael did not often get tired, or rather, she was so used to working past the state of simple tiredness that it took a lot for her to actually admit she needed rest. But the events of the past few weeks were no picnic. 

So Cael did the unthinkable, and took a daring risk.

She took the day off. 

Today, Cael slept in late, ate all the breakfast she could manage, and limited herself to merely cleaning her gear and helping the healers. And walking. She did a lot of just… walking. Wandering really. I like it here- Westguard. I’m surprised at how much I like it here. Sure it’s cold, but my fur is thick, and my cloak is really nice these days. Everything smells like pines and ice and the sea. It’s…. clean. Sometimes when I wake up and I can’t remember who or where I am, it helps- I smell that instead of the dust and smoke and blood of… of Orgrimmar. And I know what I am then, and what I’m doing, and that… that helps. I like to go get my food and just sit on the edge of the cliff and eat and watch the sea. 


But I really like the bath house, too. 

The water almost burned against the sensitive new skin of her arm, but it was a pleasant sort of sting that faded after several moments. 

In the pits, there were no days off. What injuries she had, she lived with; if they were life-threatening and didn’t kill her immediately, Greeblix, the goblin who owned her, protected his investment by force feeding her some noxious brew that helped her heal. But it burned going down, tasted like piss, and numbed none of the pain. Nor did it seem to help with the scarring. The ability to take a day off by simply switching her shifts with someone else’s was quite the novelty, and one Cael intended to enjoy. 

Well, a little. Not TOO often. There was work to be done, people to defend and help. But maybe once in a while. 

Tomorrow, she would deal with needing new armor- a whole new SET, because though the metal hadn’t been superheated like her shield was, the sheer temperature of the dragonfire and the rapid cooling of it was rough to compromise the integrity of the forged steel, not to even mention the leather parts, which were completely useless. This included her weapons. The Templars repaired things for free, it seemed, but all new gear? Would that cost something? Sure it would. Everything cost something. 

….Except, here, it often hadn’t. 

Cael struggled for a moment with herself. Old habits, old survival mechanisms, were so difficult to break, as hard as it was to suppress that reflex flinch when Koryander (the only person taller than she was, something Cael was not used to) patted her head and all she saw for half a second was an incoming blow.

But then, all that was tomorrow. 

Today…

Today, Cael swallowed, and forced those times out of her head, breathing the steam in deep, exhaling. Today was a day for healing and rest. She’d been tested quite a bit, so far: vrykul, demons, puppetmasters, mages, that Doctor asshole. But I’ve done ok so far. I’ve been useful, I’ve kept up with the others, mostly. I’ve protected people who needed it- I should apologize to the Justicar, maybe, but… she thanked me, so- I think that means she’s not mad, even when she could be. 


I still can’t believe she thanked me. Me. Of all people. 

The memory warmed her, even in the steam. The Justicar was everything Cael wanted to be in her life, after all. 

I was just doing my job. 


But, well, I’m glad that- that I’m doing it well. Mostly well, I think. Or at least not poorly, I’m pretty sure of that. 


Who do I talk to, to get a new sword and shield and armor? Is there a quartermaster? Surely- surely Koryander or, or Aartemis doesn’t do all the work for the Templars. I need to ask about that. After all, I’m a bit big; it’s hard to find stuff in my size, and then find someone to fix it so it fits properly even in my worgen form. Finding a mage to do that last time was a huge pain. And I never did get those boots done. 


But all of that could wait for tomorrow. 

For today, this was good. This was enough. 

I’m… happy. Still. Even now, hurting a bit. 


Hurts pass, and they’re worthwhile hurts, after all. 

Tomorrow would come. 

But for today…. this was good, and Cael leaned back and closed her eyes, drifting off entirely without meaning to into a deep and restful sleep. 

Author Cael
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