Petal woke first, in the Dwarves' inn – and it took a moment for her to get her bearings, to dig herself out of the gryphonfeather duvet and up out of a mattress that threatened to devour her with comfort.  Not that she was rested – nightmares and waking up repeatedly through the night (along with one shredded pillow she'd artfully stuffed under the bed to avoid any embarrassing questions) saw to that.  She rubbed at her eyes, licked at chops that tasted like day old beer… and gave up on her hair within minutes of questing fingers discovering that 'bird's nest' was a kind thing to call it.

Seeing Kage there was reassuring, curled up in her own bed in the room she'd managed to rent yesterday between bouts of semi-consciousness; that she was still sleeping and hadn't move was concerning, but the Pandaren took some comfort in the dim glow of the other mage's magic as well as the slight rise and fall of her breathing.  That was… something, anyway.  

Once all was in order, once she was certain no one was dead… or watching… she cried.  Great silent tears, arms around her knees, stuffing herself into the corner at the head of her bed, where two hard walls held her up and she didn't have to care what anyone thought.  It was all too much.

She couldn't stop seeing the hill, slick with blood and magic – the pile of half-dead crying for mercy, or the great fire below that stank of charred flesh.. the smell that -still- wafted in the room, from her clothing piled haphazardly in the corner farthest from her bed.  She wanted a bath.  Or Uncle.  Or Kun – someone to tell her it didn't happen, or it would be okay, or something, and that she didn't have to keep remembering how the ground swallowed up the dying while they pleaded for … for.. 

But no one can cry forever.  WHen all that was left was an empty, hollow feeling, the Pandaren wiped at her eyes, her muzzle, and took a long breath.  Rummaging through her packs found a mismatched (and dirty) tunic and pants, and that would have to do; the others she'd just burn on her way out of the Inn.  Wrapping the smaller mage up in her gryphon-down coverlet… and with the raw feeling of overindulging… she opened a portal to the Templars in Westguard, carrying the girl through amidst the shock of cold and the crunch of permafrost.

Petal left her in the warm, tucked into a bed safely in the barracks, with a note rolled carefully and placed in her hand, along with a hug.

"K – "   The note said – 

K – 

I'm sorry I won't be here when you wake – I can't stay.  I need time to put my own head back together and try to make sense of everything.  I left you a waystone; it's my last one.  I can tell where they are; if you hang onto it, I can always find you, and will, okay?  I promise.  If… if anything goes wrong, smash it.  You'll need something hard, but it'll break, and I'll know, and I'll come as fast as I can to whereeverit broke.  

I need some time.  I can't – maybe they aren't who I thought they were, these Templars.  But they're not bad people either.  I just… I think I thought maybe they were heroes, like the old stories.  Instead, they're in the real world, and I guess sometimes that means you have to do hard things, and there aren't right choices.  I can't… that wasn't a right choice, though.  I've seen worse. A lot of things I've done  forthe Tirisgarde have included going into places where the demons do a lot worse to people, but those are demons.  As horrible as it is, I've kept telling myself that that's what makes demons … well.  Demons.  What separates us from them is that we won't do what they do, and we'll choose to fight them with honor, even if they won't.  

But that – he wasn't any better.  He chose a path I can't understand even wanting.  And… I helped him.  All those people are on me, too.

I get that it's complicated.  The little ones – I heard what the guards said, about all the little ones the Templars saved, and I'm really glad.  But I still have to think there's a way that they could have been saved without so much killing.. or at least -killing-, and not… that.  

I have dreams of that gauntlet at my throat, or yours.  Or Kun's.  Or Cael's.  And.  I just.  I can't.  

You know that I can't really get lost – I mean, that's part of touching Chi.  There's always a way home.  So don't worry too much.  You're still my friend, I promise.  Who else would take me flying?

Always your friend – 

Aiya-Cho Ye Hua, "Nightpetal"

——————-

It was easy to step across to the ship from the Westguard keep – the little waystone tucked under her pillow in her hammock in the sisters' tiny room saw to that.  There she bathed, changed – and curled up in the netting, swaying with the slow creak of the ship, listening to the crew and its motion, pretending, that, for the moment, she didn't exist.  Instead, she drew – books piled around her, referencing one or two of the thicker tomes as her quill and claw-writing filled page after page of her own journals – and the great circle she'd started slowly took on more shape.

Author Aunne
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