The fields of Bastion were impossible in the best kind of way. The impossibly blue sky, with the impossible streams of anima flowing through it, the impossibly soft heather, the impossibly gentle chimes that carried on the wind – even the impossibly perfect day, every day, all day, with just the right kind of sunlight, the ever-spring air, and the soft breeze that kissed the cheek and carried the scent of flowers.
They filled the young Pandaren with an absolute sense of inadequacy.
“Stupid cold-magic. Stupid frostbolts. Stupid circles.”
The air absolutely refused to get so much as a degree cooler around her. The ‘frostbolt’ she conjured hit her makeshift target (a couple of sticks tied together with her oldest shirt on them and the cracked teapot with a painted-on growly orc-face) with a wet splat, being less a ‘frostbolt’ and more a ‘vaguely cold mass of magic that was more handful of water tossed from a glass than ice hurtling at high speed’. Night’s Flower – Petal – stomped a foot in frustration, bit back a growl.
“C’mon. You can do this.”
Splat. If anything, that one was wetter and .. goopier somehow than the last.
The next one steamed. She breathed in. Out. In slow, bring in good thoughts. Out slow, breathe out the bad.
“Patience. Control. Focus.”
“ARGH! WHY WON”T YOU JUST FREEZE”
The next ten minutes were spent putting out the fire. She was relatively certain that ambient water wasn’t supposed to combust… ever.
Some small thought crossed her mind that this may have been why the porridge-water caught fire that one time. Petal filed away that thought for later, and with the hope of convincing Cael that she deserved her water-boiling privileges back.
Petal began the laborious process of rebuilding her scarecrow, grumbling imprecations in Pandaren. “The simplest of all forces my /tail/. Even if the Kirin Tor swear by her book, that Aegwynn person is just… it’s .. AUGH.” She found herself kicking grass.
Breathe in. Breathe out. In with the good thoughts, out with the bad ones. That grass didn’t deserve it.
“Hoo – bad day?”
The soft, singsong voice caught her utterly off guard, but there’s no way she’d ever admit that she squeaked. Nobody could prove anything, and that’s what she’s going to tell anybody who asked.
“… uhh… ye.. Oh. Isilos – hi. Sorry. Yeah.”
“I like Purians. Always good on bad day. You want?”
“… yeah. Sure.” Petal sighed and dropped to sit in the grass.
The grey, owllike steward came to plop down next to her, holding out a purian and a bottle of something sparkly. “Many times. I have seen this many times. Aspirants are frustrated, the path is hard, the poor grass suffers.” He let out a chirping laugh. “Best to stop and try something else for a while. Many things to do!”
“…I can’t. I just can’t. I need this – She needs this. What if I had to actually fight her? What if I’d… missed, or screwed up, or..” Petal set the purian and vial down in the grass to press the heels of her hands against her eyes.
“Many ‘what ifs’, not a lot of ‘what dids’. Worry never helps. Eat. Drink. You will feel better!”
After indulging in a slow groan, Petal sighed, and picked up the fruit – biting into it. Its taste was sweet, cleansing somehow. Bright. Not really a peach, not really a pear – something ineffably in-between. She chewed, swallowed, and turning it over in her claws, she looked to Isilos, gravely. “The thing is? I don’t have two forevers and a sunset. When she gets better, I need to be ready, to be there for her. That’s the thing – she’s so worried about hurting everyone else.. without *this*, I don’t have the tools to stop her. SHe doesn’t have.. you know.. that safety.” She popped the rest of the fruit in her mouth and chewed.
“But it is hers to learn. You can only help. Sometimes, what we help, what we do? We think is help, but it is … crutches and props. You cannot fix the Centurion by having the Phayrinx hold it up. Then you just have a broken Centurion and a useless Phayrinx. Stewards know. We have to help in the right way. So do you!”
“… how am I supposed to help anybody if I’m ..” Petal flopped back in the softest grass that could even theoretically exist. For a moment, that thought distracted her… but not long enough. “I thought I was over all this … stupid doubt. It’s just.. I feel like I barely know anything, and am hanging on by my fingertips and never knowing what to do. I flounder along behind everybody, and when it really, really counts, when it really, really matters… you’re probably better off counting on anybody else. Anybody. I don’t.. I don’t want to be just the one that fixes tents up better or makes portals. I wanna be able to stand there with her no matter what – and have the Justicar look at me like.. I dunno. Like I do things right. Like … I’m not a liability.”
There was a twinkle in the Steward’s eyes – “You are worried this Justicar does not approve. I have seen – when the Aspirants worry about what the Paragons think. This is you! But all come to see it is silly, when they face doubt. So will you!”
“… it isn’t though. They’ve got.. forevers. I .. I get whatever time there is.” She let her arms flop to the sides. Probably dramatically, if she were being honest. “I know I’m not supposed to compare myself to anybody – and I really have gotten better about it. But … this isn’t working, and I need to know it, and the books aren’t cutting it.”
Petal sat up suddenly. “I need a teacher.”
“… good! Teachers help, yes!”
“Yeah. And I think I know just the one. And I saw her in Revendreth.” Petal grinned, wide and bright. “Hey, Isilos? Can you tell Cael I’ll be back in a bit? I need to go find my teacher- no! Better. I’ll leave her a note and maybe get some work done at Dawnkeep too. It’s a good place to start, right?”
The owl-like Steward nodded, happily. “Of course! But do not go away too long.”
“Nope. Just long enough.” The Pandaren hopped up, hugged the bird-fellow – and grabbed her pack, her staff, striding away through the heather. “I mean, Claresta’s great. She’ll have an idea, anyway. Don’t let her eat too much of that ambrosia!”
The best idea she’d had all month.