{{For ambiance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fNLEPrNi2A 


For posterity, I have included Cael’s letter she wrote and Aunne’s frankly throws-papers-into-the-air-im-done.gif amazing reply because it deserves to be seen and screeched at. I have deleted the previous separate post.}}

Cael finished taking off her boots and sat on the cot. The “door” to her tent was, of course, not a door at all, but thick waxed linen. The walls were the same. A wooden frame of quickly, rough-hewn timber held all of it in place sturdily, despite a cold wind that slapped drizzled droplets of rain against the sides. It was not so far south as to be warm, no, not nearly; Stormheim had different weather, but warm was not in it’s vocabulary. 

Instead of cold, dry, bitter, and snowy, it leaned much more toward cold, wet, and temperate. The days were sunnier, but clouds could boil up in an instant, and the sky was as fickle as the neighboring vrykul. Not ALL of the giants were hostile, but it sure was hard to keep track of the ones that were and weren’t, or so it seemed to her. 

The storm outside intensified. Briefly, Cael shivered, and rose to make sure the leather ties holding the front flaps together were securely tied, and that her things were well off the ground. A little wooden dresser, and the fact that she had wisely made her tent on a small bump in the terrain, instead of downslope, ensured that she would suffer a minimal amount of mud. Sitting again on the cot, she wrapped the worgen sized blanket around her and shivered a bit as she struck a match on the little lamp that would be both warmth and light, if kept close enough to her bedside. It wasn’t like having a fire, but it was enough, magic amplifying the flickering flame’s gallant attempts into something more heroic. Two buckets, on which rested a scavenged wooden board, kept her sword and shield safely away from the floor. Her twin-bladed spear hung above her, lashed to the roof to keep it out of the way and also help support it against heavier rainfall, leaf-blade sharpened edges wrapped carefully in leather to make sure they didn’t cut her roof open by accident. 

The young wet warrior burrowed deeper into her covers. 


How nice it is, to have actually worgen sized things without having to ask for them special. It’s…. Being around other Gilneans like this- not just the Templars, but… GILNEANS, it’s different. Not bad. Just… Different. We work pretty well together, I think. I hope. It’s- there’s… so much wolf around. All different kinds. Nobody seems… to have my problems, though, not quite like I do. 


And they all hate the Forsaken. 


…I don’t know about that part.

They were around, lurking in the gold and amber trees, a rot nibbling at the edges of the Runewood here in Stormheim. She could smell them. The night before was the first time she’d managed any sleep at all, with the smell just faint enough to be difficult to locate, and just there enough to remind her that they were near.

But- respect. The lesson echoed in her mind, the Justicar’s soft, firm tones resonating in memory. The first pillar, she’d called that, the First Pillar of the Light, or something. 

The point was that respect brought everyone closer to the Light, ostensibly a good thing. Even those who didn’t want to be close to the Light, hence why a lot of enemies acted like they did. They didn’t want it, didn’t care. 

A letter, much handled over the last few days, reread several times, drew her eye. 

Well. Most undead. 

Cael swallowed. I still have no idea what in the name of Goldrinn’s teeth and the Light I’m going to write back. It made her stomach churn unpleasantly with anxiety, though she had not thrown up, not yet. She chose to take that as a sign of improvement. Then again, she hadn’t faced the Forsaken in battle yet either. Perhaps that…. was a good thing. 


Will I be able to be respectful then? 


I don’t know. I hope so. I have to. I HAVE to. I will. If I’m going to get better I have to try. 

As the tent slowly warmed, Cael stretched out on the (also delightfully worgen sized!) cot. Some may complain about the rougher standards of living here, but they were not Cael, and she seemed as at home here as she did in Westguard. Maybe that was because she had so little with which to make a home; two books in her dresser, the sakura bonsai as stalwart as ever on the top, her little pawn necklace, a golden coin of strange origin by the tree, three spare sets of clothes, one nicer, one only mildly worn, and one with patches on the elbows and knees and fraying hems. Her gear, cleaned and stored carefully. A mostly-blank journal, a quill, an inkwell. And that was all. The entirety of her life, compressed to a few odds and ends. Then again, she didn’t need anything else. 

The same could not be said for Greywatch. 

Camps go through a surprising amount of raw material, and the last few days had seen Cael, with the Justicar’s words in mind about earning their keep, assist in the acquisition of such. Bears, so many, many bears, for meat- they were difficult but not impossible, and a good way for her to practice with her polearm. Deer, much the same. Some of the other worgen preferred to hunt these in a more natural fashion, but Cael politely declined invitations made for courtesy’s sake. 

It probably wasn’t a good idea, all things considered. She was… maybe a bit better? But there’s no point in pushing my luck. And besides- I was happy to have the time away to do that mining. Odd, that. It feels like I have done it before. Like my body knows what to do even if my brain doesn’t. And the mages sure were happy for the, um, those… what were they called? Ley things. The purply ones. Not the black-green rock. That’s a lot harder to find and it gives me goosebumps, like I’m touching something I shouldn’t. Kory can have that stuff all she wants. Not to mention the need for the scraggle weed thing. I…. forget the real name. It’s around a lot and it seems to be used for near everything. Good thing it’s easy to spot. 


Menial, almost, these tasks. As was latrine duty, and the guard shift, and minding the stew pot- but they were all important. And Cael did them all, unflinchingly, to the best of her ability, in the sun or the pouring rain. As long as it helped, that was what the quiet young warrior seemed to care about. 

Looking at the folded letter, there, she flinched a little, remembering her own stilted, terrible attempt, and Aunne’s reply in comparison. 

————————-

[Written on a sheet of parchment, with several scratchouts and wrinkled spots, as if water had fallen there and dried, in a careful hand and plain ink. The spelling seems to vary.]

Annay

I am writing you from Pandaria. It is very pritty here. I hav been lerning a lot of things. [scratchout]

I have been lerning about respect. [scratchout] Not just normal respect. I like lerning but I think I have not been respectful to you. She talked about how you must respect enemees and frens too. Enemees are fighting sometimes for the same things we fight for. 

I have tried verry hard but I [scratchout] do not think I have done that to you. It is not right. I want to try harder but I do not know how. I am bad with words and speeking[scratchout] a lot of the time. [scratchout] I was hit in the hed. [scratchout] Espeshully around unded. 


[scratchout][scratchout][scratchout][scratchout][scratchout][scratchout][scratchout]


[scratchout][scratchout]

[scratchout]


[scratchout][scratchout][scratchout]

I am from a villig in [scratchout] Gilnayes called Embrstone. It was attaked by Forsakin. They [scratchout] killed lots of peepl. They hurt me and killed my brother and they turned me into a worgen and I was a [scratchout] [scratchout] slave. They did other things. I cannot remember becus of what they did. [scratchout][scratchout]

But it dos not matter because I have not been respectful and I am sorree. I do not know how to fix me. I am trying. It is better some days than others. I do not know if I will evr be fixed. [scratchout][scratchout][scratchout][scratchout][scratchout] But I hav to try. 

I thot maybee if I wrote letters insted of trying to talk fase to fase it would be better. 

I am sorree. I would like to try to do better. I ment what I sed about frens.

I must go. I have meditatton to do today still. 

-CAEL

————————-

(The return letter comes several days later, written on surprisingly fine vellum – several pieces, given the length and the sheer size of the writing, and smelling faintly of sky, blood, and the scents of forge and iron. The handwriting is painstakingly neat – more drawn than written, really, and the letter is sealed with wax and an odd little draenic rune.)

Caelryn –

I am sorry I am not writing better; the human language is not easy to learn – I do not think that it is I will ever be good at it. ‘G’ is a very funny letter – it is one I am never really getting quite right. I think it is better now, though!

You do not ever need to be sorry to me. You have done nothing wrong. That is what sorry is for – doing wrong things, harming someone. I have said it very much – I am not an expert on many things and words, but this is one I know very well! I do not think you are broken, or, if you are, it is not so bad, so be careful what it is you fix. You do not wish to be a different you when you are finished with fixing.

I think respect is funny – and there are many kinds. But it is always a thing that is earned – I do not think I have done a thing to earn the respect you are trying to give. It is fine! I will keep trying. It took very many years for the Templars to decide I was not going to harm everyone. I am very patient, sometimes. I have friends now! It has only taken a few years of trying – it will not hurt to wait more. 

I think I am very bad at making friends, really. I mean it is that I can -make- them, but it is not the same as having them come to know you, and to not think you are horrible. The ones I make are very sweet but drool very much and do not laugh and sometimes try to bite people. The ones who I have come to know are very kind. But I watch other templars and it is so easy – they talk and they laugh and they do silly things, and I sometimes have trouble remembering how to use a fork or whether I should laugh at what someone says. It is very easy for you – you should not worry. I think sometimes you are afraid of hurting them so you stay apart, but it is that feeling that is the good in you, and you should try very much.

I think maybe you will understand when I tell you it is that I am a monster. The paladins are a little afraid of that word. Everyone except a very few humans gets upset when it is I say it, because they do not understand. There are different kinds of monsters, yes? There are monsters under the beds of small humans, that are not real but that they are afraid of because they cannot see this place when they are sleeping. There are monsters that growl and snarl and rip and hurt. There are monsters that are inside, too, when the outside looks happy but the inside is broken. And then there are monsters like you and me and Etsiyona and Victor. 

I am not good. I have hurt very many people. Victor says it does not matter that I have, because I could not do anything else, but it does not make it better. I do not think he will ever understand that there is a part of me that will always know what I have done, and will actually always wish it could do it again. That wants to. I do not think Esriella understands that when the magic makes her have to rest, there is part of me that sees this as weak, even though it is not, and wishes to see how afraid she can be. I am not good at all – it is very hard to not sometimes hunger for these things, and these are two of my six [scratched out and replaced] ten friends. It is worse a little for others – easier for some. But it never ever goes away.

I try very hard to be good, but I do not know what good is sometimes. 

This is the other kind of monster. It is the one that knows what it is, and what it was made to do, and understands that to do these things is not right. But that sometimes, the dark inside is the right thing to be so that other people do not have to do the bad things.

It is so hard to explain. I do not really have the words.

But .. I want to. To you. You wrote words about what happened, and I want to try to write them too. I wish I had enough words to tell you what the Forsaken are. I am so sorry that they hurt you. They died and they are different – I think they have forgotten how to make a thing. 

That is what the Scourge is. It is very easy to break and to destroy and to tear down. It can take a hundred hundred lifetimes to make a beautiful thing that only takes a minute to destroy forever and ever. We are dead – it is hard for us to see pretty things, and I think it is very hard to not destroy. The Forsaken do not even try. Even the things they make are made to make an ending.

I worry sometimes that none of we dead are free. Because we still do what He wanted, even when it is He does not will it to be so. 

I am writing very much. I am sorry. I should not I think do this, but I am still looking for Etsiyona, and it is a little selfish but I think I am very glad you have sent this because most of the time others do not really talk very much to me, and I do not get to say or write these things. It is very silly, and I should stop.

But – I owe you very much, Caelryn. You were there when it was I died again, and you cannot and will not know what this means. Even if I cannot be your friend because of my monster? I will always try to keep you safe. If it is you need a thing. Anything. I will help, yes? 

Just one last thing. Please do not be sorry? you are very good. You have not done a wrong thing to me, I promise. Oh, and the Nazrethem? You must not use your guildstone unless it is you must. He is listening, yes? He comes for you not because he wishes you alone, but because he knows that very many care whether you are alright. The Nazrethem believe to care for a thing is to create a weakness – they are wrong. You are stronger than he can understand because you care, and you are cared for. In the end, you cannot hide from him and who you are. They are a little the same thing – when you do not fear yourself, then he will not cause you fear, yes?

It is so hard to explain. I am sorry. I wish I had better words. But strength is not in the bad things that happen, it is in what it is you do with the bad things, and whether they will rule you, or you will rule them. It is why you are strong and growing stronger. 

I will go. I am sorry this is long; I am going through Acherus very much. If you wish, words will find me there. 

One day, your friend – 

Aunne.

————————-

….What can I even say to that? 

Her stomach twisted itself into further knots, and Cael looked away, ashamed and hating herself for the way her throat stuck on words in a painful lump and her hands shook slightly. I know I have to write back. And soon. I just…

It was all a mess. 

Not even counting the dreadlord. The idea that he was out there, somewhere, waiting, possibly specifically for her… 

Cael shivered spasmodically and swallowed. Urk. Granted, she was still visiting Pandaria for training. But- but. 

Always a but. 

Trying to distract herself, she opened the drawer of the dresser and pulled out a thick book. This was not the Treatise Blackwald gave her; instead, the cover was emblazoned with a lovely illustration of a knight astride a magnificent horse, sword raised high, light shining from it. Esreiella called them “fairy tales”, and Cael found she rather enjoyed the stories. Maybe they were simplistic, or childlike, with big print and relatively easy words and gorgeous drawings of valiant warriors, beautiful damsels in distress, handsome princes in peril, terrible beasts with teeth the size of her arm, and kingdoms that never existed. To Cael, though, they were almost priceless. After all, Esre had given it to her, and… she actually did enjoy reading, when it was something like this. The knowledge of that was unexpected, and still surprising, even now, several days later. 

She typically read them before meditation at bedtime. 

Ignoring the letter for now, and the faintly guilty voice telling her she needed to reply, and soon, in kind, Cael turned to the last spot where she’d left off. 

In this story, the knight was a woman, a former servant to a cruel knight who had died. Unbeknownst to the kingdom, she’d taken up his sword and armor and claimed to be him, fulfilling long-held dreams of hers, and currently she was engaged in rescuing the dashingly good looking prince of said kingdom from a band of evil elves trying to sow chaos between elves and men. 

Thunder boomed above her and she looked up, briefly uncertain. The storm drakes loved this weather, and the wild ones barely bothered them. They were amazing to see- all strength and majesty and crimson scales, ruling the clouds.I could watch them forever. What amazing creatures. But those enslaved by the vrykul were decidedly less ambivalent… After a moment of nothing, she relaxed again, pulling the blanket more around her still and flipping the page. 

“And so it was that the young prince found himself confronted by the leader of the dark elves…”

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