She visited the night elves, in Darnassus, alone. It was something she felt had to be done by herself, though the death knight’s offer was kind indeed. Under the great sprawling boughs of a tree bigger than she could have possibly imagined but for seeing it herself, a whole civilization bloomed and thrived. One corner of it held a second tree with a wellspring of crystal water nearby, and smelled… of wolf, and human, and strangely familiar. The denizens of the Howling Oak, her kinsmen, her allies…. Gilneans. They directed her to the night elves who helped those like her master their change. 

Sadly, after some examination on thier part, and nervous swallowing on Cael’s, they gently broke the bad news. 

Because of the way her transformation had been forced on her -with the bite, with whatever else Valnov had done to her, with her delicately labeled ‘associated psychological trauma’- there was a limit to what they could do. It would rely on her, and her strength of will, to control her transformation, if indeed it could ever be completely controlled. There were some, they said, who never mastered thier beast. Phrases she didn’t understand like ‘operant conditioning’ and ‘negative reinforcement’ and ‘musculoskeletal enhancements’ were used. There were other methods they could try, the night elves told her in those gentle wise voices with kind eyes, things like potions and alchemies, but Cael had enough of that to last for a lifetime. 

She would find another way. She would have to. 

After all, her worgen form was where she was strongest. Cael knew that for a fact. Strong, tall, fast, agile. When Sielic came for them (and she had no doubt he would) she would NEED to be able to keep herself under control. The beast in her that gave Cael her savage fighting edge made her walk a knife’s blade for the privilege. 

The trip to Darnassus also served another purpose. 

Shopping. 

And not, as one might imagine, for clothes. 

The day after her return, Cael woke in the wee hours of the dawn, when the chickens were still clucking the rooster awake and the baker had yet to start his day. A cold draft from the frost covered window of the Westguard barracks made her shiver, but there was no time to lay about. Days off were a thing of the past. 

“Cael, stay here. That’s an order.”

The memory, echoing that night, made her rise with a growl. 

Wind whipped through cracks in the wooden walls, whistling, as the weak winter sun failed to dispel the chill that lingered from the night, a cold mist touching everything. Cael silently reached into the bag she’d brought with her from the great night elf city under that massive tree. She withdrew several leather bands of varying sizes, plain in workmanship, but etched with spell runes, each with a metal clasp. Then, the young worgen reached for cloak, scarf, and clothes. 

It was the work of moments to don her attire, making sure to lace the leathers tight  and layer well to keep the cold wind from slicing through it to the linen underneath. The other soldiers in the barracks barely stirred at the faint noises of cloth rustling and the mild thump of paws hitting wooden planks. Cael padded softly to the door, opened it, and shut it quickly behind her, exiting the commons to the wintry winds of Northrend. 

Once there, she sat on the steps and adjusted her scarf tighter around her throat. Then she turned the leather over in one palm. 

Well, I hope these work. I don’t know how long it will take for me to get new armor. Until then, though, these will hopefully be good enough. My old weights, those leather and lead chain bands, they were good, but… I have to be stronger. 


“Cael, stay here. That’s an order.”

Faster. 


“Cael, stay here. That’s an order.”

Better. 

The smell of blood as Kanta, halfway through death’s door, lay staining the hardwood floors with his own lifeblood, missing an ear- and that was the least of his horrific injuries. 

I have to more than what I am right now if I want to help and not be- not be a burden. Not be left behind. They were RIGHT to do so, she thought, with a vicious sort of ruthless practicality, not even allowing herself that small lie. There was no self pity; just cutting, brutal fact. I’d just hold them back. It was for my own good. But I have GOT to be actively working to be the absolute best I can be. The Justicar does, I’d be my life on it, and so the the rest, I’m sure. I can’t hold them back. I won’t. I swore an oath. I will uphold it. I don’t care how hard I have to work.


I will become so good, I’ll never be left behind again. 

She put on the leather bands. 

One went around each wrist. One circled her waist like a belt. One buckled around each thigh, and one around each bicep. The final one went around her neck, and as she latched the clasp, they glowed briefly, magic activating. Suddenly, Cael felt the weight of an entire, full set of plate armor, distributed on her body as it would be normally, settling heavily. 

Cael stood, her jaw set and tight, and began to run. 

Out of the town, into the forests, feet crunching on snow over leaf litter, she ran, huffing and puffing. She started on the road, then moved off it. Pine filled her nose, one of her favorite smells, and two hours later she stopped, wheezing, at a spot where the forests gave way to rocky cliffs and the sea hammered them below with foamy white fists. She gave herself a count of thirty. 

But once that was done, Cael found a protrusion of rock almost a foot high and assumed a pushup position with her feet on it and her body slanting downward. She then rummaged in her belt pouch for a lead ball big enough to be held in one hand, but not so small as to let her fingers touch each other as she held it. Putting that arm down with her weight on it, and, instead of a flat palm, the lead ball in her hand, she held the other arm out, with a second matching heavy lead ball clutched tightly in her other hand. The balls doubled as weights, and she wobbled a little as the roll of them, and the weights she wore on top of those, made her exhale sharply. Slowly, Cael lifted the leg opposite the arm that she held out to her side.

Now in position (arm out, weight on one arm and leg, wobbling slightly due to the ball, feet resting on the elevated rock) she began. 

Down all the way- UP she sprang, fast as her muscles would go and far off the ground enough to bring the arm bearing her weight up to slap her chest lightly with the lead ball, and back down in time to catch herself from falling on her face, breaking it on the granite beneath her. She barely made it, and wobbled dangerously as she did so, swallowing. Sweat dripped off her nose.

Well, they weren’t kidding. This- this is a LOT harder. But I can do this. I WILL do this. 


Tenacity. 

Two. Three. 

She continued until she hit twenty, then switched arms, and did it again the opposite way, and repeated this until she was shaking and burning and every breath came labored. Then  she gave herself a count of one hundred to rest and watch the sea, and did it again, a third time, alternating arms with more sets until she fell on her face and yelped, thankfully catching herself on an elbow instead of her nose. It hurt. She ignored it.

That was the signal to get back to running. And so she did, the magical weights dragging at her, making every step a challenge, as if she were performing all these activities in full plate regalia with sword and shield in tow. She took herself to a nearby brook with rime encrusted edges and tested her balance on the frozen rocks, hopping from one to the other as she ran, icy water some inches deep beneath her. A fall wouldn’t hurt, unless she hit her head on the way down, but that water was incredibly cold. 

Cael’s next stop was a pine, with a limb hanging just above her head. A count of one hundred, gasping for resin scented air that stabbed her lungs- Cael fumbled for the skin of water she’d taken with her and drank. Then, she jumped, grabbed the limb, and with some stuttered curses, dragged herself over it. Cael hung from it upside down by her knees, sticky bark digging into her hands and feet as she did. Crossing her arms over her chest, the warrior laboriously began sets of curls, hauling herself upright. Sets of three- to start- these fucking weights- just three, then- fuck- we’ll go to five- and ten later- Oh, Goldrinn’s teeth! she swore, as she could only make it halfway the second curl of the third set. 

Some sets later saw her drenched with sweat and dizzy, catching her breath for another one hundred count, back on solid ground.

“Cael, stay here. That’s an order.”

One foot under her, then another. Stand. Deep breaths. Cael grit her teeth, giving into the urge to growl. 

And she started off again, a long, loping run. 

The night elves had told her how the worgen came to be, though the technicalities of it were beyond her. And how it tied into Goldrinn, an ancient demigod that took the form of a massive, white wolf. His legends could be found in many cultures, and all of them spoke of his incredible tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds and his ferocity in battle. It was his fang that played a central role in creating the worgen curse, or so she understood it, and many Gilneans seem to have adopted him as something of a patron. 

Cael found this entirely acceptable. 


Ferocity.


Blood soaking her fur, pieces of bodies littered around her, and her chilling howl of savage triumph resounded through the arena


Flinging herself into a vrykul with no fear or hesitation or thought for herself beyond what she could do to assist the others in killing the damn thing


Tenacity. 


“Don’t know how the bitch isn’t dead yet, but hey, more money for me!” Greeblix cackled, reaching in ruffle her fucking ears, damn him, DAMN him, (she’d kill him kILL HIM KILL HIM) if she could only move, that orc beat the shit out of her and she couldn’t (her fingers twitched, claws scraping lines into the red dirt as she lay there and struggle to keep conscious)


Holding, holding, holding, impossibly still, though rocks pummeled her without mercy (but better her than the prone form of Sage beneath, she had to hold) and fire burned without ceasing (better her than the Justicar, they needed her, she had to hold) searing chain mail into her flesh

With another growl, she forced herself to pick up the pace. 

Ferocity. Tenacity. There were worse things than those. 

…..Used correctly, of course. 

Her run continued, until she stopped at another tree, this one dead and barkless, stark white against the forest of greens and browns- the dirt around it was worn bare. Cael gave herself the one hundred count and then assumed the standard unarmed fighting stance taught to every Templar soldier. The young worgen was no monk, sadly, though she greatly respected their skill and even envied it. But they all got enough training to master the basics. Cael began to bounce lightly on the balls of her feet and started the drills she’d learned since she became a Templar. 

Sweat plastered her hair, the weights -she was learning to hate those weights, a sign they were doing their job- making everything take twice effort. Just keeping her hands in position was difficult; they kept wanting to drop. Cael fixed it and started her combination of very basic punches, kicks, and blocks. After that, she went freeform, her blows THWACKING against the old dead tree. 

And… when she was gasping, Cael stopped, gave herself one hundred, and then began the long run back to the stronghold. 

Next was sword and shield work, after a meal and bath. Then her guard shift. After that, more practice until dinner, a second run and associated workouts before the sun set, another bath, her night time guard shift, and then bed. If I’m not eating, sleeping, on duty, or bathing, I want to be getting better. I want to be improving, constantly, all the time. And I’m going to practice until I do.


“Cael, stay here. That’s an order.”


I will never, ever, EVER be so weak or unprepared as to be left behind agian, Cael swore to herself, the image of Kanta with his armor literally melted into his flesh lingering in her mind, the smell of blood thick in her nose and memory.I swore an oath. I won’t be a burden, or a problem, or the one they have to help. I’m supposed to BE the help.

A misstep- she stumbled over a root and went crashing down with the weights sending her to the ground hard, scraping her knees and elbows as she did. Cael groaned, rolled over, and spat out dirt from her mouth. Her hands clenched in the cold loam, crushing pine needles in her grip. 

“Cael, stay here. That’s an order.”


Never again. I’ll never be left behind again, she thought. 

And Cael got up, and went on. 

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