Cael gingerly, very gingerly, took the new sword in her hand. 

It was nothing special, just another replacement for her old one. Her armor was still being worked on, but the sword was ready. 

Good thing one of us is. 

The memory of Zaanthe, how very close she had come to outright killing him had she not reacted to restrain herself, her wolf, just in time, burned like a brand. The hurt was dull, but constant, one more straw on her broken back. He came to help, and put a hand on her shoulder, and Cael, lost in the act of concentrating on existing, hadn’t noticed him… and reacted as if demons had come atapping on her door. 

Seeing him was… hard. 

It’s not gonna get easier. It’s only gonna be harder after this. After all this.

The sword lay heavy and lifeless, for once, in her massive callused palm. 

Maybe she ought to talk to someone about it, but the ability to speak- her words, her mind, anything at all- had left her when Mosur did, a reversion to the barely sane creature she’d been shortly after her escape from Orgrimmar. What progress she’d made under the Templar banner was largely, if not completely, reversed; in some cases it was worse than ever. 

Wei brought her broth, and little biscuit things that smelled delicious. The young warrior hadn’t eaten in…. well. They looked good. Yet the memories of drugged food, of the things it made her do -that THEY made her do- dogged her steps. The little balls that made the chimey noises sat with them. But they were friends. Wei would never hurt her. 

Yet she’d often thought the same about Mosur. And here she sat. 

Koryander. Fiery, strong, brave, warm like a cup of hot cider in cold hands, laughter and wisdom both, who made her a sword and armor. Teacher, patient and willing. And, incredibly, unbelievably, a former slave herself, risen above that to shine like the sun. They were friends. She would never hurt her.  

Yet she’d often thought the same about Mosur. And here she sat. 

The Justicar, Arialynn… Everything she ever wanted to be, but knew was impossible. True to herself, to justice and to doing the right thing, to helping people, to standing for good and protect the innocent. Thier fearless leader, indominitable, yet vulnerable herself: the young warrior saw that first hand. They were- well, no way Cael would ever presume to be important enough to be friends with the Justicar, but…. Still. Arialynn would never hurt her. 

Yet she’d often thought the same about Mosur. And here she sat. 

And there were all the other Templars, too. Sworn allies and comrades, to protect one another and fight the things that really NEEDED fighting: they wore that banner too. They would never hurt her. 

Yet she’d often thought the same about Mosur. And here she sat. 

And here she sat.

And here she sat.

And here she sat.

And here she sat.

And here she sat, alone, with the sword in her lap, focusing on existing, as she once had during the hell of the pits, when nothing was a comfort, and the smallest act -like speaking, or any kind of refusal, or making eye contact with her captors- was brutally punished. Wei told her to breathe. Irrational, unusual, wolfish anger wanted to snap at her, to tell her breathing wasn’t going to fix this, unless the cessation of it was involved. Instead, Cael stared out at the wall, out the window, out into space, and listened to her heartbeat. If her heart was beating, she was alive. If she was alive, she could continue to exist. If her heart was beating, she was existing, she was alive, she was not the wolf. 

The wolf had other priorities, other focuses, did not listen to thier own heart beating to affirm themselves. 

It was the best she could hope for, in that filthy barren cage; it was all she could do, here in the warm cozy room granted to her in the inn. It was infinitely preferable to actual thinking and forward planning and anything related to the future in any manner whatsoever. She knew enough now to realize that this strange almost-disassociation, this mental blankness, was, perhaps, just a little unhealthy. Unfortunately, Cael was in too much pain to care. Thinking about it hurt. Thinking about him hurt. Thinking hurt, period. So she didn’t.

Sit. Stare. Heartbeat. Alive. 


Cael could, and had, passed hours this way, alone and silent. It wasn’t foolproof, nothing was against what they did to her, but it was something. The wolf in her hated it. That was the most disruptive part. And often when it got to be too much, heartbeats did not help in the slightest, not when they beat her till she worged, and not when a pain infinitely worse threatened to crush her at the memory of Mosur’s smile. 

To think, that she was once upset that she couldn’t return to being human. It was grounds for hysterics, when existence itself was in question. And it was. It would be so, so, so very easy to give in. 

Not suicide. The memory of what they did to her when she tried it was… 

Not suicide, no. 

The wolf, though.

The wolf promised an end to her pain. The wolf would be content in the simple things in life. The wolf would find the source of this emotional hemorrhage and end it. The wolf would eat and sleep and shit and fuck and run and kill and howl, victorious, gloriously, fantastically alive and free

Westguard would die, screaming, in a storm of blood and fang and claw. She wouldn’t survive it either, likely, and she definitely wouldn’t be able to kill everyone with Koryander and the Justicar around. Anyone or anything that came to hurt her would die a gurgling, messy death or kill her themselves. But that barely registered under the clamoring of the wolf. What happened to her didn’t matter. (He used to say that it did. Maybe if it had, he would have stayed.) Her Templar fellows, though? 



Existence was all she could do, at the moment, the only choice she could make- but make it she did. Cael chose pain, pain in existence. It was all she knew to do.

You weren’t wrong. You did know him. 

So why, WHY were Zaanthe’s words stuck in her head like this? It made listening so damn difficult. They niggled at her like a loose tooth, along with something, something the Justicar said that- Cael found those memories were oddly fuzzy, like something (herself) wasn’t ready to deal with them in their entirety. A lot of memories were like that, but most of the other ones were of the meat hook incident, or when they whipped the soles of her feet into bloody hamburger, or other fun times. Not…. Not….

Ignoring the food and skittering away from this line of mental inquiry, she looked back out the window. 

I don’t know anything. 

Anything at all. 

I don’t know people, or how to fight properly, or what to do now. 

I don’t know anything except existing. 

The sword in her lap, though, reminded her of the heavy oaths she swore, oaths she would not forsake. 

Sooner or later, Sielic would come, Mosur with him. And she would be called to uphold her vows. 

(Something from the Justicar, slipping through her fingers like sand. Her stony face.)

Above all, the one question her trust issues stemmed from, the most important question, the only question worth asking: 


Author Cael
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