September 22, 2008 Leave a comment
Thousands of years later, Ornasse still found himself marveling at the beauty of dawn within the Dream. A pristine light illuminated every leaf and stone with gold, sending the shadows of corruption scurrying into hiding for a short time, at least. It was difficult to appreciate it fully with the weight of responsibility on his shoulders, not only for himself, but for Ahlara and most importantly, Naeva. He was the most experienced here, the most familiar with the Dream, so they looked to him to find a solution.
Beside him, the wisp hovered hesitantly. He was accustomed to their silent, watching nature, but he sensed a strangeness with this one; it seemed to be a storm of emotions, and no sooner had he identified one, when it changed again. Anger turned to curiosity, then back to a brooding, almost jealous feeling, and then what Ornasse believed was a cautious friendliness. What could have caused such turmoil in the wisp, usually so simple and serene? Maybe it was the presence of the women, who weren’t druids, or perhaps the state of the Dream itself. Whatever it was, the wisp did not offer any answers. Instead, it darted up boldly, hovering at the edge of their small clearing, the light sparking brightly from its ethereal form. Ornasse watched it curiously, his ears flicking before he stood to follow it.
This way, the wisp urged in its wordless way. Then — because it must have sensed his hesitation — trust me. He went back to see to Ahlara and Naeva, but his help wasn’t really needed. Naeva was doting over her friend like a mother bear over her cubs, and Ornasse was relieved to see that Ahlara was humble enough to accept it. Her leg would still be painful to walk on, but it was worth the risk to get her somewhere more safe than the Emerald wilderness.
“We should get moving,” he announced, hoping he sounded more confident than he felt. The wisp led the way, flittering ghostlike through the tangle of trees, for the better part of the morning. Each time Ornasse began to have doubts about their path, the wisp would make its disapproval known.
It was Sorona who sensed something before any of the others, the little whelp uttering a curious chirping cry. She darted ahead, her little wings flapping rapidly, and disappeared into a stand of ancient trees. Hurrying after her, Ornasse could faintly hear the sounds of battle up ahead; the strange and eerie cries of the nightmare creatures and the crashing of brush and branches. Something was there, and from the sound of it, something large. Gratefully, Naeva reluctantly agreed to stay back with Ahlara while he investigated. For once, Ornasse was glad of her presence, it gave his wife someone else to worry about for a short time.
Ornasse advanced cautiously, slipping between the trees silently with a practiced step. The wisp hovered nearby, urging him forward, and its presence was encouraging. The din was even louder, a thundering roar shaking the leaves from the trees around him. In the center of the glade, a mighty green dragon stood, its back toward him, massive claws raking through a sea of the twisted nightmare creatures. Ornasse had been near dragons a few times; some black drakes and one of the tainted greens, but never a healthy one and never so large and so close. Normally they flew high above the Dream, only a fleeting shadow over the ground betraying their presence. He was both afraid and awed by its presence, and not entirely certain whether it was corrupted, but it was killing the corrupted — that was an encouraging sign. Gathering his courage, Ornasse moved out from behind the cover of the trees, toward the great creature’s side, careful to give its tail a wide berth.
For the moment, the tide of corruption had ceased, and the dragon drew long, shuddering breaths. He could see small cuts and scrapes around its head and neck, but the dragon paid them no heed. Instead, its great golden eyes were staring at Sorona, who was fluttering and trilling brightly. Ornasse tensed, fearing for the whelp’s safety, but it only took a moment to realize that she had never been in any danger. The green dragon echoed Sorona’s call, a gentle sound that belied its enormous frame, heart-breaking in its tenderness and it was then that he understood. It was her mother.
Ornasse flicked his ears backward to hear rustling behind him; Naeva and Ahlara had followed him, probably believing he’d been eaten. He heard Naeva begin to speak, but they both fell silent at the scene before them; the mighty green dragon, cradling her tiny daughter against her.
The dragon turned to the three of them, its reptilian eyes impossible to read as she looked them over studiously. Ornasse knew, logically, that he should not be frightened, yet it was difficult not to feel at least a little intimidated with a dragon towering over you. Her voice sounded like the wind in the treetops.
“You have brought my child to me,” she said, leaning back to recline in her enormous haunches, her tail sweeping to curl around her feet. “For this I am grateful. But you, Druid,” she said, her head turning to face Ornasse again. He could see the tiny scales upon her face, like roughly cut emeralds. “You know it is dangerous here.” She turned to look at the other two, briefly, and he thought he saw a question in her expression. “My name is Veridia, and I am one of the few who can still fight for the Dream.” The green dragon shook her head slowly, reaching to touch the whelp gently. “I sent my children away from here, that they might have a chance. But one has come back, why is that?”
He nodded, dropping to kneel on the soft, mossy earth. Naeva did as well, but Ahlara did not, due to her injury; he hoped that the dragon would not be offended. “Daughter of Ysera, I have served the Dream and your flight for all of my long life. I found Sorona — your daughter — injured, and I have cared for her since. We, er…” Ornasse gestured behind him to Ahlara. “We came to find her. A way into the Dream was opened, and she was injured here. Now we’re seeking a way back.”
Veridia frowned, as best a dragon is able to frown. “A way? Where?”
Ahlara spoke up, and Ornasse thought that she almost sounded meek. “The wardens in Moonglade… it was in one of the Barrows. Some of the creatures had invaded, that must be how they got through. I guess they didn’t close it after them.”
The dragon was silent for what seemed a very long time, listening to the joyful chirps of the whelp. “I can send you back, but you must do one thing for me.”
Ornasse perked his ears, nodding slowly. “Of course, anything you ask.”
“Take her back with you. It isn’t safe here.”
Gently, the dragon pressed Sorona into his arms, her muzzle brushing the tiny whelp gently. She spoke something that was too low to hear, but all the same, Ornasse was sure of what she said: Goodbye, my little one.
Veridia turned aside, and before her, the Dream parted, like a tear in a curtain. “Here is your way, Druid,” she said, gesturing with a clawed foot. Beyond, he could see what appeared to be the forests of Ashenvale. Naeva rose to her feet, and she helped Ahlara step through. Ornasse could hear nothing from the other side, but he had to hope they had made it safely. “One day I will come for her,” the dragon said quietly. “Until then, keep her safe.”
Sorona was cradled snugly in his arms, and swung her head to look up at her mother, uttering a confused chirp. “You have my promise. And my thanks,” Ornasse said, lowering his head in a bow before he too stepped through the opening.
As soon as he had done so, the Dream was gone, and he was left blinking at Naeva and Ahlara. If they hadn’t been there, he could almost believe he had imagined all of it.
They were in a clearing dotted with ancient ruins, a clear stream running along its border. “Do you recognize where we are?” he asked Ahlara hopefully.
“I do!” Naeva said, “We’re not too far from Ashenvale. Do you think you can make it just a bit further, Ahlara?”
Ahlara smiled back at her friend. “Mmm… I can… can you?” She glanced pointedly at Ornasse, a smirk playing at her lips. Somehow, though, it seemed surprisingly friendly.