[Story] Distant Wails X

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.


[Story] Distant Wails IX

Naeva’s gaze shifted between Ornasse and Ahlara as they slept soundly. The two the most important people in her world, and for the first time, her husband wasn’t all but hiding behind her in Ahlara’s presence. A small smirk tugged at her lips as she looked away, then paused as her eyes settled on the small glowing orb.

She’d recognized him the instant she’d seen him yet she was uncertain of how to respond. Of course she’d wanted to speak with him… but there was so much to say and she wasn’t sure she’d have the time. She spared a glance to Ornasse before standing slowly and dusting her pants off. With a small nod of her head she beckoned the spirit to follow. She’d have to fit as much as she could into whatever time she had.

As she started off on the patrol of the area, Naeva’s eyes flitted back to the wisp. Relieved to find him behind her she turned and started off, drawing her daggers as an extra precaution should any more creatures come out of the darkness. All that was left to do was initiate the conversation. Assuming, of course, he could even communicate with her. She didn’t want to make it purely a one-sided conversation.

Sparing a final glance to the camp, Naeva took a deep breath and began her trek around the area. Her soft-soled boots made hardly a sound as she all but glided over the wild terrain. She’d been trained in this for years; scouting through the shadows and ambushing those who didn’t belong before they’d even been made aware of her presence. A part of her was thrilled to once again be protecting something. To be protecting her most precious companion and husband. The other part of her was anxious. She hadn’t protected anything since… well…

Naeva’s stomach knotted and she glanced once more at the wisp. She’d failed him so many years ago and his incorporeal face stood as a grim reminder. Once he had been one of her most valued companions. He was to be her husband and father of her children. How was she to speak with him after that?

With the camp still in view and two rounds revealing nothing, Naeva settled on a moss covered rock. Bobbing beside her obediently was the wisp, waiting for whatever it was she’d summoned him for.

“Estairyn,” Naeva murmured softly, turning her attention to him. With no response, she glanced back towards the camp. She knew she had his attention, but how to continue on if he wouldn’t respond? She wasn’t the best at one sided conversations. Up until recent her conversation skills in general had been lacking. “So strange I should meet you again… here… after so long.” She was stalling. There was so much she wanted to say but didn’t know where to begin. She reached up and absently traced the scar marring her face.

“I’ve missed you,” Naeva began, turning back to the small orb. She had a distinct feeling of reciprocation stemming from his essence and for a moment she was baffled into silence. Empathic communication? That would undoubtedly make the conversation that much harder. Not only would he not speak, but she feared the disappointment she’d be able to sense from him.

She cleared her throat and continued, “I’m sure you have many questions, but am I correct in assuming you are unable to speak?” It took a moment before she noticed a faint sense of frustration followed by what appeared to almost be a nod. Almost.

“Very well… it has been ten years, two months, and a few days since your body perished. Around two hundred since we last spoke,” she started. Easing herself into this form of communication was easier said than done. “I’m not certain if you wish to know specifics.”

There was a pause, quite uncertain. Then she was able to sense the resolve and a decline in her offer. She wasn’t certain she could maintain her composure during the tale anyway.

Despite every attempt to delicately approach the situation, the sentinels were hardly able to alleviate the threat without inflicting too many wounds upon the crazed beast. He reared and let out a feral roar before charging the Sentinel, Ahlara.

As the teal-haired Kal’dorei hit the ground with a grunt she managed to barely raise an armored arm to block a blow to the head. The crunch of bones echoed throughout the cavern. Naeva felt her heart leap into her throat and all reservations of injuring the druid quickly dissipated. She had to stop him before he could finish the job, if indeed her comrade still drew breath.

It was a swift enough motion, more of instinct than a calculated plan. Her blades glided almost too easily through his ribs, both buried up to the hilt in blood and thick coarse fur. The beast turned on her quickly, a mighty swipe of a paw sent her crashing into the unyielding stone wall. As he continued to thrash about in a rage, Naeva scrambled to her feet. She darted back in to the fray, lunging to grasp her weapons once more. As the beast grew weak it slowly began to shift back into its true form.

Naeva watched in horror as the form of Estairyn collapsed at her feet… her daggers still embedded deeply in his flanks. His breathing ceased moments later; stolen from him by her own hand.

“Alright. Well to continue on, Ahlara and Mikhail’s children are full grown. Neonna has taken up sentinel training under Ahlara… though she does seem to be about as rebellious as she was at that age. Serves her right I suppose,” she smirked faintly, relaxing, “And Mahrich has taken up druidic studies. He’s advancing quite well…”

Naeva paused as she sensed disinterest and a touch of anxiety from the wisp. He wasn’t interested. Very well, cut to the chase as they say.

“There was something I wished to discuss with you. I am hoping I can speak openly… but I’m not sure how delicate I can put it. I’ve never been very good with words,” she smirked faintly at him. Her stomach was knotted so tight she felt ill, but she wouldn’t pass up this opportunity. It was her last chance… a chance she’d have never thought possible.

Estairyn waited patiently for her to continue. It was unnerving, the understanding he was already displaying.

Naeva cleared her throat and regained her composure as she glanced around and listened for anything, a brief break in the tension. It took her a moment before she took a deep breath, “I’m married, to start.”

There was a moment of stunned silence before she was hit with conflicted emotions. None of which she had expected. Disappointment mingled with embarrassment, relief, and a hint of resignation.

Naeva motioned to the camp, “Ornasse Evershade.” It was as formal an introduction as she was willing to offer at the moment, seeing as how he was asleep. “I admit, it was a rather swift ordeal. I don’t regret it, though. Ahlara approves of him, but I’m not so sure Mikhail does. I just…” she sighed, searching for the right words, “I’ve never felt so strongly about anyone. Not like that.” She waited for any change in emotion but was greeted with a sense of patience.

“I loved you deeply, Estairyn… you, Ahlara… even Mikhail were the most important people in my life. It was hard to be away from you as you slept. Perhaps some of the most difficult times were when I contemplated how our ‘family’ would work once I was able to see you again. I had to change barrows after a while… it was harder to watch you sleep than it was to put distance between us to clear my mind. Though… I realize now that the hardships were not of a lover. I missed you perhaps as Ahlara had; as a brother.” She watched the wisp almost warily, waiting for a wave of betrayal to wash over her. It never did. In fact, neutrality was the only emotion she sensed. “I realize that now, having met Ornasse… having experienced emotions of the like that I’ve never felt for another.”

There was an awkward silence before she cleared her throat. “Ultimately… I didn’t want you to think there was anything I was hiding from you. I know Mikhail feels strongly that I’ve betrayed your memory… and perhaps a part of me feels the same. Selfish as it is, I wanted closure with you… I wanted to say goodbye as I couldn’t when…” she paused and brushed stray strands of hair from her face. The events leading up to his death had been particularly difficult for her to come to terms with. “And apologize for my failure.”

Estairyn’s wisp flitted about at the apparent distress in Naeva’s demeanor. She felt his frustration of being unable to speak along with an explosion of emotions, the most prominent being forgiveness and faith in her. It was startling, experiencing a barrage of feelings that were not her own. As he settled down, though, she was filled with a sense of relief. He was at peace.

Naeva felt herself relax as well. She reached up and brushed stray strands of hair from her face and offered a faint smile. He didn’t even know what he was forgiving her of, but he clearly didn’t want to know. Though, as she thought about it she understood how one would not wish to know the circumstances of their own death… provided the option had been made available through whatever means.

“I don’t think I’m worthy of all of that but… I won’t argue since we don’t have the luxury of a two-way conversation,” she smirked faintly as she felt mutual amusement. The tension of her stomach subsided and she glanced back towards the camp. “I imagine Ahlara will be upset if I don’t wake her soon.”

As she started towards their settlement she paused and glanced back at the wisp. For all the years she’d known him he’d been wise and a stable anchor to complement her unwieldy and unfettered nature. He’d always seemed understanding and accepting of whatever she could possibly come to him with. Even after she’d informed him of her marriage so soon after his death and bared herself in a way she was terribly unfamiliar with. He supported her moving on, if not encouraging it.

All at once a great weight was lifted from Naeva’s shoulders and she smiled. Perhaps there was a reason she, Ornasse, and Ahlara had come to find themselves in the Dream. Whatever force had brought this to be, the wisp’s support had worked wonders for her conscience. His approbation put her mind at peace as it hadn’t been for… well… far too long.

“Thank you, Estairyn,” Naeva murmured before turning away. All that was left to do for the evening was to wake her dearest friend and curl up to lie beside her husband.