Once More Into the Fray

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Shaurria
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Once More Into the Fray

Postby Shaurria » Sun Oct 07, 2012 7:59 pm

((Cross-posted on my blog.))


“You don’t have to do this, you know.”

“Yes, Alanon, I do.”

“Leave him alone, brother. I’ll watch out for him, don’t worry.”


The leather was getting worn in places, but the stitching was still sound. Rheugan set aside the piece of armor he’d been checking, then reached for the next. Shaurria’s ear twitched at the movement, though otherwise the young druid appeared asleep, curled into a grey furry ball at his side. She didn’t want him to go, he knew that. She worried about him - they all worried. Pitch and Alanon’s near-argument over whether he should be “allowed” to go was still a very vivid memory.

Lark hadn’t argued, though he’d understood the look she’d given him easily enough. Make sure he comes back home. He wasn’t sure why she trusted him when he still didn't care much whether he himself lived or died, but he would do his best, for her and Pitch both.

He didn’t know what he expected to find out there. Pitch had told him of the Sha, of how they preyed on those whose doubt, fear, or anger overcame them. And yet he had no qualms about heading into their territory - he, who had spent the past two-and-a-half years and more fighting with his own rage and fear. But he had to do it. He knew that, even if he couldn’t say how he knew it. It was instinctual, the same way he knew that he loved Kyraine, or knew that he could trust the cat. Try as he might, he couldn’t explain it.

He had another reason he could explain, but he doubted the others would understand him. Theramore had only confirmed what the failed summit had already shown him - there was no peace. If he hoped at all to survive, he would have to learn to fight, whether he liked it or not. And if he was going to learn to fight, he had to put himself in the thick of things.

No more hiding where he was "safe," and no matter the cost.

He’d just finished checking over the last bit of his armor when Shaur’s head suddenly came up, and she stared into the growing dusk with ears pricked. Rheugan followed her gaze to see Pitch approaching, on two legs this time, his expression expectant. “Leaving tomorrow, Rheu. Are you all set?” Rheugan nodded as he began gathering up his armor. Pitch took most of it from him, the weight bothering the big druid not a bit, and he set out toward the Dwarven District and Arvoss’ home.

Rheugan hesitated before following, looking back at Shaur one last time. She’d unshifted, sitting in the grass and watching him with a small, sad smile. Wordlessly she held out her arms, and Rheugan turned back to give her a tight hug. “I’ll be back to visit before too long,” he murmured in her ear. Her smile grew slightly as she released him. “Know,” she said simply, then changed back to a cat and followed him as they headed toward home.

* * * * * * * *

Rheugan opened his eyes as the vertigo from the mage portal faded, blinking repeatedly as he looked around. The buildings around him were strange, but he paid them little mind as the cat surged up to the front of his mind. His gaze quickly riveted to the jungle visible outside the gates, and he felt the cat’s impatience as they both waited for Pitch to come through and join them. Keyed up as he was, the familiar touch on his arm made him jump when it finally came.

Big and small, the two black cats slipped like shadows out through the village gate and disappeared into the mists.
Will you carry me down the aisle that final day
With your tears and cold hands shaking from the weight
When you lower me down beneath that sky of gray
Let the rain fall down and wash away your pain

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Shaurria
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Re: Once More Into the Fray

Postby Shaurria » Mon Nov 12, 2012 12:30 am

Rheugan lay still as Laoden snipped the last stitch free. “There,” said the pandaren. “Good as new. And be thankful that the hozen’s aim wasn’t too far off, or you would have had to say goodbye to any chance of future children.” He laughed as he sat back and began gathering up his tools, placing them neatly in his healer’s kit.

Rheugan just rumbled as he gingerly stretched his hind leg. The newly-healed muscles where the crossbow bolt had hit him still pulled a bit, but he knew that would improve with exercise. Laoden sobered a bit as he watched the druid. “How’s the shoulder?” he asked after a moment. Rheugan gave an experimental shrug. “Healed,” he rumbled. “It feels fine, no pain.” The healer nodded. “Well then,” he announced. “This seems as good a time as any to decide what you are doing here.”

Rheugan gave him a guarded look as he sat up, which the pandaren answered with a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, we are not throwing you out. But you have been here for.. how long now? There must be something you should be doing besides studying our archives.” He paused, giving the druid a piercing look. “So I must ask you, Rheugan - why are you here?”

Rheugan remained silent a minute before answering. “I need to learrn about the Sha, and yourrs is one of the biggerr monasterries herre. Yourr librarry has most of the inforrmation I needed.” Laoden nodded. “But you have gone through everything we have about the Sha, and still you look for more. Tell me, why is this so important to you?” Rheugan gave him a look, and the pandaren raised one paw-like hand, palm up. “Yes, I believe I know your reason,” he told Rheugan gently. “But I would like to hear it from you.”

Rheugan looked away, shifting in place restlessly. Finally, “Because the best way to prrotect yourrself frrom something is to know it.” Laoden nodded again. “I think I can see why you wish protection from the Sha, but hiding here is accomplishing nothing. And you are hiding, my boy.”

Rheugan had no reply to that. He stared at his front paws as the pandaren studied him curiously. But to Rheugan’s surprise, it was he who finally broke the silence.

“I-... I am afrraid.” He glanced at Laoden briefly, resisting the urge to flinch away from those piercing eyes. “What if I can’t contrrol myself out therre?” The pandaren blinked at him, head tilting slightly to the side. “This, coming from the one who challenged our weaponmaster to try and make him angry?” He chuckled as Rheugan’s ear flattened at the memory. Laoden quickly sobered again, though the gaze he now turned to the worgen held a touch of fondness. “I do not think you have as much to worry about as you think you do. But consider... how will you know if you never try?” He reached over to pat Rheugan’s shoulder, then hefted himself to his feet. He paused to look at the druid one more time.

“Go. Find whatever it is that brought you here. We will not force you out; it must be your decision to leave. But you will not find whatever it is you are seeking within these walls, Rheugan.” With that, he picked up his kit and left.

Rheugan turned to climb onto his bed and lay down. After a moment he turned human, then pulled the covers up over himself. He lay alone in the dark for a long time, thinking.
Will you carry me down the aisle that final day
With your tears and cold hands shaking from the weight
When you lower me down beneath that sky of gray
Let the rain fall down and wash away your pain

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Shaurria
Posts: 292
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Virginia, USA
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Re: Once More Into the Fray

Postby Shaurria » Sun Dec 30, 2012 12:24 am

Halfhill was bustling long before the sun came up. Rheugan sat and watched the Pandaren move about, preparing to open shops or head out to their own farms.

Pitch had said he would be there to escort Rheugan to the Vale, but he hadn’t specified a time. Rheugan had thought he would simply wait for the druid to show up, but as the approaching dawn began to pink the sky, he and the cat both began feeling a bit of wanderlust. The first farmer he approached was able to give him directions, and soon Rheugan was loping up the incline toward the path cut into the mountainside.

He ignored the small voice that told him he’d be better off waiting for Pitch. He’d been wandering alone out here for days and nothing bad had happened. What could go wrong?

* * * * *

The tunnels gave him pause, but not for long. The saurok were everywhere, yes, but there were plenty of shadows along the cavern walls, and with the cat’s guidance Rheugan had no trouble slipping by unseen. The lizardmen never even knew he was there.

* * * * *

Kun-Lai was impressive - Rheugan thought it would have been even without the giant mountain peaks in the distance. It was quiet, as well, but Rheugan wasn’t fooled; here and there he could see smoke rising from what he assumed were the yaungol’s war camps. He skirted the mountains separating the plains from the Vale, giving any possible combat zones a wide berth. He judged he was nearly halfway to the gates when he felt the disturbance.

The corruption was still fairly new; to his druidic senses it felt like a hole in the earth. Despite his own misgivings and the cat’s reluctance, he found himself changing his route to pass near enough for a look.

He’d never seen anything like this. Rheugan had been careful to avoid Serpent’s Heart, but this looked the same as Pitch’s descriptions. Blackness boiled up out of the ground, while strange creatures idled about inside. It repulsed him, even as it resonated with something inside him that he’d thought long-buried. He stood frozen, suddenly unable to decide what to do next, until one of the creatures noticed him and headed toward him with a snarl.

Rheugan felt a flash of alarm from the cat, quickly followed by revulsion, and he found himself lunging to meet it with an answering snarl. The cat danced around the Sha-spawn, unwilling to get close enough to use its fangs. Claws worked well enough, however, and before too long the creature collapsed in on itself, becoming a shapeless blob on the grass. The cat watched it long enough to ensure it was dead, then lifted its head to stare out over the plain.

The other creatures were still oblivious to his presence, squabbling amongst themselves. Farther off, too distant to pinpoint a location, Something seemed to awaken, as though just becoming aware of him. It... called to him; Rheugan could feel it stirring up the anger he’d buried within, before he stamped it back down firmly. The cat suddenly shuddered, then abruptly it released control, and Rheugan found himself back in charge of his own body.

The distant thing called to him again. Rheugan turned and fled.

The gates were a more than welcome sight. Rheugan paused to study them for a moment, then passed through at a trot.

* * * * *

The Vale was singing. That was his first thought. His second was that the “singing” wasn’t something he heard, but sensed. Rheugan fell in with a grummle caravan, pacing alongside a wagon while he tried to make sense of it.

It felt... familiar somehow, although he couldn’t place where he’d felt it before. He found it hard to care at the moment - it was doing a wonderful job of soothing the jagged nerves left from his encounter with the Thing in Kun-Lai. A shadow passed over him suddenly, and he looked up to see an immense dragon- wait, no, they call them cloud serpents -flying past overhead.

He paused to look around one more time. Even here he could see the signs of battle, but they were distant enough that he felt safe. Here, maybe, he could find some peace. He padded on, heading further into the Vale and toward the Shrine of Seven Stars.
Will you carry me down the aisle that final day
With your tears and cold hands shaking from the weight
When you lower me down beneath that sky of gray
Let the rain fall down and wash away your pain

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Shaurria
Posts: 292
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Virginia, USA
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Re: Once More Into the Fray

Postby Shaurria » Mon Dec 31, 2012 1:05 pm

Pitch was worried, he could tell. Rheugan might have been worried too, if he could just spare the energy to care. Everything he had, however, was currently going towards fending off the attacks from the Thing, which he now knew was a Sha.

Every time he set foot in Kun-Lai - hells, every time he went near the gates - he could feel it waiting for him. And each time it prodded at him, filling his mind with suggestions and urges that he had to fight back, before he lost control of himself. It was exhausting him.

He was able to avoid it by either staying in the Vale or taking a kite back to Halfhill, but Pitch seemed oblivious to his problem and often suggested they go hunting, usually in Kun-Lai. Not wanting his friend and mentor to worry, Rheugan invariably agreed.

Their hunting trips had become an ordeal, one that could only be eased by tracking down and eliminating every Sha-spawn he could find, with a single-mindedness that bordered on obsession. He kept hoping if he killed enough of them, the Sha would weaken or tire, and he would be left in peace. That plan hadn’t worked yet.

Rheugan found himself withdrawing, much like he had when he’d been brought back from the wild in Gilneas. His sleep was full of nightmares, and he began losing weight - not that he had much to spare to begin with. Pitch fussed over him, but Rheugan managed to put him off with half-hearted assurances that even he didn’t believe. It was enough to get Pitch to leave him alone, at least.

The cat was on edge. It wanted to help him, but this was beyond its experience, and all it could do was fret along with him.

It all finally got to be too much for him. He was only dimly aware of leaving the Summit behind, crossing back into blissfully familiar rain forest. When he came back to himself, he was standing before the Tian Monastery’s gates.

He had to ask one of the students for help, though fortunately the young pandaren was happy to comply. Laoden was overseeing a training session, but he left it immediately when he saw Rheugan. He came over and studied the druid, then reached toward him. Rheugan tried not to flinch as Laoden put a finger under his chin and tilted his face up. The pandaren stared into his eyes for a long moment, then released him with a sigh. Without a word, he turned and started off, gesturing for the Gilnean to follow.

Rheugan was only too happy to see his old quarters near the library. He fell onto the bed without bothering to undress. His sleep was still restless, but if he had any dreams they were forgotten by the time he awoke.
Will you carry me down the aisle that final day
With your tears and cold hands shaking from the weight
When you lower me down beneath that sky of gray
Let the rain fall down and wash away your pain

User avatar
Shaurria
Posts: 292
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Virginia, USA
Contact:

Re: Once More Into the Fray

Postby Shaurria » Sun Jan 06, 2013 8:42 pm

Pitch wouldn’t admit it, but he was far more worried than he’d let on. He was certain Rheugan wasn’t in the Vale, but Kun-Lai was so Elune-blasted big, and he’d stupidly let enough time go by that he didn’t have a trail to follow. He kept searching anyway, unwilling to give up on the druid that had become almost like another brother.

By the third day, Pitch was feeling certain Rheu wasn’t in the Summit. He’d checked the Valley of Four Winds off and on too, but there was no trace of him there, either. He finally turned his wings east, hoping while he flew that his hunch was right.

The Tian Monastery hadn’t changed a bit in the weeks since he’d last been there - not surprising, since even the Sha attack on Serpent’s Heart hadn't ruffled the monks there. He found a groundskeeper in short order and gave him the name he’d gotten from Rheu, and within five minutes he was following the ‘keeper through the grounds.

Pitch had never met Laoden, but the pandaren that the groundskeeper led him too looked pretty much the same as any of his race. It didn’t take an especially sharp eye to tell that most of his heft was muscle rather than fat, but otherwise he could have passed for any Shado-pan fighter or Halfhill farmer. He turned to regard Pitch with friendly yet wary interest as introductions were exchanged, favoring the druid with a brief bow, then he dismissed the groundskeeper. His expression sharpened as he turned back to Pitch. “You’ve certainly taken long enough to get here.” Pitch’s ears went straight up in surprise. “Yes, I had guessed you would be coming,” Laoden said. “We’ve both been expecting you. Now come.”

* * * * *

The cat was sitting down beneath the orange tree, not moving except to test the breeze when it blew past. Pitch supposed Rheugan was down there too, but he had no way of knowing if he and the cat were “sharing,” or if he’d gone wherever it was he went when he wanted to think or hide. He - they? - looked at peace, at least, so that was something.

“He is fighting it.” Pitch glanced at the pandaren seated beside him, but Laoden was still watching the cat, with the same inscrutably calm expression he’d worn all day. “He is not tainted, not yet, but the temptation is there.”

Pitch turned back toward Rheugan, suppressing another pang of worry. “Is he a danger?” he asked, after a minute or two of silence. Laoden frowned slightly, considering. “At the moment, no,” he replied. “I wouldn’t presume to know the future, however. If he continues as he is, he could become one.” Now he looked at Pitch, offering the druid a faint smile. “He hides much. Maybe too much.”

Pitch flattened his ears briefly. “He’s had reason to,” he said. “He.. hasn’t been treated well in the past.” Laoden looked at him curiously, then shrugged when the druid said nothing more. “He is welcome to spend a few days here, to rest,” he said as he climbed to his feet. “After that...” The pandaren shrugged again.

Pitch blinked at him in surprise, which quickly turned to anger. “What, you’ll kick him out again? Isn’t that more or less how he wound up like this?” Laoden favored him with a reproachful look. “We did not ‘kick him out’ the first time, and we will not this time, either,” he replied. “You are assuming he will want to stay. He is looking for something here, druid, and he has not found it yet.”

Pitch felt himself flushing under his fur. “I’m sorry,” he started, but the pandaren was already gone. Pitch looked back down at Rheugan with a sigh. He wished Alanon was there. This was his job, not Pitch’s. But his brother was still back in Stormwind, so he would have to do what he could.

The cat glanced over briefly as Pitch padded over to sit next to him, just long enough for the elven druid to see the flash of guilt in his eyes. So, Rheu was in there. Pitch considered his options, then unshifted and made himself comfortable on the grass before finally breaking the silence.

“Do not,” he began, as forcefully as he dared, “think that this was all your fault. I’m to blame at least as much as you, I should have noticed something was going on and said something.” Rheugan shrank down as he spoke; Pitch tried gentling his tone a bit. “Rheugan, those things are like... like old gods. They’re strong, they’re evil, and if they want you, they’re darned well going to try and get to you. Cenarius’ horns, Rheu, even I had some trouble with them when I first got here.”

That got his attention. Rheugan sat up and blinked at him, the last traces of the cat’s presence fading. “I... but...” Some of the shame returned, and he ducked his head again. “I.. I am sorrry,” he rumbled. “I didn’t want you to worrry.” Pitch just made a noncommittal sound as he eyed the younger druid carefully. “Do you need to go home, Rheu?” he finally asked bluntly. “Mean, this kind of thing might happen again, and if it’s too much for you...”

Rheugan shook his head firmly, then unshifted to settle on the grass, in an unconscious mimicry of Pitch’s pose. “I.. I have to be here,” he said, a bit uncertainly. “I don’t know if I can put it the right way, but...

“Shaurria said once that I was out of balance. I... I’m starting to get it back, but it’s all in.. in pieces. Northrend was a part of it, and so was Gilneas. But I’m not finished yet, Pitch. There’s something here that I have to find; I just don’t know what it is yet.” He looked up again, and a trace of what might have been a smile crossed his face at Pitch’s expression. “What do you think I do when I’m out ‘thinking,’ Pitch? I’m not debating the color of the sky, I assure you.”

Pitch coughed. “Yea, I suppose not,” he said with a bit of chagrin. Then he focused back on the younger druid. “Are you really, really sure, Rheu?” Rheugan nodded again wordlessly. Pitch sighed and looked up at the tree branches overhead, as if searching for inspiration.

“Well, we both need rest,” he said finally. “Why don’t we stay here a couple days, then maybe take a trip back to Stormwind? Just a short visit.” Rheugan nodded, his eyes fixed off in the distance again. Pitch reached over to gently touch his arm. “We’ll figure something out, Rheu,” he said softly. “I promise.”
Will you carry me down the aisle that final day
With your tears and cold hands shaking from the weight
When you lower me down beneath that sky of gray
Let the rain fall down and wash away your pain


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