Feline Philosophy II

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Feline Philosophy II

#1 Post by Anadelonbrin » Thu Nov 07, 2019 9:51 am

The book has been grown rather than crafted and blends in seamlessly with the other twigs and branches of Anadelonbrin’s armour. The pages are quite literally leaves and the writing on them is in Darnassian.

November 5

Shan’do Everbreeze gave me my old journal back some time ago. He wants me to start writing again, to help me sort out my thoughts. I have been reading it little by little while growing this one. It is not an easy read. A hundred pages. Three years of my life. I think there was more, but the rest of the pages are ruined. My hopes, dreams, fears, rage, love, hate… Much of what is in there, I had forgotten. Many of the names and references no longer hold any meaning to me. Others do. The people who did not just come and go. The people who are still here. The people who died.

This first entry in my new journal ties together both the beginning of the end of the former one. It begins with the moonwell in the Park in Stormwind. Every night, I walked up to it, hoping to find him there. Sagitas. I knew he would not be there, but I went anyway. It was never fair to miss him. I had been the one to walk away.

Ever since I came back from the Emerald Dream, I have been having dreams about him. Perhaps he has become a symbol for the things I secretly long for but dare not act on. His memory is pure. It never had a chance to get tainted by hurt or arguments. No conflicts of interest. No third parties. I still miss him. I miss the moments we shared in a simpler time. I miss who I was with him. I miss the way it made me feel when he smiled at me. Perhaps I dream of him because it is safe. It brings no sense of guilt or rejection. It is safe to dream of things that bring no need for action because they can never come true.

Although I never found him again, I found others by the moonwell. It was where I first met Eileena. Where we met many times. One of the last entries in the old journal was about when she stepped onto a ship to sail away from us. I was furious. I felt betrayed. Abandoned. I feared for what would become of Nomine without her. I feared for what would become of me. I was furious with her and perhaps just as angry with myself for having a part in things that had changed him. It was not a sweet farewell. If not for Miëlle, Kit and Esau, it could have been the bloody and ugly end of Starlight right then and there. It takes more than a dagger to stop a raging bear. But the three of them could. No blood was shed. Not that moment anyway…

Now, even the Park and the moonwell are gone, torn away by a dragon. Not even the scar remains. Stormwind has regenerated, new houses cover it up. People forget and move along. There are more important things than parks. Still, when sleep approaches, I replay hundreds of nights of soft paws on dew-covered grass in my mind. Still I dream of the reunion that never came. But not last night.

Last night, I sat by the fountain behind the cathedral with Eileena. Same city, same person, different water. As the droplets fell and rose to fall again, we spoke. The rage I felt when she left has long since faded, replaced by grief when she was believed to be dead, then a medley of other emotions after finding out she is alive again. Yet this was the first time we really sat down together.

Before she left, I saw us as opposite pans of a scale. We were parts of a whole and we balanced each other. I watched with sharp eyes and claws from the shadows. She watched gently with her heart. She was the light, I was the dark. Others were in between or somewhere else completely, but together, we made it work. This time around, it is different. Perhaps we are both more centred. Perhaps that is what happens when you are tossed around too much. You find your balance, or you lose yourself. I see in her something that is both strong and fragile at the same time. It resonates with something in my soul.

She needs him, but she will not erase herself to be what she thinks he wants her to be. In one way, that was clear when she left in the first place. But being locked up changes things. When she told me of her isolation, memory after memory hit me, some like a slap in the face, some like a punch to the gut.

Cage. Wood. Splinters. Sticks. Blood. Kill. Escape.
Cage. Metal. Starvation. Hate. Comply. Survive.
Cage. Stone. Starvation. Cold. Whip. Hate. Comply. Survive.
Cage. Sewer grate. Goblins. Cattle prod. Stank. Kill. Eat. Survive. Wait.

Not every cage is the same. But once someone takes your freedom from you, you are forever changed. Something breaks inside. Something grows. For one, it is a hatred for those who put them there. For one, it is a longing for a saviour. For one, it is the memories of something safe, a place, an object, a person. For one, it is all of them in a torrent of emotion. For one, it is a vast, expanding nothing. It is not the same every time. But no one escapes unchanged.

That feeling of being completely and utterly alone… She described it. I know it. Many have died because I know it. When there is nothing and no one holding you back, what is left to stop you?

Strength in unity.

I wonder if the phrase is only words to some. To me, it is everything. It stopped me from falling into the Nightmare. It pulled me back from the Emerald Dream. It held me back when I learned that my closest friend had chosen an enemy as her new friend in my absence. It saved me from one of those cages. It saved so many lives in so many ways. We belong. We have a place that is ours in a world of war and chaos. We are different. We are not the same. But we are united.

Eileena’s place is here. A piece that was missing has returned to the puzzle. Will it fit? It has to.

This time, no gift of violence. This time, an offering of peace. Of time. My time for theirs. If he accepts it. There are no simple answers laid out before them. Can they grow with their roots in the people they once were and still be entwined as the people they have become? Only they can figure that out. It is not about an exchange of rings and vows. But they need breathing room to figure it out. To grow together or cut the cord and release each other.

My place is not between them. My place is at their side, no matter the outcome.

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Re: Feline Philosophy II

#2 Post by Anadelonbrin » Mon Dec 09, 2019 9:14 pm

November 19

Memories are strange things. They lay dormant for years, decades, centuries, and when you least expect them, they rise to the surface. Sometimes causing a smile, sometimes calamity, they certainly never wait for an invitation. If you try to reach for them, they tend to slip away until you stop reaching. When you share them with others, they can grow, the details become clearer, take on new or greater meaning.

Together, we remembered Ibelin.

Perhaps how you remember someone says something about who you are.

We met up in Gadgetzan and walked down the shoreline to a secluded place where I had put up some shade screens and left supplies for cooking. On the way, Devvy kept asking how much longer we had to walk, complaining about the heat and the sand. But she was there. She came all that way. She showed up. A lot of people showed up. Fioleia arranged a stone skipping contest and and Annie, Syrawenn and Shienlao helped me hunt the local steeljaw snappers for meat so I could make enough turtle soup for everyone. I could have hunted them on my own, but that was not the point.

While we were eating, people shared memories of Ibelin and Jerome. Half the people who were there had never met either of them. But they listened to the memories and took them in, and now more people will carry their legacy on.

Some people build statues to commemorate people. Usually rich or royal people. Grand heroes who turned the tides in some war or other. But stone is cold, and all a statue really tells is how someone looked. Stories keep the memories alive. Details in every day life. The scent of the turtle soup made me remember hunting turtles along the river in the Hillsbrad Foothills so I could make it for him. His smile when he tasted it. Syrawenn and I share the same notion that every man in a blonde ponytail reminds us of him. It was my first thought when I met Ellbry for the first time. That Ellbry was flushing scarlet because he had ripped his pants did not make the resemblance any less. It was such an Ibelin-y situation to end up in. Except Ibelin would have been helped by some cute young lady.

Tahrina was the first to speak. She brought up how both Ibelin and Jerome had been important to her. She spoke of kindness and sacrifice and of what a good listener Ibelin was. I wonder if she ever knew how hard he fought for her at one point. Not in a physical battle, but when there were conflicts in Starlight between people who were too different to understand each other. Ibelin had her back and defended her fiercely. He listened and he spoke up.

After Tahrina, Syrawenn got up. I could tell she was struggling to keep it together, even though she put on a brave face and a tougher tone. She spoke of how she talked him out of getting married the first time she met him. Of all the women he kept falling for. She kept it short and then curled up with her new man. Perhaps she herself is taking a leaf out of his book, because this man is her second since my return.

Stoen told the familiar story of how a paladin lady ended up laying her hands on Ibelin’s hurt butt at a fight training. It made me smile. And then he shared a poem. He said he had shared it at the previous gatherings too, but I did not remember it from the gathering right after Ibelin died. The words were not in the flowery language poets often like to use. They were simple words, recited in a naked sort of honesty. They slashed me open to the core.

“In the moments life was mean, you would lend a shoulder.
And now that you have left the scene, life is so much colder.”

I had been standing by the soup kettle, stirring what was left while Tahrina spoke. It gave me something to do with my hands. But Stoen’s poem took all my defences down. It was not just about Ibelin. It was about all the fallen who meant something. All those who lifted me up and are now dead. All those who stood up for me when I could not stand up for myself. About those who saw me for more than a hopeless feral. It was about Quinthis Jonespyre, about Shan’do Bearwalker, about Shirala. And the moment my mind conjured up the image of her alongside the image of Ibelin, I could not even pretend to hold back the tears.

Looking through my old diary, every time things took a bad turn were followed by an entry of how much I love her, of how she took me out of whatever dark place I got myself into, of how she healed my wounds, of how patient she was when I was trying to learn something, of how she made me laugh. In the end, I failed her. In the end, she fell, and I was not there to catch her. I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself for that. Is there redemption for something so severe? She was a sister to me in all but blood. Even now, her father is as a father to me. I got her brothers out of the Nightmare, but it did not bring her back. Perhaps it was at least a small step of atonement to Shan’do Everbreeze. He has never put blame on me for not being there for her, but he does not have to. I blame myself enough.

I stood there by that kettle, in front of everyone, crying. I can not remember when I last felt so lost. And right then, Fioliea waved me over to come sit with her. I can not describe how grateful that made me feel. She shared her wine with me as Nomine got up to speak.

Nomine spoke of Ibelin’s good intentions and his detective agency. He spoke of Jerome and why he was nicknamed “the Murloc” and what lessons we could learn from them both.

With Fio’s support, I managed to pick myself up enough to speak when Nomine was done. I told the story of the time he was ambushed in Shattrath because of one of the many girls. Of how he always wanted to give people another chance when they messed up. I don’t remember exactly what I said. It all got a bit blurry. When I could not get another word out, Syrawenn got up and came over to give me a hug. I mumbled against her shoulder how I miss that idiot… And just like me, she is reminded of him by every ponytail she sees.

Preston and Anomen got up to say a few words about carrying on the memories they had heard told, helping keep them alive even though they never met Ibelin or Jerome.

Glasses were raised in the honour of the fallen. Fioliea poured some of her wine into the sand before drinking with tears in her eyes. Seeing her sadness, knowing what she had lost, what our people lost, my last resolve fell and for the first time, I was defenceless against the impact of the burning of Teldrassil. The dam broke and I cried in her arms like I have never cried before. Liathene came over with gentle words before parting, but I could not get even a single word out. The tears just kept flowing.

Cats do not cry.

Perhaps the tears are a testament to how I have grown into my skin as a fully fledged druid. Perhaps I have finally forged a connection with even my elven form as something other than just an inconvenience. I used to be a cat that sometimes took on other forms. Now I am a druid. The shapes are not just another function. They bring their own sets of instincts and behaviours. Cats do not cry, but elves do, and this one was crying a river.

The others must have left one by one. In the end, four of us remained on the beach. Fioliea, Philias, Tit Man and myself. The gentlemen offered us handkerchiefs to dry our tears. Ellbry shared a poem of how a lost one is with us in all the little things around us. It was heartbreakingly beautiful. Fioliea had struggled to hold it together, but this was just too much. It was my turn to hold her as she cried.

In her love, they live on. Not in the ashes, but in her love. The flames of Teldrassil could not burn that away.

Philias joined in the embrace and we held her while she was shaking with tears and sobs.

Ellbry remembered that it had been said that Ibelin liked fireworks. He had some with him. He set them off and as we wiped the tears from our cheeks, we watched the bright lights shoot up into the desert night sky, reflecting in the calm waters. I carried Fioliea to Stormwind. I don’t know how I can ever express how grateful I am to her. A fitting end to a night I will not soon forget.

Not a single thorn sprouted.

Old friendships were remembered.

New friendships grew stronger.

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Re: Feline Philosophy II

#3 Post by Anadelonbrin » Sun Mar 01, 2020 1:46 pm

January 27

Ellbry presented me with a gift today, a picture frame with an embroidery of birds. It would have made Ilastar laugh that all they are all tits. Ellbry made it for me for Winter Veil. Mirna sent me cookies. I shared them with the children in the orphanage in Shattrath. It is a strange sensation to think that they made these things for me. I don’t know how many hours Ellbry must have spent on that embroidery. The needlework is impressive, but what gets to me most is the time and thought that went into it. Such a personal thing. So thoughtful. I am not used to being cared for like that. It was unexpected and kind.

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Re: Feline Philosophy II

#4 Post by Anadelonbrin » Mon Mar 02, 2020 9:57 pm

March 1

How is it that we are always our own harshest judges? How is it that we condemn ourselves for crimes, real or imagined, to live in misery? How is it so easy to see the value of others and so hard to see our own?

Perhaps I needed to break my heart, and have it broken a few times before I could begin to open my eyes. I used to find it infuriating how Eileena would look the other way. I could not understand how she so gently accepted all the indiscretions of her man. But perhaps my frustration was more selfish than anything. Perhaps my rage was born from someone breaking the patterns I thought I understood.

Some species mate for life. Once they bond with one another, only death can break them up. Although they may travel worlds apart, they always find each other again. Without a rune stone to connect them. Without gnomish communicators. Without words at all. Even over the greatest distances, they find their way back, they bring up their young. They do not return to their breeding grounds to choose a new mate. They come together and separate again in a rhythm that lasts a lifetime, the heartbeat of the world. I thought humans were such a species. I had seen the hurt of cheated lovers, so when I caught him with another, I felt he had betrayed her, and it broke my heart every time. It broke my heart, but it did not break hers.

She loved him just the way he was. She understood his needs and accepted that she was not his prey to hunt, but the gentle arms in which his soul could find rest, despite his hunter nature.

"The heart can be open to more than one," she said when we spoke the other night. It was no sacrifice for her. And yet now, she sacrifices herself on that very altar. All that freedom she gave him and now, she binds herself. She sits on that altar, picking her heart apart piece by piece.

I wish I could mend them both. When she returned from the dead, I so dearly hoped for both of them that they would find the peace together that they used to find. But in his world, she left and died. He had to learn to live his life as a widower, to live with that loss. What did that do to him? Did he feel that he was not enough for her when she left? He let her go. For all the times she set him free to roam the night, was his farewell when she stepped onto that ship not a greater gesture of freedom?

Sometimes, when you love someone, the greatest thing you can do for them is let them go.

And then she died. Or so we were all made to believe. She was dead, and time did not stop.

In her world, he was as she remembered. Both their worlds were true. Both their worlds were false. How can they line the two truths up to match? How can the worlds meet in one reality?

And then Írenya… To hear her voice and see her in the semicircle at the meeting was such a blessing. But she faces the same disconnection. Again, Starlight’s world moved while she was away. New memories were created. New faces and voices joined, old ones faded. She may not have been in the Emerald Dream, but it is not so different. How does one reconnect? I was fortunate to have so many hands receiving me when I returned. Perhaps I can now be a part of helping her find her way back. The wheel keeps turning.

I have always admired her tranquillity. It strikes me now that I may have gained more of it during my years in the Dream than I knew. She asked if I would like to be relieved of my duties in Moonglade. But no. That is where the tranquillity stems from. From the peace and the Barrow Dens and the moonwells and Lake Elune’ara. From Shan’do Everbreeze’s gentle voice and Quel’s smile.

She asked if I am happy. Shirala is gone. She will never come back. But Quel has her smile.

Sometimes, when you truly love someone, the greatest thing you can do for them is let them go.

I don’t know if I am ready yet.

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Re: Feline Philosophy II

#5 Post by Anadelonbrin » Fri May 29, 2020 12:19 am

((Hidden due to graphical and gruesome content. Read at your own peril.))
I am Anadelonbrin Heartfang.
I kill things.

This morning, there was not a single muscle in my body that was not aching. Tonight, I pushed myself hard enough that I had to walk to the Dreamway gate because my wings would not carry me, and I smelled so bad Quel threw me in Lake Elune’ara before letting me into the house. Then he made me tea and wrapped me in a blanket.

Yet the stench of the manure I quite ungraciously crash landed in and spent a good few hours shovelling before that was nothing compared to those of last night. The smells that kept me awake all through the night.

The stench of long unwashed human cowering in its own filth, wasting away on a diet far worse than anything I’ve ever fed on. And I have eaten a lot of questionable things in my days.

The stench of burnt hair and flesh. Their voices that turned from war cries to death anguish. They were not our enemies. Not truly. We were on a search for a lost soul. One lost soul for how many deaths? How many new orphans in Shattrath?

While Tikál and I led the main brunt of the orcish hunt away from the others, we had not caught the attention of all of them. After shaking them and taking a roundabout way back to the others, we arrived just in time to see Írenya fall from the blow of an axe. He looked me in the eyes and the smallest nod was all it took. Together, we brought the night sky down over those orcs. The Starfall that rained down on them through our joint casting, born out of desperation, was more destructive than anything else I can recall. It is one thing to face an opponent head on with claws and fangs. It is an honourable fight. This was not an honourable fight. It was slaughter. We stood there out of harms way and watched them burn. Burn, like I almost did. Simply for wanting to protect their home from invaders. Much like I wanted to protect the Dream from the Sleeper.

Protect the healer. Always protect the healer. What I did was not enough to keep her safe. Too little, too late.

The others did their share. Kit with her flamethrower. Again, with the fire. Morrigan. Philias. He was hurt.

And Anomen. Those twisted black things he summoned, what were they? Do I even want to know? Whatever it was, it has taken a great toll on him. Today, on the stone, he was rambling like a mad man. I hope Írenya managed to soothe him. The two of them seem to have formed an attachment. I have seen him silently offer her support several times. A hand on her shoulder, a concerned look. They have the potential to do each other much good.

I carried her on my back through that frozen wasteland. I ran for hours until I thought my lungs would freeze over from each heavy icy breath. The fur can not protect against that, no matter how thick. I carried her like I carried Ibelin. Like I should have carried Shirala. To safety. It was not enough. I should have healed her, but I did not have the strength. Not after the run. Not after the Starfall.

Thanks to Conwal, who spotted a ship that I was going to swim out and examine, we found our target. What remained of him after years of struggling for his life. It looked for all the world as if he’d had to resort to eating his dead comrades. Nothing remained but bones and the most distasteful article of clothing I have ever seen – an orc skin loincloth. It had an actual face. Was it the face of his orc companion? The agony, the torment of hearing his name, his mother’s name. Morrigan knocked it out before it could destroy itself. Some wanted to just put him out of his misery. In the end, we brought him back with us.

For what? At what cost?

Last night, lives were lost. So many lives. Tonight, I wore a harness and pulled a plough. I tilled and fertilized and then, I flew to and fro above the furrows, sowing seeds in them. Afterwards, I walked along the furrows and sang to the seeds to help them grow. All this work side by side with strangers (or so they were when we started. Not so strange anymore). To help feed the hungry mouths of those who did not flee to Stormwind when the tree burned, but to Feralas.

Did one deed balance up the other? Not by far. But perhaps tonight, I will find rest in exhaustion.

I am Anadelonbrin Heartfang.
I kill things.
And sometimes, I make things grow.

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Re: Feline Philosophy II

#6 Post by Anadelonbrin » Sat May 30, 2020 4:29 pm

May 30

Philias had a favour to ask me. Some favours are a small, simple thing to one side and a very important matter to the other. I was glad to help.

He and Ellbry seemed so good together. I don’t know what prompted their separation, but whatever it was, the healing will take time. Why must love cause such pain? I worry for them both, but some things just can not be fixed by others. It must come from within. When trees are pruned, it is harmful at first, but it gives room for better, healthier growth in the long run.

I hope Tit Man will find great and beautiful things on his journey. Part of me wishes I could go with him. Protect him. Discover the world as seen through his eyes, young eyes. He has been through enough hardships in his years, but they are far fewer and far less bloody than mine. If he would have me along, we could have quite an adventure together. Like it was with Ilastar and Shirala.

But I am not free to leave at will. I have duties. In Moonglade. In Stormwind. In Shattrath. Bound by both obligation and love. They go together. This is well.

I brought back a seedling from Feralas to give to Philias. It seemed somehow important that something from my roots should grow in Stormwind. Few gardeners tend to their work with such love and enthusiasm as he does. When I gave it to him, I caught myself wishing that someone would look at me the way he looks at his roses.

He asked me if I had a name for the purple lotus. It came without hesitation. Jonespyre. Saying the name clawed at my heart. Writing it now does the same. As did warning Yulia of the Naga when she asked if it was safe to go swimming.

I aspire to be the person Shan’do Jonespyre saw in me. I wish he could see how far I have come from the lost, scared and angry cub whose life he saved when the others just wanted to put me out of my misery. A conversation not so unlike the one we had in that cold and stinking cave about the creature that once was Captain William Blackwall.

It is time to go pay him a visit and speak to Eileena and Írenya. Both about him and other things. Obligation and love.

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Re: Feline Philosophy II

#7 Post by Anadelonbrin » Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:03 pm

June 2

I woke up this morning, thinking I’d had the most peculiar dream. I was rocking back and forth like a small child in her mother’s arms. And then I looked around and had not a single clue as to where I was. It appears I had wandered onto a ship last night and fallen asleep in one of the hammocks. None had dared disturb me on the way over. Wisely so, for I was in my feline form and disturbing the slumber of a large predator is a dangerous matter.

Now I can not make neither head nor tails of what happened last night. I am only too grateful for the ability to navigate through the Emerald Dreamway. Without it, I should have been stuck in a random harbour until I could find passage on a returning ship, and I would not have made it to Shattrath at all.

Perhaps I have been pushing myself too hard with this penance matter, going from one place to the other. Am I spreading myself too thinly to be truly useful anywhere? I even missed the guild meeting because I was so tired from the work I had done that I could not fly as fast as I usually do.

I spoke with Írenya two nights ago, at her request, where it should have been mine. It is strange how very different two people can see the same event. I have no wish to deny her a sense of gratitude, but I should not have let her get into such a position that she was in harm’s way to begin with. Telling her what happened after she had fallen was painful, but important.

It seems we all fall prey to the sense of not being good enough. Not strong enough. Not useful enough. Not good enough friends. If only she could see what others see in her. What I see. If only she knew all the times I have wished I could be more like her. All the times I have admired her bravery, her candour, her poise, just the air around her.

I wish, though, that she would sometimes not be quite so controlled. That she would speak up more like she has done in some of the meetings. When she voices concerns, they are well thought out and important. But sometimes, instead of speaking up, I see her looking down, sighing. I can only wonder what those sighs mean. I would very much like to find out. Even if it would give cause for arguments. She is not one to argue just for the sake of it, so I’d wager those sighs are hiding some good points. And some insight into how she feels.

I don’t want her to change who she is. She is incredible. I have the greatest respect for her both as a person and in her role as a healer. It could, however, benefit both her and the rest of us to hear her thoughts on things more often. It took me long enough to learn the lesson that observing people only helped me understand them but did nothing to help them understand me. The more I watched, the less I participated. It only drove me to solitude. She is not likely to fall into that trap the same way I did, but perhaps I should bring it up when we speak again.

Lately when I’ve met Philias, he’s been in the company of Pretty Head. I wonder what the situation is there. Lots of undercurrents, words that carry a different meaning than the apparent, looks full of hints. I am not going to pry, though. Pretty Head seems to be a pleasant person. I hope their trip to Kun Lai will be safe and relaxing.

When did I stop travelling together with someone? Those days with Kit in Val’sharah seem so long ago now. So simple and so infinitely complicated. All the bright eyed journeys with Shirala and Ilastar even further away. But it does no good to dwell on the past, good or bad. I can neither change it nor bring it back. I can only decide what I do now. The woman who arranged the sowing in Feralas is going to have a sort of meditation event soon. Maybe I’ll ask some people if they’d like to go there with me. It seems like a nice thing to do together.

Philias… He touched me and I let him. I’m not sure how it happened. He scritched behind my ears like I was the most natural thing in the world. And he didn’t stop. He even got up behind me, digging the fingers of both hands into my fur. And I let him. It is the longest anyone other than Kit has touched me in so many years. Right there in the street. I didn’t bite him even a little. And I -liked- it.

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Re: Feline Philosophy II

#8 Post by Anadelonbrin » Tue Jun 23, 2020 2:08 am

June 22

Yesterday was long, confusing and complicated. I rushed across half the world only to learn that I was too late by several days and there was nothing I could do, no way I could have known. Someone dead who is alive, someone alive who is as dead, a man who is a woman who is a man, two ghosts trading places, and nothing I can do. It is the most helpless of feelings.

Denorion only just came back to us.

I can not go through this again. Not when there is nothing I can do to help. With Denorion, at least, there was something I could do. The endless rituals. Bringing Shan’do tea and making sure he was taking care of himself too. But the rituals have no place here. This is not a matter of the Nightmare. It is not the matter of a druid gone feral. The fight is beyond my reach.

I did what I could, but to what end?

How many times can a heart break and still beat?

I returned to Stormwind, attended the meeting. When Ava spoke of the mission we were on just a few days ago, it seemed like I had nothing to do with it. Like she was speaking about some other people. Strangers. I know I was there. I remember the many eyes of the disgusting patchwork giants, lumps of flesh sown together seemingly at random and animated by some vile force. I remember the warlocks we murdered without blinking. I remembered the warlocks and l glanced at the latest addition to Starlight and none of it made sense. I remembered the turmoil of the emergency teleporter Nomine had gotten from who knows what shifty deal, a feeling as though my intestines and organs were put back together in random place and order and struggled to get back where they belong. I remember landing in the water in the harbour, drinking the sea water to regain salt. It was disgusting. I drank until I threw up, and then I drank some more. If I ever see one of those portals again, I will not step through it, but go through the Dreamway. And yet, it was as if those memories were a story in a book about someone else.

We got the job done. We always get the job done. At what cost? To what end?

After the meeting, I spoke to Anomen. I told him what I had not said at the meeting. It is bad enough to lay this mutilating helplessness on his shoulders. It does not need to fall upon the entire guild. It would have been one thing if there was actually something that could be done, but this? It’s nothing but pain for everyone. Better that they remain oblivious than to punish them for caring. But Anomen has been to visit. I had already alarmed him via letters and could not leave him hanging.

Of course, he wants to go there. It is only natural. Yet I wish I could protect him from it, especially now, after the things I heard him say over the stone when they were looking for one of the pieces of the artefact. After what was said at the meeting.

It is like one of the fairy tales I read to the children, the one with an evil queen and seven dwarves. Our friend ate the poisoned apple, but this poison is clearly immune to true love’s kiss. All we can do is watch the glass coffin and be torn apart. Pray that the poison does not spread past the glass. When someone is dead, we can grieve. Grief hurts, but it is a part of the nature of things. Our bodies and minds can cope with it. Hope is so much worse. Hope is the cruellest thing in the world, ripping the wounds open over and over again so that they can never heal. Today, I took Anomen and Sienna to the glass coffin. Did I do the right thing?

Something Anomen said last night cut me like a knife. It made me fear the poison has already spread.

Afterwards, I went to bring the dog to Philias. He was in Feralas with Wilsby, attending a celebration. I did not lie to him, but neither did I tell him the whole truth. The deception pains me, but I did just not have it in me to bring such news to him. I feared that he would drop everything and rush to the glass coffin as well, and I don’t know if that is what is best for anyone at all. In fact, I worry that it would do a lot more harm than good for everyone involved. He was confused, but he loves that little dog. She is in his care and that is where she belongs right now. With someone familiar who would do anything for her.

I should have left straight away. I should have, but I stayed. There was dancing and a raffle with prizes and everyone was dressed up in their best, looking radiantly beautiful. Everyone, that is, but me. I had arrived in my dark branches, looking rather like something the proverbial cat dragged in, I imagine. Besides Philias and Wilsby, I only saw one other person that I was familiar with, and I did not even go over and say hello to Míera. I was too embarrassed. Too out of place, even though we were not much further than a stone’s throw from where I learned to walk on two legs.

They were all so beautiful. While there were a few scattered worgen and pandaren in the crowd, most were kaldorei. My people. A people that lost so much. And still, they celebrated. And I stood there like a fool watching them, listening to some of them speak in the language that is mine. It has been a long time since I saw so many of my kind in one place. Smiling at each other. Holding hands while watching the fireworks. How many years has it been since that Starlight ball when Esau held mine? How many more still since Ilastar held me in his arms?

At the end, four priestesses summoned a spirit of Malorne. I felt myself falling apart inside, unravelling like a knitted sweater where a kitten found a loose end of yarn. It was heartbreakingly beautiful. The light from the braziers playing over their matching garments. Their voices weaving the words of summoning, one leading, three responding.

“Through the stars to the heaven’s height,
we hear your hoofbeats echo in the night.
Come to us, White Stag, and accept our prayer of gratitude.
Grant us your sacred blessing and let the world, and our spirits, be renewed!

Come to us! Waywatcher! The White Stag! Malorne!”

When the ethereal white stag appeared, it was as though my heart stopped and I could not breathe.

I saw faces that were not there. Every priestess was Shirala. In the crowd, I saw Shan’do Jonespyre. I saw Sagitas. I saw Ilastar and Esau and Kessaria and the invisible man, Fioliea and Shyria and Jaykub and Shan’do Bearwalker and Lorgalon, Idherion and Nightsun and even Xylas and Jarob and Elrenar, Jandér and Aiphaton and Glorathril and Violance. The white stag reared up on his back legs and walked away. When I looked back at the crowd, the faces were gone, replaced by unfamiliar ones.

They are all gone.

I fled to the ruins. The tree still stands, and I sat in the branches all night. I did not sleep a wink.

Why are they gone? Are they all dead? I know too many of them are. It should have been me.

Tonight, I sit on the roof of a house near the metaphorical glass coffin. I dread the morning because there are no happily ever afters.

How many times can a heart break and still beat?

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