[A]<Blood of Arathor>[RP] 'Till the Wind Dies

Moon Guard
Prev 1 6 7 8 Next
Shadow I Have Become

Waiting.

It was something Llyrae knew well.

Waiting for her father to return from battle, waiting to see if any of the men who had stayed behind to secure their freedom had survived to join them, and now waiting while the fate of the Blood was determined in a small House in the Uplands. She imagined that soon she'd be waiting to hear word of the successful mission to secure their new camp, too.

But the worst part of it all was having to pretend that everything was fine.

James had stormed out of camp several nights past--his sword and tabard brought to her tent and left there for her. She had placed them atop the small chest in her tent, and every morning and every night, she saw them--a constant reminder to her of her failure. But the woman who left that tent each day had learned to smile and offer her help when others needed it. She was attentive during her studies, and managed somehow to make it through her lessons with Berryn without falling apart at the seams.

Rhaistlin had been much absent from her and the camp, their last excursion leaving her with more questions than answers and a strange fear that she wasn't good enough for him.

And the old worries, love, and concern had returned to her with regard to Alezander. She wondered, often, if he were happy. She worried about his extended leaves to Stormwind, and an irrational dread caught at her whenever she thought of him in battle without her being able to protect him.

It was foolish. It was all stupid and foolish, and many nights, like tonight, she would head off far down the coast and just cry.

She felt alone--more alone than she had ever felt in her life.

There was no one to trust--no one to turn to--and it made her miss the family she had once had all those years ago in Stromgarde.

But her father was dead--or worse. Her mother was more or less dead inside--those rare moments of clarity so few and far between for her. And she was all that remained of them.

She envied Ardenil's new-found love. She envied the freedom and joy she saw expressed by the common people around her--even with all their various complaints. And she envied Saryhn's closeness to a man who had moved her to believe that hope wasn't just a word--that it was possible and real and true.

Tears slid down her cheeks as she curled up on the beach--knees pulled up to chest, chin atop her knees. The storms, while not as cold, still came as often, their clouds often obscuring the moon. But tonight, there were no clouds--just stars and moonlight and ocean as far as the eye could see.

She had become a shell--her outer appearance masking the emptiness within. And for a moment, she let herself drift on that open sky, dark ocean, and cool breeze. And as it so often did, she felt its calm seeping into her, consoling her and quieting her fears.

More than once in times like these, she'd considered going off to try and find James. But then she would recall the look on his face--the anger, the hatred. He didn't want to see her. She reminded him of that morning when they'd found his father--dead. She reminded him of seventeen other men who had died while they fled to safety. And she reminded him that there was nothing left of the lives they'd once known.

Rhaistlin, too, must have seen how easily she could be made to dance to whatever tune was playing. Perhaps it was a kindness that he stayed away, though she missed being able to talk to him--even if he didn't know how to turn their every conversation into some strange lesson or test.

And Alezander....

It was the last that made her feel the urge to cry once more.

Everything they'd once had--everything he'd once felt for her--was gone.

She told herself it was for the best--that by denying herself happiness, he might find it. A noble sacrifice.... That's what she told herself. But she couldn't help but feel contempt for herself every time she thought it.

Where was the girl who would have done anything for the man she loved? Where was the woman who had believed that nothing would ever come between them--that their love would endure in spite of all adversity?

Katryn, Saryhn, Carres, Rhaistlin...her family and her desire to make them proud--that was what had happened to her--each one of them a nail in the coffin of her childhood beliefs.

Nothing was sacred.

Nothing was pure.

Nothing except the pain.

Llyrae lay her forehead down upon her knees, letting go her tears. And when they were done, she stood and quietly returned to her tent to sleep.

Tomorrow would come too soon, and the shell she presented to others must not break.
Illusions of War

The battle rages on;
Time has lost all meaning.
Exhaustion has become a constant friend,
And the time will come when I will fall.

But fighting against the Darkness--
Fighting to protect those we love,
Even though we may never see them again--
This is a battle we cannot abandon.

==================================
Mattahari watched as the rain pattered against the windows of the tower, the cards shuffled absently in her hands as they so often were. The things she had seen--it was a vision of a future that she knew others would have seen, as well: the land scorched and burning--a molten ball of fire, consumed by darkness.

The Legion was coming, their return heralded by the stars and the signs in the sky. And by something darker and far more sinister. Each signal cast outward to the heavens was a beacon. Each lost artifact uncovered a reminder that this world was no longer safe--that -she- was no longer safe.

Turning away from the window, she headed down the ramp to her rooms. If she was to survive what was to come, she would need to locate a few lost items of her own.
Everyone I've met in this guild has been pretty chill to me and my guildmates.

I approve.
Bound by Blood

Katryn glanced up from her book as one of the guards opened the door to her brother's office where she'd continued to stay rather than live in one of the tents outside in the camp. "Night Blossom says that she needs to speak with you--says she was sent here from your brother."

Katryn frowned slightly as she lowered her gaze, her eyes straying toward the hat that was never far from her. It wasn't like her brother not to come himself, and sending a spy to carry his words?

Composing her features, Katryn looked back up toward the waiting guard--her expression having become a mask of calm ice. "Send her in, then. But keep the door open."

The guard turned and nodded to someone just out of sight, and then Katryn saw her--tall like herself, with eyes like a dark forest--likely hiding just as many secrets in their depths as Katryn's own cerulean gaze.

The woman gave a proper bow, something Katryn found interesting as she leaned back against the windows behind her and set her book, open to the page she'd been reading, on the table before her.

"You have a message for me," Katryn prompted, continuing to watch the masked woman before her. Everything about Night marked her as a professional--the way she presented herself as both competent and confident while still showing a marked deference to authority, and Katryn had to admit that she liked what she saw from her. There was nothing wasted with this Night Blossom--nothing without a purpose.

"Your brother asked that I return to you; he wishes for you to recall Commander Locke and his people. Your current forces will be spread thin keeping up both the forward base and protecting this cove, and he believes that without the Commander's aid, we are likely going to have problems within the week with regard to our safety and security."

Concise and to the point--it certainly sounded like her brother. But Katryn had been waiting for he and the others at the forward outpost to return--not continue to maintain their position so far from the Cove.

A faint frown came to her features as Katryn lowered her gaze from the other woman. "What else did he have to say?"

Night paused for a moment causing Katryn's gaze to return to her--cold, impervious. She would have the rest of whatever occurred when her brother met with this woman, and if she did not, ...then she would get word from her brother herself. Though that was very likely to happen either way.

"He is looking at moving the bulk of our people north to the outpost, my Lady--in case it is necessary. Mister Highgard is currently working to facilitate that plan and will be working with Lord Winterthorne on the matter. He is also currently working with Lord Talwind to reallocate our current forces to ensure that both the base and the cove remain protected." The woman paused again, and Katryn waited to see if she would say anything further--a hawk waiting for its prey to make a wrong move. But Night wasn't the sort to be prey, Katryn noted, as the masked woman continued. "Your brother is quite angry that there was no forewarning with regard to these troop movements; either the Commander returns and shows his loyalty to the Blood, or your brother will likely seek some punitive action against the Commander once this situation has been handled."

Katryn's frown became a faint smile at the other woman's words. Likely a bit of the truth spoken there, though she doubted her brother would have said anything with regard to what would happen should the Commander not return. No. If she knew her brother, he expected her to work a miracle--to find a way to ensure the Commander's return. And with that thought, the smile faded from her features.

"Did my brother give you a letter for myself, then, or am I to believe that he simply sent you to carry his words to me?"

This caused Night to grow still--a cat cornered by the wolf. "I'm afraid your brother was quite distracted when he sent me to deliver his message, my Lady. Lord d'Lori sought to ask him for your hand following their discussion of ways to mitigate the Commander's sudden departure."

Katryn blinked, lowered her gaze, then glanced back up at the other woman once more; she could feel every part of herself starting to sink under a wave of realization. Ezerai had been serious, and it would explain why her brother had not even thought to send a letter along with the spy.

Katryn's words came out softly--words she was loathe to speak. "What did my brother say?"

Night's eyes seemed to show the hint of a smile, and for some reason, that little smugness about her irritated Katryn, but it was enough to pull her back from beneath the wave and galvanize her to a cool demeanor once more.

"He told Lord d'Lori that he will need various assertions of his lineage and the like before he will send the proposal on to your lord-father for consideration."

(cont.)
Katryn lowered her gaze, glancing toward the hat for a moment as she gave a faint nod. "Was there anything else?"

Katryn wanted nothing more than for the other woman to go away.

Marriage.

To Ezerai. And he'd brought it up -now- of all times.

"Yes, my Lady. Your brother gave the Lord permission to court you, though it will not be formally acknowledged until your father likewise gives his consent."

Katryn swallowed and after a moment gave a faint nod of her head. "You can go now."

Night hesitated for a moment, as though she had more to say, though that faint smile at her eyes had disappeared. At least that was one small blessing, Katryn thought. It still agitated her, however, that the woman dared to hesitate before bowing and retreating from the room--that the guard at the door came to ask if she wished for the door to be closed: everything for a moment seemed to close in around her, and she wanted to throw something--to hurt someone--to destroy something.

But Katryn Talwind did not do such things. Katryn Talwind served her family. She did as she was bid to do by brother and father alike, and she did not allow those who were under her brother's protection to see her true feelings--nor her true thoughts.

She looked to the guard at the door, a faint, pleasant smile coming to her lips. "Yes. If you could send for a messenger, I'd appreciate that, as well. I'll need to send word to my brother shortly."

And once the guard had retreated and the door had closed, Katryn let go of the breath she hadn't known she'd been holding, her eyes closing for a brief moment as she considered everything that was now in play.

They were stretched too thin. Her brother had trusted the Commander, and he had hopes that he still could, if he wanted her to seek his return. It was -not- something she at all wanted to consider--not after his man had threatened to kill her. His men were too loyal to him--and if her brother did not have the Commander's loyalty in turn, that was sure to spell disaster.

And Ezerai--putting his plans into motion at such a ridiculously inopportune time. A part of her wanted to slap the man across the face for his thoughtlessness, but done was done. Katryn would have to wait to address the matter with him when next she saw him, and alone.

For now, however, she had a letter to write--and if this was truly what her brother desired--a choice to make.
The Broken Path

Llyrae found herself standing on the edge of a snow-covered mountain, the city of Strahnbrad laid out below in the distance, its crumbling chimneys pouring forth tufts and wisps of smoke. Luckily the north leant itself to her wearing heavier clothing, but if she didn't find shelter before night came, she would freeze.

Glancing around her, Llyrae found that Father Carres was nowhere to be found, and with the city so close, and ogres and who knew what else prowling around in the mountains, she couldn't afford to call out to him.

The unstable portal to the forward base had finally shown itself to be what all the mages had been trying to tell them--unstable.

Sighing, the girl began to look for a way down the mountain's side, her thoughts on her missing companion and a plan for making it to the Outpost. First things first, though; she needed to find somewhere out of these mountains and the dangers that it posed.
==============================
Huddled in a small copse of trees down at the bottom of the mountain, Llyrae gathered up as much brush as she could, trying to cover herself as best she could. There had been no sign of Father Carres, and the days' adventures had included sneaking past ogre patrols, picking a few berries she had seen a few traveling birds eating, and scooping together enough snow to fill the leather pouch at her side--its contents stuffed in the pockets of her robes.

She was tired, and she was hungry, and the faint scent of cooking that came from the nearby town made her wish she could go there and ask for food. But that was Syndicate territory, and once they saw her tabard, they'd hold her prisoner. True, she could hide the tabard, but no matter what happened, she'd end up their prisoner. And she had seen the way Miss Wingrove acted. It left her no illusions of what they did to women.

Sighing softly, she pulled her brush blanket over her, pulled up her cloak's hood, and lay back against the ground.

Father Abram?

Another soft sigh and a frown. Of course she wasn't going to be able to reach his mind; it was just a foolish notion--a troubled hope. And thoughts of Rhaistlin had led only to silence, as well. She'd even tried a bit of magic to start a small fire with holy flames, but each time she'd tried, she got a stabbing pain in her head.

Whatever had happened to them--the portal had done something to their ability to call upon the Light--and the Shadow, it seemed.

And so, Llyrae closed her eyes, a long, troubled sigh leaving her lips before she tried her best to get some sleep. Still it was a long while before she did.

Would the Blood know that they were lost? Would they even know where to look? Would she be found by Syndicate patrols before morning? And what had happened to Father Carres? Had he made it to the Outpost? Should she stay where she was or head on?

A thousand little thoughts, but only one answer; she had to do her best to head toward the Outpost on foot and hope that she was found by the Blood along the way. And hope that she could find Father Carres, as well.
The Cove's Destruction

As the sun was setting behind the hills and cliffs--and as long shadows reached out toward the Cove, scouts returned to herald an attack.

Before the forces at the cove could be fully martialed, the Syndicate poured in from the pass, jumping down the sides of the cliffs, while small boats with several men landed people on the coast.

A panic arose among the people, and several voices directed them to head to the cave, among them Lady Talwind, Lord Winterthorne, and Sir Ostwyn. Lord Talwind's personal guards formed the front lines of a retreating defense toward the cave, while the portal mages worked to get everyone they could through to Stormwind.

The ship that had long stood as a testament of Alezander's conquest over the Syndicate here was burned, and a valiant last stand was made at the cave mouth, Lady Katryn herself taking up a sword and rallying the troops that remained.

Horses, supplies, tents--everything was either taken or destroyed, and in the end, the portal mages dead--their escape to Stormwind cut off, it was Daviid Darksilver that led those who remained through the Syndicate forces to safety at Refuge Pointe--his valiant rescue and the lives of many men and women given to aid in their escape.

Hundreds lie dead--and others may have been captured. Little is known of what was left behind. Scattered, broken--the Blood is now divided in Stormwind, Refuge Pointe, and the Forward Outpost.

The troops that were called in from the Wetlands by orders of Darrick Dallas would arrive to see smoke, and the remains of a once-thriving encampment at the Cove--the Syndicate continuing to occupy it in force.
Lost to Flame

A fire broke out in the Canal District--a small one, but enough to destroy a small shop where a woman who used to sew--though never for the cause of war--had lived and spent the last of her days trying to reconcile a world in which her home and her love were lost.

When the flames had died, there was nothing left save for a small pendant that lay amidst the charred and ashen remains--a pendant untouched by the fire.

This was sent to Church to be delivered to Father Abram Carres on his return.

Amaris Whitecross was dead.
Cat and Spider

Night had seen them at nearly the same time as the scouts had; she watched as they retreated toward the Cove to give warning, knowing it would be too little too late.

The Syndicate had been watching--waiting for a moment like this in order to destabilize the region further. Their new leader had his own agenda to be certain, but Night couldn't have said what that was. Not any more.

From her hiding spot, she watched as the Syndicate poured into the cove, herding the Blood back toward the cave--cutting down anything that stood in their way. They were not looking to take prisoners; they weren't even all that organized. But like locusts, they ravaged what little the Blood had made for themselves in the months that they had laid claim to the cove.

She saw Syrell and the worgen woman leave the ship before it was torched, taken back to one of their small boats while the fighting continued. She saw people struck down as they sought to flee, and she saw a Lady take up one of the Syndicate's own swords to rally her people in defiance against those who sought to bring them low. She watched as the portal in the cave was lost, the mages killed even as a mad man whose sword danced with death came to the rescue of the last few defenders.

She watched as they carved a path leading up out of the cove, and she watched as the Syndicate celebrated their victory, piling up the dead to be burned--friend and foe alike.

But he never showed himself; he for whom she had been waiting never came.

So you send the pawns to do your killing, and because they have their victory, they will not question why you stay behind.

Frustrated, Night kept watch on the merry band, taking note of the two who appeared to be in charge; then, under the cover of clouds and intermittent stars, she headed to Refuge Pointe to join the rest of the Blood's survivors.
Walking the Line

She'd spent the better part of the evening simply moving about the camp with the commander of her father's personal guard, speaking about their immediate needs--medical attention, food, water--all the little things that would be needed as time went on. But out of everything, it was water that would end up being the most difficult to obtain.

The soldiers who had arrived too late to save them would end up being their means of survival now. Katryn set up daily patrols to the nearby small lakes for water. Until they could move their forces further north, though--that would continue to be a drain upon their resources.

Game was easy enough to find--though perhaps not as safe to get. Still, the few merchants at the Refuge were willing to sell to them, and Katryn had enough funds with her that she'd hopefully be able to make ends meet for those who had joined them there.

Of course there were injured among them, herself included, but she'd set those few who could heal to tending to the worst cases first and had her father's commander bandage up the cut on her forehead.

She had no idea who had made it out alive--who was missing--who was dead. It was like she was living in a nightmare from which she couldn't wake. And all the while, she took with her that stupid hat--his hat.

She had been certain they were all going to die--she and those last few who had remained standing with her; and that was when Daviid had simply shown up.

"Follow me!" he'd said, and as if he knew she'd follow him, he was charging off again, creating a path of corpses to line their escape along with the others who stepped forward with him.

Seconds had become hours, and minutes seemed to pass like days. Katryn's arm had hurt, and she had no idea where or when she'd gotten the cut on her forehead. She'd watched as good people fell, their lives taken so that hers and the others with her might be spared. And when they reached the Pointe, Daviid had disappeared, leaving her to the task of setting up--if not a perfect camp, then a camp that was at least as organized as she could make it.

The small tasks that needed tending to--that had made it easy to forget what had happened that evening. But now, as she moved to settle down in a small tent that one of the local merchants let her borrow, the eyes and faces of the wounded and dead returned to haunt her.

Still, there was one last task before her--one last letter to write before she could even consider trying to sleep for the night (a task she knew she needed to at least pretend at if anyone else was to believe themselves safe).

And so, tiredly, she lit the small lamp within the tent, took out the parchment and pen she had bought from the soldiers who staffed the camp, and began to write.

Some time later, she emerged from the tent and called over the hooded woman at the fire--Night Blossom. To her, she entrusted two letters and enough coin to buy passage to Aerie Peak.

The first letter was to the dwarves at the Peak who would secure passage for Night to Stormwind. The second letter was for her brother and her father.

This done, Katryn took one last look at her brother's people before turning and retreating to her tent for the night. But there would be little enough of sleep for her--little enough sleep for any of them.

Hopefully she could get the Pointe's mage to send back as many people as he could to Stormwind in the morning for care and shelter. But she would remain there at the Pointe until her brother called her home.
Finding the Way

Llyr had spent the better part of the last several days skirting around Strahnbrad, its patrols, and dealing with the residual after-effects of the obvious portal malfunction. It had been difficult at best, and she'd only managed to get a short way into the valley below the city before she had found herself a copse of trees and some brush in which to try and sleep for the night.

The first few nights, every sound had given rise to a wave of panic, but four days out in the world had steadied her nerves--and she'd resigned herself to the real possibility that she was alone, and she was likely not going to make it to the Forward Outpost. That hadn't meant she'd given up, though.

Each night as she lay amidst her leaves and brush, she tried to reach out with her thoughts--to Rhaistlin, to Carres, ...to Berryn--to anyone. The first few days had brought about only a sensation of pain, but as time wore on, the pain began to dissipate. Last night, though, he'd found her--his thoughts reaching out to her--muddled and incoherent as they were. And she had followed them back, wishing come morning that she hadn't.

She felt like she'd been drinking half the night away, and the light and sounds in the valley seemed somehow louder and brighter. But she had found Father Abram. And she had found that he'd been captured, though not far from where she was.

She'd spent the rest of the day hiding out in her little makeshift home, working with the priest to begin restoring his control over his mind and thoughts. And while she couldn't remove the poison from his body, she -could- counter its effects on his mind--though it left her feeling sick and weary by the end of the day.

Still, their conversation and their work was enough to gain her fellow priest the ability to escape from the Syndicate who held him captive.

Weak from the stress of it all, exhausted, her head pounding, Llyr lay back upon the ground and closed her eyes against the fading sun of evening. She could only hope that Father Carres would be able to find her--that he could trace the signature of her thoughts back to where she was.

And so it was that she waited, staving off sleep in order to maintain that small bit of contact with the Father...until she could manage it no more.

Blackness took hold of her as the girl passed out, and the wind gently floated leaves down from above to begin the work of covering what lay below.
The Tide's Relentless Pull

The war...it never ends.
We have been forced to retreat,
Our backs given to our enemies.

We've been on the run for days,
And there is no end in sight.
We're scattered like the wind.

Time slows to a crawl;
Though we cannot hide,
We must rest.

Perhaps this is the end at last.
Perhaps now, we can sleep.

But not yet.
No. Not yet.

For the sound of their coming is near.

==========================
The sound of laughter in the tavern grew for a moment and then subsided as the people took to their drinks once more, and the conversation continued. She had been watching for some time now--not from a table, but from a dark corner under the stairs.

Few people would look her way; few people would care about what they'd seen if they did.

Still, the flow of events was progressing in a way she couldn't predict, and it had drawn her here.

It had drawn her attention to a small table under the other stairs where three people sat, speaking in low voices.

They were not drinking.

But all of them were worried--their faces touched by something that she knew. They had been marked by the Legion. They had been marked, and their souls had been scarred.

She had seen more and more of them of late. And the skies above, though no one else seemed to notice, had begun to darken a little more every day--the moons changing in ways that few people had even bothered to see.

It was, she supposed, perhaps something normal people couldn't see. But once it was noticed, it couldn't be unseen.

And those three--under the stairs--they had seen what could not be unseen.

And like her, ...they had been marked--their souls, scarred.

It was a long time before they left, and when they did, she slipped out after them, following them as they made their way to the stables, and from there, out the gates of the city. They rode well into the night, their journey ending at Ridgepoint Tower.

And for now, ...for her, ...it was enough to know that she was not alone.

Turning from her hiding place among the trees, she followed the edge of the road back to the city, back to the shattered remains of what had once been a home amidst the wreckage of the Park District.

And there, amidst the ghosts and shadows of the city, she slept.
Mourning

As the bells tolled that noon had come at last, Llyrae watched as Father Carres stood from a nearby bench to address those who had come to pay their respects.

"Every soul is a light--a light that shines on even in death. Today we are gathered to remember Amaris Whitecross, mother of Llyrae Whitecross, wife to Adamyr Whitecross, and daughter of Llyren and Sorren Lightblade."

Llyrae watched him as he continued to speak, the words washing over her in a blur. She had asked the Father to officiate at her mother's funeral--not because he had known her, but because of all the people she knew, he was the only one she thought would understand.

As he spoke about her mother, Llyrae only half heard him, her own thoughts returning to brighter days at Argent Place when she and her mother would tend to the gardens, or take walks through the park to end at the small cathedral on Holy Hill where they would stop and say a prayer or offer alms for the poor.

It had been her mother who had taught her the ways of the Light, and it had been her mother who had taught her the real beauty of its songs and faith. But it wasn't until she'd arrived in Stormwind, when her mother had all but shut herself away inside, that Llyrae had understood the joy and the comfort it had given to her mother all those times when her father would head off with the Prince or the King to hunt, or fight, or train.

For her mother, the Light became a way to shield herself when her husband was gone, and for Llyrae, it had become the only way she could hold on to what remained of both of her parents.

And now that they were both gone--it was all she had left of them.

Today, she let herself cry--silently.

"Though the people may see your tears, they must never see you despair, my little Llyr. So cry if you must, but let your quiet sorrow be a strength from which others may take comfort."

It had been her mother who had told her that, and while she suspected that it was said at the time only to keep Llyrae from bawling from one end of the house to the other over some minor offense she had committed, the lesson had always stayed with her.

Tears had been a quiet affair for House Whitecross--a mostly private matter, but something that was theirs--Llyr's, and her mother's, and her father's.

"If anyone would like to say a few words to honor the dead, please come forward now." After he had spoken those words, Father Carres returned to his bench, and Llyrae glanced at him. He was with his family, and while it hurt to see that he had them still at his side, there was something comforting in that, too--that not everyone had lost those they loved to war or hardship.

He nodded to her, indicating that she should go first; and so, Llyrae stood and walked forward, looking first to the stone urn where her mother's remains had been gathered, a hand brushing to it briefly, before she turned to face the rest of the people there.

She stared at them for a moment, recognizing them and strangely comforted by their presence. And then she bowed her head, speaking to them all in a clear voice--just loud enough that they could all hear her.

"My mother...."

A wave of thoughts and emotions washed over her at those words, and it took her a moment before she could get past them enough to continue speaking.

"My mother was a remarkable woman." Llyrae looked up at the rest of the people gathered then, finding strength from her own words. "We always say that about our parents, but I want you all to understand what I mean when I say that about her."

Her gaze lowered again, and Llyrae found herself crying again as she continued to speak. "When I was a little girl, my mother told me that when she met my father, she knew from the first moment she saw him that he was the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life." Llyrae glanced up, sniffing softly as tears rolled down her cheeks. She swallowed, and then continued. "But...rather than being able to spend the rest of her life with him, she lost him--as we all did, to the Forsaken."

(cont.)
She glanced around at several of the faces as her lips pursed together. "The remarkable thing about my mother is that she found the strength and the courage to do what she then did for those of us who were left behind. And it was her strength and her courage that inspired those who went with her to do what they did, as well."

"You see, ...when my father died, my mother's world was shattered; she loved him..."

Llyrae looked off toward the sky as another bout of emotions and tears made it impossible to speak for a few moments.

"She loved him with all her heart, and I hope that wherever they are now, my mom and dad are together."

Llyrae swallowed and looked back at the people before her. "My mom knew that we couldn't stay at Argent Place any longer. The Syndicate and the ogres had been getting stronger day by day, and the Horde had finally made their move toward our city."

She studied those many faces for a long moment before continuing, her gaze lowering. "So rather than take the time to mourn my father--she sought instead to save those of us who were still alive." She paused before continuing, "Preparations were made to leave behind Argent Place, and two days after word had arrived that the Prince and his men had fallen in battle, we left the comforts of home--of a world that had once been safe and certain, and headed here to Stormwind."

She swallowed, looking back toward those faces in the crowd. "I'm sure some of you know what it's like--not to have a friend in the world save those few people who travel with you, and for my mother and I, our journey here was made with only twenty of my father's finest."

Her head bowed. "Of the twenty-two of us that left our home, ...only five of us made it here."

"But it was my mother's determination, and her love, ...her strength of purpose, and her hope--that got the five of us to our new home."

Llyrae turned then and looked back at the urn. "I am....what I am today, because of her."

A few more tears slid down her cheeks as she stared at the strangely cold representation of all that was left of her mother. "And I will miss her....so much."

She cried then, those same silent tears as always, a soft sniff escaping her before she turned and moved to sit back down on the bench.

There were other words, and other people's voices, but to Llyrae, everything became something of a blur of accepting condolences, listening to the shared thoughts of others, and the ever-present sense that people were watching over her.

When the ceremony was over, she didn't stay--didn't wait for those who wanted to speak with her; instead she headed toward the canals, toward her mother's shop. And finding a place to sit beneath one of the many trees that lined the city's streets, she watched as the ash and debris was cleared away--as people talked about plans for a new building to take its place, and she said goodbye.

Alone.
(page 24)

This will be the last entry I will write in this book, and it shall go, along with my mother's remains, back to the graveyard in Stromgarde--there to rest with her in the grave beside the empty headstone of my father's grave. The Church has agreed to send someone there with the urn, and I shall travel there with them. And when our journey is over, I will go to speak with my aunt.

As we walked those last few steps together,
I felt your hand slip from mine;
And when I looked up to see the reason why,
I saw you were all ready gone.

We never had a chance to talk--
Not the way I'd always hoped we would;
And though I know you love me,
I still wish I could have heard you say it.

Just one last time--
I long to take your hand,
And one last time--
I want to hug you tight.
I want to see your face
And hear your voice;
I want to know
That everything's all right.

I miss you--
The feeling fierce as knives
And heavy as chains;
And there are so many things
I wish I'd said.

But I hope you always knew
That I loved you.

And one day, I had hoped to find you again.

Goodbye, Mom.
Into the Dark

Night passed into day passed into night once more, and as the small, well-protected group made their journey from Stormwind to the remains of Stromgarde, Llyrae found herself surrounded by the ghosts of her past. It was by no means an easy journey, and while most of it occurred atop the backs of gryphons, the last leg was on foot--down the old road that wound through the hills and valleys of the Arathi Highlands.

Memories of days and times past walked with her--the last vestiges of her family falling away to the cobblestones and gravel at her feet. And like the path, her heart felt empty--bereft of the past, the future stretching away into shadows.

Even as they entered Stromgarde and made their way to the graveyard, one of the few places still untouched by the ravages of time, Llyrae saw her life as a reflection of it--a place surrounded by all that had once been a lasting monument to the first great kingdom of humans.

She stood by as some of the men that had traveled with them dug out her mother's grave, and as she watched them place the urn with her mother's ashes in it into the ground, her heart felt a familiar ache.

"What happened, mommy? Where's daddy?"

The woman just looked at her, a sadness in her eyes that the child before her couldn't understand. Tears came to the woman's eyes, and she moved forward to take Llyrae in her arms, hugging the girl to her.

"He's gone," Amaris said softly, a hand brushing down over the child's golden hair.


And now that last comfort was gone, as well--not that it had been present for a long, long time, but the remembrances brought tears to her eyes.

She walked forward then, as the paladin with them spoke the final blessing over her mother's resting place, tears rolling down her cheeks; the book her father had given to her so long ago was in her hand, and as she knelt beside the grave, she let it go. It fell for what seemed like a long time but was really only a moment, coming to rest on the ground beside her mother's ashes. And then she took up a bit of earth and scattered it over the top of them both. As she moved back to watch, the hole they'd dug was filled once more.

"Do you want some time alone with them?" the paladin asked her when they were done, and Llyrae looked up at him, nodding--wishing that it had been Alezander there with her instead as she lowered her gaze once more.

The rest of the party then moved away heading toward the nearby chapel to complete their other tasks there, and Llyrae moved to sit on the ground between the graves of her mom and dad.

She had gathered wildflowers on the way there, and now she put a bunch atop both of the graves, resting them gently near the grave markers--looking at the names that were written there, the dates, and the motto of their house: Only in Death does our Service End. And then she moved to curl up against her dad's gravestone, leaning her head to it as she looked at her mother's grave--tears coming and going as they willed from eyes, to cheek, to chin.

She never got over your death.

The further away we got from home, the more distant she became; it was like she'd left herself here with your empty grave, Dad.

We lost -so- much....

And now I've lost both of you.


For a time, that last thought just played over and over through her thoughts, as though she'd been denying it and needed to tell herself again in order to make herself believe it--as though graves and ashes weren't enough to make that real.

What am I supposed to do now? Where am I supposed to go? Aunt Tzeva? You barely even spoke to one another....

She sniffed softly and pressed herself a little closer to her father's grave as the tears continued to fall.

Still, ..we are family, even if she never helped mom.....

Light. What am I supposed to do without you both?


The ache in her heart overwhelmed her for a moment, and all she could do was sit there and cry...and cry.

(cont.)
After some time, though, the tears were done, and Llyrae felt tired--as though she'd been lugging a heavy burden around with her for many days. With a soft sniff, she lifted herself away from her father's empty grave, patted the headstone reassuringly, and rose to her feet.

With a long sigh, she moved to stand before both of them, staring down at them for a long while. If they had anything to say to her, they did not say it; they were silent. Dead. At peace. She stared at the flowers, the earth, the gravestone, the words--as though she could memorize that moment forever, crystalize it in her mind for the days and years to come. And then, quietly, she stepped forward, moving to kiss first the top of her father's headstone and then her mother's, fingertips lingering for a moment at the last.

I'll be all right; so, don't you worry.

A faint, sad smile caught at her lips and eyes for a moment before she then turned, a long, pained sigh leaving her lips as she headed back for the chapel.

==========
An emissary from the Kirin Tor was waiting for her when she arrived; her aunt had sent him there in order to facilitate her journey to Nethergarde Keep. But Llyrae asked if he might wait a day more; she wanted to stay one night there in Stromgarde before she headed off to the keep to see her aunt.

She wanted to be with them--just one last night--the ghosts of her past.

((written while listening and being inspired by "Into the Dark" by Sebastian Larsson.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LbkxP_UCBQ ))
A Matter of Family

They arrived mid-morning in the mage's tower of Nethergarde, the mage that had worked the magics for them exhausted--as creating the portal had cost him a great deal of energy. Llyrae didn't quite understand everything that had gone into the portal's creation, but she understood enough to know that it had not been as simple as the portal he'd made for the rest of their contingent that they might return easily to Stormwind.

She was greeted by her Aunt and another woman who was introduced to her as Priestess Syrenity, Lady Tzeva's advisor and confessor from the Church. The two women looked a contrast to one another--one silver haired, one golden haired; one dressed in priestly robes, and the other in pants and a fine shirt, as well as riding boots. Her aunt's eyes were a bright blue--much like Llyrae's own, and the silver-white hair that marked her years was held up in a bun at the back of the woman's head. She looked, Llyrae reflected, surprisingly young for her age, and Llyrae wondered if that had something to do with her aunt's own affinity with the Light. She was the one wearing pants and riding boots, and Llyrae considered on reflection that her Aunt was more like a Lord than a Lady--her manner akin to that of men she'd observed rather than that of noblewomen.

Her priestess and confessor was nearly her aunt's opposite; where her aunt was tall and self-assured, the blonde woman at her side was short and carried herself with a quiet shyness. Where her aunt was well-muscled, Priestess Syrenity was slight of frame. Where her aunt was athletic in build, the other woman had soft curves and large breasts. Syrenity's eyes were green, and they held a calm understanding in them that her aunt's eyes lacked.

"Welcome to Nethergarde," her aunt greeted her, then made introductions between herself and the other priestess.

Unlike other homecomings--though Llyr hardly considered this such--there were no fond embraces or warm condolences. At least not there in public. Once they'd arrived at Tzeva's own small keep within the keep, Syrenity parted from the two of them, heading to tend to a few matters in the small chapel which her aunt kept for the Light. Llyrae and her aunt continued up to the third floor where her aunt had a room that served as both office and bed chamber. There was a window that looked out onto the red-rock mountains behind Nethergarde, and Llyrae found the view comforting--even if the mountains were the wrong color and nothing like those of the highlands.

"Not a bad view, is it?" Tzeva asked as she moved toward one of the two chairs that was situated before the unlit fireplace.

"No. Still not as pretty as the mountains of home, though," Llyrae replied as she moved to follow her aunt toward the chairs, her eyes studying the room in which her aunt lived.

(cont.)
The room was simple in decoration--a desk that sat before the window, a high-backed, crimson, velvet-covered chair settled behind it, back to the window. The wood of it seemed to be ebony, and the desk appeared to be made of the same--as though they were a set. Both of them rested upon a carpet that bore the same colors--crimson, black, and white--in odd patterns much like flowers. The curtains to either side of the large, diamond-paned window were crimson brocade with a see-through, white linen under-curtain that could be pulled across the window while still letting in the light. The brocade had been tied back, while the sheer linen hung freely at the edges of the window.

The bed in which her aunt slept was large and canopied--with brocade drapes that seemed to match the curtains of the room; they, too, however, were tied back to reveal a more feminine touch of silk and lace covered pillows and silken sheets beneath a brocade, quilted comforter--all in shades of crimson. It, too, rested upon a carpet that looked to be a matching set with the one beneath the desk.

Hanging over the fireplace was the fabled shield of her family, Sable Guard. It was a large shield, but not a greatshield, and the finish upon it seemed more magical in nature than lacquer and paint. The mantle featured two golden candlesticks in which rested two white candles, and at its center was a black vase that currently held several white orchids.

The fireplace itself was a dark, gray stone affair, two guardian lions flanking it. It looked clean, as though someone probably swept it out every day. The floor beneath their feet was also stone, though of a reddish color--the two stones seeming to match the themes of the rest of the room--crimson, black, and white.

The only real oddity were those two chairs set before the fireplace and the rug on which they rested. The rug was a shade of green that came alive with scenes of little red and white birds on branches that seemed to sprout from its edges from unseen trees beyond. The center of the rug was bare, forest green--where the chairs and a small, round pedestal reading table stood. The table was a whole piece carved from cherry wood and stained in a reddish-brown varnish. And the two chairs that completed the whole affair were plush, high-backed chairs in the same style as the one behind the desk--only their cushioning was velvet of the same forest green color as the rug--accented by round, satin-covered buttons of the same color that set a diagonal pattern on back and seat.

Along the other walls were bookshelves and an armoire, and a small door that led into what looked like a private stone bath and privy. All the wood in the room seemed to be either of ebony, like the desk, or varnished in that same reddish-brown stain as the pedestal table.

There was one painting in the room--a picture of a woman that looked very similar to her aunt, though the clothes and the surroundings, as well as the pigments used, indicated it was far older in origin than her aunt.

All of this she took in before she settled into the chair beside Tzeva who had poured out two glasses of water from a crystal decanter that was set on the reading table.

"True," her aunt replied, agreeing with Llyrae's last statement. "It is not the same as home." She paused then before meeting Llyr's gaze with her own. "I am truly sorry for your mother's passing. In spite of our differences, she made your father very happy, and ...she gave him you."

The sadness that shown in Tzeva's eyes was genuine--or so Llyrae thought before she lowered her gaze from her aunt's, the woman's words bringing back the ache of both her parents' deaths.

(cont.)
"Why didn't you help her?"

It had been a question she'd often asked silently, and only once openly to Berryn, but it reflected her frustration and resentment; here was someone who could have helped her family--could have made their lives easier (if her aunt's possessions in this room were any indication), and she had done...nothing.

Tzeva's gaze lowered then, and the woman took a sip from her glass of water before replying. "I tried to after word reached us about what happened with Adamyr." There was a hint of a regret in her tone as she continued. "Your mother refused anything I tried to give to her, though." There was another pause, and Llyrae turned to look at the woman as she concluded, "She blamed me for your father's death--said I drove him to honor our family's heritage." Tzeva then turned her gaze toward Llyrae, catching her eyes with her own. "She also said I should have been the one to die there at the wall that day, and that our family would have been better for it."

Llyrae blinked in disbelief. That didn't sound like her mother at all, but then, they had been estranged from her aunt for a long time. It was possible her parents had kept a lot of things from her.

Tzeva's head bowed then, her gaze lowering once more as she lost herself in memories. "Adamyr never forgave our mother and father for sending me away to be raised by the Church. The first time we met as siblings, he was all ready twenty--courting your mother. Our father hadn't approved of their courtship, and when I sided with him against the marriage, things only got worse."

Tzeva sighed, looking back up at Llyrae and offering her a sad half-smile that didn't remain upon her lips for long. "Suffice to say, we were never close, and I have regretted that more than I can tell you, Llyrae."

Llyrae's resentment began to cool, but her curiosity was now kindled--her aunt finally telling her things that her parents had kept from her all these years. "Why didn't my grandfather want mom and dad to marry?" she asked. And while it hurt to hear these things now--now when they were all gone, there was a certain comfort in the knowledge, comfort in the understanding that it brought her.

Tzeva gave a faint, sad sniff of a laugh, her gaze turning to regard the shield hanging over the mantle with a wry half-smile. "Your mother's family was a half-elven line--derived from the Lightblades of Quel'thalas who were a noble family in their own right, and their half-elven offspring who were, essentially, nothing more than merchants and traders. She was low-born, and my father thought she was seeking to raise her station at the expense of our family heritage." Her aunt took in a deep breath, looking back to Llyrae before she continued. "As you know, your father was a stubborn man; he married her anyway, and our father cast him out."

Tzeva's gaze lowered, then. "Father died shortly thereafter, asking Aden to make sure that his brother was given a place in Stromgarde. It was your uncle," and here Tzeva smiled a little, glancing back up at Llyrae, "...who secured him his knightly commission in the Stromgarde army, allowing you to grow up the daughter of a knight instead of ...." Tzeva looked away, the smile gone from her features, "...something else."

The woman beside her took in a long, slow breath, letting it go in a sigh as her eyes wandered the shadows of the unlit fireplace. "Your Uncle Aden never married, and I imagine your father blamed me in part for that, too. So, when he died, it only widened the divide that had grown between us. He was angry that I didn't come to the funeral, but your father had made it clear he didn't want anything to do with me, or the House."

Tzeva seemed about to say more, her brows lowered in a frown, though her features showed only a pained hardness to them. Eventually she finished softly, "So I stayed away."

There was a deep sadness in her words--one that Llyrae could almost feel. But it lifted a moment later when the woman looked back at her, having taken in a deep breath and let it go. That one small act seemed to clear the air, and there was a softness and a warmth to the woman that Llyrae hadn't seen in their initial meeting in the mage's tower. "But I can't stay away any more, Llyrae. You're a part of my family, and I will not let the past keep me from being here for you now."

(cont.)

Join the Conversation

Return to Forum