Gardens of Thought [my IC Stories]

Wyrmrest Accord
(( You know, such things are neither nice nor mature. Some people put a lot of work into their writing, and criticism like this is rather disheartening, especially when there's no explanation to it. I kindly request that you refrain from posting such in this thread in the future. ))
In the Land of Sun and Flame

Lena watched as the sun rose, Aderyn having left two nights past with her letters. By now, he'd hopefully left them in the care of Cayd and Fenham, but it broke her heart not to be able to write to Hadrian.

With each passing day, she found she missed him more, and in spite of Annabele's company, she couldn't be free of him. She wondered how he was doing: was the Vanguard all right? Had there been new people to join them? What about the upcoming campaign in Duskwood? Did he have some idea what they'd be facing?

Like so many other mornings, she found herself on her feet, restless to return home--knowing that she couldn't.

It was different than having it all taken away--easier to wonder if she were doing the right thing--worrying that without her, Hadrian would be lost. It was the last that worried her more than anything.

Some days she wondered, too, if anyone really missed her at all. Of course they'd go on without her; they had to. No one person was so great that the Vanguard was somehow less with the loss of them. But what was Hadrian thinking? What had he been doing since her departure? And did he miss her as much as she missed him?

She could distract herself with sunrises and sunsets, moonrises, and evening talks with Annabelle, but the thoughts remained with her whenever she woke.

Some nights she dreamt of being in his arms again, only to wake with nightmares of being in someone else's arms--the dark side of Adrian, or Cayd, or Xandyr. But she always woke up alone. And the dreams frayed at her nerves.

Cayd had been intent on destroying Destrian the last time they'd spoken, but Lena wondered if he truly knew how to do that. Would he, like Adrian, end up dead as well? Was all of this just some cruel joke the universe was playing on them?

Sighing, she glanced around at the beautifully ornamented buildings of the high elves, now most of them blood elves, of Quel'danas. It made her miss Adrian for a moment. No matter what was going on between them, she knew he'd always be there for her if she'd wanted him to be. But that easy assurance was gone now--just as he was.

She'd spent months following after Hadrian Locke in the wake of his death, just holding all the pieces together. Duty had come easily to her, but the desire for death was never far. It had never been far from Hadrian, either, and Lena wondered not for the first time if he would seek it out in Duskwood without her--now that she was gone.

Did he understand why she'd left? Did he hate her for it?

Sometimes, at night, she cried herself to sleep. Even though she wasn't alone, she felt it. She'd done her best to isolate herself from everyone by coming here, but that had done exactly what she'd wanted--isolate her. And as each day passed, she wondered if that were truly what she'd wanted.

She missed the way he'd come up behind her; she missed his voice. She missed the familiar ache that seeing Cayd always brought. She missed being angry at Xandyr; and she missed his anger at her. She missed the easy way she could always speak with Darrick--as if he were somehow part of her family, like an uncle. She wondered if they'd found Sindorel, and if Fenham was all right. She wondered about Retalina and Nixxine--if they'd managed to overcome what had been done to 'lina while she was away. She wondered, too, about the daughter of Deanisiia; those people were nothing but trouble. She'd known that from the first, and she'd tried her best to steer clear of it all. But Sindorel had brought back those feelings of guilt--that perhaps if she'd helped, things might have gone differently.

But she'd had her duty to the Vanguard and to its Commander; that was her place. Or at least it had been.

Sighing once more, she brushed a hand through her hair and headed toward the docks. Some days the elves would let her join them on their ships to patrol the bay. There weren't so many threats these days as once there had been, but the feel of the ocean breeze on her face and playing through her hair helped her to forget for a little while that she, herself, was adrift.

Annabelle was waiting for her, as usual. She'd secured them breakfast along with their ride for the day, and Lena couldn't help but smile a little. Annabelle had taken to the elves and draenei there better than Lena had; or maybe it was just that she'd been more used to making her own way in the world.

Not so much Lena.

"Another day out on the bay?" Annabelle asked her as she passed over food and drink.

Lena nodded. "Mmm."

Annabelle smiled at her. "The patrol ship does not mind taking us on again."

Lena smiled before drinking down the water. "Mmm...think they're getting fond of us, yet?" She laughed a little as Annabelle seriously considered that, finding a smile on her face before the woman replied.

"Fond of our coin more like."

"Which they will promptly lose while dicing or gaming later on this evening," Lena replied with a wry grimace, turning her gaze toward their waiting ship.

An easy way to live, she thought as she finished her breakfast and brushed off her hands.

"They're late getting out today," she commented absently, and Annabelle nodded.

"Well, let's not keep them waiting then. Shall we 'bella?" The nickname she'd adopted for her erstwhile companion made her smile. It suited the self-proclaimed knight, or at least the soul that lurked beneath all that armor and seriousness.

And with that they were headed down to their ship where Lena would learn a smattering of Thalassian and end up napping to the sound of the waves and the feel of the sun against her face and hands.
A New Thread in the Weave

Seede watched the sea gulls as they drifted down to the ground and then back into the air once more. The harbor was just as busy today as it had been the day before. But something had changed.

The conversation she'd had the night before with the strange mage left a faint smile on her lips beneath her hood as she turned and headed down along the canal walk. It had been so long since she'd simply had someone to talk to--someone who was willing to share more of themselves with her--someone who wasn't beholden to the Order or part of the Vanguard who simply had to tolerate her presence.

No. Her conversation last night had reminded her of simpler times--when she'd believed in fairy tales and enjoyed the easy comfort of knowing that her foster father was always there for her if she needed to talk to someone about the trials of life. It had been free of complications--free of the past--and she relished every moment of it as she walked, replaying snippets of the conversation in her mind.

He had two older brothers and two sisters. Youngest of the brothers, he had chosen a life of study in the arcane rather than adhering to the family tradition of service to the Light. But it also seemed to have made him something of an outcast among them--even if his sister had hugged him last night. But then, he and his youngest sister were closer than the others.

She hadn't really cared for his company at first, but as the night wore on and the sounds of the Recluse waxed and waned around them, she found herself charmed by his self-effacing manner and his desire to make her smile.

And she had smiled. And not just as memories, either.

Her previous encounter up in the mountains with the stranger had never amounted to anything more, of course. The stranger had never sought her out again, and she'd had no way of finding him. And as she wended her way through the various streets of Stormwind, she wondered if this would be the same.

Would she ever see him or his sister again? Would his bout of shyness disappear, and would she find him charming some other woman as he had tried to charm her last night?

That last wouldn't be such a terrible thing, she reflected. She wasn't safe, and she never would be. Another year or two, perhaps, and she could remove the hood that hid her features from view. People would have forgotten by then. And if anyone remarked upon it, it would just be in passing. The name of Seede would have its own deeds recorded within the scrolls of the Cathedral, and Syrenity Myleah Beshere would be well and truly dead.

And last night, ...for the first time since she'd returned, she'd felt like that was possible--that there was a reason to live again--that her life wouldn't simply be a tragedy of memories, but that it could have a new meaning and a new purpose.

And Dante Kinkaide had given that to her.

Sighing, she looked about her as she walked, noticing things instead of burying herself in her thoughts. In the back of her mind, she still wondered if they lived; she wondered if they'd been in the Park District that fateful day or if Rhymenhild had coaxed him from Stormwind and out into the world.

She missed the cats.

But she was also wondering what she could do to repay the stranger who had joined her last night.

As usual, her thoughts drifted to needle and thread. It had been a long time since she'd thought of that, though, and she wondered if she were still any good with them. It had been a way for her to tell her stories--just as the book of poetry had been.

Talking with him last night had rekindled that desire to write--to become a part of this new world into which she'd crept from sleep.

She wondered briefly as she turned her steps toward the Mage District what had become of Dora and Avery. The shop had been gone for some time, and last she remembered, they'd gone to help reclaim Gnomeregan with the rest of their people.

She recalled Belzac and Tamrissa--the clinic in the park and the sure and easy way with which Tam had always welcomed her and listened to her. She'd missed Belzac before he'd departed--out in the Steppes when his letter had arrived for her. So he was gone again. But that was nothing new. She and Belzac had been playing that game since they'd first met--the ritual of arriving and parting, and she knew she'd see him again.

Not so Tamrissa, of course.

Sighing once more, she shook her head and looked around at all the new shops that had flourished since she'd been here last. It took her a moment to get her bearings, but her steps soon turned toward the old, familiar tailoring shop. She'd head out and find a new book once she'd gotten everything she needed to make something for Dante.

And then, ...maybe... she'd find a song again.

Thank you, Dante Kinkaide.
For Great Justice

The vigil that night had been long, though Seede had slept through most if it. She had watched the Commander of the Vanguard, however; she had seen his troubled features--the memories that eluded him. The knowledge that she could have helped him to remember--that she could have found what he'd lost--left her uneasy. And she'd backed away from asking him for his consent to enter his mind.

Nothing good ever comes of knowing the real truth of a person, she thought to herself silently, shut away in her room.

The past day and a half, she'd done little besides eat, help clean a little, and sleep. The events that night at the well had left her unnerved.

Calling to spirits was an old trade--that of priests, necromancers, and sometimes...warlocks. The death knights, if they were exceptionally skilled could raise the dead and speak with them. There were Tauren who believed that their ancestors watched over them. And there were orcs who had brought that idea back from the ashes of Draenor. The Draenei believed that the world held a balance--as one life was created, another life was lost; it was the Naaru's idea of the Light and tied in with druidism in the night elven and Gilnean cultures.

But sometimes, like that night at the well, the balance was broken.

Spirits of the dead who did not have a guardian spirit to guide them often lingered in the shadows of the real world. They called it the spirit world, but in truth, it was more the land of the dead. And although Ren couldn't remember it, she knew she had been there once--waiting for him to call her back.

Hauntings were not uncommon in Duskwood, but the violence and the pain of this one had troubled her. Whatever magic had been used to call forth the spirits had been burned away by Girdan's own magics, and she had nothing left to go on.

Still, the way things had gone--Seede might have died again that night--fallen into the well and forever drowned.

What would Arlen Locke have thought, then?

She had a feeling that it had been targeted at them--their party--their arrival. Something that was keeping the peace in Duskwood didn't want them meddling.

The death had been meant to scare them off--to make them regret their presence, and Seede knew that if they didn't leave, there were going to be more deaths.

It will be on our hands, she thought with a faint bit of amusement; for, that had been where the warning had again been left.

"Be gone before dawn."

Burned and buried, they'd not thought to ask if the drowned man had family, but inquiries had come soon enough. The man had been a spokesman of sorts; he had spoken out to the mayor about the the Watch and the strangers they invited into their town. He'd spoken out about the Lords and various organizations who had come to their home claiming dominion over it.

But to the people, Duskwood was their home. Their people. And inviting in outsiders was nothing but trouble.

Of course, there was the other side--those who felt they needed help, or believed that Stormwind owed them something in return for their taxes. They felt that nothing was getting better on its own, and they didn't have the strength to stand up to the darkness.

If anything were going to make the first camp more upset, it was this death--and their lack of courtesy in how they'd handled the situation. The Commander had tried reasoning with them. And when he'd failed, Ren had gone to them, as well. In the end, they'd refused to speak with her save to ask where he'd been buried.

So she'd taken them to the man's grave with an escort from the Vanguard before leaving them to their grief.

That had been the only time she'd ventured out.

This game, though--it had a purpose. To seclude Duskwood from prying eyes. But to what end? Necromancy? Old god worship? The latter the Commander had discounted, but Seede wasn't so certain now. And she couldn't leave Raven Hill to return to the town to talk with people; besides, from what she'd gathered, there had been little to learn.

Suspicious and tight-lipped--the people of Duskwood had learned how to live in the shadows of darkness. They kept their secrets for fear that they'd end up like the man who'd given the Vanguard warning.

And perhaps this was nothing more than the usual fare for those who sought to help drive the darkness away. But Seede had seen Arlen's face that night; she'd seen the uncertainty in his eyes.


This was a game being played for his benefit. Whoever was behind this wanted to do more than secure their desparture.

They wanted to break him.

And Seede knew if that happened, they might never get him back.

That was why, in spite of the danger they were in--Seede couldn't tell Carad and the Order to leave.

Though if she were being honest, it wasn't because she wanted to keep Arlen Locke safe. It was to play the game out to its conclussion and win.

For, whatever was behind this, the dead deserved to have a just end.
The Fading Hours

Time passed as time was wont to do, and so, it came to pass that Lena found herself headed toward the Arathi Highlands and Strom. The trip had not been an easy one, but she had some comfort in the company she kept.

Aderyn had come to her once more at Quel'danas. The Commander had asked for her to join him, he told her. They were headed to Theramore, and from there, they would be headed to Menethil, up through the Thandol Span, and then down the treacherous roads of Arathor.

Getting a boat from Theramore, however, had proven more difficult than they'd anticipated. Something was stirring in the air, and more than once Commander Samaul had come to visit her before they finally managed to find a ship that would carry them across the sea.

He had asked after the Vanguard, about Commander Locke, and wondered if they might be returning to Theramore in time--to all of which she merely answered that she didn't know. She lied, telling him that she'd been on a mission for the Commander, the matter of which she was unable to disclose.

But as she and Aderyn traveled across the sea, she thought back to her time in Quel'danas. There had been a growing tension there--something she hadn't been able to really notice until she had time to really think about it.

The Shattered Sun Offensive had held to its task of protecting the Sunwell, and while that task remained, the common enemies that had allied them were no longer a threat. The threads of peace, even there, were fraying little by little--though Lena had seen only the hint of it.

There was a storm building--a spring that had been coiled tightly for far too long, and it was going to release.

War was in the air, and with Arlen's choice to move to Arathor now, Lena wondered what he knew that she and Aderyn did not.

A week later they had landed in Menethil and began their journey north--to Arathor. Lena hoped they would make good time, but with the rain, and the mire, and the little-traveled roads, she was uncertain they'd be at Strom any time soon.

There had been no one to meet them at the slowly rebuilding harbor, and that left Lena even more troubled. Worse was the lack of any letters or missives waiting.

Whatever was happening, she would have to wait to find out what it was until she saw him. And the ache in her heart at missing him remained.

She was worried, too, for Annabelle. She'd heard nothing from the woman since she'd left after getting word from someone Lena suspected was one of Arlen's spies. But it could just as easily have been from Destrian Molanthis.

And with only Aderyn as her company, there was little more she could learn that he hadn't all ready told her.

The Vanguard was being marshalled to Arathor. Their trip into Duskwood had been shortened, and Arlen seemed withdrawn but still mostly himself. That was all he could tell her. That and that Arlen had made him promise to ensure Lena arrived in Strom safely.

There had been nothing else. No message for her. No words to comfort her fears and worries. No sign that he still loved her.

And it was that last that made her insides knot and her eyes water someties when it rained--when Aderyn wouldn't notice she'd been crying.

An errant knight bereft of her position and cut off from the people she loved--Lena held on to the hope that she was headed back to them now. But the worry in her heart was that she no longer belonged with them. And if that were true, then where did she belong?

And in those worried and anxious thoughts her days and nights to Arathor passed.
They came by the light of the dawn into the confines of Hearthglen--a man and a woman--blood elves. With them were two baskets made of reeds. They looked tired and haggard--as if they'd barely stopped to rest during their journey.

The two were led straight to the citadel where they were given food and drink while they waited for the head of the Order to receive them.

Rumors spread that they came from the north bearing grave news for the Crusade. Other rumors spoke of a new plague. And there were others that spoke of something darker and more sinister than either of those. But they were wrong. They were all wrong.

Lord Fordring met the two blood elven emmissaries in private; the two of them left shortly afterward. They would later be discovered in the woods wearing the sigil of the Crusade, their bodies hanging from a noose in the trees. Their bodies bore a strange marking--two dragons in a circle within which were carved strange arcane symbols. The dragons were blue.

The baskets they brought with them were given over to a woman within the Crusade named Yvere Sheldon. She and her husband Darrick had joined the Crusade a few years before to fight against the Lich King. They kept a small estate at Hearthglen, and a few days later, they took in a young woman who had just had twins--a boy and a girl. Their farm had been attacked by the Forsaken, and she'd barely made it to Hearthglen alive.

The boy's name was Darion. And the girl's name was Vera. They both had lovely blonde hair. The boy's eyes were a startling blue, and the girl's were a forested green.
The following was delivered into the hands of Tirion Fordring at Hearthglen by the blood elven emmissaries. Its contents have been made known to no one. Included with the letter were two rings--one a wedding band given to Lyra Thorne on her wedding day by Darion Madoran, and the other the signet ring of House Madoran.

My Lord,

It is with heart-felt regret that I must write to you in place of myself, but by the time you read this, I shall be dead. Those who bring this letter to you shall see to it. The man who has held me prisoner for all this time shall not have my children; for, they are not his to have. These children belong to Lordaeron, and it is my hope that one day, they shall be able to reclaim their noble heritage once more.

I pray that until that time, though, you will do me the kindness of ensuring that they live to see that day. These are Darion Madorna's last true heirs, and though it breaks my heart to send them away from me, I must--for their own protection.

Please don't try to find me; the two that bear this letter to you shall be able to explain the matter that keeps me here far better than any words I could write. My true solace is in knowing that our children shall live. And perhaps, one day, they might be able to reclaim their birthright.

Until then, though--I beg of you--keep them safe. Give them a place to grow up, a family who will love them and keep their secret safe. Teach them what it means to be a noble of Lordaeron, and when they are ready, teach them of their people--their mother and their father--and help them to understand how very much we love them, and why these sacrifices were made for them.

I will pray that this reaches you as I hope you shall pray for all of our souls. May the Light bring comfort and solace to my children when I cannot, and may it guide and protect them that they might one day be as bright and as beautiful as the man whom I know would have loved them with all his heart.

May the Light be with you always, my Lord.

Lady Lyra Madoran
the last heir of House Thorne
wife to Darion Madoran of House Madoran
mother to Darion and Vera Madoran
(I love you, ....)
((Poor Lyra. We can be so mean to our characters at times... I've been looking forward to reading this for a while now and the RP that will come from it.))
Momentary Bliss

Returning to the Vanguard and to Hadrian had changed everything. Her heart felt lighter. She found it easier to smile, and 'rian and his brother had talked. Hadrian wasn't willing to give her up. He'd said some hard things to his brother for her sake, and for that, she loved him all the more.

He had believed she'd left because of Destrian and the difficult position it might have placed them all in. But the truth was that she'd left in order to preserve the last living family he had remaining to him. That he understood, at least in part--enough to have words with Xandyr--meant that she wouldn't have to be away from him ever again.

And when they returned from Theramore, ...they would be married.

He had wanted her to have the wedding she deserved, but she didn't care if there were a million people or only her and Hadrian. What mattered is that they'd be together.

Going to sleep in his arms each night and waking up in his embrace felt like the reappearance of the sun after a long and dreary night. And although she knew they were headed toward certain danger, she believed--truly believed, with all her heart--that they would make it through to the other side.

After everything they'd been through--after everything they'd endured, and suffered, and shared together--they could finally proclaim their love for one another to the world.

And for those few short days before they headed off to war, Lena was filled with contentment.

Granted, there was still no word from Annabelle, and Aderyn's strange and hurried departure left her worried. But as long as she had Hadrian at her side, they'd figure it out together. Even if Retalina and most of the other Vanguard stayed behind at Ridgepoint, she knew they'd make a difference. And there was no where else she'd have rather been than right there at his side--always.
A New Direction

Seede stared down at the Cathedral flagstones she'd been cleaning for the past hour. Her back hurt. Her hands hurt, and more than anything, she was regretting her decision to leave the Order of the Penitent Blade's service. Still, ...she realized that staying with Carad was no longer what she wanted to do. The Order had its purpose. But what was hers?

Ever since the Society dissolved, she had felt out of place. Nowhere felt like home, and with Ken and Dora and Avery all finding a new purpose and direction for their lives, she had fallen deeper and deeper into a hole. And that had led to her imprisonment.

All during the time she was away from the world, she'd continued to push herself both mentally and physically. She knew that she'd secretly hoped that she'd make it out of that place one day--even if she could never quite believe it. And yet, she was--scrubbing floors.

No one could recall who it was that brought her to Aerie Peak; so, she had no one to thank for saving her life. But with her own reappearance in the world, her other self had broken free, as well--that strange silver-haired woman who clung to passions rather than reason.

She wondered as she continued in her task if that was why she felt so out of place. Was Rose the part of herself that was missing? Or was she the part of herself that she no longer wanted to be? Were they even still a part of one another?

But with everyone else gone or dead, it didn't seem to matter any longer. All that mattered was trying to find a way once more into the Cathedral records so that she could find out what had happened to her--find the others that had been changed as she had, and put an end to it all forever.

And yet, that day seemed ellusively far off.
With a tired sigh, she continued to clean the flagstones until a shadow appeared over her. She glanced up to find one of the training acolytes holding out a letter for her. He was young, probably little more than sixteen, but he carried himself with an aire of self-importance that Seede found unbecoming in a soon-to-be priest.

"Priestess Seede, Father Craye asked that I bring this to you."

The way he was looking at her more than said that he thought very little of her. Definitely unbecoming in someone who was going to one day be a priest.

Drying her hands on her apron, she rose to her feet, careful to avoid the area she'd just washed as she moved toward him to take the sealed parchment. "Thank you, Brother," she said softly, before lowering her gaze to the seal of the Cathedral on the parchment itself.

The boy grimaced and turned, heading off. Some of the younger members of the Church disliked the old addages of brother and sister and were hoping to change the custom. Their argument was that although they were all connected in their faith, the levels of one's devotion should be noted by one's designated rank. The whole idea didn't matter much to Seede, though. Brother or acolyte, what mattered was that you believed and had faith. So, let them argue over semantics for the next ten years; it wouldn't make any difference to the faithful.

She didn't notice the soft sigh that left her lips as she pried open the seal and read the words within. She was being given a new assignment.

Some noble sea captain...Booty Bay...poisoned by orcs, or so it was believed.

Seede grimaced. This would have been better handled by a paladin, but she couldn't very well argue the point with the letter. Another huff of a sigh passed her lips before she glanced up and looked around her at the majesty of the Cathedral while her mind deliberated on what she'd need to do before she departed for the Southern coast of Azeroth.

She would make her way to one of the noted poison dealers in Old Town. He'd know the kinds of poisons that orcs were likely to use, and if not, she could always call in a favor from Stormwind Intelligence for the antidote. She misliked the second choice, knowing as she did that there were always strings attatched, but if the Alliance and the Church thought this man was worth its time and trouble, she was willing to see it through.

Besides, ...anything was better than scrubbing flagstones all day, left alone with one's own thoughts and frustrations.

Gathering up her cleaning supplies, she headed off to make herself ready for the journey. If they would not send a paladin, Seede would ensure that he had the next best thing to it.

An antidote.
A Long Way to Go

She'd decided to spend some time speaking with both the poison seller and Stormwind Intelligence; and therefore, she had a few antidotes with her. But waiting that long had cost her precious time, and she'd ended up staying in Darkshire that first night before she could continue on to Booty Bay. That she had made it there come nightfall was a blessing.

The flight had been long, and more than once Seede had nearly fallen asleep in the sky. But she was here now, and the man who had been tending to her patient was speaking to her about everything he knew so far.

And now that she was here, that her fellow priest was telling her about the symptoms of the poisoning, all she could do was stare at the sallow features of a man she never thought she'd see again.

Silas Black.

Or as the priest kept saying, Sir Blackmorn.

A noble.

Inwardly, Seede could hear her own bitter laughter.

He'd have hated this. He'd have hated all of it.

She wondered how he'd feel if he knew she was the one they'd sent to look after him. Would he even recognize her? Would he be angry at her for being alive, and him not knowing about it?

A sigh slipped past her guard, and the other priest paused in what he was saying.

"I'm sorry. It must have been a long trip. If you'd prefer, I can stay with him tonight, and you can tend to him in the morning. I can at least keep him stable until then."

Seede glanced up from the seemingly-sleeping form of someone who had once been a dear friend.

"No. It's fine. You were saying that no matter what you tried, he didn't seem to be responding to normal healing?"

Her fellow priest eyed her for a moment, then nodded. "Right. The healing occurs, but ..." He shook his head. "The coma remains. All I seem to be doing is keeping him alive for the time being."

Seede nodded, returning her gaze to Silas' form.

They should have sent for a paladin, she thought. Or a druid.

Instead, they'd sent for her.

"I think I have the antidote he needs," she concluded, moving back toward the few bags she'd brought with her on the journey.

"A blessing, then," the priest replied. "I'm not sure how much longer the healing would have helped him. As it stands, his strength has nearly faded."

Seede just nodded as she pulled open the small pouch she'd received from Shaw's operative. Within it was a vial and another pouch, both components of the cure that Seede believed would aid him.

"It's a neuro-toxin," the woman had told her when she'd given her the pouch. "Something new the goblins introduced when they joined the Horde. They call it 'The Constrictor'--derived from the poison of one of the jungle snakes native to the Isle of Kezan. They must have managed to bring a few with them."

Seede had nodded as she'd looked inside the pouch before returning her attention to the hooded operative.

"You're lucky we happened to get a sample of it, and luckier we found an antidote. If this is what they poisoned him with, they definitely wanted him to suffer. You see, it goes to work on the brain--stopping it from sending signals to the body. But it takes a while for the full effects to settle in. Once the victim is paralyzed, they slowly slip into a coma. It affects the arms and legs first, leaving breathing and the heart for last." She paused before continuing, her eyes showing a hint of a feral grin. "Apparently the snake digests their prey slowly--from the feet to the head--ingesting it while it's still living. It actually dies while it's being digested."

Seede grimaced, lowering her gaze. The woman continued.

"The small pouch contains a powder that you'll need to add to steaming water. He'll need to breathe it in for three hours. It should act as a counter to the poison's effects on the mind. Once that happens, you'll need to get him to swallow a small bit of what's in that vial for the next three days. Just a third, once per day. If he hasn't awakened by the third day,'s too late. So if that's the stuff, you'd best hope you get to him in time."

Seede grimaced as she pulled out the small pouch of powder. "I'll need a fire in the room, and I'll need a pot full of water to boil."

As she turned to glance at the priest, she could tell he thought she was crazy. It was all ready too damned hot in the room, and a sheen of sweat glistened on his bald pate.

"A fire? Are you...certain?"

Seede nodded and sighed. "Yes. And best hurry. If this is what I think it is, we don't have much time."

As the priest headed off to get what she needed, Ren allowed herself to relax. That she was forced to be Seede around others was, at times, taxing. Alone, she could let down her guard; she could be herself.

She headed over to the bedside to check on him. Breathing. Heartbeat. But his good eye didn't even react when she lifted the eyelid. Could he even still hear her?

Leaning down, she smoothed away the grey hair from his brow, speaking softly into his ear. "Why is it I'm always having to save you from trouble, old man?"

A faint smile caught at her lips as she drew away, the bald priest returning with everything she had asked for.

Soon the room was a blazing inferno, and there was a foul stench in the air as steam from the pot of boiling water drifted through it. Ren sat by the bedside, sweat pouring down her now uncovered face. It dripped down her back, as well, settling into the nape of her neck where she'd tied back her hair.

Another two hours of this, and then she'd administer the liquid that would actually counter the poison in his body.

And then...she'd wait.

Time slipped passed. Minutes turned to hours turned to days.

Syrenity dozed every so often as she kept watch over the old man, but even though he'd shown signs of waking for a moment, she'd lost him again to dreams. It was a sign she kept to herself--afraid to tell anyone else what she thought she'd seen.

There were visitors the next day, and Ren became Seede once more for their visit. Questions were asked that she couldn't answer, but there were promising signs. He was breathing easier, and his eye seemed to follow her movements when she checked on them throughout the day. These things she shared, but she cautioned that they wouldn't know anything for certain until the next day.

She bristled at some of the condescending comments that were made when they thought she couldn't hear them, but she couldn't really blame them. After all, who was she? Some girl the Church had sent in lieu of a "real" healer. No doubt in their minds it was yet another sign that the Church was losing touch with the people.

Had they known who she really was--had they known the things she'd seen and done--perhaps they might have thought otherwise. But even Syrenity had to admit that they'd have been better served if the Church had sent someone else.

Late on the second night, she thought she heard him whisper something. But she had been half-asleep herself, and when she went to check on him, nothing had seemed to change. Even so, she moved her chair closer to his bedside and lay her hand to his--a soft golden glow arising to surround their two hands as she prayed for his body to heal itself and free itself from the bonds of the poison.

She gave him the second draught of the medicine in the vial once her prayers were complete, and then she waited--minutes that turned to hours--until once more she drifted off to sleep curled up in the chair beside his bed.

"G'night, old man," she murmured tiredly, her hand falling to his before her eyes closed and dreams took her.
Ren sighed softly as she stared down at the page before her. The link was broken.

Silas was dead.

The words in their own way had given her peace, and a part of her wanted to believe that he had found peace, as well.

If nothing else, at least one of them should have some.

A faint smile caught at her lips as she ran her fingers over the page fondly, eyes scanning over the words she'd once written.

For Love of the Sea
for Silas Black

Soft red light spreads from a dawning sun
Fanning across the tremulous water--
A blood rose blooming upon the sea;
A ship, forlorn and forgotten sails alone
Upon her darker waves, the dawn's light
Never reaching her in the morning mists.
Overhead the albatross cries, "Sorrow!
"Sorrow!" then caught by the breeze, she
Drifts away into the rising sun, burned away.
And as I watch, the ship passes from sight;
The rose withers and fades into harsh white,
And I sit, alone, having passed another night.

"Farewell, my friend," she murmured softly, then gently closed the book as her eyes drifted closed in sleep--the rising sun of a new day breaking over the waves of Stormwind Harbor.
Syrenity woke with a start, staring down at the slumbering form of Silas Black.

A wave of emotions washed over her.

It was a dream--just a dream.

Letting go of a tired sigh, she shifted and sat up a bit more in the chair.

The days following that memory had become empty for her. Kendrick and Rymenhild had grown closer to one another. Vileric had died in a motorcycle crash, and she and her alter ego had descended into a darkness so deep that she had given in to the fatal desires of her other half.

Death followed her, and though she later learned that Silas' own death had been faked, the damage was all ready done.

She'd hidden the truth from him; he'd been all too happy to believe in her lies--his own pain too fresh in his mind when they finally met again. Kerryn had been his solace in those days, and Ren had believed they could be happy together.

Or at least, ...that's what she'd wanted to believe.

But this man lying before her--this wasn't the Silas Black she'd always known. Was it?

A knight, and Kerryn Sullivan nowhere to be seen?

If he woke, perhaps it would be better if he didn't know it was her. Perhaps it would be better if he believed her happy somewhere.

Conflicted, she rose and paced about the room, but in the end, she returned to her vigil, a hand falling to rest once more atop his own.

"Some secrets must be kept," she thought, a weary smile playing sadly over her lips. "But if you leave me here alone for good, you'll never know. Will you?" she murmured, a faint, bitter half-laugh leaving her lips.

"Bastard," she muttered, then sighed and squeezed his hand, her head falling forward as her eyes closed once more.
The Dawn

There was a dim light as the sun began to rise, pooling in through the cracked ceilling overhead. He was still asleep, the sound of his calm breathing a soothing balm to her ears. His skin was warm--it was always warm--and as she shifted slightly against him, her fingers brushed over that warmth.

A faint smile caught at her lips.

She loved him.

She loved him more than anything she had ever loved.

And when she was with him, she knew she was safe.

If it was you, Nick, ...if this was your doing, then thank you, she thought.

Life without him would have been a darkness--an emptiness she would have filled with death and killing.

The Light would no longer come at her calling; for, he was her light, and her strength, and her hope. He was everything that inspired her to be the woman she had become.

A soft sigh left her lips as her eyes closed once more. She pressed a soft kiss to his shoulder. And then she lay there for a while, just listening as the rest of the world awoke.

He'd be awake soon enough, and she'd have to let him go. But not too far. And not for long.

"I love you," she mouthed softly, not wanting to think about the man who had buried his fiancee last night. She had almost been like him. She had almost lost her whole world.

A shiver took her as she pushed the thought aside of the countless many others for whom that would be a reality as the days and weeks passed.

As if to hide from it, she pushed her face into his shoulder, her nose pressing hard against his skin.

I'm not going to lose you, she thought, fear clutching at the edges of her thoughts. And then more fiercely, banishing that fear into the darkest corners of her mind, I'm never going to lose you, she closed her eyes, relaxed against him, and sighed softly.

There was no other moment than this one and the next. The future could wait. For now, she only wanted to be with him. And for now, that was all she needed.
A Silent Shadow

Ren spent her time caring for Silas--writing letters, getting food and drink, bringing him people he wished to speak with, and simply being there for him. But she had to wonder if the man ever stopped "doing" things for long enough to simply think about where he was. Not that she'd have blamed him if he didn't.

The sounds outside today, though, were nearly unbearable.

Pirate Day had become synonymous with drinking, carousing, and simply being obnoxious. And she could tell it was grating on Silas' last nerve. Moreso because he wasn't out there with them, drinking and carousing, as well.

For as much as she could tell that he was upset, she could also tell that he was frustrated.

So it was that she managed to get Silas into the upstairs common room, settle him into a chair, get him a bottle of bourbon, and let him at least feel like he was a part of the moment.

Though as she watched people celebrating so soon after Theramore's fall, it left a cold, empty place inside of her.

Some of the people here were trying to forget, as well. They were living in the moment, hoping that tomorrow it would somehow be better.

But she knew better.

There was only the moment.

And if you let it pass you by, there was no bringing it back.

As she watched and listened and spoke of idle things, her thoughts returned to Kendrick and Vileric. They were both gone--lost to her forever. And yet, somehow, she had found Silas again after all these years.

Just as she had found Carad, again.

But Carad had found his purpose in life. He had a place he belonged, and a reason to continue living.

Ren had no such ties. She had no real purpose.

She'd simply been living out each day of her life since she'd awoken in Aerie Peak moment to moment. But the memories were never far from her--who she'd been--what she'd done.

And she could tell Silas was getting tired of the evassive answers she'd been giving him.

Still, ...Pirate's Day was a reprieve, at least--a day where she could simply be a shadow among all the chaos.

And for a little while, she could pretend they were all still together. That Kendrick would come wandering into the tavern, and he and Silas would sit down together and laugh and have a drink. And Vileric would wander in, as well, watching over her from the shadows.

There would be others, too--ghosts from the past. And they'd wander in, and Ken or Silas would greet them. And they'd catch up on old times, and laugh at the silly little things that had driven them apart.

And for a moment, ...Ren could smile again--really smile.

But the moment was as fleeting as all the rest, and the smile that had found its way to her lips was lost once more.

She was lost, just like she'd always been.

And the only thing keeping her afloat was that Silas needed her.

And so she clung to that in the hope that eventually he'd drag her ashore.

And she'd have a purpose again.

She wouldn't be a silent shadow living inside the moments of her memories.

There were people to see Silas--friends, family--people that knew this new person that he'd become.

She and he hadn't exactly had a fight, but she also hadn't told him what he wanted to know. And as people came by to see and talk to him, he sought her company less and less often.

Then there had been the summons to return to the Cathedral.

She'd caught him late in the evening, showing him the missive.

"Well, you should go then," he said. "We've both got our places now. Don't we."

The last wasn't so much a question as an accusation. He didn't understand how she could return to the Church--why she was serving it still after everything that had happened.

And something snapped inside of her--some small shred of dignity or pride that had lain dormant the past several days.

"I guess that's that, then," she replied.

"I guess it is," Silas returned, watching her with an empty look.

Ren lowered her gaze and took the missive where he'd set it, turning for the door. But there she paused a moment, sadness filling her. She could have stayed. He'd have let her.

But they had changed--and she wondered if it were truly for the better.

"You know where to find me..." she said softly, reaching for the door handle.

"Ren,...." he said gently, his voice softening--as if he might apologize.

"The name's Seede," she replied, opening the door and passing through it. She then closed it behind her without looking back.

He had his family now; they'd look after him.

She'd have only gotten in the way.

Heading down to the main floor, she tried to find a ship sailing for Stormwind, but no one wanted to run the risk of getting conscripted or their ships confiscated for the war effort.

And so it was that she sent word to a mage in Dalaran, got herself a room at a different inn in Booty Bay, and waited to see if he would reply.
In a Misted Land

The dreams came every night--some nights more forceful than others. At first, she'd dismissed them as random fears coming to light when she slept. But when the dreams continued, Lena was forced to concede they might be something more.

She told her fears to Hadrian one night when they were sharing a cabin together on board their ship. At first, he, too, dismissed them as nothing more than bad dreams--until she told him how long she'd been having them.

He'd grown restless then--restless to make landfall--restless to talk to his brother--restless about where they were headed and where he felt he was needed.

She did her best to reassure him, but she could see him pacing or talking to the Captain of their ship, and she knew how anxious he was. Everyone did.

When they finally made it to the battlefront--for that was indeed what it was, the Vanguard--what was left of them--did their duty. But while the others were busy fighting a war, Lena couldn't help but marvel at all the beauty their fighting was destroying.

So when Hadrian pressed forward with Fenham and the others, Lena asked to stay behind at the first Pandaren village they'd come to. While they continued fighting the war, Lena spent her time getting to know the land and its people.

Their dragons were different, but there was a similarity there, too. Their love for simple things--taking time to take pleasure in the world around them while working to ensure that everyone was fed and clothed, and their love of fine ales all combined to make a strangely harmonious picture of contentment. And Lena found herself desiring that.

She took time out of her day to fish, pick flowers, and explore the landscape, always accompanied by one of the locals. She learned of the hozen and the jinyu, the cloudserpents and the amazingly crafted kites that served as transportaion and play. There were hidden streams and secluded valleys, new stories and old legends, and found herself in love with all of it.

When Hadrian returned, she'd tell him of all of it, but for now, he had a lot on his mind.

It wasn't that she didn't think on those things, though. Sometimes while she sat near a pond fishing, she thought of Annabelle, Xandyr, Darrick, and the Vanguard back in Elwynn. She thought about the job she was supposed to be doing, but thus far, little had changed.

Including herself.

She wanted to be a part of the Vanguard, but still felt out of place there. She wanted to serve the House, but there was nowhere there for her any longer. Cayd had more of a place than she did, and the thought troubled her.

And that was why she tried not to think of those things. She tried to lose herself in the new world they'd discovered. But as the days passed, it grew more difficult to hide from her own thoughts.

Why was she here? What did she have besides her love for Hadrian?

News reached them that Nixxine had died; Retalina had set up a memorial service for her in the graveyard in Stormwind somehow. Lena was expected to go.

But as the day wore on, she wondered if she would.

The idea that Destrian could make himself look like anyone--the idea that Stormwind was in danger--and the thought of seeing all those people again, not knowing where she belonged ate at her.

What was she going to do?

That was a decision she would make when the time came, but she knew she'd probably go. She'd stand in for Hadrian and others who couldn't be there to mourn the priestess' passing. And she'd do what she could for Retalina.
A Return

The funeral had been strange for Ardelena. It reminded her too much of Adrian--losing someone that meant so much. She could tell Retalina was hurting. And she could understand that pain. And she knew nothing she could say was gonig to make it any better any time soon.

She'd thought about staying--thought about going and having a drink, but it had been Retalina's night, and thoughts of Adrian would have only gotten in the way. Not that she didn't need a drink, but the thought of Destrian showing up as someone they knew? That made her return to Pandaria by way of portal as soon as she could get away.

She'd given Retalina the Commander's condolences, of course, and a hug from him, as well. But not having him with her there had felt strange, too.

There had come that part where people were asked to speak of the deceased, and Lena couldn't really think of anything to say. She hadn't known Nixxine that well, and she always got the feeling that the priestess avoided her for some reason.

She'd known Hadrian would have said something if he'd been there, but the only person who really seemed to know Nixxine had been Retalina.

Red dress at their first meeting--Reta had worn one to her funeral. There was the mention of a warm embrace when she returned home, and the gruesome description of how she'd been found.

Lena might have pressed about that, but she was beginning to see that Retalina kept many of her thoughts private. Not, she supposed, that she herself was any different.

There was the life you showed the rest of your men and women in the Vanguard, and there was the life you had when you weren't with them. Even Hadrian had separated the two.

But Lena wasn't certain she could be like that.

The one thing she did remember about the priestess was her love for Retalina and her ability to heal others--an ability Lena was finding more and more difficult to make her focus.

As she stepped back onto the strange, new ground of Pandaria, Lena found herself alone.

And for once, she was grateful for it.

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