Beautiful Release

Rhianon was standing in the middle of a forest, the soggy ground beneath her spangled with sunlight and shadows. The trees, the flowers, and even the air itself seemed to glow with an inner fire, and she walked among them, her hands running down the trunks of the trees as if to feel the energy itself. Bird songs and animal calls echoed around her, filling the shaman’s heart with joy. There was so much peace here, so much happiness.

“You are back again?” a hoarse voice called out from behind her, breaking through the smooth melodies of the forest sounds.

Beaming, Rhianon turned around, nodding to the withered Broken standing behind her. “I came to see you, Sage.”

His lined face eased in an grin and he embraced her, gnarled arms wrapping tightly around her slender form. “I am happy,” he said finally, stepping back to survey his student from hoof to head. “You are such a light in this dark place.”

Rhianon raised an eyebrow and tilted her head, pausing before forming a response. “Nastah, there is nothing dark about this place.”

He shook his head. “You don’t understand. The shadows – they grow when your back is turned – and the voices…”  His crackling voice trailed off, fading into the undergrowth .”I wish I had never came here. I wish I was still alive. Still myself. Still a Draenei. Still on our beautiful planet.” The last few phrases were said with a bitterness that would have startled Rhianon just a few years ago or perhaps have drawn her into sadness and pity for her old teacher, but now, her lips just curled into a faint smile and she squeezed his shoulder. He shook his head. “I should not burden you with my sorrow.”

The sage then glanced up at her, sunken eyes searching her face. “Tell me, my student, how are you? Are your troubles behind you yet?”

She took a deep breath. “A lot has happened since the last time I was here.” The draenei then gripped the Krokul’s hand, her smooth-skinned hand encompassing his knotted one. “Sage, you know better than me that troubles never really leave us. They will always skirt just around the perimeter of our lives: sometimes passing through, sometimes not, but always there. And yet… there those who can make the sting less painful. The Light has blessed me and I have a great strength at my side.”

“You do not sound so lonely then,” the Broken replied. “I am glad. I would not wish on you my solitude.”

She just shook her head at his melancholy, squeezing his hand again. “Come.”

Rhianon then led Nastah through the forest of Light, their path winding between rippled tree trunks and beneath the glowing forest canopy. They walked side by side, her small hand clutching his aged hand tightly, their bodies close. Despite his crippled form, Nastah’s steps were strong and sure, easily keeping pace with his younger companion. As they wove through the woods, Nastah rambled on about far-gone days, about his memories of the first day the winds brought Rhianon to his tutelage, tears and laughter reverberating in his chest.

And then, he stopped.

Rhianon stopped too, but did not let go of his hand. Sage Nastah looked ahead, at the thin line of trees before them, and then up at Rhianon. “Rhianon, what – “

Fear creased his face and he began to stumble backwards, attempting to pry his hand from her grasp. “I’m not ready! No, you can’t – “

Rhianon did not release him, instead pulling him forward, and despite his struggle, they passed through that final border of trees and stepped out on the sandy beaches that formed the edge of all things. Ethereal sunlight glittered on the waves of the endless ocean before them, and Nastah stood, frozen, the salty sea winds whipping around his face.

She smiled. “Everyone’s waiting for you, Nastah. You can’t keep ignoring them.”

He turned his head, casting a quick glance up at his former pupil .”Everyone?”

Rhianon nodded. “Your wife and your sons. And your parents. And their parents. Everyone. I’m surprised they let you stay away for so long. Vela misses you so – and the boys, they cry each night over you.” She added, eyes warm, “Vela would always say that Papa stays away because he has important business to do. She loves you so much.”

Tears were streaming down the Krokul’s face now and he fell to his knees, Rhianon’s hand still wrapped around his. “Vela…Vela…and my boys…”

The younger shaman knelt down beside him, drying his cheeks with the back of her hand. She took his face in her hands, gazing into his bleary eyes. “Your business is done, Sage,” Rhianon whispered, kissing him on each cheek. “You can go to them now.”

Sage Nastah released a long, shaking breath and as he did so, his form began to metamorphose. The Broken exterior faded away, skin smoothing, arms and legs lengthening, and horns growing. A Draenei sat on the sand before Rhianon now, a handsome Draenei with deep blue skin unmarred by years or war. He threw his arms around her, sobs racking his unencumbered form. “Rhianon…”

“I promise you,” Rhianon whispered in his ear, returning the embrace, “I will have a wonderful life. Unpredictable, yes, but still wonderful. I promise.”

*******

When Rhianon opened her eyes, the morning breeze, laden with smells of bakeries and flower-stands opening, was whistling past her and over the Cathedral’s turrets. She drew her legs up to her chest, gazing out over the city. From her vantage point on the roof of the Cathedral, the whole of Stormwind was spread out before her, chattering and singing with the ordinary morning bustle.

Rhianon hummed as she wrapped up her bedroll, stowing it under a loose shingle at the edge of the roof, and then clamored down the jutting stones lining the Cathedral’s steep walls to the dewy ground below. Before turning her back on the Cathedral and heading into the city, she retrieved a small parcel from her back pocket. She unwrapped it, revealing several tender slivers of Highland trout, and placed it on a tiny ledge above one of the Cathedral windows, exactly where she promised Cassandra she would leave all such offerings.

Task completed, she adjusted her satchel over her shoulder and headed into the city to find a cheap breakfast. Her life, unpredictable and wonderful as it was, would go on.

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