Caught up in the parched air of Hellfire Peninsula, red dust swirled over the chipped bones scattered across the road. The lazy wind, choked with dust, then danced a haphazard path up the Path of Glory, spiraling briefly around a figure standing silently in the road before disappearing across the next rise.
Rhianon closed her eyes when she felt the wind whistle around her. She had almost forgotten the feel of the hot air, the way the windswept sand prickled against her skin. Could it really have been only a year ago when she last stood on this road?
That time seemed like only a distant memory to the shaman. That day, Warp Scryer Kyrv had sent her to the Path of Glory, armed with a vial of holy water and a mission: grant a proper burial service to the draenei whose bones paved this desolate strip of road. She had been scared; that she remembered. Even though she hadn’t told the kindly Kyrv such, she knew the stories of those who had been brutally murdered by the orcs; their bodies torn and their bones used as filler in buildings and roads. Some of them had been friends. Some of them had been family.
And that novice shaman who had stood in the road, clutching at the vial of Holy Water, had become accustomed to running from the suffering from her people. It was easier that way. Pretend she didn’t share in such a tragic past. The thought of actually facing it, of bringing relief to those poor souls, had terrified her. There had been a deeper worry as well – fear that she did not have the depth of faith to bring them release.
So, she had failed miserably. The souls had mocked her; they could sense her weakness and her fears. And she had run from them like a scared child.
Rhianon opened her eyes and reached into her bag, drawing out a chipped totem. As she held the totem in her hands, feeling its weight, she remembered how Vasily had carefully lifted it from Teron Gorefiend’s treasure trove and handed it to her. ‘This should be returned to the shaman,’ he had told her. She had taken it from him, a little hesitant. It had only been later in the evening when she had a chance to fully look at the totem that she understood its purpose. It was an ordinary totem in almost every way – beads strung around it, painted symbols of the elements – except for a line of writing carved into its side. The writing was a prayer to the ancestors, a prayer for guidance. A prayer that the ancestors would lead the totem’s bearer along sure paths and towards understanding.
And the totem had led her back here to the Path of Glory…and some unfinished business. She bent down and placed the totem onto the earth, running her fingers lightly over the carvings. A gust of wind rushed behind her and she turned, knowing exactly what she would see before her.
Spirits of draenei, young and old, stood along the Path of Glory. Some of them looked sad and tired; others looked angry. Still others smiled, and she could see warmth and love in their eyes.
All of them looked upon her.
“A year ago,” she said softly, “I was sent out here to bring you release.”
“I didn’t understand then. I was afraid of you.” Rhianon bowed her head, her face flushed in shame. “And I was also afraid of what you might want from me.”
“But I am not the same girl you met a year ago – and I am no longer scared of you or our past.” So much had happened in a year; so many draenei had come into her life and helped her see sides of her people she had never known existed. Dacianna…Lanasha…Tiea…Vasily…Henii…Griznos….those twins, Tess and Tez. Rhianon blinked, wiping at her eyes. Each of one them had taught her a little bit about who she needed to be for her people. “I know what you need from me now.”
“Spirits of my people,” Rhianon said, her voice rising with the wind that whistled through the canyon, “you have suffered greatly. Each one of us, living and dead, has shared in the sorrow of our people – but you have paid the full price.”
“The earth and the sky, the sea and the flame – they hear your cries. And they call back to you. They have a place for you amongst the stars…amongst the fish in the sea…amongst the birds in flight. They want you to soar like a sparrowhawk and race like a talbuk. They want you to burn like the fire that forges a blade and dance like the spray of a waterfall.”
“Yes, your body has been destroyed…but that was only a shell. All your sorrows, all your pain – your flesh, your blood – are behind you now. And now, free, you can join with all the spirits of this world and begin the next journey, a journey that will be far greater than anything you have yet experienced.”
“You will not be forgotten,” Rhianon told them. She knelt to the ground before the spirits. “Until the day when each of us who are living joins with you again in the Beyond, we will remember you and you will guide our steps.”
Rhianon shut her eyes as she said the last words. For a moment, the wind around her stilled and the Path of Glory fell silent.
Another gust of wind whipped up then, and Rhianon felt a small object roll up against her hooves. She opened her eyes and looked down. The totem of ancestral guidance was lying at her feet, splintered down the middle. Startled, she picked up the pieces and cradled them in her hands. A feeling ebbed from the shattered wood into the shaman’s hands – a feeling of relief.
Rhianon dropped the pieces of the totem and cast her gaze upwards towards the horizon. The spirits were gone. From red sky to broken earth, all she could see was emptiness, marked every so often with a shattered boulder or an errant swirl of dust.
She smiled and bent back down, burying the pieces of the totem into the hot dirt.