Water dripped, droplet by droplet, from the stalactites covering the rocky ceiling of the Tranquil Wash down to the glassy surface of the cavern lake just below. Some of the chilly water trickled down the back of the young shaman who was leaning against a damp rock outcropping, her eyes closed as if in deep slumber.
Rhianon, however, was not asleep – despite her best efforts. Her arms and legs were drawn up close against her slender frame and her chest heaved with shaking breaths. An onlooker might easily dismiss the girl’s fragile appearance as chills or discomfort with the wet environment, but the shaman knew that the ache in her bones, the shivers she could not shake off, originated from something much deeper and more pronounced than simple environmental distresses. Just over two days ago, she had woken up, unusually calm and peaceful, in Dolraan’s chambers at the Cathedral in Stormwind. All had seemed perfect for that brief moment of wakening; she was warm in a cosy bed, she still felt the soothing whispers of the spirit world and remembered Elder Maskah’s words.
Then everything came flooding back: the cold words she had tossed at Dacianna just hours before Deathwing attacked, the terrible screams of civilian’s fleeing the dragon’s maw, the shaking of the towers and walls of the city as if she was once again in the plummeting Exodar.
Rhianon opened her eyes and looked up to see a female draenei shaman hovering over her, a shell-bowl of steaming soup in her hands. “It’s clams,” the other shaman explained, pushing the bowl towards Rhianon. “I know everyone’s getting sick of seafood, but at least it’s warm.”
“Uh, thanks,” Rhianon mumbled, taking the offering bowl. She lifted it to her lips and took a sip, her mouth immediately curving into an inadvertent grimace. The over-salted broth scalded her tongue; the fishy odor turned her stomach.
The shaman chuckled at Rhianon’s reaction. “Perhaps I should find you something else. I thought the soup was fine, but I can see my palate isn’t as cultivated as yours.” She smiled, taking the bowl back. “I just couldn’t bear to see one of my sisters huddling in the corner like that, looking like some Northrend icicle.” The draenei offered the hand that wasn’t holding the soup bowl. “Name’s Gallina.”
“Rhianon,” Rhianon replied, shaking Gallina’s hand. “And don’t worry. I’m just fine. The cold isn’t getting too me that much; it’s just tiresome.”
“Then,” Gallina returned levelly, eyebrow raised, “what are you crying over?”
Rhianon began to stammer out that she wasn’t upset and that Gallina should go help the others in the outpost, but the other shaman’s simple recognition that all was not right shook her cheerful facade. She fell silent, swallowing hard. “It’s just…alot has happened,” she said slowly when words finally returned to her. “And…and I just feel such a weight on me.” Tears began to trickle down the younger shaman’s cheeks. “And it’s like it’s suffocating me and I can’t get any release.”
Those few sentences opened the gates to the tidal wave of Rhianon’s suffering and the words came in droves now, the shaman ignoring whether or not Gallina was even paying any mind. “I wish someone could carry the burden for me, but I know it’s just on me – and I just feel so alone when I think about it that way. Like the whole world is dark and closed off. And sometimes, when I think about my friends to make myself feel better, I wonder if I have any anymore after all the mistakes I’ve made and that makes me feel even worse. I’m sure Darlain and Henii and everyone – they all think I’m just cruel and uncaring. They’re probably tending to Dacianna right now and telling everyone how awful I’ve been.”
She paused before adding, “And – and I’m scared. I’m scared that I’m going to go through my life without really getting any chance at happiness. I’m scared that I’ve thrown away the one person who can love me. I’m even more scared that all the things Elder Maskah told me mean that I’ll always be alone.” She burst into tears, burying her head in her hands. “I’m not just a shaman! I’m Rhianon too and I want normal things! I want to be happy! But I feel like there is nothing at all before me, only this solitary path.”
“I think you will find that life has a few more twists and turns than you could anticipate, my Rhianon.”
The shaman raised her head to thank Gallina for her kind words, although somewhat perplexed at the older shaman’s intimate tone, but when she could finally see through the tears clouding her eyes, she saw that Gallina was on the other side of the cavern, handing out bowls of soup to other adventurers. The elder shaman, despite her friendly exterior, had obviously made a quick getaway when Rhianon had started bawling, a move for which she could not blame her. Yet, the voice she heard had been clear and strong much like the splash of a pebble tossed into the rippling surface of Serpent Lake.
Rhianon repositioned herself against the rock, her dark lips curled into a knowing smile, and she shut her eyes, sure that somehow the world of dreams would not escape her this time.