Monday, June 21, 2010

Letting the Walls Down

Been working on this the past few days. Apparently Lark needed an impartial ear to talk to, and she finally found one in Arvoss, who she tracked down one day in Dalaran. Yes, it's another Massive Wall of Text. Lark's getting good at those.

Lark walked out into the Beer Garden, spotting her quarry at the back table. Arvoss was sitting backwards on the bench, tweaking the strings of a fiddle. A mug and an ale pitcher sat on the table behind him, in easy reach. Lark headed toward him, reaching the table and plunking down on the neighboring bench without a word. Komah paused to study the death knight before joining her, and gave her an uneasy look.

He's one of them, isn't he
, he sent. Lark said nothing, simply glancing at the cat and nodding once.

Komah growled softly as he lay down nearby. They are.. unnatural. Lark made no comment, studying the human next to her.

Arvoss glanced up at her briefly. "Dinnae ken ye, tho' Ah'll bet ye ken me sommat, else ye wouldnae be 'ere."

Lark drained her own cup before nodding at him. "I'm Lark," she told him. "You're Arvoss. Shaurria's death knight friend."

He looked at her again, sharply, then returned to tuning his fiddle. "Sae. Ye ken mah kitten, eh?"

"Yes, I know her. She's a good kid."

Arvoss chuckled. "Ye dinnae 'ave t' tell me tha'," he said. Lark nodded toward the pitcher and raised an eyebrow at him, and he grunted. "'Elp yerself. S'a tad oan th' bitter side," he warned, as the elf refilled her glass.

She shrugged. "Suits my mood right now, then."

Arvoss raised an eyebrow at that, but said nothing. He took a sip from his own mug, then lifted bow and fiddle, coaxing a few notes from it. Lark watched him play for a few minutes, then when he brought it down for more tuning, she spoke again. "You're fighting in Icecrown, aren't you?"

Arvoss grunted. "Nae at th' moment, but aye. Yerself? Ah dinnae recall seein' ye at th' wall."

Lark shook her head. "I like my battles closer to home, personally," she said, and he grunted again.

After a moment he said, "We'll get th' buggah, then may'ap we'll 'ave a bit o' peace."

Lark smiled slightly. "Maybe a bit. Something always comes and ruins it, though."

The human looked up from his fiddle and grinned crookedly at her. "Naow ain' tha' th' truth. Still, it'd give me sommat t' do, eh?" He chuckled and went back to his fiddle.

Lark eyed Arvoss curiously. "What do you plan on doing after the war's over?"

Arvoss shrugged as he turned a few pegs. "Thought oan it, an' dinnae ken fer sure," he replied. "'Ad a farm, before, bu' it's gone. May'ap Ah'll start anothah. Be sommat t' do, an' a place fer Shaur t' stay if she wants outta th' city." He eyed Lark right back. "Wha' bout yerself?"

She shrugged. "Same thing I always do, I suppose."

Arvoss watched her, waiting for a further explanation. When she offered none, he grunted again. "Good enou'." Raising the fiddle again, he played a few lines of a song she didn't recognize. It was slow, but sounded cheerful.

Lark sat without speaking for a while, listening. "Pitch mentioned he's gotten on your bad side a time or two," she said finally, her tone casual.

Arvoss mmphed. "Ye ken 'im too, eh? 'E's nae a bad lad, but 'e dinnae think much."

Lark cut in immediately, "You don't give him enough credit." Arvoss raised an eyebrow, but she ignored it and went on. "He can be naive and impulsive, yes, but he rarely does anything without thinking." She smiled a bit. "Even if no one understands his reasons."

"Fair enou'," he replied mildly. He raised the fiddle yet again, but paused before setting the bow to the strings. "Ye sound like ye care sommat fer 'im."

Lark looked at him levelly. "We're friends. I share his bed on occasion. And we enjoy hunting together," she said. "That's about all."

Arvoss 's eyebrow and lip quirked. "Tha's it, eh? Ye sure bout tha'?" She stared at him, then looked away. Arvoss eyed her, then shrugged and continued playing his fiddle.

After a moment's hesitation, she said quietly, "I.... I love him, I think. But I'm not in love with him." She looked back at the death knight. "Does that make sense?"

Arvoss grunted. "Aye. Yer mates, but yer no'. Ye like each othah, but yer nae fer each othah."

Lark nodded, looking relieved. "I think you're the first that's understood that."

He shrugged. "Ah've seen it before, naow an' again." He started a different tune, low and haunting. Lark returned to watching him play, just listening to the music. Komah lay flat on the ground, watching them both in turn.

Arvoss eyed Lark thoughtfully as he played. Finally he spoke up. "Lass, ye look like ye got sommat oan yer min'. If ye wanta let it out, Ah'm nae one fer judgin' ye."

She looked away, her expression troubled, before blurting, "Arvoss, are you afraid of anything?" He played a few more bars, then stopped, laying the bow and fiddle in his lap, and looked at her with some surprise.

"S'a lot o' things tha' fright me, but Ah dinnae think ye mean anythin' simple like tha'." She shook her head. Arvoss stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Ye ken, lass," he finally said. "There's some folk tha' think we death knights're nae really free o' th' Lich King. E'en some' o' th' Ebons feel like tha'." She quirked an eyebrow but said nothing. "Mahself? Ah think Ah'm free, tha' 'e cannae reach me annehmore."

Lark waited for him to go on, but he stayed quiet for several minutes. " .... But?," she finally prompted.

Arvoss stared off into space. "S'tahms at night when ever'thin's quiet an' dark, when Ah wonder a bit." His voice dropped to just above a whisper. "Sommat th' tahm Ah think Ah even 'ear 'is voice in mah 'ead again." Lark looked at him curiously, while Komah studied him intently, ears and nose twitching. The death knight suddenly shook his head, then picked up his mug and took a long drink. Setting it back down, he gave her a piercing look. "S'nae true. Ah'm free o' 'im, Ah ken it. But." He shrugged. "Ye asked wha' frights me, an' tha's the first thing tha' comes t' mind."

Lark peered at Arvoss searchingly, understanding dawning. "You're afraid of losing control," she said, and he nodded.

"An' 'urtin' th' ones Ah 'old dear. Aye." He looked back at the mug, then at the fiddle in his lap. Then around the Garden, at the walls surrounding them. "Ah came out 'ere at th' start, nae t' fight Arthas, but t' get away fra everyone. Star, Tad, th' kitten," he admitted. "Tahm went by, an' Ah got ovah it. Naow Ah'm 'ere t' see 'im fall, an' pay fer wha' 'e did t' us." Now he peered at her searchingly. "'Ow bout yerself? Ah'm guessin' ye asked tha' with a point in min'."

She looked at him carefully. "Want to hear a bit of history?" she asked finally.

Arvoss grunted, then lifted the fiddle again. "Ah've go' th' tahm."

So she began her story- of what she knew of her brother's life and death, of her own birth and growing up, and her family's expectations, ones that she never felt she could live up to. Midway through her tale, Arvoss changed the tune he was playing, to something quiet, slow and soothing. She flashed him a small smile. "I was nearing my four hundredth year when I had enough, and I left without telling them," she finished. "I've never been back." She fell silent, looking down at her hands.

Arvoss nodded sympathetically without halting his playing. "Go oan," he said gently. She reached for her glass and took a long drink before continuing.

"I roughed it for several years, picking up odd jobs and living from the land when I could. I made a few friends that guarded trade caravans, and tried to get in with them. Then I met Lath." She chuckled fondly, remembering. "He was a druid, and odd enough at times to make Pitch seem perfectly normal."

Arvoss stopped playing. "Was. Ah'm takin' a guess sommat 'appened."

Lark nodded grimly. "He.. he got me in with his gang, and we ran a trade route that went from Hyjal's base all the way down to Ferelas." She paused for a deep breath. "I stayed with them for three years, then we had a bad run. Centaurs in the Barrens." Her voice dropped. "I was the only survivor. Me, and my first pet, who I'd found on that trip. I made it back to Hyjal and managed to find another caravan group. Tuah was with me for another three years, then she was killed on the same route that I found her on."

She shrugged, a resigned gesture. "That started the trend, you could say. I found another pet, more friends. I had some time with them; sometimes a few months, sometimes as long as a few years. Then something would happen, and they'd be gone." She gave him a haunted look. "I've lived that way for about five centuries now, and I've had hundreds of pets. I remember almost all of them, and out of all of them, only a handful have lived to pass on of old age."

Komah raised his head to chuff softly at her. So that's why you were reluctant to accept me.

She looked at him, a bit sadly. "Yes, that's why."

The huge cat stared at her, head cocked. I still don't think I'd be that easy to kill. But I think I understand now. I... I'm sorry.

She smiled slightly and shook her head. "It's fine, I doubt I could get rid of you now, anyway."

Arvoss watched the exchange between hunter and pet, one eyebrow raised, but he said nothing. He lowered the fiddle again. "Sae, wha's troublin' ye naow, lass? S'quite a tale, but Ah dinnae see 'ow it's bothahin' ye naow." Lark studied her glass, then drained and refilled it. She topped off Arvoss' mug while she was at it, and he nodded thanks.

"I asked you what frightens you most," she said without further preamble. "Know what I'm afraid of? And before you ask, it's not dying."

Arvoss grunted. "Wasnae goin' t' say tha'." He waited for her to go on, and she did shortly.

"Know what's funny? I fought at Hyjal against the Legion. It was the only battle I've ever fought in that wasn't personal. But... in a way, I'm glad we lost the World Tree." She gave him a look. "I don't want to live forever. I know most of my people are upset we're not immortal anymore, but I don't mind. My whole life, I've watched the ones I care about die around me. I... I want to be able to join them."

Arvoss raised his eyebrow. "Ye sound..."

"Suicidal?" Lark laughed humorlessly. "I'm not, trust me. I do like the life I have now. I'm not looking to shorten it." She paused, searching for the right words. "I just want to know it will end someday. That it won't go on forever, and I won't keep on losing people I love." Another pause, and she shook her head ruefully. "Listen to me, sheesh."

"Ye're fine, lass," Arvoss murmured soothingly. He began playing yet another tune, still quiet, but more lively.

Lark fiddled with the glass in her hands. "Arvoss?"

"Eh?" he responded.

She glanced at him briefly, her expression gone unreadable. "How long do you think you'll live?"

Arvoss stopped playing and lowered the fiddle. "Dinnae ken, lass." He thought for a moment, then let out a long, drawn-out sigh. "Think oan it this way. Ah'm technic'ly an undead, sae may be Ah'll live ferever. But." He pointed at her with the fiddle bow, emphasizing each word. "If Ah do, Ah'll 'ave t' watch mah body rot while Ah'm in it, like anneh othah deader. An' Ah've got nae Laigh' t' keep mahself 'ealed, either."

She gave him a curious look."Shaur mentioned you were a paladin, before...."

Arvoss nodded. "Cannae touch th' Laigh' naow, though. If Ah could, it'd be like t' 'urt me rather'n 'eal." He watched her fidget for a few minutes. When he spoke again, his voice was gentle."Lass, ye may be 'urtin' naow, but it dinnae last."

"I know," she said, just as softly. Arvoss sighed.

"Lemme tell ye a story, lass," he said quietly. " Little bit afteh Ah started watchin' ovah Shaur, Ah figgured Ah'd take a little trip back 'ome. T' Lordaeron, 'r wha' was left o' it. See, Ah was still... adjustin', ye could say." He paused, then sighed again. "Laigh', Ah was a righ' mess. Didnae ken wha' t' do wi' mahself, an' Ah was findin' othah ways o' copin' dinnae work sae well." He glanced at his mug, then over at Lark, and gave her a rueful smile.

She nodded. "I can understand that." He nodded back and went on.

"Dinnae ken wha' Ah was lookin' fer t' start, may'aps a clue t' mah past, afteh Ah was raised. Ah didnae remember it, ye see- once Ah was free o' him it all faded in mah min'. But it didnae matteh wha' Ah 'oped t' find. Ah found sommat there a'righ'... a wee girl in Darrowshire, a ghost left be'ind fra th' battle there." He cocked one eyebrow at her. "Ye 'eard o' it?" At her nod, he continued. "She dinnae ken wha' was goin' on, she jes' missed 'er family. Sae... I 'elped 'er."

Lark blinked. "You helped the ghost," she said disbelievingly.

He nodded, unfazed by her reaction. "'Er da led th' troops in th' battle. But 'e was turned, an' started fightin' 'is own men. Tha's wha' led t' th' slaughter there." He paused to watch the Garden waitresses light lanterns against the approaching evening. "Sae Ah found a way t' turn back tahm, in a way, wi' 'elp fra a bronze dragon name o' Chromie. Fought in th' battle alongside th' ghosts o' th' townsfolk, an' when th' Cap'in changed, we managed t' beat 'im down." He sipped from his drink again, watching her over the rim. "Set 'is spirit free, ye see. Th' battle ended, an' 'e could come 'ome t' 'is lass." He smiled in remembrance, then focused back on Lark. "Sae ye see, Ah didnae exactly find wha' Ah was lookin' fer t' start. Bu' wha' Ah did find, well, tha' was worth it."

"And what did you find, Arvoss?" she asked softly.

He leaned forward slightly to stare her in the eye, his own eyes glowing fiercely. "Tha' wha's been in th' past dinnae matter sae much as wha's in th' present. Ah did some terrible things, Ah ken it, bu' they shouldnae 'old me back fra wha' Ah need t' do naow. Thinkin' oan th' past was keepin' me fra takin' proper care o' Shaur at th' tahm, an' Ah 'ad t' let it go. Sae Ah did."

He leaned back against the table, seeming to become just an old man again. He was still staring at her, watching for any effect his words had on the Night elf. "Th' past dinnae 'old us. It dinnae shape th' future fer us. Tahms change, an' tahm's come when we 'ave t' make th' change ourselves."

Lark sat still, staring at the cup in her hands, as the silence between them stretched. Finally, she looked up at him, her expression more relaxed than it had been throughout the entire conversation. "Thank you," she said, quietly, and he nodded to her with a grin before picking up the bow and fiddle once again. The haunting strains of some old folk melody soon wafted through the evening air.

Lark leaned back against the table, eyes closed, and just let the soothing music flow through her. Komah watched her for a while, then his attention was drawn to a smallish druid cat who entered the Garden, saw them and made a beeline toward them. Arvoss' eyes glowed with genuine warmth, and he nodded to Shaurria without breaking his tune. She purred a greeting before curling up on the ground at his feet. Her eyes closed as well, the slow, haunting song lulling her to sleep.

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