Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rheugan: Homecoming

I am slowly, slooowly starting to figure out some of the stuff that's still bothering Rheugan. I'm kinda hoping this might open some doors and help him get some of that out of his system, though he's doing his best to teach me to not expect anything from him, heh.

Rheugan finally gets to go back home, only to find that perhaps it's not quite what he was expecting. Enjoy!

The pair of crows sitting on the outcrop took flight in a clatter of wings, shrieking their displeasure, as the two stormcrows came in to land, Pitch keeping a careful watch on his protege. Rheugan looked worn from the long flight, but he was far from exhaustion; Pitch was pleased that he was holding out so well.

They caught their breath as they surveyed the countryside below, Pitch paying special attention to the lay of the land. A good scout made himself familiar with the ground he would be covering, and he had planned this trip with more in mind than simply easing Rheugan's peace of mind.

Finally Rheugan unshifted long enough to point toward a dark blot in the distance, saying as he did, "Tempest Reach, and the Blackwald." Pitch nodded, and the two birds took off again.

The Blackwald looked foreboding as they flapped down through a break in the branches, unshifting as they hit the ground. Pitch stood where he had landed, looking around warily, but Rheugan took a few steps deeper into the woods. He stopped and stood motionless, though Pitch could see a range of emotions warring across his face. Fear, longing, pain... Finally he shuddered slightly, then turned and gave his mentor a slight, shaky grin. "It never quite goes away, does it?" he asked. Pitch felt a sudden surge of sympathy for the young man. "No, it doesn't," he replied as he stepped over and put a hand on Rheugan's shoulder. "But you learn to control it. It will get easier, believe me."

Rheugan turned back to the woods without answering. After several minutes, when Pitch was about to suggest they find a safe place for the night, he spoke again. "We lived here, to start with," he said softly. "But hunting grew slim, and the pack leader took us south." Pitch felt a brief shock as he realized Rheugan was speaking of his time as a feral, but he kept quiet, listening. "I.. I didn't like it. There were so many people... But it made our 'hunting' easier, so the leader kept us there. Then the hunters came.

"I wanted to run, but I wouldn't leave the pack. Finally I challenged him." His hand came up to touch the remains of his left ear. "I lost. A few days later they came for us. The leader was killed, several others. I didn't fight back, which is probably why they didn't kill me too. They drove me into a cage, along with a few others. The rest is a blur... until I came back to myself, in Duskhaven."

He fell silent. Pitch waited patiently, in case he had anything else to say, but at last he gently touched Rheugan's arm. "We need a safe place for the night," he said softly, and Rheugan nodded, seeming to pull himself back together. "Taldoren is right over there," he said, pointing, then he led Pitch through the trees. Pitch could feel the thrum of magic before the great tree even came into view; it felt like druid magic, but not anything he had felt before. He glanced at Rheugan, but the other druid didn't seem bothered- if anything he looked calmer, more relaxed.

Rheugan ducked between the roots into the cave underneath the tree, Pitch following more hesitantly. The human immediately assumed his cat form and started sniffing around until he found a spot to his liking, where he scratched at the dirt, then flopped down. Pitch looked around uncertainly. "Are you sure we'll be safe in here?" Rheugan favored him with a sardonic look, then curled into a tight ball and stuck his nose under a paw. Pitch shrugged to himself, then changed to his cat form and curled up beside him. His sleep was uneasy, but they were undisturbed the entire night.

* * * * * *

Pitch woke the next morning to find Rheugan gone. He scrambled out from under the tree, then relaxed as he found his student just outside. Rheugan had taken his worgen form and was poking around cautiously, sniffing the air. He fixed Pitch with one bright green eye as the Kal'dorei appeared. "We need to get moving," he said gruffly. A low howl in the not-so-far distance punctuated his words, and Pitch made no objections. The two druids took to the air again without another word.

Pitch found himself in the unfamiliar position of being completely dependent on Rheugan to lead them where they had to go. He paid close attention to the landmarks below, fixing them in his memory, as they flew down to Stormglen Village, then back north to the city itself. Rheugan paused at the city's edge, Pitch waiting patiently while he studied the streets and buildings. Finally he gave himself a little shake, then flapped onward.

He led Pitch to what looked like a square, an old Forsaken standard still standing in the middle. Rheugan landed in the street, sparing a contemptuous look for the flag, then unshifted. Pitch did likewise, then moved to stand at his shoulder, staying close but still giving the younger man space if he needed it.

Rheugan glanced at him briefly, then turned back to the flag. "This is where Prince Liam fell," he said softly. Pitch blinked, then took a closer look around, taking in the signs of battle. Rheugan simply stood still, staring at the standard. "He was one of the few that accepted us right from the beginning," he continued. "He treated us as friends, not monsters. Even the ones..." He trailed off without finishing, then glanced at Pitch again. "This way," he said, then headed deeper into the city.

They crossed over into a section of town that appeared to be mostly housing, with a few shops scattered throughout. There were signs of fighting even here, though it was apparent that it had happened a long time ago.

Rheugan stopped suddenly, and Pitch nearly ran into him. The younger druid was staring at one of the houses, an unreadable look on his face. "This was my home," he said before Pitch could ask, his voice so quiet it could hardly be heard. Pitch blinked, then looked up at the building. It looked virtually the same as the neighboring buildings, made of stone but clearly belonging to people of some wealth. The door was broken in, the dark entryway yawning in front of them. Rheugan stared into it as if his life depended on it.

Pitch looked at the open doorway, then at Rheugan. Finally he asked, "Well, why don't you go in and have a look?" Rheugan started, as if it was something he wouldn't have dreamed of doing, then took a slow step closer to the door. A look of naked longing came over his face. One hand came up toward the doorframe; Pitch noticed it was shaking. It stopped before touching the wood frame, and Rheugan stood stone-still for a long minute.

Finally he lowered his hand, stepping away from the doorway. "It's not my home any longer," he said, glancing at Pitch almost as if he had done something wrong. His eyes looked haunted.

Pitch took a step closer, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder and trying not to notice when the young man flinched slightly. "It's all right, Rheugan," he murmured. A quick glance at the sky showed that the sun, barely visible through the ever-present overcast, was almost at noon. He looked back at Rheugan. "I think we've seen enough here, huh? Ready to head home?"

Rheugan rubbed at his eyes, which Pitch dutifully pretended not to notice, then he nodded. "Aye," he said bleakly. "Home."

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