The morning was chilly, making Rheugan glad that his winter coat had grown in early and thick. He perched among the rocks high, high above Wintergrasp, staring down without really seeing anything, all his focus turned inward.
The cat had stayed with him until he had finally fallen asleep, and was still there when he awoke. Now it had a sense of urgency, as though it wanted to tell him something, but he had no clue what it might be. It was beginning to give him a headache.
He was about to ask it - again - what it wanted when he felt a flash of something like triumph from it, then an older memory suddenly popped up to the forefront of his mind. For one of his first lessons, Pitch had taken him out into Elwynn to hunt some of the wolves there. Now, he found himself seeing the memory of that trip all over again. He couldn’t help but cringe inwardly at how clumsy he had been, but he still wasn’t sure what the cat was trying to say. He felt so much frustration from it that he imagined if they hadn’t been sharing the same body, the cat might have bitten him.
Further thought was stopped as a sudden realization struck him. He was surprised enough that he shifted back to a human and spoke to the cat aloud. “You want to teach me?” He was flooded by a sense of relief, followed by some rather uncharitable feelings toward his intelligence. He tried to ignore those, and think through just what the cat was offering. He knew his biggest weakness at the moment was his dependence on the cat for his safety; if he had enough skill to match the cat, he wouldn’t really need it anymore. He could sense the cat following along with his train of thought, and asked it, “Is that really what you want?” The cat let him know in no uncertain terms that it was. Rheugan debated for just a second more. “Will you teach me, then?”
The reply was a mental snort, quickly followed by an air of satisfaction. It was about time he asked.
Sholazar Basin certainly looked nice, at least from an aerial view. Rheugan felt the cat’s interest perk as it “looked” through his eyes. He spotted a break in the canopy and flew down into the jungle below.
What followed was perhaps the most unusual education that Rheugan had ever received. The cat taught mostly by hunting, although it didn’t always kill what it caught, to Rheugan’s relief. The stalk and the chase were the lessons, and the cat was quick to drag him back whenever his attention started slipping. He found it fascinating, really- the way the cat moved through the undergrowth without making a sound, showing him exactly how it placed each paw. Then the pause before the spring, and ending with the cat’s chosen prey caught between its forepaws, or knocked off its feet with fangs at its throat. Rheugan was still uncomfortable with the kills, which earned him some disgust still from the cat, but aside from that he couldn’t have asked for a better instructor.
He lost track of how long he’d been there, but he didn’t think it had been that long when he was startled in his morning flight by another bird, this one a large Night Elven one. It came out of nowhere to swoop below Rheugan, then flipped up again to do a complete circle around him. It caught his eye, then swooped down again, flying down to the jungle floor.
Rheugan hesitated before he followed. It had taken him a second, but he recognized the bird.
When he reached the ground beneath the canopy, Pitch was seated on a tree root. He patted the spot next to him, but Rheugan landed a little further way, not entirely sure how he felt about seeing his mentor again. It was good to see him in a way, but he hadn’t expected to see Pitch again until he was back in Stormwind, and he couldn’t help but wonder what the Kal’dorei wanted with him now.
He landed and turned human, then spoke before Pitch had a chance to. “I can’t go back yet,” he said, trying to keep the desperation out of his voice. “I.. I’m working things out, but it’s not finished yet.” Pitch held up one hand in a soothing gesture. “I’m not here to take you back, Rheu,” he said calmly. “It’s been several weeks since you sent that letter, and we hadn’t heard anything from you. We were worried, and I came to see that you’re still safe. That’s all.”
Rheugan felt himself relaxing at his words. At the same time, he could sense something subtly different about Pitch, but he couldn’t quite place it- and the cat was being no help. “I... I had to make sure,” he said hesitantly, then started in a rush to try to explain the things that had happened. Pitch simply watched him as he spoke, a faint grin on his face, until he finally ran out of words. “He’s teaching me to hunt,” he finished. “Really, actually teaching me. I think we’re learning to get along with each other at last.”
“That’s wonderful, Rheugan,” Pitch replied. “I’ll let Shaur know you’re doing all right, she’s been missing you, you know.”
Rheugan managed a grin, then suddenly realized what was bothering him. Pitch’s tone of voice, his body language, were all different than what he’d been used to. He wondered at that for another minute before he realized what it was. Pitch’s attitude toward him was no longer that of a mentor; he was treating Rheugan now as an equal.
He blinked at the revelation as Pitch broke into a grin, as though the druid had been following his thoughts. “Lark is expecting,” he said suddenly, and his grin grew even wider as Rheugan blinked again. “It’s still going to be awhile before the baby comes, but we’d both like it if you’d come see us then.” Another brief pause, then he reached out and put his hand on Rheugan’s shoulder. “It really is good to see you,” he said quietly. “You’re looking good, and I’m glad.” Rheugan gave him a quirky grin; he knew full well what he looked like after several weeks of living wild, but he said nothing. With a final pat on the shoulder, Pitch shifted back to a bird, then took off into the air.
Rheugan watched him go with mixed feelings. He hadn’t thought of those he’d left for ages, and he felt a bit guilty about it now. At the same time, he knew he wasn’t ready to go back. He did miss everyone, but there were still too many uncertainties about the cat... and his future with it.