- Dear Shaurria,
I am writing this from the Hero’s Welcome in Dalaran. I think now I may be coming home very soon. The cat and I have reached an accord, though the details will have to wait until I see you, as I’m not sure if I can put them into written words adequately. I’ve been here in the city of mages for three days - it feels good to be clean, warm, and safe again. I think the cat has been glad for the rest as well, though he is pressing for “just one more hunt” before we head back to Stormwind. I’m sure you know where that will lead, though I promise not to let him keep me out here for too long.
Now that I can spare the attention to think on everything back home, I am realizing how much I have missed everyone. It will be good to be back home, although I still don’t know if Stormwind will be my home for good. There will be things I will need to take care of - but I promise that this time I will not need to go alone, and I would be glad to have you and Pitch accompany me.
That isn’t all that has happened, but I’m not sure how to tell about the rest. I met a girl here, another Gilnean with the curse, and she shared a rather startling story - although in her defense, I don’t think she knew how much it affected me. It has given me much to think about, however - indeed, it seems like I’ve been doing nothing but think for days now, and I am no closer to finding the answers....
* * * * * *
The blizzard swept through the Storm Peaks, blowing along anything unlucky or foolish enough to be caught in its winds. Among those hapless victims were a harpy, several eagles, and one big gray stormcrow.
Rheugan let the winds carry him along, using his wings just enough to stay aloft and keep from crashing into anything. The cat, only a dim presence in the back of his mind, made it quite clear that it thought he was crazy, but he gave it no mind- all his attention was focused on simple survival.
He felt exuberant, with the harsh wind blowing through his feathers and carrying him along to who-knew-where, and thought that he could better understand Pitch’s “hobby” of throwing himself at the biggest and toughest opponents he could find. But Rheugan had another reason for being out in the storm as well- with all his focus on staying alive and unharmed in his wild flight, he could spare no thought for anything else. And for the moment, he very much wanted it that way.
His past weekend in the mage city of Dalaran had started out nicely, but it had ended on a sour note, and Rheugan did not want to think about it any more than he had to. He knew he was running away from things that he ought to face down, that he would have to face sooner or later, but he couldn’t help himself. He was finding it hard to care that those things were also keeping him out here, in Northrend, when he knew he could go back to Stormwind now any time he wanted to.
And that was probably the reason he didn’t see the frostwyrm until it was on him.
His only warning was a change in the pitch of the wind, then huge bone claws were closing around him like a cage. The tip of one caught in his wing near the shoulder; he felt it pierce the skin, then the hot rush of blood flowing. In an instant the cat had seized control, letting out a scream of pain and rage as it shifted his form. The frostwyrm wasn’t prepared for its prey’s sudden increase in size and weight, and it lost its hold on him. The claw tip tore through skin and muscle as Rheugan slipped free and started plummeting toward the ground far below. The undead wyrm gave an ear-splitting roar, but didn’t pursue him for some reason, and Rheugan’s last sight of it was of it flapping back toward Icecrown. The entire attack had lasted mere seconds.
Rheugan managed to change back to his bird form as he fell, using his good wing to try to slow and direct his descent. It worked, barely, and he landed in a snowbank with a thwump, in a shower of blood and loose feathers. Instinct warned him against turning human- the cold would quickly finish him off if the injury didn’t- so after a brief moment of hesitation he took his worgen form, then placed his good hand over the wound and directed all the healing power he could muster into it. He felt it close, the bleeding slowing, and once he had done what he could he risked turning cat. His foreleg wouldn’t support his weight, but he knew he had to find shelter fast, so he limped the best he could toward the nearest mountainside. If he was lucky, perhaps there was a cave nearby.
The blizzard’s winds still swirled around him, blowing the snow about and, after he had gone no more than a handful of steps, bringing a sudden whiff of a strange animal. Rheugan stopped in his tracks, hackles rising, and looked around with a growl. Between the snow and his own growing weakness, it took him a few minutes to spot the large black cat that watched him from a nearby outcropping.
At first he thought it was another worgen- it was certainly shaggy enough. But the smell was wrong, and when the strange cat lifted his head higher to get a better look at him, Rheugan noticed the horns on his head. The stranger stared at him, nostrils twitching, then gave a tilt of his head and turned to jump off the rock. Rheugan debated with himself for a second only, then followed the other druid.
The tauren, for that was certainly what he was, led him only a little ways before ducking into a small opening in the rock. When Rheugan entered, the smell of cat and woodsmoke nearly set him back on his haunches. Clearly the tauren used this cave frequently.
His unexpected benefactor had already shifted to his natural form, and was stirring a small campfire into life. He was a big fellow, likely a little taller than Pitch, with black fur spotted with white. It was hard to tell in the dim cave, but it looked like his muzzle was starting to turn gray with age, although his movements were as easy and graceful as anything that large could be.
Rheugan crept as close to the fire as he dared, then turned human and bent to look at his arm. The injury started near his shoulder blade and stretched all the way to his elbow. It was still oozing blood and hurt like fire, so he again sent whatever healing energy he could muster at it, closing his eyes in concentration. Then suddenly the warmth of the healing magic intensified, as something large covered his hand. Rheugan’s eyes popped back open to stare at the tauren, who was now taking his hand off of Rheugan’s, giving the smaller druid a reassuring smile. Rheugan blinked, then checked his arm again. The wound was now closed and healing nicely, though he could tell he would have a wicked scar. He looked back up at the tauren. “Th-..thank you,” he offered shyly.
The tauren’s smile grew wider as he answered in fairly decent common. “You are welcome.” Rheugan gaped at him, blinking. “You know common?” He nodded. “The druids in Moonglade taught me. I hear, mmm... understand, better than I speak.” He settled back comfortably across the fire from Rheugan, then looked back at him with interest. “I have not seen many of your... your kind? So, how do you come to be here?”
Rheugan hesitated before answering. “I came here to the Peaks because it looked like good hunting grounds. If you mean why am I in Northrend... that’s a long story.” The tauren took a moment, likely to make sure he understood properly, then nodded. He waved a hand at the cave’s entrance, where the blizzard was still blowing rather noisily outside. “We are not going anywhere for now, eh? Tell, if you’d like.”
Rheugan still hesitated. The tauren seemed friendly, but he was still a tauren, one of the “enemy”- not to mention he was big enough to break Rheugan like a stick if he chose. Still, he felt inclined to trust him, though he didn’t know why. Finally he began. “You know what I am.” The tauren nodded again without speaking. “Do you know how many people treat worgen?” At that the tauren cocked his head, looking at him curiously. He studied Rheugan for several minutes in silence, then snorted softly. Pulling off one glove, he held his black-and-white mottled hand up for Rheugan’s inspection.
“My color marks me as one of the Grimtotem,” he said. “You heard the tales?” At Rheugan’s slight nod he continued. “I have not been a part of the tribe since my druid teaching began. Still some of my people do not think I am to be trusted. They give me looks - you know what that’s like, hmm?” He shrugged, pulling the glove back on. “They do not know me. My.. my leader, is not Magatha. I follow Hamuul, and yes Malfurion too sometimes; they are my leaders. I do what helps, and those of my people that do not like me can think what they want, eh?”
Rheugan allowed a faint smile to cross his face. “I wish sometimes I could have felt that way. It would have made some things easier.” He sighed, then at the tauren’s encouraging nod he went on. “After I was cursed, I ran wild at first. When I was captured, I was given a potion that returned me to my senses, then put with the other recovered worgen in Duskhaven.
“Many of the villagers were kind to us, even seemed glad we had been brought back. But some of them followed Lord Godfrey’s thinking. They were always watching us, making certain we knew exactly what would happen if any of us seemed to be going wild again. But the worst, I think, was seeing some of my old friends.
“My pack attacked the home of my best friend, just a couple weeks before my capture. One of my packmates bit him and gave him the curse. I was the one that killed his father. When I first met him in Duskhaven afterward, I couldn’t even look him in the eye. I still don’t think he knew it was me in the attack, but if he ever found out, what would he do?”
The tauren just sat quietly, listening, as Rheugan went on. He had the younger druid pause to clarify a few points when he didn’t quite understand, but other than that he was an excellent listener. It was difficult for Rheugan to speak about the life he had left behind, but... liberating too, somehow. He finally came to the end, after talking for what seemed like hours.
“So I came here, to figure out how I could live with this cat. It took awhile, but I think we’ve finally become friends, as crazy as it sounds.” He looked up with a shy grin as the tauren chuckled, then thought of something. “Have you ever had trouble with your cat?” he asked.
The tauren shook his head. “I have been a druid longer than you have drawn breath,” he replied with another chuckle. “Whatever troubles we’ve had have been long worked out.” He gave Rheugan a rather calculating look. “So if your trouble is fixed now, why are you still here? I enjoy the North still, but you seem... eager? to get home.”
Rheugan’s grin faded. “I... I think I am hiding,” he admitted. The tauren raised an eyebrow at him, so he tried to explain. “Before I came north, I depended on others to take care of me. I had no home, no money, and no hope. It’s been worlds better up here- I’ve even managed to save up some gold, so at least I am no longer penniless. But... I’m half afraid that when I do go back, I will fall into the same rut.”
The tauren rumbled under his breath- it sounded like it was meant to be comforting. “That is something you find on your own,” he said slowly. “If you want to be useful, you must make yourself useful, eh?” Rheugan nodded, looking into the fire thoughtfully. “And you have friends, hmm? They will help you, won’t they?”
Rheugan nodded again. “I have to say that I’m not entirely useless, especially after having to look after myself all this time,” he said, speaking half to himself. “If I can find work that I can do, that’s a start, at least.” He was silent for another minute, taking time to think things through. “I will have to figure out a new life, I suppose,” he finally said. “I.. I’m just not sure how to.”
The tauren’s smile returned. “Perhaps that is the best way to start, mmm?” He stood abruptly, cocking his head to listen. “The storm has stopped. I will go back to my hunt.” He looked back at Rheugan. “You are welcome to stay here and rest. In the morning, perhaps, is soon enough for this new life.” With a final broad grin, he changed to the shaggy black cat, then padded out of the cave.
Rheugan sat and thought for a long time after the tauren left. It was time he stopped running. And he did have friends, after all; it wasn’t like he had to do everything all by himself. He would still have help.
He turned his attention to the cat next. “What do you think?” he asked it aloud. “Ready to go home?” The cat offered no argument. The frostwyrm’s attack had reminded it quite clearly of its own mortality, and it was more than willing to return to civilization... and relative safety. Rheugan grinned to himself as he shifted and settled down next to the fire. For now, he would sleep as the tauren suggested. When he awoke, he would head back to Dalaran, and the portal to Stormwind.
* * * * * *
She was sitting down by the lake again, the smaller one by Celestine’s cottage. For a fleeting moment, it felt like he had never been away. She was staring at the water, not even looking around when he walked up- until he quietly cleared his throat. “I wrote another letter,” he said as Shaurria’s head whipped around, to stare at him with wide eyes and a quickly-growing smile. “But I thought I might deliver this one in person.”
She looked him over, as if to make sure he still had all limbs intact, then reached out to hug around his knees. Her voice was soft, a bit shy, but happy. “I knew you’d be back. Welcome home, Rheugan.”
Done at last! Rheugan has been home for about 2 weeks now, but I got stuck in the "writer's block cause I'm worn out from work" rut for a while. Holidays in retail, and especially in the grocery business, are crazy.
For anyone that doesn't know (and I only know 1 person that would know, no offense meant), the tauren he ran into is Taurros. I keep wanting to write about the old boy but never do, so I figured he deserved a cameo.
Rheugan has been much more comfortable since his return. I think we're both still figuring out exactly how he's feeling in regards to a couple things, but with time even that should be sorted out. And Bricu offering him a job at his first RP night back certainly isn't hurting things!
I did this whole storyline for a reason, and now that it's finished I ought to make a blog post about that. Yes, I made some things in his story vague (and maybe confusing), but it was deliberate. In some cases, it was the only way Rheugan would let me write anything at all! So, look for a future post about that, hopefully later today/tomorrow.
And finally, I hope I never get stuck like that ever again. Nearly 3 weeks in between blog posts? Yeesh.