SO VERY DELAYED.
I don't even have a good excuse. Can I blame pet battles? And writer's block, though most of my distractions were simply doing other things rather than writing. I will try not to do this again... but no promises. >_>
ANYWAYS, this pretty much catches up to where Rheu is at in-game. Things are starting to look up now, at least. Enjoy!
Pitch wouldn’t admit it, but he was far more worried than he’d let on. He was certain Rheugan wasn’t in the Vale, but Kun-Lai was so Elune-blasted big, and he’d stupidly let enough time go by that he didn’t have a trail to follow. He kept searching anyway, unwilling to give up on the druid that had become almost like another brother.
By the third day, Pitch was feeling certain Rheu wasn’t in the Summit. He’d checked the Valley of Four Winds off and on too, but there was no trace of him there, either. He finally turned his wings east, hoping while he flew that his hunch was right.
The Tian Monastery hadn’t changed a bit in the weeks since he’d last been there - not surprising, since even the Sha attack on Serpent’s Heart hadn't ruffled the monks there. He found a groundskeeper in short order and gave him the name he’d gotten from Rheu, and within five minutes he was following the ‘keeper through the grounds.
Pitch had never met Laoden, but the pandaren that the groundskeeper led him too looked pretty much the same as any of his race. It didn’t take an especially sharp eye to tell that most of his heft was muscle rather than fat, but otherwise he could have passed for any Shado-pan fighter or Halfhill farmer. He turned to regard Pitch with friendly yet wary interest as introductions were exchanged, favoring the druid with a brief bow, then he dismissed the groundskeeper. His expression sharpened as he turned back to Pitch. “You’ve certainly taken long enough to get here.” Pitch’s ears went straight up in surprise. “Yes, I had guessed you would be coming,” Laoden said. “We’ve both been expecting you. Now come.”
* * * * *
The cat was sitting down beneath the orange tree, not moving except to test the breeze when it blew past. Pitch supposed Rheugan was down there too, but he had no way of knowing if he and the cat were “sharing,” or if he’d gone wherever it was he went when he wanted to think or hide. He - they? - looked at peace, at least, so that was something.
“He is fighting it.” Pitch glanced at the pandaren seated beside him, but Laoden was still watching the cat, with the same inscrutably calm expression he’d worn all day. “He is not tainted, not yet, but the temptation is there.”
Pitch turned back toward Rheugan, suppressing another pang of worry. “Is he a danger?” he asked, after a minute or two of silence. Laoden frowned slightly, considering. “At the moment, no,” he replied. “I wouldn’t presume to know the future, however. If he continues as he is, he could become one.” Now he looked at Pitch, offering the druid a faint smile. “He hides much. Maybe too much.”
Pitch flattened his ears briefly. “He’s had reason to,” he said. “He.. hasn’t been treated well in the past.” Laoden looked at him curiously, then shrugged when the druid said nothing more. “He is welcome to spend a few days here, to rest,” he said as he climbed to his feet. “After that...” The pandaren shrugged again.
Pitch blinked at him in surprise, which quickly turned to anger. “What, you’ll kick him out again? Isn’t that more or less how he wound up like this?” Laoden favored him with a reproachful look. “We did not ‘kick him out’ the first time, and we will not this time, either,” he replied. “You are assuming he will want to stay. He is looking for something here, druid, and he has not found it yet.”
Pitch felt himself flushing under his fur. “I’m sorry,” he started, but the pandaren was already gone. Pitch looked back down at Rheugan with a sigh. He wished Alanon was there. This was his job, not Pitch’s. But his brother was still back in Stormwind, so he would have to do what he could.
The cat glanced over briefly as Pitch padded over to sit next to him, just long enough for the elven druid to see the flash of guilt in his eyes. So, Rheu was in there. Pitch considered his options, then unshifted and made himself comfortable on the grass before finally breaking the silence.
“Do not,” he began, as forcefully as he dared, “think that this was all your fault. I’m to blame at least as much as you, I should have noticed something was going on and said something.” Rheugan shrank down as he spoke; Pitch tried gentling his tone a bit. “Rheugan, those things are like... like old gods. They’re strong, they’re evil, and if they want you, they’re darned well going to try and get to you. Cenarius’ horns, Rheu, even I had some trouble with them when I first got here.”
That got his attention. Rheugan sat up and blinked at him, the last traces of the cat’s presence fading. “I... but...” Some of the shame returned, and he ducked his head again. “I.. I am sorrry,” he rumbled. “I didn’t want you to worrry.” Pitch just made a noncommittal sound as he eyed the younger druid carefully. “Do you need to go home, Rheu?” he finally asked bluntly. “Mean, this kind of thing might happen again, and if it’s too much for you...”
Rheugan shook his head firmly, then unshifted to settle on the grass, in an unconscious mimicry of Pitch’s pose. “I.. I have to be here,” he said, a bit uncertainly. “I don’t know if I can put it the right way, but...
“Shaurria said once that I was out of balance. I... I’m starting to get it back, but it’s all in.. in pieces. Northrend was a part of it, and so was Gilneas. But I’m not finished yet, Pitch. There’s something here that I have to find; I just don’t know what it is yet.” He looked up again, and a trace of what might have been a smile crossed his face at Pitch’s expression. “What do you think I do when I’m out ‘thinking,’ Pitch? I’m not debating the color of the sky, I assure you.”
Pitch coughed. “Yea, I suppose not,” he said with a bit of chagrin. Then he focused back on the younger druid. “Are you really, really sure, Rheu?” Rheugan nodded again wordlessly. Pitch sighed and looked up at the tree branches overhead, as if searching for inspiration.
“Well, we both need rest,” he said finally. “Why don’t we stay here a couple days, then maybe take a trip back to Stormwind? Just a short visit.” Rheugan nodded, his eyes fixed off in the distance again. Pitch reached over to gently touch his arm. “We’ll figure something out, Rheu,” he said softly. “I promise.”
Small disclaimer- I am not trying to meta-game here. Pitch doesn't know that the Sha really are part of the Old Gods, but he needed a comparison and, since a good deal of the last 2 expansions involved the Old Gods and their effects, that was simply the first thing that came to mind. So, carry on. XD