Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Reunion with the Forest

Sintas landed between two small trees, shifting out of the storm crow’s shape. Fandral soon after landed as well, shifting back to his elven form. He cast a questioning glance at Sintas. “Why are we here?”
She pointed to a deer trail following up a hill between the trees. “This. You’ve been away for a long time, Fandral.” She started up the trail, pausing to look back. Fandral stood there, frowning.
“I’ve kept up with my duties… What do you mean?”
Sintas smiled. “Come on. It’s a good spot, anyways.”
He sighed, placing one foot in front of the other at a slow pace. What does she want me to do? He frowned as soon as she turned away, continuing up the trail. She has explaining to do. That’s all I want. The two druids climbed the steep trail, brushing aside overgrowth. Fandral growled, losing his grip on a branch too soon to avoid a smack from the branch to the back of his head. He paused a moment, then lifted a hand up swiftly. The branches promptly raised themselves from his way, accepting his request. As he passed, they slowly lowered back to their original positions, obviously displeased with his command. Bah. Hurry it up, Sintas.
Sintas looked back. “Impatient?” She smiled a bit, turning back to her destination at the top of the hill.
Fandral sighed. “I want an explanation. Soon, if it’s not too much of a bother for you.”
She smiled. “You’ll get an explanation. I promise. Just come on.” Sintas stepped carefully, trying to stay on the overgrown roots to avoid stepping on the smaller, more fragile foliage of the path.
Fandral glanced down to her curious steps, taking a moment to question the movements. Her feet were bare, and the roots couldn’t have been comfortable to walk on. He glanced over his shoulder. Dotted along the path were snapped stems and crushed leaves, following his footfalls. Then he remembered. The paths of Darnassus had grown on him. They were smooth, well-kept, and only slightly overgrown with mosses and vines. There was little enough fragile vegetation that he needn’t worry about his steps, but continue on his way. But here, in the wilds of Teldrassil, the tree he himself had led to the planting and careful nurture of, he had forgotten to watch what—and who—he tread upon. He looked to the path ahead, stepping on the roots as Sintas did.
Fandral enjoyed the outdoors, of course. Any druid did, any night elf, for that matter. The typical night elven house was open-air on at least one side, letting moonlight and fresh air in. His chamber, of course, was closed in for a reason: privacy during discussion. It granted privacy. It also gave him a place to be where others could easily find him when needed. But… It took a great deal away, as well. Druids were accustomed to wandering. Boxing one into a room did provide accessibility to others, but he was caged. This freedom he now felt had not been known for some time. After his duties had been performed for the day, requests had been heard, guests had been spoken to, and rituals had been performed, he was always so weary. So, to bed he went. Day after day. Teldrassil was no small responsibility, and though he knew it was largely his responsibility, well… He did not want to be the Archdruid anymore. A druid, yes. A thousand times yes. But not the Archdruid.
The roots beneath his feet were not all that uncomfortable. Moss growing on the rough exteriors of them provided ample cushioning, and unlike the delicate undergrowth below the roots, the moss sprang back into place after being trodden upon. He smiled to himself. Darnassus was a wondrous blend of the organic and the artificial, blurring the line between the two gracefully, but even the night elves’ organic living style could not compare to nature’s grace. He looked up, up to the tree canopy above. Trees within a tree, their branches interweaving and blending together into one fluttering mass of leaves and quivering branches. It was so beautiful.
What had he been angry for?
Broll. Sintas. Damnit.

Sintas glanced over her shoulder. Her companion’s head was lowered, a fitful expression on his face. I’ll get to the bottom of this soon enough, she thought. Oh, Fandral… Why can’t you just learn to take a moment and think before letting the wildfire consume your heart? She sighed, looking back ahead. They were almost at her favorite place to think, a place she had kept somewhat to herself. On the few days she lacked an assignment, she would come here, bringing a book with her to read among the forest’s boughs. She didn’t have many friends at the moment. They came and went, much as she herself did. Of course, she felt no ill will towards them for doing so, but at times, she missed the acquaintances she had made.
Sintas frowned to herself. Hm. Acquaintances. Most of them being insufferable men who decide I am the perfect girl to cling to. She smiled a bit in spite of this. Referring to herself as a “girl” was correct, but the young connotation of the word still caused her to think twice of herself. Had she really grown up yet? She certainly hoped not. Taking herself seriously as an adult usually led to trouble and more self-examination.

Fandral looked up from his careful steps for a moment, noted the fact they hadn’t yet reached their destination, and looked back down. When had it been? Only about a year ago that Broll had finally returned from obscurity? That was it? Just one year. That was all it took for him to crush Fandral’s hopes. He scowled. I dearly hope that I am wrong. This has been in my consideration for far too long for him to simply dash in and—Wait… What if they knew each other before? Could it be? His busy mind failed to notice the edge of Sint’s kilt before his feet, bumping into her as she stood on the path. He looked up, confused. This was not an area he remembered visiting before…

Rage of the Bear

The emissary from Nighthaven was back again today, as usual. And this day, Fandral paid even less attention to his words. It didn’t matter, not now.
Sintas. And Broll?
Fandral sighed. I suppose I should have expected it. But how could he have expected such… such… betrayal? He knew he had never been much more to Sintas than her superior, but it was betrayal. He had told her what she was to him. And she had refused him. After all he had done for her! She was ungrateful. He never expected her to show him such insolence, but she had done just that. Insolence. He was sick of it.
He wondered what she was doing. What she was thinking. Probably nothing concerning him, of course. Probably…
An image flickered through his mind. His face set into an enraged scowl…
The emissary shrank back slightly. “…Ah. Archdruid, my apologies.”
Fandral waved his hand, snorting. “Bah. Continue, my mind was elsewhere. Repeat what you were saying.”
The emissary backtracked on his list, nodding. Fandral, however, could care less. His gaze flickered to his door. The glass was shadowed by someone. He had no appointments after the emissary… Oh, goodie, I get to play the guessing game, he thought with a smirk. Who will it be? Will I enjoy their company? Of course not. Feh, it’s always a waste of time.
The emissary stood up, bowing slightly to Fandral. “Thank you for your time, Archdruid. I trust you will take these requests into your consideration.”
Fandral nodded. “Of course. Let my next guest in.” He watched the door, interested for once to see who came through.
Broll stepped in. Fandral sprang from his seat, growling. Broll’s expression switched quickly from casual greeting to startled surprise.
“Er… Fandral?”
“This had better be a valuable use of my time, Broll, for I am none too pleased with your arrogant presence!”
Broll blinked a few times. “…I assure you, it is.” He shook off his initial surprise. “It concerns Sintas. She fell ill today, and will not be at the meeting. She has asked me to request going in her stead.”
“She would, wouldn’t she?” Fandral snapped. As Broll raised a brow, Fandral growled. “You believe me to be unaware? Hardly. I know very well about you two.”
Broll raised his hands. “Wait, what do you mean?”
Fandral’s golden eyes flared brighter. “I saw you two. You had been spying on us, hadn’t you? Waiting for your opportunity to descend and take her back!” He threw a swipe of his hand, crackling with energy, at Broll. Broll stepped back quickly, avoiding it.
“Fandral, you misunderstand—“
“I UNDERSTAND COMPLETELY!” Fandral loosed the energy at Broll, missing him barely. The energy flew out the open door, dissipating into the air. Broll stared at him. This wasn’t what he had come for. A fight with the Archdruid? The angry Archdruid? No.
“Fandral. Just stop for a moment, let me explain.”
Fandral growled, seething.
“I don’t know what it is you think is going on, but really! I’m not interested in her, honestly!” Broll felt as though he were staring down an angry bear… And not a bear he could communicate sense or calm into. Though he could turn into one, of course… “Look, I did convince her to let me go in her stead, but not for such a reason! I’m trying to protect her!”
“Protect her? Bah, from what?!”
Broll growled. “From you, of course! She told me what happened, Fandral. You embarrassed her. If she agrees with any point you make at that meeting, she’ll be seen as simply favoring you because of those damn rumors!”
Fandral glared. “And what do you get out of this?”
“I gain the satisfaction of helping a fellow druid from a difficult situation.”

Sintas jumped, startled by the roar that sliced through the air. She looked around quickly, springing off her bed and onto the floor. Her feet landed on papers, the rest of her following in the fall as the papers slipped across the floor. She let out a yelp, landing on her backside. For a moment, she simply laid there, frowning to herself. Terribly skittish. Ugh. She brushed aside the papers with her feet, standing up on the cleared area of floor. That roar… It had sounded from the enclave… She frowned. Should I even bother? Shaking her head, she sighed. If the Archdruid happened to be in some sort of danger, she wouldn’t forgive herself for failing to at least see what happened. She slipped on her sandals, looking down at herself. Still in her nightgown, having had no reason to leave her house this day. But wasn’t—
Broll. Wasn’t he supposed to meet with Fandral today?
Oh dear.
She grabbed a slip-on dress, secured a belt around her waist, and leapt onto the railing around her house, transforming into the storm crow.

This is bad, Broll thought. He ducked another swipe at his head. I just had to think about it. And now it’s happened. He really is an angry bear. The huge, dark green bear roared, standing on his hind legs to bring a paw down on Broll’s head. Broll shifted to the form of a cat, narrowly dodging what would have been a crushing blow to his skull. He tried leaping for the open door, nearly reaching it before a paw the size and weight of a mace swung out and caught him in the face. Broll tried shaking it off, but the blow had been too hard. His nose was broken, at best. I can’t keep this up… Damnit, Fandral, get a hold of yourself! He still couldn’t fathom why Fandral was so angry. Sintas had turned him down. What did Broll have to do with it? Unless…
The bear’s head slammed into Broll’s side, interrupting his train of thought. This wasn’t about to end easily. Broll was known for his prowess in feral combat, but this was too much. He might as well have been back in the arena, tossed around by an ogre. But at least in the arena, there was the reasonability of fighting back. Directly attacking the Archdruid would not be advisable, to say the least. Think, Broll… Think! His rage is comparable to yours at this point!
The chamber’s floor came to life, sprouting branches and trunks that encased the raging bear. The bear tried smacking them aside, then looked to the door. There stood Sintas, eyes set on Fandral with a look of utmost pity. Fandral watched her, his lip curled back, quivering. A low, dangerous growl still escaped his throat. Sintas stepped quietly to the cage of branches, reaching a hand out to him. Powerful jaws locked down on her hand, crunching bones and tearing ligaments. Sintas closed her eyes, wincing.
Broll watched. His nose sent him waves of pain, but his eyes were wide. She’s absolutely crazy. She should know better than to get so close to him when he’s this angry! He started to leap towards her as she lowered her head to Fandral’s. “SINTAS, STOP!”
Fandral made no move to attack her head, however. Sintas set her free hand on his head, stroking his fur gently. “Fandral,” she whispered, “let your spirit be calm… Let your mind be at ease, dear friend.”
The bear remained still for a long moment, eventually releasing his vice grip on her hand. She flexed her hand, letting out a pained grunt. The hand became enveloped in green light, sealing shut the horrid bite wounds and returning the lost blood, still clinging hopefully to her skin, to her flesh.
Broll landed short of the two, watching in amazement as the grievous wound faded into nothingness, as though it had never even happened. I had heard she was a powerful healer, but… A wound that fresh, and that mangled… Her hand looks fine… Surely the bones haven’t been repaired as well, have they?
Sintas opened her eyes, looking at Fandral. His bear form was large, larger than even a tauren’s transformation. He stood on all fours, and yet was still nearly at eye level with her.

The taste of hot iron still flooded Fandral’s mouth. Why had he done that… He was angry at Broll, not her… Wasn’t he? He sensed some sort of spell had been cast on him, calming his rage, but it hardly mattered. She was here, stroking his fur, accompanying him. With him yet again. He closed his eyes. He felt her breath against his ear, listened to her whisper a quiet plea. He nodded, letting out a sigh.
Sintas stepped over to Broll, kneeling down and setting her hand on his nose. A green glow called the bone back into its proper place, mending the cracks and bleeding within. She gave him a light scratch behind his ears, turning back to the cage of branches. A wave of her hand signaled the branches to recede, withdrawing back into the floor. Fandral shook himself off, shifting out of the bear’s shape and into that of the storm crow. Sintas looked to Broll.
“I’ll attend the meeting tomorrow. Place my notes back in my house, if you please.”
With that, she stepped out the door, becoming feathered and winged as well, lifting off of the walkway. Fandral followed suit, up into the air to circle once before setting off for the east.

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Rest & Review

The following day passed without much incident; Sintas read through her numerous notebooks and journals, looking for pertinent information while sipping a cup of cinnamon tea. Her bedroom floor was covered with the various pieces of paper she had taken from her notes, strewn about in the usual creative chaos of such moments. The highborn were a unique opportunity, due to one talented individual of the past: Millicent Serene. She had been an enchantress, much as Sintas was, but had taken her craft a step further. Somehow, by accident or by careful planning, she had developed formulae of enchantments that imbued objects with the very will of nature. This had granted much power to Eldre’thalas, and had also gained them favor with the world around them. Unfortunately, Millicent herself had passed away centuries ago, leaving only her notes and published works behind. Sintas bit her lip. If I could get my hands on those notes… She frowned. I wonder how willing the highborn would be to relinquishing those notes, though… To anyone, let alone another enchantress. She stretched her arms over her head, yawning. How long had she been at this? An hour? Surely longer than that. Two hours, at least. Though she couldn’t blame herself for taking so long, really. It was an important subject, and required plenty of thought and knowledge ahead of time. The highborn had been the upper caste of the first night elven society, the favored of Queen Azshara. And though these highborn of Eldre’thalas had not been at work in Zin’azshari working to bring in the Burning Legion, they were still a part of such a society. Plus, they had been led by a corrupt prince. Growing desperate in isolation and pained after the destruction of the Well of Eternity, the prince had ordered a demon be summoned as a source of power for the highborn. It had worked, for a time. Eventually, though, it became a burden for them to even contain the demon. They locked themselves away in their libraries for the most part, while others of their own withered away. Eldre’thalas was overcome with spirits. Food was in short supply. The highborn were desperate.
But despite their desperation, the night elves were none too excited to help. It was an uphill struggle, of course. The night elves had cast aside arcane magic at the behest of Malfurion Stormrage, the druid who had led them to salvation from the collapsing Well. To ask of the night elves to accept into society those who had basically spat in the shan’do’s face was… Well, it was rather difficult.
Sintas rested back on the pillows of her bed, sighing. Malfurion. If only he were here instead of serving the green dragonflight in the Emerald Dream. Though that was important. And wonderous, too, of course. But no one had heard any word from him for some time. And the nightmare…
She shook her head. No, if anyone could have an impact on it, it was him. But still.
Sintas, you distract yourself. She nodded. Back to what you were doing. You don’t want to end up embarrassing yourself. That was the last thing she would allow, to be improperly prepared. It was obvious, of course, she was to be watched carefully during the meeting. She picked up one of her notebooks, turning to an empty page in the back and picking up a pen. A checklist would be a good idea…

1.) Ask about Millicent Serene’s notes.
2.) Request a free inspection of Eldre’thalas.

Sintas tapped her pen on the third blank, frowning. What else?

3.) Support in Ashenvale.

Broll would appreciate that.

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