Two days had passed since Stepanos had sent his letter. Two days, and no word in return. The courier claimed that the Church had no idea where the Reverend had gone, and left it at that. Of course, the Church and the Guardians were at odds with one another, so information flowing from them would be slim to nothing.
The one curious tidbit that had come from their eyes and ears within, claimed that the Reverend's house had been burned to the ground, leaving nothing but ash and soot; including the library that Anton had wanted to inspect. Curious, that. He would send Anton to inspect it in the morning. He reminded himself to write the order.
The night was cool and soft at Light's Flame. Birds twittered in the trees, flittering from tree to tree and singing songs of sleep. Various creatures roamed the grounds, squirrels and rabbits, mainly, nibbling on grass and acorns - bringing the garrison to life - even when it slept. Stepanos smiled.
Standing top the steps leading into the Great Hall, he watched with quiet satisfaction as the Light's favoured went about their night-time chores. Like a bee hive, all working as one - never ending.
Tomorrow, Stepanos would re-forge his blade.
Blacksmithing was a task he never tired of performing, using it to clear his mind and keep his strength and stamina in top condition. His fascination with the forge began in his youth, watching his father change ore into iron, iron into steel, and steel into swords. It was a lesson that guided him, that change is inevitable and that something new can always be created from that which was broken.
His sword was not broken. It was sharp, strong and true: a beacon of Light, and a weapon of Retribution. Yet, like the Order had recently been, it was time for reformation - the blade forged into something stronger, more powerful and able to withstand the coming battle against Accalia.
He took two steps, then stopped. His guild stone, the one used to communicate with his Guardians, buzzed to life - begging to be answered.
"Speak," he said, lifting it to his mouth. Voice activated through Light's gift, it was a handy device to have.
"Do you believe, sir," a soft, elegant feminine voice slowly replied. "That there is room for ALL within the Light? That even those who work with Shadow may do so while serving the Light as well?"
He froze, looking quizzically at the stone. He'd never heard this voice before. Certainly not one of the Guardians. He looked around the grounds, thinking it might be a prank of Brother Hegran's. It was something he might do, especially after the fight on the docks.
All were busy doing their tasks, and Hegran was out on patrol.
I'll bite, he thought, moving from the steps to stand under a large oak tree on the side of the plaza. His thought went to the Shadowfiend they'd fought in Stormwind. Was SHE trying to trick him? Perhaps.
"All who delve in Shadow are blights upon the Light," he said. "Shadow is the tool Darkness uses to extinguish the Light. Therefore, if one chooses the path of Shadow, they are doomed to fall into Darkness." He leaned against the tree, keeping his eyes on the workers and soldiers within the Keep. This has to be a prank.
"And what about those who follow the Light, while using Shadow as a tool to do the Light's work?" the voice replied. "Can they not find solace within the Light? Is there not room for their existence within the Light's embrace?" He frowned.
"No, Madam," he said, shaking his head. "There is not. Choosing Shadow to begin with taints one in Darkness. The choice to delve in Shadow indicates that one feels the Light is not worthy." His mind went to past conversations, his training, his books. The Tenets spoke to him like a preacher, and he flowed into the words and debate with the mysterious woman on the other end of the stone.
They danced for over an hour, each side winning points, while both moved closer to one another's position. It became clear to him, that the woman was NOT a Darkfriend. That she was a follower of the Light who felt there was a place for all within the Light. She was very diplomatic, and sounded like an emissary of peace from Stormwind.
It was a sound argument, and she made it well. Like a diplomat might, forcing him to think hard about his position and state it as eloquently as herself.
Who IS this woman? he thought, pondering her question regarding the races, and their places within the Light. She dances with words like a prima ballerina commands the stage. Their positions were VERY similar, though her stance on using Shadow for the Light's work was nowhere close to the Righteous Light's position.
"All races are welcome within the Light," he said. "All except one: the Forsaken. They are abominations and blights upon the land. Created from the Light's fallen, and reanimated with Shadowfiends. They feel no love, they feel no joy. No pleasure. They live to destroy, and can only continue so long as WE die."
This lead into another debate, though her position was not too far off from his. "While most of what you say appears to be true," she said. She had a lovely voice. "What of those who attempt at love, attempt compassion? Should we not show the same to them?"
"No, madam," he stated. "Not the compassion you mean. It would be compassion to destroy them, to end their miserable existence. Much like putting down a prize horse who has come up lame. Once all has been done, true Compassion is in the release of life, sending them into the Light for reunification."
The conversation continued, though their ground move no closer. It was like standing on the same road, yet opposite sides. They were on the same path, yet guided by slightly different lines. He could work with this, and said as much in reply.
"I must admit, madam," he said, once the debate had wound to a close. "That this form of communication for debate is odd. Perhaps you would be interested in visiting our Order in Light's Flame? The Guardians and I would be honoured to host you over food and drink."
"It seems we have more in common than I had first thought," she said. "I think I would like that very much, though the drink I prefer is probably not what you normally serve."
"Moonberry juice or water for me," Stepanos said, chuckling as he recalled his time with the Graceful Swan. "A taste that came during my time with the Tian monks in Pandaria."
"Interesting," she said. "Even more common ground, though I doubt your tastes came in the ways mine did.' She sighed, almost laughed. "Embarrassment sometimes forces change."
"You might be surprised, Madam," he said, this time booming a baritone laugh from his gut. "Mine involved Yaks. And a Graceful Swan." The pause was lengthy, as he knew she was pondering the meaning of his words.
"Ah, yaks?" she said increduliously. "This is a story I must hear, sir. Perhaps when we next meet?"
"So you agree to come to Light's Flame?" he said. "My Guardians would be pleased to welcome you."
"We shall see," she said. "You have given me much to think about, sir." Stepanos gasped, then clenched his jaw. Where are my manners?
"Madam," he said. "Please forgive me, but I never introduced myself. My comrades would be horrified at my lack of etiquette and tact. "I am Stepanos..." He paused, considering if he should include his title. "Stepanos DelaCroix. Guardian of the Righteous Light."
"And my Order would be just as horrified at mine," she said, chuckling. "Shocked, more like it. I am Aerana Dantay. It is pleasure to make your acquaintance, Stepanos DelaCroix."
"The honor is all mine, Miss Dantay," he replied. The name sounded familiar, but he couldn't place it. Before the Reformation, not many within the Alliance cared to associate with the Guardians.
"And now, Stepanos DelaCroix," she said, sounding tired and weary. "I must retire. I have recently recovered from an... illness, and find my stamina lacking at this time of night."
"I understand completely, Miss Dantay," Stepanos said. "I, too, must complete my rounds and retire. Though, I found our conversation diverting and pleasurable. You debate quite well, Miss Dantay. I look forward to our next bout."
"As do I, Stepanos," she replied. "Until next time, then?"
"Until next time," he replied. "May the White Light of Righteousness keep you safe within it's warm and loving embrace."
The stone went quiet. He stared at it, lifting the white, polished disc to his eyes - twisting it this way and that under inspection. What an odd occurrence. The last thing he'd expected while walking his rounds, was a mysterious debate about the Light's place in the world. Fascinating.
He caught the attention of a page standing just inside the door to the Great Hall. "Send word to the Brother Bailey," Stepanos said to the young man. "I want him to find out everything he can about a woman named Aerana Dantay."
"Yes, Lord High Commander," the young page said, Fist to Light salute. "Aerana Dantay. On it, sir." Stepanos nodded once, returned the salute and continued toward his chambers.