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Cerestal
Cerestal
Posts: 48
Joined: April 4th, 2014, 8:43 am
Cerestal

Callings (closed)

Postby Cerestal » November 22nd, 2014, 6:28 pm

After ten days, it occurred to Cerestal Falah'serrar that he may have become addicted to sex. Every woman - even the non-elves - seemed physically appealing at some time or another and the nights were spent tossing and turning. He had gone centuries without the touch of a woman in the past, yet now he was stir-crazy after half a moon cycle (or however this new moon worked).

Talador was pleasant enough, if a little warm. Drier than the marsh they had plodded through to get there from Lunarfall at least. Cerestal mostly saw (and liked) the hostility of it. When it wasn't patrolling or picquet, it was hauling lumber in full armor in support of the laborers. Then a horn would blow, you dropped the log, drew your sword and fought off a wave of orcs or saberon, picked the log back up ten minutes later and got back to work. The first day they spent establishing Fort Wrynn saw no fewer than twenty-five skirmishes from sunrise to sunset.

"Sergeant!"

"Sir!" Cerestal shouted automatically, looking around for the voice. It was Knight-Captain Wells, who no doubt wanted him to organise the night picquets. The night elf walked over and threw a quick salute. He liked that.

"Have you written up the night picquets yet?"

"Done sir," Cerestal reported. "Corporal Howard is letting them know who is on when as we speak."

"Good." Wells said, not without a level of superiority in his voice. "And the medical supplies?"

"Vaastad is organising that."

"Sergeant Vaastad, you mean." the Knight-Captain spat.

"Yes, sir."

"Yes, what?"

"Sergeant Vaastad, sir."

Captain Wells had not been subtle in expressing his dislike for him. His predecessor had been a human, and something of a tyrant if the privates could be believed. Sergeant Harrison had been Well's enforcer until a fever claimed him and half a dozen others in the Blasted Lands. By the time the healers showed up, half the Company was bedridden. Or so he was told.

"Conduct an inspection of the men's weapons." Wells ordered. "And report any problems to me."

Cerestal nodded, threw a salute and went to his task. It was a meanial one since half the soldiers were Pandaria veterans and well-versed in soldiering. Still, there were several of the greener privates that had poorly sharpened swords or a spot of pitted blood rust, and each time Cerestal found something, he showed the private a trick or two to fix it. He would report nothing unless it was incompetence or laziness rather than inexperience. And a golden rule in the army was to keep problems as low as possible - he knew the corporals dealt with problems to keep him out of things, and the privates helped one another to keep the corporals out of other things. Involving rank unnecessarily made large problems out of small issues.

By the time he was done, it was sunset and the first night picquets were preparing to leave the fires. The laborers were rotated to keep building a round-the-clock task. A group of riflemen and footmen were marching out to begin a patrol. A Company paraded nearby.

He felt at home again. He had missed this old familiar structure of army life.

"Done sir." he reported to Wells afterwards.

"And..?"

"Nothing to report."

"Is that right, sergeant?" Wells glared up at him. "So you're telling me there's absolutely *nothing* wrong with any of my men's weapons?"

It was a trap. He could commit to his statement, at which point Wells would conduct an inspection and find an issue - anyone can find a problem if they look hard enough, after all. He could admit to some small infractions and undermine himself before the man, or throw one of the genuinely lazy soldiers under the wagon, but he would have to say the issue was dealt with, and that would undermine Wells who demanded to be notified.

"Sir!" came a voice from the flank. Sergeant Vaastad had the familiar draenei accent that reminded Cerestal of a diesel engine. He arrived and saluted. "The medical supplies are here, sir. But the logistics officer won't accept a signature from an OR."

"He what?!" Wells exploded. Even Cerestal had to fume a little. Bloody officers, and non-combat officers at that. The Knight-Captain stormed off.

"You have no idea how good that timing was." Cerestal remarked.

"He'll find the supplies already signed for by a Lieutenant." Vaastad said. "I figured you could use a helping hand."

"What? How?"

The draenei never smiled, but he had a sparkle in his eye whenever he was amused. Like now. "Harrison was never one to help a fellow sergeant. If you had to endure my first month under the Captain, you'd punch him about a week from now."

"I owe you one." Cerestal said with a wry smirk, and shook the draenei's hand. Good help is hard to find.

"I don't keep score."

Cerestal decided it would be best to check on the worst of the weapons again, just in case Wells hadn't forgotten about the conversation. He passed a female private, caught her scent and grumbled at his immediate hard-on. It'll pass, he assured himself. It'll pass.

Meia
Meia
Posts: 27
Joined: November 21st, 2014, 10:36 pm
Meia

Re: Callings (closed)

Postby Meia » November 25th, 2014, 9:45 pm

No matter the world, treatment for frostbite never changed.

Meia held her hands out to the fire warming the pots of water for soaking afflicted limbs. Fresh, dry skins and precious rolls of cloth were stacked and ready. Frostwolf shamans chanted their entreaties to the ancestors, asking them to look kindly on their inexperienced, foolish descendants and let them keep their extremities a little longer.

Her own work, and that of the other Horde healers', was done. A handful remained in Wor'gol, too weak to rejoin the troops heading back to the Frostfire garrison. Meia had chosen to stay behind with them until tomorrow. Or the day after. A storm was predicted. If the prediction came true, no one would be traveling.

There wasn't much mingling yet between Frostwolf healers and the Horde's. A sense of not wanting to intrude on each other's customs was largely the reason, but Meia suspected a touch of professional wariness on the Frostwolves' behalf. Being dead didn't make one kinder, or smarter, or more noble.

"What a lovely pelt."

Meia turned. One of the Cold-Singers crouched next to her; the orc's breath misted the air. "Did you kill it yourself?"

Meia reached up to the milk-pale scarf tied around the top of her coat and the bottom of her windwool hood. "No, it was a gift." One she would leave behind in a jungle worse than Stranglethorn or Krasang WIlds.

The Cold-Singer grinned, flashing white fangs. "Ah." Meia answered the grin with a half-quirked corner of her mouth.

"He is not with you?"

Meia shook her head. "He fights elsewhere. "

The Cold-Singer nodded in sympathy. "Warriors go where they're needed."

Especially when they're not of your race or faction. "As do healers."

The plea to the ancestors ended in a sharp, swift cry and a flourishing tambourine beat. The shaman with the tambourine snorted and fixed Meia with an appraising stare. "Indeed. But you would do well to learn what the Frostwolves can teach you of Draenor, priestess."

"I would be honored." And the garrison's commander, an earnest young male troll, would be relieved to know she was one of the few not moving on to Gorgrond, or Talador, or beyond. Horde and presumably Alliance were moving swiftly to keep the Iron Horde guessing. All to the good, Meia supposed...but that strategy ran the risk of leaving their foothold and new friends undermanned and unguarded.

The shaman laughed. "Good! Two things you learn first. One, to shake this." The tambourine rattled in her hand.

Meia smiled. "I think I can manage."

"Second, to appreciate hot fermented clefthoof milk."

Meia's smile faltered. "That .. may take a little while."

This time, the shaman's patients joined in with her laughter.

Cerestal
Cerestal
Posts: 48
Joined: April 4th, 2014, 8:43 am
Cerestal

Re: Callings (closed)

Postby Cerestal » November 26th, 2014, 2:02 am

"You married, sergeant?"

Cerestal almost dropped his grip and whirled on the voice before he identified it as Lieutenant Gannon. If it had been a private, he'd have told him to mind his own business.

"A good soldier doesn't marry." he replied, his breathing ragged as he climbed his section of the slope, dragging a dead footman to be collected by a private further up. Gannon pointed out two dead orcs back down the slope to a pair of privates who went about their next task, grumbling when they were out of earshot. The orcs had used artillery and an iron star, leaving a few dozen casualties before they came forward to skirmish. The attacking force lost less than a score of soldiers before they withdrew again.

"Do night elves marry?" Gannon sounded genuinely curious.

"They do." Cerestal replied. "Though if you want any more details, you ought to ask one."

"But you..."

"Spent almost none of my adult life among elves." he finished, dropped the dead soldier he didn't know and dusted his hands as a private dragged him the rest of the way up to the fort walls. "And I'll take steak and potatoes over rice and kimchi every day."

"I've never had kimchi." he remarked.

"Druid dish." A term he adopted for any vegetarian meal no self-respecting warrior should eat.

"What?"

"Never mind, sir." Cerestal waved a private over and ordered him to relieve a picquet. "But no. I'm not married."

Gannon still had something to say, but mulled over his words before he spoke. "You just strike me as someone who has left a woman behind."

"What makes you say that, sir?"

The lieutenant shrugged. "Gut feeling."

The conversation drifted off. Cerestal went down the hill and took hold of a dead rifleman left for him. Somewhere, Captain Wells was shouting at someone. Cerestal made his climb and was relieved by another private in a clockwork process.

"I'm not married." Cerestal said again when the moments labour was done. "Though I do have a woman."

"Aha." he said. "You didn't marry her?"

"No, sir."

"Why not?"

"What difference does a formal ceremony make?"

Gannon chuckled. "You're a sergeant. Ceremony should be everything to you."

He liked Gannon. He wasn't snobbish or holier-than-thou like most officers. He had learned that the Lieutenant had been a sports team captain, though he had forgotten what sport. Something that required speed and agility over strength. Gannon was scarcely six feet, lean and athletic. The man also seemed to like Cerestal, though for a reason he couldn't put his finger on, Cerestal seemed to be quite well-liked by most. That was a change.

"We need a healer!" someone shouted. Cerestal echoed the shout with several others. It took several minutes for a healer to emerge from the mostly-complete walls of Fort Wrynn. They only had three between a battalions worth of soldiers. Cerestal waved to get his attention, then pointed down at the footman who had called.

Minutes passed before Gannon started conversation again. "Any children?"

"No." he replied pensively.

"You should fix that." the Lieutenant said. Cerestal was momentarily dumbfounded that a nineteen year old had just given him such advice. Then he remembered the man was married and probably had children of his own.

The topic was uncomfortable, so Cerestal steered away from it. "She's a healer."

"Perfect match for a warrior."

"So you say, sir."

Cerestal
Cerestal
Posts: 48
Joined: April 4th, 2014, 8:43 am
Cerestal

Re: Callings (closed)

Postby Cerestal » February 9th, 2015, 8:23 pm

When he read the flier, he had to laugh. Even if it scared a nearby child into cowering behind her mother.

It was the the Love is in the Air celebration back on Azeroth. That made for a funny coincidence. He did some math. Was that three months he had been on Draenor? He hadn't planned to find his way back so early, even for a few hours, but this was an opportunity he could not ignore.

The wisps were saying (a kaldorei term meaning an abound rumour) that the Twilight Empire was hosting a party of some kind behind the Stormwind Cathedral.

Cerestal didn't much like parties. No self-respecting warrior should enjoy getting into their best clothing, eating from banquet tables and discussing trivial matters like shoes or politics. Not when he could be killing a demon, prying its skull off of its spine and then killing another demon with said skull. The things we do for love...

Right now, he needed to attend what the flier called a 'masquerade' party. That probably just meant another word for fancy. Then he needed to find somebody amongst their number that he trusted, and ask for a big favour.

The celebration was attended by several people, mostly the Empire's members. He didn't recognise most of them - especially since nearly everyone was wearing some mask or helmet or cowl - but he knew Dinpik Fogbuster's green pigtails anywhere.

"Hi there!" she beamed.

"Ishnu'alah."

They made small talk for a while. After that, it descended into a blur of talking to people, learning their names, forgetting their names and so on. He remembered Anahi and Myaka and a few others from a few years back (though didn't exchange words with any of them) and notably remembered Resileaf from Stromgarde a year ago. She had a female companion, as so many kaldorei women seemed to do nowdays. After the meets and greets, Cerestal had decided on Dinpik. If she wasn't trustworthy, he didn't know who was.

To his dismay, majority of the group began discussing politics. This was a celebration about love! And they were talking about politics! It thoroghly annoyed him, but also gave him a good excuse to slip away. He sought out Dinpik again, who was sensibly not participating in the conversation.

"Can I talk to you for a moment?"

He thought she would be puzzled, but she just beamed in that way she did. "Sure."

He took her aside and hunkered down to speak with her. She was a gnome after all and he a night elf. Without exaggerating, he must have been at least double her height.

"Can you do me a favour?" he asked, keeping his voice down.

"What's up?"

"Can you deliver this for me?" he passed her a letter. "It would mean a lot to me."

"Oh?" she seemed puzzled until she read the recipient's name. "Oh!

"You spelled her name wrong."

"I did? Oh."

"It's fine." Dinpik said cheerfully. "I'll need to pass this on to Tanyel and he'll get it to Silvermoon."

Cerestal didn't know who that was, but trusted Dinpik's discretion. All the same he was anxious. It was out of his hands now, and it involved bothering at least three people. He pushed those doubts aside.

"Thanks."

They rejoined the gathering. She asked him if he could duel her felguard again, despite not being armed. He told her it could wait, sat down to watch the cutest couple competition and promptly forgot about it.

Meia
Meia
Posts: 27
Joined: November 21st, 2014, 10:36 pm
Meia

Re: Callings (closed)

Postby Meia » February 14th, 2015, 9:19 am

She was going to have to tell Kiraleen.

Within Snowmelt's barracks, Meia sat in the middle of her bedding, field armor dropped in a heap at its foot, wrapped in a heavy felt robe and a growing sense of failure.

A supply run. She'd offered her services as a healer, in part because of the threat of attack from Iron Horde or Alliance, in part because she was curious about Draenor and wanted to see more of it than Frostfire Ridge and Beastwatch. Things had gone smoothly for the most part -- Gorgrond's flora objected to their presence in spots, a foolhardy Alliance sniper, the cart driver swinging past an Alliance outpost for some foolish reason -- until they left Khadgar's tower.

Instead of heading on to the Spires of Arak, the group turned east.

Into Alliance-dominated territory.

Meia thought at first there might have been a Horde outpost secreted away in the Valley's hillsides. Apparently there wasn't. The cart driver shortly turned around, but its putative defenders continued on into Shadowmoon. Confusion segued to growing dread. There was no legitimate reason for them to be here Meia could see.

Within a short amount of time, her fears were proven true. Konro led the attack on several draenei villages. Meia partook at first, hating the use of her prayers for this reason and a nascent self-disgust growing with each passing moment. Eventually she stopped healing... not that anyone seemed to notice.

"This is not my way," Braygah muttered once, and fell back from the rushing slaughter. Meia joined her, trying to decide what to do. She should not leave Jenasis. The Forsaken had listened earlier to Meia's scolding about bickering with the others, but Meia was afraid Jenasis, riding the wave of pointless violence, would outright refuse an order to return to her stationed garrison.

In the end she had left them and retreated to Snowmelt. She didn't know when -- if -- Jenasis did the same.

She should have bowed out as soon as she realized members of The Grim were involved. The Grim were to be avoided -- Kiraleen had been very clear on that. But the Horns of the Shu'halo had sponsored this supply run, and the Field Marshal held the Horns in high respect and fondness. Granted, Meia had never met the two Horns involved -- Konro and Breygah -- before. But still...

Breygah had said the senseless murder of villagers was not her way. Meia hadn't believed it to be the Horns' way, either.

Meia rubbed her forehead. Tomorrow. Tomorrow she would write -- no, contact Kiraleen through the guildstone. Assuming Kiraleen's was on. If not, she would write.

And hope for her sake, and Jenasis', the Outriders' Field Marshal was in a forgiving mood.

Meia
Meia
Posts: 27
Joined: November 21st, 2014, 10:36 pm
Meia

Re: Callings (closed)

Postby Meia » February 20th, 2015, 5:45 am

"... And that's when I returned to Snowmelt, Field Marshal."

Despite meeting in Kiraleen's private residence in Silvermoon, and the very non-official simple shirt, pants and boots Kiraleen wore, circumstances, Meia felt, dictated a formal approach. Where exactly they were meeting underscored that feeling, Kiraleen's office rather than the cozy-looking sitting room passed by on the way here.

No first-time visitor's tour of the house, either. Meia had reached Kiraleen through the guildstone, but their meeting had been delayed until the following day.

Kiraleen tapped her left forefinger on her desk, once. Meia wished she could read the other woman's expression -- but she'd have to have an expression, first. She might be listening to Meia recite a list of fish to be caught in local waters.

"Jenasis?"

Meia's heart sank. Of course, Kiraleen would ask that. "She remained with the supply run, Field Marshal."

Kiraleen looked at her.

"I cannot begin to tell you how much you disappoint me," she said quietly. "Or how angry. You not only stayed with this ... aid effort... despite the presence of the Grim, you didn't order a lower-ranking Outrider to leave with you."

"Did you remind Jenasis that Outriders are not associate with the Grim? That we do not help them, or assist any effort they're involved with?"

Meia felt her cheeks burn. "...no, Field Marshal."

"Why not? A simple reminder... " Kiraleen shot her a sharp look. "You did inform her of that policy right?"

Her throat closed up. Meia could only shake her head.

Kiraleen looked away for a moment, then back at her.

"Meia Heartjoy, as of this moment you are no longer an officer of the Outriders."
Kiraleen's tone was carefully measured, deliberately calm."You are stripped of all responsibilities and privileges granted that rank, and relieved of your own particular duties to the Outriders. Your access to the shared vaults and accounts are revoked. You are docked three months' pay.

You are officially a private, and the only reason you have that at all is I need someone who can outrank Jenasis in Draenor besides her sister. Prove you deserve that rank in the next six months and I will consider a return to your former status."

Kiraleen stood up. "You are dismissed."

Numb, Meia saluted, and turned away, not waiting to see if Kiraleen returned it. She was at the door when Kiraleen called out, "Meia?"

Kiraleen held out an envelope. "This is for you."

Meia took it, left the office and within the hallway outside used her guildstone to return to Thunder Bluff.

She remained in the inn for the next two days, doing little but sleep and brood. Her eyes burned with unshed tears of anger, shame and self-disgust, but she couldn't cry. Tears were useless. On the morning of the third day she put out word she was looking for a mage who could create a portal to Warspear, paid with what gold she had left, and returned to Snowmelt. Commander Ajuna warned her another extended leave would result in punishment. Meia made the proper apologetic noises and promised never to do it again.

She took up her place with the Frostwolf and Horde healers currently assigned to the garrison and tried not to think about anything at all.

The letter remained, unopened and unexamined, at the bottom of her main pack.

Meia
Meia
Posts: 27
Joined: November 21st, 2014, 10:36 pm
Meia

Re: Callings (closed)

Postby Meia » March 23rd, 2015, 8:35 am

((This post takes place two weeks after the previous entry for Meia))

Red and white. Blood and snow.

Those colors dominated Meia's life since she returned to Snowmelt. She stayed in the garrison's infirmary until exhaustion or hunger drove her from it. She went out with every patrol that wanted a healer; few turned her down, even those composed entirely of Frostwolf natives.

As this one was.

A scream -- of victory or pain, it was hard to tell -- rose above the wind's piercing wail. Meia ran in its direction, the snow sweeping over the black stone ridge making treacherous footing. His furs soaked with blood from ribs to thigh, a young Frostwolf towered over his prone victim and the Thunderlord's pain with a single neat thrust to the neck. Yanking the weapon free, he slewed around and jabbed it at her.

Meia jumped back, calling the Light as a shield and readying another aspect of it as a weapon.

"Ah...healer." The orc passed his hand over his eyes, creating a gory half-mask. "My apologies."

He collapsed.

Meia knelt by him, the power intended to potentially take a life now readied to preserve it. Stabs to the rib cage, thigh ripped down the side... "Over here!" she shouted as the patrol's rallying horn sounded.

The orc's name was Vurkosh, she learned much later. He survived the return to Snowmelt and gradually recovered.

Physically.

The other healers talked of poor sleep and worse dreams, of uncharacteristic quietude and brooding. "He left part of himself on the battlefield," they said. But that was all.

Meia's thoughts turned to her earliest training, her successes in Everlook and elsewhere tending wounds of mind and spirit, and offered her aid.

"You may ask," said one of the Cold-Singers, in the very polite way she had that meant You're wasting your time.

Meia asked anyway. Vurkosh listened.

"Thank you, no," he said, his tone that of an adult refusing a child's offer to join her game. Meia nodded, putting a gracious face on the rush of embarrassment and anger. She had no right to feel either, she knew. Arjuna could order the Horde under his command to accept treatment at his whim, but his authority didn't extend to the Frostwolves.

So when Vurkosh approached her a few days later to accompany the squad he would lead the following morning, Meia was surprised and secretly relieved.

"What are you hunting?" The Thunderlords never seemed to give up, and a few Alliance stragglers had been making trouble lately. Of course, it could be a hunt for four-footed prey. Fresh meat was always welcome.

Vurkosh ran a thumb down the edge of his spear head. "What I left behind."

Cerestal
Cerestal
Posts: 48
Joined: April 4th, 2014, 8:43 am
Cerestal

Re: Callings (closed)

Postby Cerestal » April 3rd, 2015, 8:52 am

"This thing is a godsend." Cerestal exclaimed after a few reps of bench pressing. "We need one for every nest!"

"Ha ha! Is making for excellent workout." Sergeant Vaastad agreed through his thick accent. The godsend being a 100lb vehicle axle the draenei had salvaged (with sacks of grain for extra weight, of course), and the nest being this particular stash of equipment the two sergeants used for workouts.

It had been Cerestal's idea after the orcs were kicked out of Talador for good and deposited into Tanaan. He couldn't help comparing his strength in that recent fight to his part in the Vanguard that had first pushed through the portal. All those months ago, he had had two years of a perfected regimen built into him and he had been physically stronger than he had ever been. Now, wherever the company went, Sergeants Vaastad and Falah'serrar made an almost compulsive habit of scrounging up anything that could serve as gym equipment, stashed as 'nests' around common manning locations.

"We should destroy vehicles more often."

"Da. Agreed."

Cerestal finished his reps and they switched. They were of a similar size and strength, so the weights weren't changed.

"So how is the mail situation?" he asked, stretching his chest for the next set as the draenei did his presses. "I know I ask a lot but..."

"Da, you ask a lot!" Vaastad replied between breaths. "Every day is the asking of the mail situation!"

"I'm just expecting a letter is all."

"My darling wife has not send a letter either." he finished his reps and they switched again. "I am thinking the Shikuurei at Lunarfall are lazy again."

Cerestal assumed Shikuurei meant something derogatory, but didn't ask what. He knew that mail was infrequent because of the words 'army' and 'common sense' never went hand in hand, for example the nearly illiterate Vaastad being in charge of company's mail distribution. He usually palmed them off to a corporal who could read the names on the envelopes.

Still, it was gnawing at him that his letter was unreplied after two months and perhaps half a dozen arrivals of mail. Did it not reach her? Did someone intercept it? It would be embarrassing for that letter to suddenly appear in the Knight-Captain's hands with a 'please explain' attached by the folks in intelligence.

Maybe she was dead?

Cerestal shut that thought out immediately and threw himself into his next set of reps. Something will come. Eventually.

The night elf and draenei finished their workout a few hours later, gave the equipment over to the few privates equally motivated to stay strong (but knew their place on the pecking order as to wait their turn), sparred a little and went back to their duties.

Something will come.

Meia
Meia
Posts: 27
Joined: November 21st, 2014, 10:36 pm
Meia

Re: Callings (closed)

Postby Meia » April 4th, 2015, 5:08 am

Whatever Vurkosh hoped to find, he apparantly didn't know where it was.

The hunt numbered seven at the start: Vurkosh, Meia, and five other Frostwolves. The Frostwolves cut easily through the snow on their companion-wolves; Meia rode one of Snowmelt's more docile worgs and wished for a hawkstrider. She had never used a worg or a wolf as a mount until Draenor and she still felt awkward as a sack of tripe.The worgs and the orcs' wolves tolerated each other; Meia wasn't eager to test the limit of that tolerance in addition to her poor showing as a wolf-rider. A Frostwolf always brought up the rear, keeping Meia from being the last, straggling member of their party.

They had set out shortly after dawn, heading west from Snowmelt. Vurkosh flushed a family of boar from their resting place among the cover of a rocky outcropping. He was nearly gored by the sow more than once, pushing her away from the juveniles the other hunters harried. Meia's prayers shot out like rays of sunlight, keeping the orcs more or less intact. The hunt bordered on comedy at times, the prey slipping between crossed spears or darting between legs. In Meia's experience the humor masked how dangerous the situation could be.

Which made Vurkosh's decision more than a little puzzling to her.

In the end, however, the porcine family was slain, butchered and cached for later retrieval. On the way back, Meia decided. From... wherever they were going.

Vurkosh pointed them east and north, across the plains and toward the pass leading to Gorgrond. Surely he wasn't taking them that far? They weren't outfitted for that long a journey, to begin with, and moreover, nothing had been said about Gorgrond. Meia was almost relieved when Vurkosh called a halt to take his bearings.

The young orc stood still, head tilted, giving the impression of listening. He closed his eyes, opened them, shook his head and changed their course more to the north.

He did this a second time, turning them south. A third. They edged the Crackling Plains, inched their way toward Grom'gar.

A fourth halt. This last time he crouched down, hands clenched around his spear. The hunting party circled him; Meia heard his breath hissing between his teeth. He trembled, so much the spear wavered in his grasp. His mouth moved, but no words emerged. Meia glanced at the orc to her left; his impassive expression gave away nothing.

He was afraid. The realization was a surprise, more because Vurkosh did nothing to hide his fear.Uncertain what to do, but needing to do something, Meia reached for Vurkosh's shoulder.

Her fingers barely brushed his cloak's fur trim when war-cries thundered down on them.

The orcs turned back-to-back, Meia and Vurkosh at the center of the circle.

Though not for long. Vurkosh howled, wresting his spear from the snow, and charged past his tribefolk into the onrushing Grom'gar patrol.

Meia lost sight of him in the confusion of battle. Her world narrowed to her beseechments to the Light for protection, for the little healings that could stave off greater injury and death, for the power to burn their attackers with the Light itself. The battle passed in minutes but seemed to last hours, and at its end, all the Grom'gar were dead, and all the Frostwolf injured, two seriously.

Meia tended them first, then the others in their turn and finally Vurkosh. He bore her attention stoically, drawing back at last. "There's a good chance this will scar, healer." He tapped his left calf. "I'd like that."

Meia wiped her hands in the snow; she hadn't worn the pelt from Cerestal today and was glad of it. "Very well."

That was all she said as they returned to the cached boar meat. The Frostwolves talked and joked among themselves, even Vurkosh, though his laughter was short-lived and he spoke mostly in answer to others' commentary. When they neared Snowmelt's walls, Meia urged her worg up to Vurkosh's mount.

"Did you find...?"

Vurkosh looked at her. "Yes, healer. I did."

Later that evening, Meia emptied out her packs. She was restless but didn't want to join the impromptu celebration in honor of Vurkosh's successful hunt. She also wanted -- needed -- to come to a decision herself; that would be easier without distractions.

Easier.

So many things would be easier... if she chose to make them so. She could stay at Snowmelt and not rise to Kiraleen's challenge to regain her her rank. Kiraleen the woman wouldn't think less of Meia if she stayed put. Kiraleen the Field Marshal, however, would. If she had the former's regard, what difference did the lack of the latter's make?

Quite a bit.

That was a surprise to Meia. She had never thought of herself as particularly ambitious, at least when it came to social position and the like. That had always been her sister Domme's goal; their entire family had often joked that Domme had enough ambition for them both. She had privately considered Domme's efforts pointless social climbing. Her efforts weren't so self-centered.

And now?

"Hah. That's the the thing aboug self-examination. It's not always flattering." Meia folded up her smaller packs and set them to one side. She began separating her clothes into categories: clean, dirty, warm weather, cold weather.

An envelope slid from between knotted pairs of socks onto the floor.

Meia picked it up. When had she gotten this? "Meia? This is for you."

"Idiot," Meia muttered as she slid a fingernail under the flap. No name on it. "It's probably from Goldsworth. Or Domme...." She unfolded the paper inside and smoothed it on her lap.

Dear Meia,

I'm sending this letter through Kireleen because i'm asuming that you are deployed. Nobody lets a healer go that easely! I went through with Kadgar and his vanguard. The fighting was hard and we lost a lot of good men and women but victory was ours in the end. Since then, i have been in Taledor, mostly between Fort Wrynn and Shatrath.

Shatrath is nice. Legions upon legions of demons to kill here. I feel rite at home! I haven't been hurt yet so don't worry. Lady Liadrin is also here with her blood knights. A few of the ladys like me - its not easy turning some of them down. The men are taken to calling me 'Slayer of Sin'dorei' now becuse of there advances.

I miss you and i think about you a lot. I hope you're doing well. If you were draged to Draenor like i think you were, come find me and you'll make a few ladys jelous!

Love,

Cerestal


Meia reached out for the pelt on her pillow and fitted it over her shoulders. She stroked the fur, smiling as she reread the letter.

She wouldn't stay at Snowmelt. She'd go on to Shattrath and regain her rank, her responsibilities.

And maybe become a Slayer of Kaldorei while she was at it.

... One kaldorei, at least.

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