It was a dream. Yet within it, he’s helpless, in a peripheral sense. Like a compass missing a loadstone, he was only aware of the edges of his own perception, and the direction he thought he walked. The rain’s sounds made him sleepy. Insomnia’s weight eventually sends him sprawling into the muck.
He looks back under his arm as he helps himself up. Something’s there. He held a burned hand to his eyes, trying to get some vantage on the thing. A building? Cart? Perhaps? No, maybe? Something a live? Someone alive? A few flickering blinks later, the shape had dissolved and sunk into the sludge.
But it doesn’t dissolve. He keeps seeing it. There was no pattern to this place, or if there was, it was a trick. A maze; a challenge not for its own sake but for discipline. Each structure or repetition was designed to obfuscate, revealing only further deception. As sleep began to set in, the shape advanced towards him, growing blocks closer in staggering jumps when his eyelids drooped. He hit his leg as hard as he could to shock himself into awareness. Exhausted or no, Kex’ti could hit himself hard enough to shoo away sleep.
Sleep haunts him as mosquitoes looking for exposed flesh. He waves his hand through a swarm of black motes at the edge of his vision, and the brown/red shape stalks closer, only to sink into the watery passages.
A spark of purple flashes beyond the window of one of the doorways. The shape emerges from around a corner. It walks on two legs, but lopes on its forearms. Something imposing like a caul spreads behind it and rises above it. The rain blurs the details and the strain of his eyes obliterates them completely. He panics, and beats at the door. He realizes, knows, deeply, if he stops seeing the thing, it will close this distance. It wears a pink face, and acid-blossomed metal shines from its arms. Gauntlets? Kex’ti takes no time to discern as he beats at the door, his gaze firmly locked on the encroaching stain.
The door gives, and he barrels inside, slamming it behind him. He can’t breathe. Everything starts to burn in the dark. Outside, he smells fetid iron and sweat. He tastes blood. In the shadows, light shines from a green, glowing archway. A purple shape begins to work its way into the viridian, vibrant mists. He sees a shield. And a sword. And he’s already running when he confirms the woman’s short, dark hair. The chamber is littered with books, and he scrambles his way through the stacks of knowledge.
He tears away piles of manuals and tomes, their secrets needless and arbitrary.
And he’s too late as he crosses the threshold. He desperately chases after the fading figure, but hears only a gentle scraping and rattling breath behind him. He runs on.
The mist parts into blue-green trees. Aviation flares burn purple on a landing strip, and nether rays churn and roil in distant swarms over the Terokkar pines. A pillar of light ascends into the foggy, rain-worn sky above Shattrath, and Kex’ti turns to Veil Skettis. Outland’s Veil Skettis.
Rain drips sickly from the leaves, thick greasy rivulets leaving brief memories of flight behind as they splatter over the cones and needles littering the floor of the mountain glade. The sun had vanished behind the treeline, a dim half-light settling in over the world. What little light leaks through the vertical bars of the trees casts the world in cold cerulean. The monk picked up a nearby branch and hobbled down towards the lagoon. A final look at the horizon shows a tainted red scar. Thin peaks of burned clay rise in the distance through the fog. Hellfire Peninsula remains.
He descends the narrow path to the lagoon. He’s known these trails for years, and even in his dreams they rush by. The rain begins to fall, the oily leaves of the pines causing his clothes to become thick with water and sticky with sap alike. Rope hangs from the trees, and enormous kaliri in the crooks pick at bits of spattered gore from previous kills. They watch him. They wait. He slips, briefly, the kaliri leaning forward in anticipation, but he steadies himself with the branch and hobbles forward.
There, he thinks.
The woman’s tail pokes through the orange and verdigris markings of the Skyguard tabard. Her hair’s tied up in black buns, and he sees the strap of her goggles hanging around her neck.
“Remi! Remiaan!” he yells, a mixture of fear that the earth is going to open its maw and throw her, once more, into the cold dark; and joy, that she hasn’t been born again on a Draenor doomed to repeat the mistakes of the pasts, mistakes her people have paid for already and are not condemned to pay once more.
She turns and looks, and he takes in the sight of her, resting on a rock by a shallow pool, a plate on her lap, her mouth once again full of far too much food, her vision cloudy but precise. One hand reaches for the mace at her belt, the other moves the fork from her mouth back to the plate.
But her mouth isn’t full of food. Her cheeks don’t bulge, there’s no plate of fish in her lap. Her goggles shine in brilliant copper. The lenses had yet to be replaced, no leather patches were sewn into the strap for Skyguard merits. The orange and verdigris were stains on her pale robes, not a tabard.
Remiaan’s eyes look at him, but her mind doesn’t see.
“She never loved you,” he finds himself saying. “She’s had lifetimes to love. You were a novelty.”
His jawline sinks as he watches her watch him, but his voice continues.
“She fought the Old God in Ulduar. You were just the closest person to heal, not love, when the Lich King attacked. It didn’t matter. She was just kind; you weren’t special.”
He keeps looking, searching for a response, but his body is numb. A deep, inviting cold swells in his stomach, and leaks from his mouth when he again opens it to speak.
“I-” he stops, suddenly aware of something sharp and noxious just out of sight.
“Think of the way she looked at you. Was that love, or was it just amusement? Would you have even known? The only person who ever liked you was Tesonii, and look how easily you threw her away. You don’t deserve anything resembling what you thought she held in her heart.”
Kex’ti grits his teeth, trying not to let himself speak again, focusing his thoughts to drown out any continued monologue.
“Your sisters pitied you. Your mother loved her husband, her children were just another way to please him. Your father wishes it were you at the Sunwell, not Ashera, Lirin, or Milliana.”
He hurls the staff at the kaliri, who caw and mock along to his own self-delivered put downs. Another voice chimes in.
“And after that babe? A goblin? Realllly? I’m sooooo flattered. Tha’s just sick. You have a fetish or somethin’?”
Moriah, the woman, stands at her highest to just about the monk’s navel, which is where he does, in fact, feel disgusted.
“You used me. Oh Mr. Kex’ti,” she giggles, each rising sound a beat against his heart. “You saw an opportunity and you took it. Not that we didn’t have a lot of fun along the way,” she says, twirling her dark hair around a green finger.
“Or me? Just once, after all we had been through together, and you have doubts and leave, only to return when you want medicine? How do you use the people who care for you?
Kex’ti turns his gaze back to Remiaan, ignoring the voice from the forest entirely. Her face had hardened into a glare. The rain had thickened. There, just beyond Remiaan, something clawed its way out of the water, rotten flesh braided into ropes lashing broken glass into grafted skin. The rotten stench of wet pine needles and coital sweat elevates the guilt from his stomach into his gorge.
He hears another voice, soft, but assured, wary, and full of command. He runs, not wanting to hear himself or yet another condemn him. The rain thickens, and his chest heaves in time to the scrambling clatter of the thing chasing him.