There’s a voice in her head. Actually, there’s two voices. She knows the names of both voices yet they’re displaced. A third voice, never louder than a whisper, keeps to the background.
They are talking about her injuries. She hears her sisters voice, the one who drove Akama off down there in Zangarmarsh, with a sword to his lower back and the growled “Try and turn around, Broken and I’ll run you through. Touch her again and you will Die!“.
Vassannah stirs, ever so slightly. She’s running a fever. Her brain is ablaze with memories and pain. Someone, she suspects it’s Fiona, has given her a tea. It put her to sleep, yet she stirs. Moaning. Mumbling. Squeaking, like the stuffed elekk she made herself one night, lost in memories as she returned to a world that once shattered.
She suspects the timelines are messing with her mind. What once were and what now is – all of it becomes as one in this strange new world. This world that Shuanna, her sister, calls home. Vassannah remembers a picknick, on the foothills of Lunarfall. From far behind them the sound of hammers against wood and stone, the voices of men and dwarves. In front of them the vistas of Shadowmoon. That’s when Shuanna said “We’re home, you know. Someone moved the sofa, but for all intent and purposes this Draenor is our home. The one we left.”
Vassannah smiled. As she smiles right now, tossing and turning in a bed, her belly full of Fionas calming tea. She said:
“This isn’t home, Shu. Home is nevermore.”
Shuanna is easily angered. They quarreled, the picknick was a failure. Vassannah plucked a sliver of pickled Nagrand cherry and then headed off, down towards Embari. There’s no shortage of eager men and women down there, curious about the taste, the smell, the feel of someone from “away”.
Embari is a small town. Being from “away” sets minds ablaze. Mostly with lust. Sometimes with hate.
She also hears another voice. In this room … as Fionas tea makes her spinning thoughts slow down, as the darkness of sleep slowly wash over her.
It’s the voice of the slave they rescued in Tanaan.
The slave, elevated to the status of Exarch. The slave, the same name as someone in Karabor before the orcs came … on the old world. The slave, who then was a chubby little stumbling fucktard everyone made fun of. The slave, who was the constant source of jest and laughter once the populars, and Vassannah was one of them, Found her. Poor stupid Yrel from Embari, a farmers daughter who knew nothing of the Light. Oh how they toyed with her! Poking and prodding and hiding her notes. Giggling and whispering and pulling her hair. Kid stuff.
It’s confusing. As if two worlds have collided. Different times. A faint echo of one time, pounding like a heartbeat inside her head. Another time, as a veil of memories she had hoped to forget, shrouded across time … through time … like fine lines of sand through a glass brightly lit of the past. The present. The other time. What happened to the stones she collected for the dragon prince?
He gave her wings.
The other time. The one that Vassannah, the one she once were, on another world. The one Vassannah that once locked a not particularly good aspirant named Yrel in a pantry because it was fun. When Vassannah was a popular girl. When she dreamt of Akama. When he was a fever not even her fingers could put out. The more she rubbed, the louder she screamed. Until fatigue made her fall asleep, naked, sticky, sweaty. Doodles of her and him in notebook after notebook. Sex is the ancient magic of all – but she’s not a mage.
She’s just cruel. As she once were. The pantry – a haunting shadow in her mind. Cruelty, perhaps something every draenei carries with her, deep within.
She remembers now, as Fionas tea slowly takes hold of her troubled, broken body. She remembers Yrels screams, ringing in her ears as the panic broke free in that locked, dark pantry. The shrieking words of “Let me ooouuut! Let me ooouuut!“.
Times change. Isn’t that what they say? Timeways colliding. She was shopping spices for a lovers meal one day, down in Embari. Just a few weeks after the wooden pallisade had finally been replaced with the garrisons stone walls as they are now. She passed by a giggling bunch of acolytes, out from school. Fingers stroking fine hexweave velvet, sumptous fur dresses. Someone in the giggling group calling out “Hey Vass wait! What do you think of this dress!?“.
Vassannah stopped and almost said “the color don’t suit you“. But the faces of those girls in front of her were not the faces of the living.
This were the faces of the dead.
She turned hur head then, there in Embari. She saw a young woman dash away towards a jewelry stand, yelling “Who cares!? Oh Liight! They got Blackstone necklaces!“. She watched her younger self run up to the jeweler and start to haggle. The jeweler was adamant and she couldn’t … but she could. So she went up to him, placed a pouch of Azeroth gold in his outstretched hand and said “It’s on me. Gold is gold, right?“.
“Thank you!” she said. “Oh I love this stone!”
“I know you do,” she said, then had to turn away to hide her own tears.
Another time. She stands in shadow, naked, she had to flee fast and didn’t have time to dress. She had been dreaming of Akama, her fingers trailing across her body, making her gasp as the fingertips tickled the hairs and then sank in deep. Two fingers, no more than that, slightly spread, the thumb of her other hand gently massaging what she called her button. Then, the explosions. Then, the screams. Then, she had to flee – hide in shadow.
She saw her friends paraded out of the dorm. she saw them lined up on the stairs in front of the temple. Dead bodies everywhere. The pools of blood spreading like water across the once white flagstones. She saw them stripped naked. She saw the orcs cut their hair with knives. She saw their bloodied scalps, saw do whatever they had to do just to survive. For just a few more minutes.
Then they bowed. Then the axes came. Then, just as an orc saw her in the shadows, one of her friends called “Run, fool! Run!”. So she did – she ran, faster than she had ever run before. She ran from Karabor to Talador, pausing only for breath at what people now call Gul’Var. That’s where Maraad found her. He sister was with him, she was so young … so young.
“The healers feared she was too badly injured,” Yrel said. Her voice low, like how you speak to someone in front of a very sick, sleeping person. Oblivious of the fact that the patient might actually hear, voicing own concerns and fears. “Her spine, they said it snapped like a twig. When she landed, she … ”
“You have good healers,” her sisters voice, Shuannas voice. Tired, the constant haggard tone no matter how she felt – happy, angry, tired, full of food and complacent, horny (there was a “thing” between her and Cowan, a miner). Always that haggard tone of someone who had lost … something. “In the light, we prevail. No?”
“Shu … ” Vassannahs whisper, but she’s too tired to continue. She want to tell her sister she’s sorry, but she’s too tired. Then there’s the other voice. The taunting voice.
(“That one is unworthy of your group!”)
Then there’s a fourth voice. Interrupting. Through the haze of Fionas tea and the lingering effects of deep healing, she hears a slight commotion. It’s confusing.
A door breaks open. Someone, a male voice, shouts “You can’t go in there!”. Another sound – a … squawk!? Then the sound of chairs moving, as if someone stands up fast. In fact, when she hears Shuanna call out “Percy!” she can hear the anger, the suprise.
Then there’s silence. Almost silence. Whispers … too silent to be heard through her foggy ears. She rather feels than hear or see the rustle of cloth against feathers. The quick smack of a beak, as if a bird had made a “tut tut!” sound. The gentle, yet rough, caress of … talons. Wrinkled skin on old fingertips. Long nails. Like when Akama came to her, before the Exodar took off. But it’s not a Broken. It’s just … a broken.
“Reshad! What are you doing!?” Shuannas voice, upset and with that terrifying haggard tone, more sharp now. Vassannah knows that whenever that tone is in her sisters voice she’ll slap her. There has been so many slaps, so many admonished comments, like “This is a Military Compound, Vass! This is not a playground for you to fuck around in! Show some respect to the colors!”.
She’s a tough motherfucker, the commander. Too tough.
“I can help.” the voice says. The rustle of feathers. “Percy! Stop perching on her head! Your not a pepe bird!”
A drilling chirp, someone have brought a kaliri!
“Get out!” Shuannas voice.
“No … ” Then there is a pause. then those rough fingertips with birdlike nails gently stroke Vassannahs temples. She can feel it, she stirs, as if uncomfortable – but she feels at ease. It’s a soothing, gentle, kind touch. The kind of touching someone makes when they’re almost in love.
“Shu … ” she whispers. “help. The shadow …”
Reshads touch is light as a feather as he leans forth and very gently whispers in her ear:
“Shadows gather … “