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 Enlightenment [Old TVC RP forums fiction entry]

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Mizhara
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Join date : 2010-09-09

PostSubject: Enlightenment [Old TVC RP forums fiction entry]   Mon Oct 04, 2010 10:26 am

This particular story was written on the old TVC RP forums as an entry in a fiction contest. Decided to share it here as well, since I'm making Deriena more active these days. The contest rules were simply to stay within a certain word limit and write a story about enlightenment. My fairly new (at the time) Sin'dorei Priestess turned out to be a perfect subject on the matter.

Enlightenment
by
Mizhara

Prologue:


Where did it all go wrong, I wonder? Ask almost any other Sin’dorei, and you’ll get many different answers. Answers like “it didn’t” or “when Kael’thas fell”. Others will point to the Scourge’s invasion or to the alliance with the humans. They’re all to a degree right. We’re still here, so it didn’t go too wrong. Kael’thas certainly managed to almost break our people through the demonic corruption. When the Scourge destroyed the Sunwell, it marked a turning point for our people, that much is for sure. And there hasn’t been much but suffering coming from our alliance with the humans.

But I feel there’s more to it than that. No matter how much some wants to deny it, we share a lineage with the Kal’dorei and I can’t but help compare us to them. Ten thousand years, and how did we fare in comparison to each other? One of us almost succumbed to the corruption forced on us, while the other willingly gave up immortality to fend off the greatest threat Azeroth had seen. One went on to become another evil, while the other set out to become a part of the world they’d mostly ignored until then.

I can’t help but feel that we’ve failed compared to our siblings over on Kalimdor. We have the same lineage, but they didn’t succumb to the demons or their enslaved Scourge like we did. They didn’t fall into corruption. They didn’t become… whatever we are now. I wonder why? Is there perhaps something we can learn from them? What sheltered them from the fate of my people? Perhaps I’ll find out one day, and be able to change my people’s fate.



Chapter One - Matters of Faith


Deriena stretched her tender neck and shoulders. It had been a long study session in the Clergy Library. Sometimes she thought her fascination with other race’s faiths, history and beliefs was more of a curse than a field of interest. Especially with so many obscure books on the subject being readily available in the various knowledge repositories in Silvermoon. Pondering the concept of faith, and wondering about the reasons her own people had so little regard for it, she didn’t hear the door open and shut behind her.

“Deriena? What are you doing here at this hour?”

The voice was deep and gravely, and she immediately sat up straighter and cleared her face of any emotion, before chuckling slightly at herself. Four decades since she had been released from his tutelage, and Mervan the Strict’s admonishments still held on strong in her growing repertoire of reflexes. She turned and faced the strict but fair teacher from the Clergy, a slow smile and a curved eyebrow appearing on her face. “After so many years, you still don’t know what one does in a library, Master?”

The old elf returned both the smile and the raised eyebrow as he gathered his flowing robe around him and replied. “The act of reading is merely the result of a more complex action, which can be motivated by anything from curiosity, research or even boredom, child. And that can again be a result of yet another motivation, like losing a debate or having second thoughts on a winning argument in such a debate.” He sat down slowly on a chair next to her and continued. “As I remember, you often cloistered yourself within the halls of various Halls of Enlightenment almost every time you quarreled with me about some matter of faith, dogma or philosophy while you were my student. Which meant you very rarely saw the sun during that time.”

Managing to look both concerned and amused at the same time, he looked her in the eyes and voiced what she had been wondering about herself. “And now you are back, hiding from the world… What is the matter, child? Is there something I can help you with?”.

Deriena looked down at the book she had been reading and then towards the colored panes of glass in the tall windows. Could she tell him? Glancing at his face, she remembered that even though he was strict, he was also the most caring of all her teachers. If she couldn’t trust him, she could trust no one.

“Master… I fear I may disappoint you and the rest of our faith.” Pausing slightly to gather some courage, she half turned away from him as she continued. “Our people has fallen, Master. Even we, of the faith, fell to the corruption of the fel. We imprisoned a Naaru and broke with our long-standing allies amongst the humans and dwarves. Look at our fair city, Master. The believers among us, the faithful to the Light, are no more than a tenth of our people. The rest follow little but their devotion to the Arcane arts, or their own empowerment. We have fallen as a people, and I fear we may never get back up.”

She closed her eyes for a second before she turned back to her teacher and friend, dreading what she might see in his eyes. She flinched slightly at his frown, before noticing that it was a frown of worry and contemplation, not one of anger. He thought for a moment before responding. “The faith may be small, and the fall may be great as you say, but do you not believe the faith is enough to repair the damage done to us?” Slowly shaking her head, her voice dropped almost to a whisper. “I believe the damage done, has mostly been done by ourselves. And my faith… I don’t think it’s enough for even myself, let alone others.” There… She had spoken aloud the horrible thoughts she’d carried within herself for the last year. Whatever the repercussions might be, she felt better for it.

“So you are saying you are experiencing a crisis of faith, then?” His voice was neutral, and revealed nothing of his mind. She merely nodded, but knew it ran a bit deeper than that. Not only her faith in the Light was shaken, but her faith in her people. His face turned warm and caring, as she remembered from when he had comforted her on the long nights when she cried herself to sleep, thinking she could never become a Priestess. “I see. It is not uncommon in times of trouble for even clergy to start doubting themselves and the Light. Let me give you some advice. You will go home today, and rest until you are truly well rested and your mind is clear. Then you shall come to my home and we shall talk until everything on your mind is out on the table before us. Then we can discuss what to do about it, alright?”

Nodding and smiling to him, she felt warmed by his concern and his steadfastness in the face of a doubting student. A fallen Priestess. But within, she could not help but see the symmetry of a fallen Priestess, and her fallen people. She gave him the usual pleasantries exchanged during farewells, gathered up the two books she had and started on her walk home.



Chapter Two - Matters of Violence


Walking through the city of Silvermoon had used to be a very soothing experience. To watch the beauty and serenity of the city and it’s citizens would be enough to make a heart sigh in joy and contentment. Deriena sighed as she walked through the city on her way home. She was on her way past one of the taverns as she was stopped dead by a cry of pain.

The door slammed against the door jamb as a young Sin’dorei was apparently thrown through it and barely managed to dampen the impact with his forearms. Coming through the door after him was one of the Blood Knights. Huge shoulders and a broad chest covered in shining plate, and a sword she doubted she could have lifted with both hands. She looked in his eyes, and almost recoiled as she saw the burning desire for murder in them. The sword was raised contemptuously in one hand, and arced down towards the motionless youngling.

She didn’t even think as she raised her hand and uttered a Word. One of the first things taught to young acolytes is that words have power, and so it did. The sword struck a barely visible shield long before it could rend flesh. Barely visible, but hard as the steel that struck it. Terrified at her own actions, she still managed to position herself between the thwarted Blood Knight and his intended victim.

“Have the Sin’dorei fallen so far?! Would we strike down another of our kind? Explain yourself, Blood Knight!” It must have been a sight. A diminutive, enraged young woman in the robes of the clergy, staring up at a veritable wall of muscle, armor and barely contained violence. As he was about to speak, they both heard the movement of the young Sin’dorei. She turned towards him and quickly helped him to his feet. “Run, youngling. No matter your deed, it does not justify your death.”

Looking terrified and grateful at the same time, he ran down the street and disappeared in an alley. As the Blood Knight cursed and was about to follow, she once more stood in his path. “I’m not finished with you! You dare strike at a fellow Sin’dorei in the middle of our city? You dare bring violence against a brother? Explain yourself…”

She flinched as it for a moment seemed as if he wanted to strike at her now that he was robbed of his intended prey. Then he spoke, with murder in his tone. “By the order of Lor’themar, he is a spreader of dissent and a criminal and shall be executed. I’m just following orders, Priestess, and you are impeding me in my pursuit of duty.” She could barely believe her ears as the words came to her. It was madness! Their leader, ordering the death of a young elf? No arrest, no trial? Madness…

“And standing order, girl, is that anyone aiding and abetting these traitors to the lawful rule, is equally guilty!” She could barely hear his words, as his eyes narrowed and revealed a soul steeling itself for what it was about to do. His sword raised itself, and she whimpered as she realized she was about to pay the ultimate price for saving a life. Her lips moved, to say a final - and short - prayer, and she realized she didn’t mean it. They were just empty words, as empty as the glowing green eyes of her executioner.

She barely noticed the flickering movement behind the Blood Knight. The sound of flesh striking flesh and crushing something beneath it was sickening, as the Blood Knight fell to his knees only to receive another crushing blow to his face as a Forsaken blurred into being in front of him. Deriena was amazed at the ruthless efficiency shown by this woman who just saved her life. Then her breath caught as she realized this one radiated death in a manner far more frightening than the Blood Knight had.

“Enough, Mizhara. He's down for the count. Let's get moving before the authorities get involved more than they are.” The voice came from an Orc she'd failed to notice a few paces further away. The eye patch over one eye was distinct, but what she noticed the most was an aura of authority around him. The woman nodded reluctantly at him before speaking. “Well, you are the one who wanted me to save this elf's life... You only have yourself to blame, as I was against it.”

The Orc narrowed his eyes in the long-suffering way of someone too used to bickering with someone and eyed Deriena instead. As he was about to speak, the young Sin'dorei man she'd saved appeared at her side. “I'll take care of her, I owe her.” Deriena couldn't even speak as the man pulled her towards the City Exit, explaining how she would have to travel to get out of Sin'dorei lands, because she was certainly no longer safe in the city. The two strangers gave her one last look before disappearing into an alley on whatever errand they had. One cold and dead, the other dismissive as the matter was no longer his to deal with.

She was no longer welcome in her own home. But it wasn't her home anymore, was it? It wasn't what she had loved for so long anymore. A few tears slowly trickled down her cheeks as she realized her home had become as hollow as her faith, and that the two were connected she had no doubt about.

She followed the young man out of the city, but she had left it behind long before she reached the gates.



Chapter Three – Bloodlust and Fear

To walk through a forest this old is something that would make anyone feel dwarfed and insignificant. All the more so when you know it's enemy territory. Deriena gently stroked the cover of the book she had taken with her from the library, considering the quirks of fate that had lead her to Ashenvale. Exiled from her home, hunted like a criminal, fallen from her faith and completely friendless.

What did she have left? Only this book, and her wondering thoughts about how the Kal'dorei had escaped corruption. What differed so between what had once been one people, separated by ten thousand years. Ah well, enemy territory it may be, but at least she doubted she'd run into any Sin'dorei here. The journey had been nerve wracking until she'd gotten all the way into the Barrens and felt slightly safe.

And now she felt exceedingly unsafe. The forest had gone from a living place to silence, as if something dangerous was lurking nearby, and no one wanted to attract it's attention. She was acutely aware that she was completely defenseless now that she had lost her faith, and thus lost access to all her powers. She was in the middle of pondering exactly how desperate she must have been to have traveled here, when the bushes on the side of the path parted and she suppressed a squeal.

“Look at what we've got here, boys! A fire headed little elf, so far from home!” The voice was harsh and guttural, and it suited it's owner perfectly. A large orc wearing terrible looking armor and a giant war axe stomped heavily towards Deriena. His head was bald except for a topknot that ended in a long black mane of hair. His face was heavily scarred, and his grin was that of someone who knew exactly how frightening it made him seem. Before Deriena could speak, nine more orcs came trudging through the undergrowth, each just as heavily armed and armored. A raiding party.

“It's a Priestess, Gor'lach. Look at her robes.” this voice wasn't quite so harsh, but the orc looked even worse than his leader. He looked as if he'd had his face in a grinder. “Really? Fortune smiles on us then... Bring her with us, and we'll be unstoppable!” This time Deriena did squeal as one of the larger orcs quickly grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder. Again, before she could speak, the large leader lifted her head with a finger and spoke. “You will join us... or the animals of Ashenvale will find one more corpse to pick at by morning, is that clear?” Deriena couldn't speak, her blood frozen by his murderous look and her mouth to dry to even utter a croak. She just nodded, knowing that she could never explain her loss of faith to this warrior.

“Move out!”

Deriena almost cried from the pain as the orc who carried her started loping quickly along after his friends, and she bounced up and down on the hard armor. She only consoled herself with the fact that she almost certainly had a lot worse in store for her when they met up with their intended target, for she was certain to be not only useless, but one of the first targets for their enemies.

The moon had risen well above the trees when Gor'lach called a halt. Gathering his warriors around him, he started scratching a rough map of their surroundings in the soil. From the whispers, she gathered that there was a Kal'dorei encampment not far from their location, and that was the objective of this raiding party. Looking into their eyes, she shivered as she recognized a bloodlust that must be devouring their very reason. One of the warriors came to her with a skin of water, muttering a few instructions for the fight to come. She was to stay close behind them, doing what she could without being noticed.

She just nodded. What could she do? They'd never believe that she couldn't do anything for them. She followed the raiding party as they started moving as silently as they could in the direction of their prey. Not that that meant much. For her elven senses, not used to woods even, their advance was about as silent as a stomping march. Her eyes wide open, terrified of what lay ahead of her, she lagged a little behind the band. Whether this was due to luck, intent or just coincidence, it saved her life.

Just as the band was crossing an open field, multiple powerful snaps was heard, and the forests sang. Not realizing at first what was happening, she just noticed all the leaves on the trees and bushes ahead of them rustled. Then she noticed the flight of arrows speeding across the open field. Her cry of surprise and denial was drowned in the horrible sound of mithril tipped arrows punching through armor and flesh, and the orcs cries of pain and rage. Horrified, she could not help but be impressed by Gor'lach, the bloodthirsty orc. Bristling like a quillboar from all the arrows in him, he got up from his knees, uttering a bloodcurdling warcry and charged towards the treeline.

A Kal'dorei calmly walked out of the shadows, notched a dark arrow on a frightening looking bow, and stood her ground. Gor'lach never faltered, but charged on straight to his death with an arrow lodged straight in his skull. Deriena shook with pent up fear and horror as she clamped her hands over her mouth, hiding in the bushes on the other side of the field. She couldn't take her eyes off the sight before her.

She watched as at least twenty female Kal'dorei – Sentinels she believed they were called – walked out of the shadows like ghosts of the forests. Another came behind them, wearing robes instead of leather armor, and cradled a staff in the crook of her arm. She looked... sad... Walking among the fallen orcs, she leaned down and a glow appeared in her hand as she seemingly inspected the ones who were not obviously far beyond aid. The Kal'dorei with the frightening looking bow spoke quietly in the Night Elf tongue, and the robed one replied with an air of repeating an age old argument. She paused though, as apparently one of the orcs wasn't beyond aid. The glow suddenly grew and surrounded the elf, and the orc both.

Straightening up, she smiled a little as the orc now seemed to have almost no serious wounds. She was a Priestess... She had to be. The robed one spoke a few words to the others, then turned to return to wherever they had come from. She didn't get more than two steps away when the healed orc suddenly got to his feet with a growled curse, his axe arcing down upon the unarmed Kal'dorei. And struck a shield just like the one Deriena herself had summoned around the poor young Sin'dorei. Deriena let out a small scream as the female leader of the Sentinels drew two blades from her back, and... flowed, was the only word to describe her movement. The blades blinked in the moonlight as they crossed, twisted and flowed around the orc, neatly cutting at least five deep wounds in him before they once more crossed over his throat.

The Kal'dorei Priestess calmly looked upon the now dead orc, with a sad look in her eyes. The Kal'dorei huntress however turned her eyes towards the bushes where Deriena was hiding, her eyes sharp and her gaze almost physically felt by Deriena. Impossible, she couldn't have seen or heard her! Deriena did the only thing she could do. She turned and ran as fast as she could, terror giving her feet wings.



Chapter Four - Enlightenment

Certain she was dead as soon as she was caught, she barely saw what was ahead of her. Within a minute, she knew she wasn't anywhere near the path used by the raiding party. She didn't care. No matter where her feet guided her, it would still be away from the carnage behind her. The pursuers who were almost certainly better at woodcraft than herself.

Her breath was running ragged, and she had almost stumbled several times as she negotiated the treacherous undergrowth of the forest. And then she ran straight onto the corpse of a giant forest spider, sending her tumbling head over heels before she fell to rest on her back, breath knocked out of her. Struggling to regain control over her body, she turned and looked at the spider. Her breath caught as she saw a Sentinel Warglaive stuck in it's head, and she would have screamed if she had breath for it as the shadows under a nearby tree moved and revealed a Sentinel.

Her eyes went towards the limp arm hanging from the Sentinel's shoulders, and then she noticed the two wounds in the woman's chest. She looked at the woman's face, and realized she was looking at a dying woman. Her fears were confirmed when the Sentinel fell on her face, turning slightly on the ground to stare at Deriena. Crawling, she made her way to the fallen Sentinel, quickly examining the wounds with deft hands. There was nothing she could do without her powers. Turning her on her back, wincing at the hissing intake of breath, she looked her in the eyes.

She didn't understand the words, but the Sentinel seemed to try explaining something to her. Asking something of her. She could only shake her head and try to convey that she didn't know the language. Sighing shallowly, the Sentinel started speaking again, but this time it wasn't directed to Deriena. She still didn't understand the words, but the intent behind them was obvious. After all, she had done the same a thousand times. It was a prayer. The only thing Deriena could see in her face was acceptance and a slightly remorseful smile.

Was this the difference between the now separated races? This kind of belief and acceptance even within the most deadly of their warrior women? Then why hadn't she managed to keep her faith in the Light? She realized what she had lost, what she could never again believe in. That her people was sheltered by a higher power. That the Sin'dorei had fallen too far for the Light to redeem them by itself. These Kal'dorei had never wavered in their faith, even after what had been done to them both ten thousand years ago, and even recently. They'd never relied on the powers of the arcane, or the well. They'd given themselves wholeheartedly to the forests they lived in, and their Goddess.

She heard the name in the prayer. She heard the word... Elune...

Tears welling up in her eyes, she surrendered. She surrendered all her faith in her people and the Light. For what lay dying before her was pure and beautiful, even at it's life's end. A belief so strong and pure that it defied the very concept of death. Deriena surrendered, and went through the most basic of the acolyte's exercises. She imagined herself as a flower, opening itself to the rays of the sun. Except the words were different.

“If the Light will not help me, then Elune, I beg of you to aid this child of yours!”

The words rang through the forests, and the light flowed through Deriena's body. Her hands glowed as she lay them upon this dying Kal'dorei, and she felt an overpowering sense of joy and peace flow through her as the wounds closed and the Kal'dorei gasped for breath. Her eyes full of wonder, they mirrored the same in Deriena's eyes. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she smiled for the first time since she'd left the library in Silvermoon. As the warmth left her body, she felt a new feeling. Acceptance, and encouragement.

The bushes behind her rustled, and the Huntress came into the small clearing. Her eyes seemingly catching every detail in the tableau in front of her. A recently healed Kal'dorei, a Sin'dorei looking completely at peace with any possible fate ahead of her, and the corpse of a spider nearby. She didn't act, just stood there looking.

Then the bushes parted again, and the robed Priestess came walking towards Deriena. No surprise present on her face from finding a Sin'dorei in their forests, she knelt next to the other two, and examined the now barely wounded Sentinel. The Sentinel spoke quickly, then lay her head down and seemingly fainted from exhaustion. In heavily accented Thalassian, she spoke. “You do good work, elf. She just said thank you.”

Deriena just nodded, still in wonder from what she had just felt, and barely felt surprise at understanding her Kal'dorei equal. . “You are far away from home, Sin'dorei. And in dangerous lands.” The look on the Priestess' face was now unreadable. Emotionless, as if she had put a mask on. “And you just invoked Elune...” The huntress raised an eyebrow, apparently understanding the words partially. Deriena looked into the Priestess' face, wondering how she felt about that. Then she realized this was far from her equal, but someone of far greater power and experience. Ten thousand years stared back at her, unreadable.

“Yes, Priestess. And I will cherish this moment for the rest of my life, however short it may be...” The words were spoken peacefully, accepting any fate and with a hint of joy. The Kal'dorei just smiled and nodded slowly. “Then there is still hope, Sin'dorei. Hope for the future. You can call me Ces, and this one,” she indicated the huntress, “is Ell. You must depart this forest now, as it is a dangerous place for those not familiar with it, and she will guide you.”

Deriena put her hand on Ces' arm as she rose to move, a question in her eyes. “Why?” she asked. The Priestess smiled with the warmth only thousands of years in her profession could give, and replied with a hint of humor in her voice. “You already know. You still feel it.” Then she turned and walked into the shadows of Ashenvale, secure in her faith in both the land and Elune. Deriena just nodded, and smiled as she gave a small prayer of thanks to her newfound Goddess. She knew... For what she had felt was peace, and the knowledge that all life was sacred.

The huntress made a few quick handsignals and two Sentinels appeared to take care of the now sleeping wounded one. Then she motioned towards Deriena and started walking through the undergrowth. Deriena followed, seeing the forest in a new light.



Epilogue – Hope for the future

Deriena looked towards the guard towers separating Ashenvale from the Barrens. Then she looked towards the huntress, Ell, and nodded her thanks. A blue fey glow regarded her with the same weight of the ages as Ces had, then nodded in return. Blue glow regarding a green glow, silently acknowledging both their past and their possible future.

Deriena turned and walked towards the Barrens with a newfound faith and purpose in life. She couldn't save her people, but she could save those she met on her path. She smiled, as she considered her fate. What was a suitable word for her adventure? She nodded slowly to herself as she found one. Yes... Enlightenment was the right word. She walked on towards Crossroads.
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