Burning Reflection

Burning Reflection
(The Founders: Chapter 3)

In the perpetual twilight of Elune’s rage, Bashal’Aran loomed like a thunderstorm, the hastily-built buildings and lumbering Ancients growing in the devastated forest’s place and bristling with power and determined activity and hunger. Sitting upon a severed tree stump atop the embankment beside the silvery-blue lagoon at its farthest edges, Rhoelyn Silverwing watched the war camp with a kind of sad fascination. It was beautiful… and inspiring… and awful. 

The eclipsed moonwell. The groaning Ancients. Her people with their darkened eyes and hate-filled determination. Elune’s High Priestess herself in Night Warrior form, overseeing it all and calling for Horde blood.

She understood. She understood the rage, the determination to reclaim their lands. The need to carve security once more out of the world at war. To have vengeance for the monumental loss of Darnassus and Astranaar and Lor’danel and… their homes. 

But, for her part, she could summon only grief. Grief for the Tree. Grief for the lives lost, the fallen who answered her spellsong as she and her guardian sister wandered the forest. The wisp ghosts’ broken dreams and worldly cares echoed in the little silver-haired night elf’s head and heart constantly. Grief for the toddler she’d left with her nephew and his new cousins and Nysse’s father, the boy who would never know the parents he was born to, the ones who died with Darnassus. Grief for her sundered, old life and the love she missed, the golden man she’d sent away when his people slaughtered hers. 

As she let her gaze fall upon her reflection in the clear water, the priestess watched her own dimming eyes and thought that perhaps she would feel less crushed by that weight if only she could turn it into rage like the others did. Like her brother did. If only she could scream for revenge and crush an enemy skull with her softly-luminous crescent moon staff. But the thought alone was enough to make her nauseated and dizzy. The gentle healer was not made for rage and vengeance, was not built for violence. 

And how well she knew it. 

Rhoelyn sighed, looking up at the half-dozen wisps who bobbed and flitted around her head, the wandering spirits of her fallen brothers and sisters waiting patiently while she rested, their wishes a low murmur at the back of her mind. How well she knew it. Rage might have been easier, but she was there in that war front only for them. They were her calling, their lingering emotions her burden. Their release into Elune’s embrace her only reward. 

She reached up to one, cupping her hand gently around him and pulling forth a spell of Light that gilded her skin and lent him her power. “I know you are concerned, Taelisus, but the scouts have not been gone long enough to have word. Wait with me but a while longer.”

An onlooker could not have found a sign of the spirit’s answer, but she felt his acknowledgement in her heart and gave him a reassuring smile. “I have hope that your lost brother yet lives. I have not found his name among the fa-”

Her words were interrupted by the sky splitting open horribly, once more, the deafening peal of thunder striking before she could pull her hand away from the spirit’s form. While the ground shuddered, she felt the soul-deep sound course through her like electricity. No, magic. No, Light.

Rhoelyn had only enough time to gasp in a breath before one of her fits struck her. A crushing wall of golden, sizzling awareness that threw her head back and drew her taut like a bow, her back arching and her hand tensing where it hovered, instantly empty when Taelisus’ spirit simply… disappeared.

Suddenly, the power was everywhere. Light like fire and blinding sun. Light like everything living at once in her head. Light that surged outward from her heart and filled her with awareness. Too much awareness. The past, present and future in nonsense flashes and nightmare possibilities, in Blight-spewing Forsaken and tentacled fiends with hungering maws. Sickening, dark spells and souls being twisted in her grip. Orbs of glass claimed from ancient soil. A man without a face and a woman without a heart, consumed. Consuming. The door, opened, beyond which was the end. The cage, closing, within which they would rot and be despoiled. 

She filled with it all, overflowed with it. And she hurt with it. She couldn’t keep it. But she struggled to hold enough to see. Awareness. A way to fend off her fear with knowledge. 

Make sense of the nonsense. Find the paths closer in. 

Rhoelyn whispered to no one before the first echo of the thunder had passed, staring sightlessly at the mark that rose on the back of her hand, watching without watching as the shadow worm and the silver worm coiled in their figure eight, birthing and consuming each other at once across her flesh. 

“Nysse by the campfire, Tsume beside her. No, in chains. Amidst the screams. The apothecary with his rotting hand wrapped around her neck. Rhese rocking Mirrase. No, dark magic feeding him panic. His lips bloody. Stars in his fist. Leothir killing. Friends are enemies are friends. The dagger f-finds home so many times.”

The power burned her, burrowing deeper along her singing nerves and into her besieged awareness. But these paths were all awful. She needed more, so she clung through the pain.

“The warrior, fierce and confused, dedicated and carrying the key,” she groaned, barely a sound behind her breath. “The timelost and timefound, always able to find the ties we need. Wings in the wind, spread wide. A shield against the scouring sand. The p-path… along which… w-we must walk to… nnng…”

The little healer bent double, pain twisting her features until she could stand no more. Until she had to let go. 

And then it burst free, healing Light flowing like a wave over everything for a league. The wounded in the field hospital in the encampment were instantly whole and energized. The tired were suddenly invigorated. The flagging suddenly rallied. The awful Forsaken stumbled and fell, wailing with pain, that sound rising in a haunting melody through the desecrated land.

And the momentary symbol of the purple worm and the silver worm on her dusky hand disappearing before she was even aware enough to notice it, the damage to the skin healed. 

Rhoelyn collapsed to the ground and lay there, gasping and aching, while the power faded. Above her head, flitting and agitated, only four wisps remained, and when she noticed, she rested her forehead in the grass and wept.

For so many reasons.

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