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Catch a Falling Star
#1
Spoiler:
This would be my attempt to write Roux's journey to true druid-hood. I hope it's not too pretentious sounding! I do love my fancy words. It's my first time writing about anything druidic, especially the Emerald Dream. Feel free to post feedback on my thread here. To note, I'll be taking inspiration from a few myths.

[Image: 244t8hv.png]

“A star falls from the sky and into your hands. Then it seeps through your veins and swims inside your blood and becomes every part of you. And then you have to put it back into the sky. And it's the most painful thing you'll ever have to do and that you've ever done. But what's yours is yours. Whether it’s up in the sky or here in your hands. And one day, it'll fall from the sky and hit you in the head real hard and that time, you won't have to put it back in the sky again.”
― C. JoyBell C.

[Image: vhuvbb.png]

              She awoke.

              Green eyes that reflected the viridescent sheen that emanated from every blade of grass and great branch here slowly peered around. Her lupine body followed suit, turning full circle. Once, then twice again.

              A long breath in through a wet nose, then out of her mouth. This was her first time alone here, though her shan'do Malorak Leafwind watched her Sleeping body in the waking world. You did well enough fixing that mistake, releasing that feral spirit. Let's see how you do now, he had chided paternally.

              She did not rightly know where she was. She had fallen Asleep in the Twilight Grove in the middle of Duskwood, but that did not necessarily mean she walked its untouched groves now; she did not see the living counterparts of the dark, twisted oaks of present day Southern Elwynn. She was not even sure of her goals here. Her shan'do had thought she needed a while to Rest after the trials of hunting the feral worgen spirit through Duskwood. Herself, she wanted to finally dive in to true communion with nature. She had been putting it off with excuses of busy long enough.

              And so she was here, getting her bearings. She turned her long, wolf head upwards to peer at the stars. That was one thing the intelligent beings on Azeroth couldn't change; the stars. They were still the same.

              She recognized them.

              These stars had glittered over her home of Gilneas since her ancestors had settled there, and erected the standing stone circles that still resisted the winds over the moors. Those stones would be less than an idea here, still firmly part of the mountains. The moors themselves? She couldn't imagine their original incarnation.

              As she looked down again, she peered closer at the trees that surrounded her. Oaks, she surmised. But twisted and gnarled in ways too perfect for Azeroth. If she looked long enough at the many bulbous knots, she could almost see old, wrinkled faces.

              She decided to approach one.

              Steps long, one leg stretched before the other. Toes touched the earth first, and then foot-pads bore her full weight one at a time. Eventually, she lowered herself to a crawl, coming eye to eye with one of the knotty, wizened visages. It did not move or change expression, at least not obviously. Instead, the shadows in its wrinkles seemed to shift in flickers, giving hints of a smile.

              She smiled too, and then rose up. Circled again, paused. Then dropped on all fours to bound off into her home woods that she had never set foot in before.

              She ran, leaping and pulling herself over fallen logs. Not always gracefully, she went tumbling into a ravine or brook more than once. Panting, she scrabbled up and continued to run and leap and tumble and fall and get up again to do it all over.

              Eventually, she found herself unable to see the stars when she had fallen onto her back for what seemed the hundredth time. She blinked once, remaining supine to ponder this, and consider whether she should be concerned or not, how the gnarled oak branches blocked out the guiding bits of green-silver.

              Slowly, carefully, she turned onto her stomach, and then rose onto her hands and feet. She crept forward further, slow and full of trepidation in this warm darkness; almost womb-like. It lasted a short eternity before she found a relatively clear spot. Not open enough to be a grove, but shafts of mossy moonlight shone through a few lesser branches.

              A large raven-like bird held a four-legged, antlered herbivore of some kind to the ground. Black, taloned feet gripped its flesh, holding it in place as its cruel beak tore chunks off, tossed them up, then snapped to swallow them. Its inky feathers held a reddish sheen on their edges, as did its eyes. The young druid froze to watch, entranced and very much hoping she wouldn’t be noticed.

              Unfortunately, stealth was not a strong suit of hers, and the raven did notice her. Inky void eyes focused on her with a flicker of thin white lid. The sanguine-edged feathers ruffled around its neck and head. The young druid tried make herself freeze further, blending in with the gray of the bark and the coal of the shadows. It didn’t work. The raven hopped to get a better view of her, head nearly upside down. It straightened in a flash, ruffled the feathers along its body. Inhaled. Then let out a croak that echoed amongst the trees. This greeting given, its large wings flapped and flapped, lifting its body. It perched briefly on a tree branch, and then pushed off again into actual flight to the night sky, whereupon the druid lost sight of it; what with her covering her head with her arms.

              Suddenly, things got much darker. The druid curled up a little tighter, expecting a rush of returning wings. But there was only silence, save for a change of pitch in the nocturnal insects. She took a few deep breaths to ready herself, then peeled her arms off her head.

              Darkness. Pitch, inky darkness was everywhere. The only illumination now was from the magic inherent in every blade of grass and leaf and mushroom cap. It allowed her to see a few feet ahead, but it was nothing compared to the illumination of the moon.

              The moon!

              She looked up, squinting hard. She stood, neck craned as far as it might go. The stars remained, but the peaceful white orb was nowhere to be seen. Panic and confusion started to roil from her stomach, until she heard a playful croaking in the distance. After this croaking came a distant flap of large wings, and she spotted the bobbing orb of the moon; held between a scuffed and jagged black beak. Soon enough, it would slip out of sight again.

              Now what, she wondered. A deep breath, and she dropped to all fours to scurry after the avian thief. She did not notice the creeping grasses and roots taking the corpse of the ancient deer into themselves.

To be continued...
[Image: tumblr_nfm4t0FZcT1rtcd58o1_r1_500.gif]
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#2
Spoiler:
This post consists of cleaned up and tweaked RP logs that I was too lazy to fix into an actual IC post. I took inspiration from this video here:


Sometime later...

              Through the darkened area of the Dream, Roux bounded on all fours, chasing an odd glowing light that bobbed with the flying of a winged entity. Stars glittered in the green-hued sky, but there was no moon. Other than that, things seemed fairly 'normal' in the abstract, ever-changing dimension. The worgen girl wasn't paying much attention to where she was going, just so long as she kept the thief in sight. She tore through and leaped over bushes, branches, and logs, ears pinned back to her skull.

              The winged entity croaked humorously in the distance. A crow or raven of some kind, perhaps?

              This druid didn't notice the missing moon. Rather than do his usual frolicking and playing, Kantado sat at the roots of the trees with his eyes closed and a blade of grass pressed against his lips. The wind blew past him as he basically became one with the wind. The croaking, though, did break his meditative state. He opens his eyes to finally notice the missing light. "What...?"

              Roux keeps running and bounding. Perhaps she might run past the super mature and serious druid as he breaks from his meditation. Either way, she stays focused on the avian spirit.

              "Hrrrrngh--" She finally gives into the desire to yell. "GE' BACK 'ERE."

              The raven seems to laugh. Croakcroakcroak.

              Bounding! The elf stands up as soon as he sees the worgen friend leap past him. "...Roux?!" Kantado watches for a moment before he, too, starts running. Feathers shed off as his form changes to the stormcrow as he immediately darts for the skies.

              Kantado would have a better view now of the situation.

              A night-feathered bird, its plumage shining with a red iridescence flies above the trees. In its cruel beak is a white orb: the moon. Despite its frightening appearance, the gleam in its eyes denotes impish humor.

              "Stupid...birds...stupid flyin'...cheatin'..." She pants as she runs and bounds.

              He flies after Roux, though he is mindful of his altitude. "What is going on?! Why does that crow have the Moon?!" He almost flies into a tree as his eyes were trained onto the worgen as opposed to what is ahead of him. The green druid squawks as he tries to regain his flight.

              " 'Ow shoul' I know?! Don' crack yer skull!" She reprimands, still chasing.

              The entity seems to know, and welcome being chased. It is obvious by its strong, expansive wings that it could soar much farther and faster than it is.

              "I saw i'...feedin'. I' saw me. Then i'...laughed 'r somefin'. Took off, stole th' moon! I fink--...i' wan's us t' chase i'!"

              Roux's anger and frustration fade as she sinks into the chase. Her feet and hands gaining a drum-like rhythm.

              The elf shakes his head as he regains his flight pattern. "Let me try to catch him!" He flaps his wings as hard as he can and increases his altitude. He is, however, still a novice--the climbing of height is gradual, and his ascension is met with struggled flaps of his wings. He tries his very best to catch up to the giant crow, hopeful to at least reach him.

              The avian spirit gives a gleeful croak, peering to Kantado with its depthless, dark eyes. The moon shines like a pearl in its beak.

              Eventually, the spirit starts to descend toward a nook in a rocky rise. A sudden barrenness in the dense, dark foliage. Not unnatural, not created by the Nightmare. But certainly ominous, at least on its surface.

              The spirit lands in its nest, dropping the cosmic pearl. It bats it about with its beak.

              As for the nest...it is littered with animal bones, bits of fur and flesh, and rusty blood stains the rock, fresher sanguine in other spots. The bloody red is the same shade as the iridescent sheen on the spirit's feathers.

              Kantado dives as soon as the crow made is descent. As his form is far from perfect, he nearly crashes right onto the foliage. He dodges branches and tree bark before he becomes caught by some thick foliage. He crows and caws in distress as he tries to release his wings and feet, but he is unable to figure out how he's trapped. "Augh!!"

              Roux makes it to the edge of the rocky outcropping before she notices Kantado's predicament. A panting few moments of indecision, then Roux skids around to run to Kantado's tangle. She stands, hands on the trunk.

              "Oi! Wot's th' deal?"

              The spirit watches them both in humor, feathers ruffling.

              Kantado calms himself. He stretches his form and sheds the feathery shape. As his wings have become arms and talons feet, the elf was able to slip through the entanglement quickly. Before he drops to the ground, he changes his shape once more to that of the cat. His legs bend like springs as his paws meet the ground.

"Ah... the crow... it's somewhere there." He looks up. "I think it's perched someplace... "

              Roux pushes off from the tree as Kantado lands near her. She can't help a weak, relieved smirk then a ruffle to his head before she looks up. "Aye, I knot wot yer talkin' abou'. Can ye climb wif those paws?"

              The raven spirit croaks as if to declare come get me! Bet you can't!

              Kantado looks at his paws. "I sure can!" He starts running up the side, feline legs pumping. But soon enough slides down, his claws leaving behind a trail embedded in the rock.

              Roux turns to watch, shoving sections of her coarse white mane out of her face. A snort, then she takes long steps forward. "Hup!" She grunts as she hops once, then clings. Then starts to patiently shimmy her way up.

              Kantado tries again, this time opting to hop along smaller rocks in hopes to make his way up. Some fall beneath him as he tries to retain his footing. He screeches as he nearly falls, prompting him to change form to that of the stormcrow again. "Ugh!" He flies up, hoping to try finding the crow one more time without getting himself caught in the vegetation.

              Easily done, only little scrubs growing on this outcropping. The spirit sits perched in its macabre nest, the light of the moon stymied. It must be under it, alongside whatever else it sits on.

              Roux grumbles something about being left behind as she treks up. Clinging, scrabbling, she eventually makes it, trying to hug the ground once she's where she needs to be. Her nostrils flare at the vague scent of death in the area.

              Once both novices are present, the spirit speaks. "Did you have fun?" She asks--yes she, the spirit speaks in a distinctly female voice.

              Kantado searches for a branch to perch on. He flaps unsteadly as his talons wrap around the wood. "Why would you take the moon?!" he asks as he raises his wings for balance while the branch bows from his weight.

              The raven tilts her head to watch the fledgling, the white lid flicking once over her black eyes. "Why not? It was fun!"

              Meanwhile, once Roux catches her breath, she pushes up to all fours and makes her way forward. Careful of the left over bones from meals.

              The raven notices her too. "Oh, my. It seems the friend you left behind made it."

              Kantado stretches out a wing for Roux. "Chasing you after the moon isn't exactly my idea of 'fun'." He nearly topples over.

              "So serious. So worried about things leaving and ending. So hasty. Did you think that just because I borrowed it, the moon was going anywhere?"

Roux, for her part, is quiet as she listens in amazement. She flinches with a smirk as Kantado topples and flaps.

              "Tell me, has anything truly changed?"

              The resounding answer would be no, despite the thicker darkness. Night time bugs chirp, nightime animals hunt. The two young druids seem to be the only ones panicking.

              He looks around. He tries to search for something wrong, but the answer comes to him like a brick to the head. He bows his head somberly and silently.

              The raven spirit stands up with a shuffle of her wings. With her rising eggs can be seen in the nest. A poignant contrast with the macabre area.

              "Cheer. I would ask you to put the moon back, but I fear you might weigh it down with your sorrow." She flicks the glowing orb to Kantado with the tip of her beak. "Go on," she encourages with a warm croak.

              Roux watches, sitting with perked ears.

              He tilts his head back in surprise. "Ohh... I do not think I can perform such an important task..."

              "Those are your thoughts. Your friend cannot fly, and I have my eggs to warm. Can't you or won't you?"

              The little moon orb shines on the rocky surface. So small.

              He looks towards Roux. "Well.... I figure she hopes to learn..." He extends his beak a bit. "I can try..."

              The raven spirit nudges the pale pearl forward, then returns to her nest again. Meanwhile, Roux watches attentively, face blank, eyes wide. She makes shooing motions to Kantado.

              Kantado looks at Roux, then to the moon. He hops on the branch and reaches for the moon, his beak attempting to press against its shape. He's very particular and cautious, but he is so anxious he may lose his balance and fall.

              Roux watches a few moments, then grunts. She makes her way over on all fours, going low before the large, watchful spirit. Roux grips the orb in both hands, holding it still for Kantado's beak.

              Kantado flaps, thankful for Roux's support. He attempts to fly up, unsure of how the moon weighs in this greenhorn's beak.

              It weighs nothing!

              Kantado, if he could, would fly higher and higher. However high he might go, he goes.

              Eventually, he would see dawn breaking when he's at his limit. And, odder still, the moon has vanished from his beak. As if it had dropped, it is sinking into the horizon giving way to the first cracks of sun.

              When those sun rays hit the rocky outcropping of the raven's nest, the scene would change under their noses. The scrubs have grown to cover it, the nest is empty with hatched eggshells. Blood long since dried, stains faded. Bones remain, as bones do.

              Croaking laughter can be heard from the distant horizon the moon settles into.

              Kantado nearly panicked as soon as the moon has vanished. Upon seeing the sun, he realizes the cycle of night and day resuming as though nothing has happened. He glances at the next, only to see nothing but the eggshells. He takes a moment to take everything in before slowing his flapping to lower himself back to Roux. He perches near her and sighs. "...."

              While Kantado had flown upwards to complete this strange task, Roux thought about the meeting to herself. Hastiness, shortsightedness, letting one's self be weighed down by flaws that aren't really there. Was that the lesson? A bird flies too fast, without looking where they're going, they end up tangled in brush and thorns. A bird must keep its eyes open to all on the horizon. And above all, they cannot be weighed down or they won't ever ascend, no matter how great their wings. She peered at Kantado upon his return, then trotted over to commence an attempt to cheer him up.
[Image: tumblr_nfm4t0FZcT1rtcd58o1_r1_500.gif]
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#3
Spoiler:
Another post from RP logs!

              Roux perches on an ethereally twisted, emerald-hued tree branch, one hand holding onto a vine. She stares out in awe at an expansive, emerald tinted sea beyond. "...Thorn-boughs, talk abou' feelin' small," she breathes out in a mutter to the air.

              Beneath her, before long, a feline of deepest indigo lazily drifts along the rich grass, more floating than pacing. Each movement is a slow stretch, haughty relaxation emanating form the cat like an aura.

              Roux detecting movment below, pulls her gaze from the primordial sea, angling herself to peer downward at the cat-beast. For her, it is hard to tell whether the entity is a druid or elsewise. She ends up half hanging off the branch to stare and watch.

              The cat places itself overlooking the sea, and keeps to stretching in a constant state of unwinding. When a paw is extended too far, it seems to change shape, gaining hints of a hairless humanoid hand. But as soon as it untenses to come back to its position, it's all paw.

              Roux 's ears twitch as she watches. She mimics the movement, stretching her hand out far as it might go. Arm all wiry, taut muscle. Nothing changes, no hint of the nineteen year old girl inside the worgen body. She flexes her fingers one more time--still nothing. A grunt, then she looks down again. She swings to hang off the branch upside down, her effort in hiding minimal.

              The cat smacks its mouth idly. And then, a waft of something less familiar. It sniffs. Peers left, right, follows the smell (a mix of sea salt, hawthorn, and earth), head craning back. Looks. Canine hanging from a branch. It merely blinks for two second at the figure.

              Roux hangs there, unabashedly staring. The lights of the ethereal dimension reflect green in her wolfish eyes. She cranes her head curiously. Ears perked.

              The cat snarls for a half second before looking back out at the sea. Though the head doesn't move even in the slightest way, it does say. "Huh. More and more of you lot showing up in here."

              Roux idly swings to and fro. Then a small 'hup' and she is up again to idly swing and scurry down the branch, then the trunk. "Tha' a bad fing?" She mildly retorts with a snort out of her wet nose.

              The cat stares out, unmoving. "The green flight was near-terrified when we started coming here, we're terrified with you and now trolls coming here more and more often - and you too will be terrified when gnomes of fel-races eventually also find their way in. This is natural. I do not know if this is good."

              “Pft, I were already terrified comein' 'ere m'self. An' 'oo's we? Ain' ye th' ones teachin' us?” Roux loosely crouches on the root, eyeing the cat.

              “Lessons. Yes. Is there a lesson to be learned here, today?”

              Roux tilts her head. "I fink some'un needs t' learn wot's 'is own fear 'n wot's no'."

              “To be too unafraid or too afraid are both wrong, yes? As with all things, one must have balance in one's fear, yes?”

              Roux blinks. Then snorts. "Yer changin' th' subjec'. Battin' fings aroun' like a cat." Bored with the feline's musings, she hops off the root and trots away on all fours.

              “I have only one fear.”

              Roux huffs out of her nose, pausing briefly to peer back to the cat. Not very impressed.

              The cat licks its paw casually, eyes still on the water.

              Roux rolls her eyes muttering something about being thankful there's not a prissy cat Ancient. With no elaboration at the moment, she impatiently makes her way on.

              The cat, after a few beats, follows her. “Wolfkin. It is the fear of losing the Dream. I should be afraid for my kin. I should be afraid of the world my body sleeps in. I should be afraid of ignorance and I should be afraid of injustice. But I am not. I only fear for the Dream. The Dream you're scared to be in.”

              Roux hops from one stone structure to the next. She pauses to peer to him again. She stares at him, one hand slightly lifted. "...Tha' makes sense." She states curtly, not really enchanted by his diatribe. She perches, peering at him.

              The cat goes on, as it paces. "So teach me then. That's why your here. How I can begin to fear again. For worldly things."

              Roux watches him every step he takes. Her fur bristles just slightly as he nears. "Tch. When'd ye stop fearin'?"

              “Mrrrr- three steps. Seeing how shallow that world was. Then seeing how beautiful and pure and more real though ethereal this one is. And then seeing that world go worse. And worse. And worse."

              Roux peers at him. One ear lifted, one ear skewed. "...Hrmph. Ye one'f th' ones been Dreamin' 'ere mos' 'f 'is life?"

              The cat shrugs. "I'm young. For our kind. I've been sleeping, a but under half my life actually. But time wasn't the factor. I knew the moment I came in that this was home." Its eyes shine golden even in the feline shape.

              “Why?”

              The cat seems to ponder on this. The answer does come decisively though. "Nobody had fucked it up yet."

              Roux peers at him flatly. Not impressed. She shrugs. "So ye prefer i' 'cause 's simple? No messes t' clean up?”

              The cat's eyes narrow in what might be slight offense. "Why were you afraid to come here?"

              Roux grins at his expression. "Didn' wanna lose m'self. Lose m'self t' jus'...bein'. T' easy. Childish. 'Idin' in th' womb, afraid t' be expunged int' th' bloody world. By th' look on yer face, 'm righ'. I go' a friend tha' does tha'. 'Cept wif books. 'Ides."

              The cat blinks, tensed in consideration, as if deciding whether to run or confront the words in the air.

              Roux, meanwhile, lets out a long yawn, maw opening, then snapping shut.

              The cat turns, all a feline swagger as he begins to descend back down. "You're evidently all to insightful to be taught much."

              “Oooh, ye runnin' away now? Seen tha' afore. Typical cat.”

              The cat pops down after another moment of tensed shoulders. "I guess we can't teach each other much, can we now?"

              “No' if ye swagger off, naw. Bu' tha's yer choice.” Roux tosses an errant seed that had landed on the stone structure at the cat, challengingly.

              The cat begins to muse a question as it slowly begins to paces. "Too versed in fear, what ever could we have learned abo-" Then suddenly he's pelted with the seedling. He growls back. "Sharpshooting?"

              Roux laughs to herself. "I dunno, I though th' kitten wan'ed somefin' t' play wif!" Roux slinks off the stone, inching forward. She bats at his whipping tail.

              The stops in its tracks. Tail is batted. It slowly turns, stare sharply narrowed, amber glow brighter.

              Roux grins, all a-fanged. She then darts around, all awkward arms and legs. She bats at his tail again, then darts off, circling.

              At that, the cat suddenly pounces to a side along her incoming trajectory for a rough tackle.

              Roux bounds out of the way! Then hops back and forth as she faces him, cackling. “Too slow, kitteh!”

              The cat seems well annoyed as it leaps up into the air. It seems to dematerialize into raw vital energy and careen on an unnatural trajectory away and back towards Roux, materializing right while landing towards her.

              Roux widens her gaze slightly, startled. She moves right when starts to glow, lucky enough to be out of the way. She then digs in, watching him, fur bristling. She circles to the side briefly, then charges to leap over him, hands pressing to his spine.

              The cat just quickly rolls onto its back and tries to catch the worgen coming in and use the momentum to roll up into pinning her down with the spin.

              Roux rolls out of the way awkwardly, long legs a-tangle. She eventually rights herself to crouching on her long legs, knees bent. A warm, teasing laugh. Then, fingers clawed, she brings her hands together, fingers locking. Roots erupt to pin him in turn, mimicing her fingers. “ 'Avin' fun?”

The cat is held up and tight, rather helplessly by the thorns. He seems in total disbelief. The creatures explodes into vital energy once more, parts in two to go around her and materializes behind the worgen to grab at her, arms trying to get securely around her waist.

              Roux knows by now to just -move- when the cat dematerializes. She dives forward through the energies, landing on all fours. She turns to face whatever it reforms into. Unnervingly, the figure is familiar; a tall, haughty, indigo-haired prince of kal'dorei society, his usually bored languor is at present replaced by challenging fury. She blinks slowly, going very still. Her gaze narrows, but not in hostility. "...Ye."

              The elf jolts forward for another tackle on all fours, body half-way between kal'dorei and feline as he bursts so.

              And Roux's pause in disbelief is her undoing as she is pinned.

              He uses his weight to hold her shoulders down, face close to hers, golden eyes still with feline pupils. "You're a playful pup, aren't you?"

              Roux peers at him, however she's pinned. She grins, then laughs quietly. She snorts in his face, head more or less leaned away since it's so long. She eyes him sidelong. "I dunno. Yer sulky little prince, aincha? Now, can I ge' up, 'r do I gotta shove ye off?"

              He smirks for a half second. "You have to shove me off, evidently. Royalty is not known to reasonably yield."

              Roux snorts again. She pulls her legs up, hands going to his shoulders. She aims to kick into his gut and shove him at the same time. Long legs might be good for something.

              He winces in pain and makes a rough note of "That'll do", as he simply rolls off, dropping to her side.

              Roux pulls herself up to stand, shaking off lose fur and natural detritus. She peers down at him, ears twitching back. Another chuckle, then she pads a step or two away. “Hrrrm. Don' fink I go' yer name ye'.”

              He groans, rolling on in the grass, out of pain or pleasure. "Telih, learner that pups that bark and play may still bite."

              Roux snickers in her wheezy lupine manner. "Tilly? Kay. Roux Blackwood." Roux pads in a half-circle around him, watching him suffer. Maybe. Who knows.

              Telih rolls on, until he's at her feet peering up. "You've a lot of potential Rux Blackwood."

              Roux tilts her head to peer down at him. "So d' ye."

              “Don't ever forget how to play. One can indeed play too much, but. Just never forget.”

              "Cheer. I would ask you to put the moon back, but I fear you might weigh it down with your sorrow." The maternal raven spirit flicks the glowing orb to a small, aqua-haired kal'dorei with the tip of her beak. "Go on," she encourages with a warm croak.


              “I'd say th' same t' ye. I didn' break noffin' wif m' feet, did I?” Roux gives him an idle kick to the ribs.

              Telih smirks, shaking his head. "We're asleep. Without intent to harm, harm can't come."

              Roux stares at him, blankly. She tests that, kicking harder.

              Telih narrows his eyes, amused. "Felt it. But it didn't hurt-hurt anything."

              Roux stares blankly still. She suddenly swings her leg back--...then drops it, chuckling lowly. She steps back slightly. "I bes' no', I ain' one fer 'ealin'."

              Telih seems well amused, lazing about the grass, head rested onto a palm as he looks at her.

              Roux squints at him. "Wot?"

Telih shrugs. "Welcome to your dream, Rux."

              “...I don' even know where yer gettin' Rux. Ain' no X in 'ow I say m' name. Roo....An' I been 'ere afore a few times, bu' fanks.” Roux finally relents the display of dominance, standing higher than him. She eases down to sit.

              “Glad all that's clarified.” Telih just stares.

              Roux stares. One ear shifts up and down. "...Typical cat, starin' a' noffin'." Without much input from her, like wolf ears do, hers twitch in her white hair to the myriad sounds in the area. "Wot?" She asks again of his staring.

              Telih sits on his knees to level with her, nose an inch from hers. "Just because a fight is hard doesn't make it more or less important than a fight close to home. But you don't disagree. What is it you actually want to know?"

              Roux 's wet nose flares lightly. "When yer gonna quit wif th' big words an get ou' there." She snorts. "Lotta fings I wanna know. Ye ain' th' one t' ask, though."

              “How do you know I'm not?”

              “Ye seem t' go runnin' firs' fing.”

              “Oh mrawr. Ask.”

              Roux snorts again, the effort of the breath perhaps rustling his bangs as close as he is to her face. She angles her head up slightly to peer around. "Ye said yer afraid 'f th' Dream bein' d'stroyed, aye?"

              “Or, selfishly, my being lost from it.” Telih nods, not backing any at all.

              Roux eyes him briefly. "Wotcha fink we 'n th' trolls'll do t' it? Or d' ye jus' no' wanna share?”

              “There's a bit of selfish unsharing too. Perhaps enrich it with diversity, understanding its way. But I can also see some of your kin and their kin feeding the Nightmare, or trying to bridge the imperfect world to this one more than they should be linked...I never said the fear was rational. Just natural.”
Telih smiles tiredly.

              Roux peers at the tired smile. A soft snort, then she pulls herself up to stand. "Wee kitten needs 'is nap, i' seems."

              Telih curls up as he mutters "Pup's mean." The shape again begins to jump ethereally between feline, elven and mixed.

              Roux eyes the shape changing. She seems slightly unnerved by it. She grunts, then moves to the bone-like stone structure again to perch.

              Telih settles feline and eyes almost closed flit towards her. "Finhhl'.. quesht'un?"

              Roux quirks an ear, then glances over to him. Upon discerning he actually speaks, she answers. "Go 'n."

              Telih drifts asleep as soon as it finishes muttering out ethereally "Howsh long will...will you give him before...before he has to pick between you...between you and the Light?" He begins purr-snoring.

              Roux waits for the question, brow lifting. She blinks in a brief skip of her heart, then covers it with a quiet laugh. "Tch, only been abou' a monf. Maybe a bi' over." She answers, even though he sleeps. "Dunno ye'. Jus' seein' wot 'appens. Hrrrm."
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#4
Spoiler:
Part II! I hope I'm not being too lore-breaky or interprety. Or pretentious. Totally being pretentious.

              Roux awoke again.

              She had fallen Asleep in a safe nook somewhere outside of Hearthglen; it smelled of moss damp from the frequent rains and the evergreen pines. It is said that smell is one of the strongest keys to memory, and she did not doubt it. She relied more on scent to remember and find this place than sight.

              And the smell had not changed that much in the Dream. Weather was an odd thing here—it existed as more of an aura, a wish of the verdancy ever sustained by the energies of the dimension. It never rained, but the smell of it could be present. The static of lightning bristling her fur. She still held the scent of the pines and moss in her nose as she pulled herself up to stand, craning her neck to stare up at the ancestors of the pines in waking Lordaeron.

              Lordaeron. The name was half-cursed anymore. She had only known it as a distant rumor of potential, and then terror as the great wall kept the Scourge at bay. So many years later, its name would be cursed again when the Forsaken descended like so many starving rats on her land.

              War seemed to be a constant bedfellow of the country; if the country still truly existed, now ruled by a dead elf.

              As she mused, her nose picked up another scent—one familiar to her. A flower, but it was no pansy or rose. It was pungent, more akin to death than a sweet bouquet; hawthorn. The notion that this must be an omen of some kind fluttered in her stomach. The hawthorn tree held a sacred aspect for her people—followers of the Old Ways. It was a gateway between realms. Its rune held meanings of strife, conflict, death, and power.

              Keeping on her two lupine feet, she carefully made her way forward, following the smell.

              The journey, a little unnervingly, was uneventful. Save for the flapping of wings in the trees coupled with light croaking and cawing—ravens or crows.

              Soon enough, Roux came upon a grove and the source of the smell. As she had thought, a giant hawthorn tree stood proudly in the middle. Its gentle white blossoms reflected the moonlight, and its thorny branches swayed gently in the wind. What she had not thought of were the various corpses littering the grove, whose rotting added to the smell. Upon the realization of their existence, one hand lifted to cover her snout in surprise.

              As if pushed by some force behind her, she stumbled on, regaining her footing after a couple steps. Three raven or crow-like birds settled on the hawthorn branches, watching.

              She was careful to step on the grasses of the glade, and not on any parts of the bestial corpses. Though her head was tilted up, her gaze was glued downward towards the bodies. As she moved further, she realized they had all been viciously mauled by claw and fang. Some parts had been eaten, others thrown about in gory, bloody mirth.

              Without realizing it until she bumped into the bark of the tree, she had reached the center of the glade. She gasped, startled, and then pressed her hands to the trunk, peering up. It was at this moment she noted the trio of black birds, their feathers shining with a bloody iridescence. Familiar. Her gaze squinted at them, and they croaked and chortled, hopping from branch to branch. What were they so gleeful in anticipation for?

              Ignorant to their game—such birds always have a game afoot—she padded quietly around the large trunk, one hand trailing along the bark. Claw tips gently picked off flakes. She made it nearly half-way around before she realized something sickeningly crucial; she was being followed.

              A long, long breath was taken in through her nose to calm her nerves and stomach. She still smelt death, both from the blossoms and the corpses, but now there was something new. Sweat, and fresher blood. And it was behind her, unmoving. Waiting for her to turn around and see it.

              Caw! Behind you! See! Run! Don’t run!

              Every fiber of fur on her skin bristled, an electric charge in her muscles, she turned to stare down whatever it was that was toying with her.

              Her eyes met orbs reflecting a venomous green. Tan fur sticky with sweat and blood. Course white hair had once been kept with a braid over the entity’s shoulder; but now the blue ribbon was just tangled and shredded in knots. The creature’s maw split wide in a pant, hot drool dripping once or twice from yellowed fangs.

              Roux screamed—an odd mix of her girlish voice and worgen roar—as she flailed backwards, turning to pull on the earth to run. This, she realized the second her hands and feet beat on the ground, was a terrible mistake. Worgen, like wolves, were deadliest in the chase—the best way to bring them down was to face them, as insane as that sounded. This lesson was hammered into her very quickly as the horror that bared her features barreled into her after only fifteen seconds. Snarling, yapping, its (her?) jaws snapped at Roux’s face, one hand seeking to pin her neck, the other to disembowel her.

              Flee! Face! Fall!

              Another scream and a shock of verdant energies erupted from Roux in a reaction for base survival. It was enough to knock the horrible doppelganger back and off her. Enough time for Roux to scramble up, and turn to run again—but only turn. Teeth gritting, she wrenched herself around to stare at this madness, maw cracked for shaking breaths.

              The feral twin staggered up onto all fours, then to a sagging, loping stand. She settled her gaze on Roux, roared, and then charged once more dropping to hands and feet.
              Roux, against her shrill instincts, kept her ground, lifting her hands to ready for a grapple.

              It worked. The feral creature skidded to a halt just before her, roaring, caught off guard that her prey was not running. She had to run. Run! I need you to run so I can run!

              No.

              Keeping her own roar checked in her throat, lest it crack in her terror, Roux pushed forward against the monster, the grapple finally tangling. The feral doppelganger was not a physical brute, despite being tall. Like her, she seemed to rely on speed, and perhaps magic. Thankfully, judging by the mad gleam in the thing’s green eyes, such knowledge and will was likely lost.

              They tangled, and clawed, sweated and bled. But Roux did not run. And without that, her foe was, in the end, helpless.

              Unsure where she was pushing the feral twin, Roux kept moving to the hawthorn tree. Do not run. Keep pushing. It does not matter where, just keep forward. Forward! She pushed, gripped, snapped. Until she pressed the feral other against the trunk of the hawthorn tree. This sudden stop briefly startled her, enough to distract her for a bloody swipe to her collarbone and sternum. Briefly, she was stunned—but in her sway she noticed the white flowers above. Then pulled her gaze to the monster before her again. She took a breath, then let the roar she kept in check before loose. It cracked with her fear, but lasted until she was out of breath.

              Another, final, push against the bark of the tree. The tree opened, though she saw no split in the bark. The horrible twin was drawn into the trunk, verdant lightning arcing across its flesh. It sparked and spat, until it was out of sight. The only sign of the devouring left was a shudder of magics across the trunk.

              Roux swayed backwards in her steps, staring up at the tree, out of breath. Throat aching from the roar.

              The trunk shuddered again. Then spat those energies right back out, the emerald arcing for Roux’s heart. She had not the energy to avoid it, and in a way, did not wish to. She had always believed in cycles, and this seemed cyclical as the seasons.

              One last fear-choked gasp, and she was knocked to the ground. Lids drooped over green eyes. Her sinking consciousness allowed her a glimpse of three pairs of black bird feet settling before her. They hopped around curiously, then launched into the air in a flurry of black feathers.

              Roux slipped into true unconsciousness with the feeling of a pulse-warm, dark, mothering wing settling over her. She did not see the glade's dead vanish into the ground, white petals dropping onto green, peaceful, empty grass.
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#5
Spoiler:
I took inspiration for this post from the old nursery rhyme One for Sorrow, myths about magpies, and a bit from the old point-and-click adventure game Quest for Glory 3. I hope fans of that get a kick out of this post.


              This time, as Roux had slept and entered into the Dream, she felt as she had literally fallen asleep. Her mind was so heavy with the trials of the waking world. She even felt weighted as she pushed herself up to stand once she awoke in the verdant dimension. She needed guidance to ease the burdens on her shoulders; the latest of which being the swearing of vengeance by an elderly fel-sworn for being kicked off her land.

              For the first minutes back in the Dream Roux breathed deeply and slowly, readjusting to the sharp smells and noises. The invisible electricity in her skin from the thick energies. She was about to ease herself back down to sit once it felt like a half hour was creeping up on her when she heard a call from the trees almost akin to a laughing rattle. A precursor to a sudden swoop down at her by a black and white bird—a magpie.

              Her flailing was answered by more rattling laughter, then yet another magpie assaulted her with its teasing. Then another, and another. It took her a short while to realize that they flew further and further off into the woods every time they fled after a tease; a bidding for her to follow them.

              “One for sorrow,” called one. “Two for joy,” answered another. Both rattled their chortling as they hopped on branches.

              Roux blinked, amazed. This was a rhyme from her childhood—a shorthand reminder of the omens magpies could foretell. It depended on how many flew by, and in what direction.

              “Three for a girl!”

              Roux started to follow them into the woods. Naturally, the hopped and flew further and further into the dimness.

              “Four for a boy.”

“Five for silver.”

“Six for for gold.”

“Seven for a secret, never to be told.”

              At the last stanza of the short rhyme, Roux found herself among the gathering of avian jesters and omen bringers. They all peered down at her with their beady black eyes. Her ears slowly pinned back, and she found herself suddenly sitting. Was she being judged?

              The magpies began to speak. She could not discern which one, for all their black beaks moved, though not necessarily at the same time.

“Choose that which you were.”

              Roux looked up at the question, noticing now that a number of the birds held small golden trinkets in their beaks. She eyed each slowly; a triple spiral, a heart, a key, a Light cross, a chalice, and a sword. After a short while of hesitant discerning, Roux chose the spiral with a loose pointing of her hand. The birds not chosen fluttered away.

“You are aiding an old witch in casting a ritual which will bind the rushing waters of a river and prevent the flooding of the village below. Suddenly, the old witch clutches her heart and cannot speak. What do you do?”

              Roux found different options floating through her mind. Should she quickly snatch the book and continue the ritual unhindered? Should she help the crone; her wisdom and experience are perhaps of more personal value to her than a town that may not have accepted her? Does she finish the ritual, letting the old woman die to keep her knowledge and the glory of saving the town for herself? Perhaps she has the time to aid the woman quick enough so that she can hinder the waters as well. Or perhaps she lets both go, letting nature take its rather nihilistic course.

              She chose the fourth option; aiding the crone enough that she might survive, and continuing the ritual with enough time so that the damage from the waters is miniscule.

“Choose that which you are.”

              The birds again held various golden trinkets in their beaks: An hourglass, a discus whose halves were the sun and moon, a key, a Ring, an ouroboros, and a closed fist.

              Again with a loose pointing, Roux chose the sun and moon discus. Again, the unchosen birds fluttered away.

“You are called to a distant town act as an impartial judge in a murder trial. When you arrive, you discover the accused is an old friend from your childhood. What do you do?”

              Again, choices floated across her consciousness: Tell the magistrate of the town that she cannot be the judge, since she knows the defendant. Take the position as the judge so that she can help her friend now that they need her. Admit to the town magistrate that you are a friend of the accused, and let him decide if you are fit to judge. Accept the position so that she can make certain her friend gets an honest trial, and true justice may be served; surely no one else can be fair save she. Lastly, accept the position so that she may get even with her former best friend for a past slight.

              After a similar amount of thought to last time, she chose the third option. She briefly realized a pattern; let the elders make the true decisions. A strange thought since she was indeed running a small hamlet, and trying to gather something of a coven on her own. Even so, wasn't she always uncertain, thinking five steps ahead? And then asking others what they might think of her, always trying to prove how right she was.

“Choose that which you will be.”

              For the third time, she saw the magpies show off and play with various golden trinkets: the triple spiral made a return, along with a candle, the Light cross, a ring, a chalice, and a sword.

              And for the second time, she chose the triple spiral.

“You find yourself in a dark room surrounded by four archways exposing only blackness beyond. One archway is carved from lapis lazuli into cloud shapes. One archway is carved from ruby into flame shapes. One archway is carved from jade into wave shapes. The archway ahead is carved from unornamented black stone; granite perhaps. Choose.”

              Roux blinked at this question, vague as it was. She lowered her head gently, eyes settling on the grasses. There really weren't many options or potential to extrapolate. She might assign symbolic meaning to each archway and the darkness within. Was the darkness that of her own heart, or the unknown of the future? Likely both. She let her mind drift on the options, letting herself settle naturally on an answer.
              Fire? While she was definitely a red-head and acted as such, she never felt a true affinity for the rampant destruction. She was content with the fire in the home's hearth.

              Air? Too flighty. Perhaps if she was seeking to be a druid of the talon, but the raven form she sought at present was a step to something else. To some it was the heights of knowledge, but she felt herself more grounded.

              Water? She felt little for water, though in rituals it meant cleansing. She had never felt close to the wriggling fish.

              Earth? This was the arch that stood open before her, and she felt drawn here. She had always been one to settle, to build a home. And she was stubborn. As well, the gifts nature gave her aided things in returning to the earth so that they may provide structure.

              She chose the archway before her; the plain dark stone. She imagined herself just setting her toes into the darkness when her attention was called to the birds again.

“Your spirit has been weighed.
You have chosen your own path and by that path you will be judged.
The first is that which was.
The triple spiral is the witch, the earth, the keeper of secrets. It is protection, it is healing. With it at your center, you will be grounded, content with quiet knowledge. You delight in deeds of the mind.
The second is that which is.
The disc of the sun and moon is the union of opposites, the balance of the universe. It is male and female, it is dark and light. You wrestle with your soul to attain this balance while you deal with a world of opposition.
The third is that which will be.
Knowledge, mystery, and the unknown entice you onward. You care deeply for security and comfort, but are driven by the need to understand. Curiosity is your greatest strength and weakness. The more wisdom you gain, the better you can determine your destiny.
You are one with yourself, though you do not fully know it, and will be what you have been. Your skills are in harmony with your nature.
By your actions, you have shown yourself to be straightforward, though perhaps not always conscientious. Your tongue has thorns, and your heart impatience. These will soften with age. You will do everything you can to achieve your chosen goal. You are judged worthy.”

              Finished, the small flock of magpies all launched into the air at once, a few feathers fluttering down in their wake. Instead of flying in one direction, towards one of the cardinal points, they scattered into the sky.

              Roux would have to walk her own path into the dark of the future, and deem herself worthy of it.
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#6
              The next night, Roux drifted to the Dream far easier than the last transition. Encouraged by the encounter with the magpies, she was eager to progress, eager to grow.

              Upon opening her eyes to the viridescence of this dimension, she lifted herself up to sit in the grass. A long, deep breath in and she held it as her long, clawed hands settled on her knees. She held the breath. Then let it flow out through her barely parted maw. She did not feel the need to seek out visions and tests tonight. She had to let herself float in it all.

              Roux gained a rhythm to her breathing as she thought of drums, and the ancient, almost gutteral chanting of her faith. She began to hum along to the tune in her spirit; a very basic melody, something one tapped a staff to the ground against.

. . .
. . .
. . .

              The drums started to sound like wings. Great, black, pulse-warm wings. The beating stopped not far ahead of her.

              Roux pulled open her eyes and settled them on the being before her; the raven spirit. The great entity stood, her shoulders hunched, head tilted with its beady eye on Roux. The curve where her beak met her skull always made her look like she was smiling.

              “Hello, fledgling.”

              “...'Allo, spirit.”

              “You've done well in your first awkward flaps out of the nest.”

Roux stuttered briefly, unsure in all regards in how to communicate with this being. “F-fanks...?”

              The Raven chortled, sanguine-tinted black feathers ruffling. She hopped closer, craning her neck forward.

              “Speak to me of your lessons. You remember the first, I'm sure.”

              “A-aye. Th'...never forge' t' play or laugh. Mean--...tha's 'ow wee baby animals learn, aye? An'...heh. When ye fink o' I' we're always gonna be infan's compared t' the earth. Well...-we-. Mortals, I mean.”

              The Raven chortled again, ruffling her feathers. A wordless bid to continue.

              “The secon'...were frightenin'. I 'ad t' face m'self. I couldn' run. I 'ad t' accep' there's always gonna be somefin' bloody in me. Maybe even wifou' th' curse.”

              The Raven stared, her bird-face unreadable.

              “Th' third. Uhm. Were a test o' wisdom. Wif magpies--...oracle birds. I 'ad t' learn t' fin' my own path, an' no' rely on th' thoughts 'f ofvers so much. I 'ad t' accept tha' I do 'ave strength an' wisdom 'f my own. I were assured I'm in balance wif my gif's...though inexperienced.”

              The Raven continued staring, her head turning at an angle impossible for any human neck. Roux gulped uncertainly. Then the spirit began to hop forward. Right in front of Roux, she craned her black neck to her again.

              “You are young. A fledgling. Your first flaps will be unsteady, and you will fall. But, I believe you are ready to take these falls, so that from them, you will ascend to heights. Do you believe such?”

              Roux inhaled, her heart pausing. “A-aye! I am.” She assured a second time in a calmer tone, in hopes she did not appear grabby.

              “Then take my blessing of Joy, Blood, and Knowledge. Creation, Destruction, and Omens.”

              The Raven straightened, peering down at Roux who suddenly felt like a mouse about to be swept away. She took a breath, as if to speak.

              Then pain.

              The Raven's black head struck down, her beak aimed for Roux's heart as if to devour it. Roux gasped and choked a terrified breath, shaking hands lifting. She bled as she stared at her impaled chest.

              It all went very quickly, though it seemed so slow to Roux's shocked mind. The spirit dispersed into its energies which shot through the girl and out to the other side, whereupon it gained wings again to fly off into the Dream. The force left Roux on her back, gasping weakly and shaking.

              Visions tore across her sight; soaring and diving joyously. She saw herself perched on a chimney, watching a town being overtaken by a plague. Another launch into the air, and she saw the world and its mysterious, messages to bring back to those who would listen.

              Aching, finding she had not bled to death, Roux shakingly pushed herself up to prop on her hands. One long, grateful breath in, then out. In then out. Then she started to laugh her terror away, one hand resting over her eyes. After she had mostly calmed her nerves, she slowly stood, and saw the glade was empty.

              Now what? How was she to take those first awkward flaps?

              She peered down at her hands, spreading her fingers. She lifted them to settle on her skull, canine ears between her digits. Think. Remember. No, more importantly, be.

              Be.

              Roux blinked a couple times, glancing to the trees beyond.

              But, I believe you are ready to take these falls, so that from them, you will ascend to heights.

              Another shaking breath, then Roux broke into a run. She ran and leapt and dove. She kept going, letting her feet and the knowledge gifted to her blood guide her. Both would draw her to a cliff overlooking something akin to a moor. Roux slowly crouched down to stare across the expanse, watching the distant fireflies and wisps bob about.

              All I have to do is fall. Let myself fall. Everyone falls.

              Roux stepped back, toes dragging tiny trenches in the earth. Finding her shoulders tense as iron, she lifted them, then lowered them, following with a roll of her neck. She lifted her arms forward, imagining a wind pushing her to the edge, exhaling. A few more steps back as she resisted the urge to look behind her.

              Then her arms dropped to pump as she ran, leaping off the edge.

              At first, she felt like she floated, natural panic rushing across her heart. But when she started to truly fall, the fear-based adrenaline gave way to exuberance. Her trials flashed across her mind, and her body tilted either way against the wind.

              She pushed the fear away with a laugh. She stared the ground down as she rushed toward it. She let the expanse of the moor show her all its paths and brooks—all were open to her.

              A sudden clawing of her hands as sanguine-tinted black feathers rushed around her. Toe-claws grew to talons, arms to wings, maw to a cruel beak. The rush happened so quickly, she found herself flapping vainly as she spun and whirled, feathered tail opening and closing in confusion. She croaked as she tried to yelp.

              She spun and whirled, flapping strongly. The ground kept coming up and up and up. Though slower and slower. She braced herself, soon enough landing in a heap of moss and reeds. She crooned a groan, a pale membrane flicking over her dark eye.

              Roux pushed her wings outward to push herself up to her new feet, taloned toes spreading to maintain balance. Once up, she held her wings out awkwardly, as if any tilt either way would send her off balance. Her head tilted one way, then the other, studying each new limb. Slowly, she brought them to her sides to fold.

              One leg stretched out, talons gripping the ground. That foot pulled her forward with a bob of her head. The other leg and foot acted similarly.

              Roux paused again, blinking. She gave a few testing hops in a circle, then noticed something above the empty expanse.

              The moon.

              Roux tilted her bird-head to peer up at it, spotting a winged shadow flitting across the green-tinted whiteness. She found her deep chest swelling, feathers puffing.

              Then she spread her wings and let a cackling, croaking laugh echo across the moor.
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#7
Spoiler:
Intermission filler art, yay. I didn't draw the knot thing, if anyone wondered.

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#8
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              Roux crouched by the moonwell in Twilight Grove, eyes dulled from exhaustion settling on the pool and its effervescent magic. She did not fully understand the nature of these waters—only that they were old, and they brought peace and blessings to the kal'dorei. She came here to indulge in the quiet radiance when her prayers by her little wooden altar did not soothe her spirit. She wondered if it was cheating in a way, relying on the peaceful magic, rather than inner focus. In truth, she needed a reprieve from Rosehaven—the little settlement she had established not far from here, amidst the ruins of a previous effort by others. For some reason she did not understand, she had been selected as something worth causing trouble over by two people—a fel-sworn, and a Twilight's Hammer huntress. Maybe they thought she was an easy target, a young woman living (mostly) alone in Duskwood. Ever since, Rosehaven had become a source of troubled thoughts and potential danger, rather than the meek sanctuary she had hoped to offer.

              “Ma, da, ancestors watch over me,” Roux muttered as she began a prayer. “Bring my prayers t' th' spirits of field and glade. May th' sun guide me durin' th' day, may th' moon reveal terrors a' night.” As she spoke, her hand slipped into her apron, thumbing a small feminine idol. Once her words quieted, she removed her hand and pulled herself up to stand, her face shadowed under her hood as the light of the well drew those few feet further away. For a few moments longer her eyes remained unfocused. Clarity was returned as they settled on a rising spark of magic, watching it ascend and dissipate. A single blink and she lowered her gaze again, catching sight of someone watching her; a kal'dorei priestess.

              “Elune-adore,” she greeted, voice smooth as silvered glass. Her expression remained as still as a pond, though it was not cold.

              “ 'A--'allo...I mean, ishnu-alah. Ma'am,” Roux stuttered her return.

              “Calm, child. I do not mean to chase you away,” the priestess assured. And, as if by some hidden magic, Roux felt herself relax. “I merely wonder what troubles you, that you should pray by this well, instead of your own altars.”

              “It's...noffin' t' trouble th' likes 'f yer grace, ma'am.” Roux lifted her hands to tug her hood a little further over her face.

              “I am a priestess of Elune. If you placed these nothings in Elune's hands, surely I am worthy of them as well.”

              Roux grunted, feeling somewhat cornered. After a large sigh, she relented, though hesitated in giving too many details. “I...I'm b'set on wot seems like all sides. I'm tryin' t' do simple good in th' worl', bu' s'like I dumped a bucket o' blood in th' water. Sharks 're circlin' me, wantin' a piece. I don't know...wot t' do."

              The priestess peered tranquilly at Roux as the young woman partially confessed her troubles. With the glow in her eyes, it was hard to tell if she ever blinked. “You are scattered,” she offered calmly after a few moments of silence.

              Roux looked to the priestess in bemusement. “Pardon?”

              “Scattered. Your mind, and your body are trying to be everywhere at once. Trying to control that which you cannot.”

              Roux's arms opened in a wide shrug. “Well, s' no' like I can' jus' lay down an' be trampled, I--”

              “I did not say such, child. Defend yourself by all means, but do so with tranquility. Know that you did not bring your troubles upon yourself; it is a strange arrogance to think such.”

              “D' ye know...?”

              “You are Roux Blackwood, yes? The one that is building...Rosehaven is it? There are few with an accent as thick as yours. I have seen you before here. And I have heard of what assails you; Grove scouts heard those explosions, and saw that demoness. There is also the small Alliance post near here, where you returned the injured guard. Malorak Leafwind is your shan'do, yes?”

              Roux's shoulders slumped, and a blush blossomed on her pale cheeks. This time, she actually did tug her hood forward.

              The priestess vaguely smirked. Or perhaps it was just the shifting of the shadows on her face from the floating magics of the well. The priestess gesture to it with an extension of her arm. “Do you know what this is?” She asked.

              “A moonwell...,” Roux answered, drawing off at the end into uncertainty, knowing there was more to the question.

              “That is its name. But not what it is.”

              “An 'oly fount? Elune's waters?” Roux continued with her guessing half-answers.

              “Not untrue, but not whole answers. Though it is brushed aside by many of our kind, considering our history, these waters are both arcane and divine in nature. Remnants of the Well of Eternity, they both draw power from the arcane ley-lines, and Elune's moonlight. Or so it is said. Truth be told, we have likely forgotten something of their essence.”

              “...Aye, druids balance arcane an' nature, right?”

              “Two things most believe are incompatible. Granted, the way most mages toss it about, altering the world, that thought makes sense.”

              Roux nodded, unsure what else to say in regards to this topic. The mysteries of the arcane were foreign to her, their only users mages in high towers.

              “Two apparently opposing things working with each other...you would do well to keep this in mind. It may soothe you.”

              “A-aye. Fank ye ma'am,” Roux answered, glancing up only to find the priestess silently walking away. Even her pale robes barely emitted any rustling. The young witch looked to the moonwell again, brow lifted as if to support all these considerations.

...Now where do I go from here...?
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#9
My mind has changed
my body's frame but god I like it
my hearts aflame
my body's strained but god I like it

Hey hey my playmate
let me lay waste to thee
burned down their hanging trees
it's hot here hot here hot here hot here

              It had been some time since Roux Blackwood had sequestered herself in the Emerald Dream. In the months since she had attained the form of a great, black carrion bird she had focused on practicing in the real world. To her puzzlement, she was finding an unexpected affinity for it, especially under the guidance of her new shan'do, Fandrelthion Weepingrove. Perhaps the understanding of the moonkin form would come later. Leaping at a new form after attaining this one seemed unwise.

              Life had been fairly quiet up until the past week or so. Her foes had mostly dropped off the face of the earth, which left her time to focus on Rosehaven and refining her druidism. Flying above her stresses lifted weights off her heart, and the druidic energies of the carrion crow form seemed to also refine her rotting magics. A serene confidence, rare in her soul, was blossoming.

              It would not last though. There were cycles in nature, and cycles in daily life. Rosehaven would be assaulted again by two Death Knights seeking the capture of a small girl from their gang. Roux had not kept track of much of the finer details; undead abominations wanted to harm one living, had set explosives in her house, and would be sent to their ancestors. Granted, a strange blessing came with this—the presence of a Vrykul. An Ebon Blade Captain had been sent to trail the two Knights and had hung about the farm. Roux had taken to questioning the Vrykul when she could work up the nerve—the opportunity to learn of her ancestors' ancestors was too great to pass up.

              During the assault of the two Knights, one of her close friends had been injured—Kantado Starseer, son of Hercynian Dreamseer, and younger brother of Tikar Wildseer. He had suffered the most, sustaining a brunt attack of arcane necrotic rot. In the few days since, Roux and another friend, Ninde Moonwhisper had taken care of him.

              All was fairly peaceful until Kantado's father and brother came to check on the young druid. Roux had little issue with Hercynian, but for some reason, there was nothing but ire between her and Tikar. Either one was as an unmoving wall to the other, and Roux did not understand it. She would come to regret the attempt at making amends by inviting Tikar to her home.

              Father and brother had went upstairs quickly to check on Kantado, Roux remaining below with prepared tea, chatting with Ninde. A sudden commotion above caught her attention, especially the statement of her name. She hurried up, questioning if anything was needed. Hercynian, in his slow bluntness stated Tikar had cast her totemic staff into the hearth of her room. Pushing through disbelieving shock, Roux rushed in and upon seeing the truth tried desperately to rescue her staff. However, it was too late, and too burnt. She wheeled on Tikar, the arrogant elf as impassive and secure in his rightness as ever. She hated it. She could not hate him, being Kantado's brother, but she hated everything he did and said in that moment. They argued, Roux firm in her beliefs and practices about death in nature, Tikar just as firm in his belief about their uselessness and heresy in druidism. Truly, deep down, it was not the loss of her staff that had enraged her, she had lost an instrument or two before. It was the utter disrespect and disregard, Tikar's refusal to speak with her, instead of at her. She was a yapping dog to him, and would never be anything else.

              He would end up storming out when his brother and father chided him about his actions, never to return. Which was fine by Roux.

              One problem remained—she needed a new staff. Kantado had sent her a suitable fallen branch from Moonglade, long and curling. She had later lashed two spare sickles to its top. Else was needed, however. Bones. Tikar had firmly stated his being tired of the Harvest Witches carrying around deathly trinkets, insisting they called evil spirits with them. Naturally, this only made Roux seek them more fervently.

              But where? Elwynn would likely be lacking, the woods tamed. Redridge was mostly rocky mountains, and Deadwind and Westfall far too dangerous. She supposed she should search first, at least, in her new home of Duskwood.

              Roux set off at dusk into the tangle of dark trees, wet nose and large ears keen for threats. She had an idea in mind of what she wanted, it was just a question of finding it. She desired to scavenge her trinkets instead of kill for them. It seemed appropriate, given her leanings in druidism. Or Witchery. Whatever she was. There were many large worgs in the woods, perhaps there would be a suitable corpse left. She set off in their general lurking grounds.

              Some hours passed with little finding. A wrong body, bones too ruined, or nothing at all came her way. She drifted to the East of Twilight Grove for some time, scampering up a tree when she heard a too-close howl, then slinking back down when it abated.

              As she searched, she thought, and became distracted, blank for some crucial moments as she trotted on all fours. This lapse in attention would have her trip over a small pile of bones, rags of flesh still clinging after the other scavengers in the woods had had their fill. Roux quickly turned then rose on her two feet, peering down at the scene.

              There had been a fight. A large bird from Deadwind had flown to (relatively) greener pastures for food, and had met an equally hungry worg. Roux lowered herself slowly to one long-fingered hand, nostrils flaring. Both had rendered lethal wounds on the other, judging by scratches on either's bones. And then they had died together, too weak to flee. A small breath out, then Roux offered a prayer in thanks for this finding. Another peer a thought flickering across her mind, a brief flash of a battle—not of worg and bird, but two humanoid figures. She shook it off, then set to gathering.

              From the bird, she took its large skull, large enough to fit over her head as a helmet. She turned it in her long hands, picking off dried bits of left over flesh and feather. This looked something like a large vulture, by the curve in its beak. Most people discredited the scavenging birds as opportunists, villains picking on the weak, sick, and dying. They were right about the first part—the rest? Nature culled the weak. The sickly died, leaving room for healthy growth. The weak calf was picked off to make room for the strong. This seemed to be a facet mostly forgotten by the druids she met, all too focused on pretty flowers and green groves. Mostly, they had forgotten, or denied, the need of things like vultures and their ilk, throwing pretty magic about instead of actual, bloody effort. Secure and safe in the memory of their immortality, outside the natural cycle, though they called themselves its guardians.

              Mostly. Her shan'do for the bird form had said something that struck her. Mmm... Perhaps then it was good for Nordrassil to fall? Perhaps immortality and undeath walk hand and hand, if everything must die, then immortal elves are as unnatural as undying ghouls. It had given her some hope for the kal'dorei.

              And then they railed on her when she pointed it out. If you had spent any time in the Emerald Dream, they said. She had. And she saw the predators there too, the shadows, the cries of slain prey. The great verdant vines and trees feasting on their remains. She did not like the Emerald Dream very much. Many night elves saw it as a paradise. Roux? She saw it as a womb for them to hide in, away from the real, frightening world.

              Waking herself from her musing, she focused on her scavenging again. From both corpses she took bones large enough to carve and adorn her staff with. Perhaps fang-like spikes would be threatening. She set her items aside, then peered at the rest, standing. Her hands hovered over them, murky green energies gathering. She weaved them, the grasses and roots in the earth below shuddering and roiling. Tendrils of green and brown would drag the bones beneath the earth, and there they would provide support and sustenance.

              She had a favored saying—The Tree of Life's Roots Feed on Death's Soil. Death and rot were only to be enacted to ensure life.

              Roux gave a firm nod at her work, picked up her findings, and headed back to Rosehaven to clean and prepare them for use.
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