A Collection of Fan Fiction from WoW, SWG and more!

Zandal Influences (WoW – The Ravaltas and the Marou)

OOC Note: This story was written with the incredible Stephen Renn.

 

The Lantern crackled with the lightning that overloaded it.  It wasn’t the shock of the elemental power that lead her to drop the lantern, it was the state of the room.  Even with her damaged eyes, it was clear that something catastrophic had occured.  Zulfi’Marou Adjassou had never been inside of the Ravalta estate.  There had never been a reason and the Troll was loathe to travel into the spiritually empty lands of Quel’thalas.  The Ravalta’s as she had come to know them did not strike her as people who would live in such destruction.  And the evidence pointed to destruction akin to a small seaforium charge going off.  Books, papers, scrolls, jewelery, clothing, bedding, and all manners of things were torn asunder and thrown in all directions.  Everything save the heavy bed against the back wall of the room had been blown outside a six foot radius.  This puzzled Adjassou greatly.  In the center of this destruction was the family Ravalta.

“They sleep in peace, wife. Let them rest while we cleanse this house of his stench.” Adjassou  could do very little subtlely and when she looked up at her husband her movement was quick,a snap of her head that made the shells bound within her vibrant ocean-touched mane clatter together.  His hand was on her arm, three fingers guiding her her back towards the door.  Jin’Marou Shavai was not a weak troll, tall and lanky, finely muscled and yet the power in which his wife wrenched her arm away took him back.

“She is bleeding and that blood has the scent of her cunt.” The way his nose twitched she knew he caught its scent as well.  Jin’Marou Shavai did not reach for his mate again when she made her way to the bed.  He knew better than to stop her when she had a task before her.  The baubles, gourds and shrunken heads clashes together along the belt of the Witch Doctor when she tugged loose her satchels of herbs and salves.  But her magics would have little impact in the suffocating energies that permeated the Ravalta Estate.  Fel and Arcane energies clouded their visions.  And while his wife busied herself with the health of Padija Ravalta and her unborn child, the Jin began the daunting task of cleaning the estate.

As night turned to day and that day progressed, Sanathas Ravalta stirred, opening his eyes to be greeted by the sight of Zulfi’Marou Adjassou tending to the well being of his wife.  “…Are they..?” He slurred through his cracked lips.

The violet eyes of the Witch Doctor were quick to glance over at him, “Dead? No. Jou son sustains her, he es strong but jou wife, I de not know.  I de wut I can.  Time will tell.  I de not know wut has happened ‘ere, but dis… dis cannot go on.” She fumbled with her Orcish, shaking her head at the Sin’dorei Warlock as she tucked away her herbs and salves and covered the now naked form of Padija with a blanket.  “Jou call de Marou, de Marou come.  An’ de Marou will knock sense inte jou bot’ befoah we go.” The Troll snorted, licking at her right tusk, “Jou Elves, jou tink jou long lives make jou soopeereeoah.  Jou ‘ave much te learn an’ de Marou will teech.”

The spiritual, and now physical, disrepair of the estate was unable to be understated. Seven generations of elves had their ashes in waist-high monuments secluded within the property’s grounds, and all of them made it a point to trouble the two interlopers at night. Coupled with the wayward souls that wandered the Ghostlands beyond these grounds, it was difficult for Shavai and his wife to do their work until the ghosts had calmed.

Some were driven away, such as the tormented spirits of those who died at the hands of the Scourge. Others were placated, though without the likes of a Sun Priest nearby, that proved to be increasingly difficult. Shavai’s head rang with the whispers of the dead; demands to leave, threats of death to both himself and his wife, and hateful words hissed with the venom of ages and undying grudges.

Even the Amani dead refused to set one ethereal toe onto the grounds. To have to explain one’s business and good intentions to so many spirits with so many offerings without knowledge of their faith was a trial unto itself, but the shaman had persevered by the skin of his teeth in calming their spite. The trolls had arrived to help, he told them. It was an unaffiliated endeavor meant only to aid.

With the next generation teetering on the brink of life with the one before it, they were obliged to give the shaman what space they would. Having Sanathas’s “nature” removed from his home was liable to irritate him, but the expulsion of his forebears would only result in four more ghosts to join the ranks. With the shrewdness of a tribal elder, Shavai was inclined toward the less destructive route, come what may of the owner’s temper.

Speaking of the landowners, they were both still in bed, barely coherent. Adjassou did what she could with the remedies they brought; without knowing anything more than their need of aid, it was hard to set a finger to the pulse of their concern. The elves were pallid, their breathing labored in a cold sweat. Shavai stood over the bed with his hands on his hips, tisking woefully.

“I’m honestly surprised they’re still alive,” he said in his native tongue. “Do you think they had it out?”

Adjassou crossed her arms and shot a pensive look at her husband. “I do not know. You know how the elves are. Magic, destruction, broken homes and a broken world. We came to aid them.”

“We did,” he said solemnly. “But we can’t simply leave once they’re back on their feet. You said as much before. This is a bad bag of whammies, wife. I told you before I left that I felt it in my balls. Nothing is ever taken lightly once I get that pang. Fate itself drives an iron-clad boot into my method, and with wisdom I accept this pain.”

Shavai nodded sagely. Adjassou shook her head.

He broke the silence with “Anyway,” pacing around the room. “It’s probably something to do with their disgusting crafts. One steals his powers from devils, the other worships the gods of Man. I don’t think either will be up to much theft or supplication anytime soon, though… He won’t be happy about that, but there are work-arounds, I’m sure. For now, they need certain herbs to balance their spirit.”

Adjassou let out a thoughtful rumble and braced her hands on her hips. “They need cures, not balance. The pikne within her hangs by a thread, as does she, and he is… I cannot rightly say WHAT he is doing.”

“Stewing in his delirium,” Shavai answered curtly. “If it’s their magic that did this, then what else but the strange soulful nature of the new land could restore the humors and make them even out? I want to go to the source, but it will take some time… Let me find the right herbs and incense. When I come back, we’ll inundate these dumbshits with enough goodness to let us talk sense into them. Or beat it into them, whichever comes first.”

“For the mess and trouble,” Adjassou muttered, “I almost want the latter.”

Shavai patted his wife’s back and began to gather his belongings. “As do I, for I believe they need a sound beration with fists and words alike. No matter. I will go, and when I return tomorrow, we can take shifts. You can get more, and I can stay the ghosts off and work toward mending these two idiots.”

Hugs and forehead butts were exchanged, as was the couple’s way when parting. Their elven patients would likely see affectionate trolls curious, or disturbing at worst, but with them on the edge of being comatose neither of their attendants cared for appearances, not that they did so anyway.

Shavai set out to find what was needed. He wasn’t looking forward to braving Pandaria’s troubles though, brief as his stay would be outside of Honeydew Village.

The day passed.  The spirits kept their distance and the Witch Doctor kept her vigil.  A thick liquid of coconut milk, mashed mangos and bananas was given in small amounts to Sanathas Ravalta when woke again, returning to his fitful slumber when he had his fill.  Adjassou tried to feed the other as well, she remembered how hard it was to sustain her Maman on her long walks in the Spirit world.  Shavai had taken up the practice with her, his way was more forceful and she wished he was by her side to assist her when most of her time was spent scooping the concoction out of Padija’s mouth.

When night fell around them again, the two Elves were washed, their bed clothing changed and cleaned.  The Troll had never been more perplexed at the situation, none of the scenarios she thought out in her mind were fitting to what she knew of the Ravalta.  None of them made sense.  The mystery of what happened taunted her.  Surely, they had to have people.  Family.  Comrades who could shed light on this and perhaps give her the information she needed to save their lives.  It was that thought that lead her to remember the voices coming from the Lanterns she and her husband had shattered.  The pieces of the Lanterns were still in the room, contained in a box.

Jin’Marou Shavai did not return until the night was verging on dawn, believing that he would return to the eerie quiet of the estate, he was surprised to find his wife sitting outside of it.  Bits and pieces of the shattered lanterns were spread out in front of her and she dug through them, attempted to piece them back together as she smoked from a joint.  He wanted rest after the journey, he had gotten the herbs and their children were safe, but Adjassou’s plans were different.  She had to understand.  She had to be able to grasp what was happening.  The evidence of the room wasn’t enough to keep them alive.

Loathe as they were to enter Silvermoon City again, they ventured forth and as the night became day again they wandered the city, fucked in its dark corners and found the answers they sought.  He needed time.  His magics would return to him given time, all Adjassou could do for him was what she was doing already.  She was not so easy, exhaustion had taken her.  It was all that made sense.  Like the days of restful slumber after a long Spiritwalk, the Cleric had used such force so quickly.  The Witch Doctor did not know what this meant for the child, if it was truly a product of exhaustion, the child would be harmed by waking her if the Witch Doctor could wake her.  But if the Cleric did not wake soon the childs life was at risk.

These thoughts plagued her as the Marou raced back to the Ravalta estate.  With answers there could be action.

Their ministrations continued throughout the night and into the next day. After an intensive search, they found another member of the elves’ Dominion and, though he gave off the palpable waves of “creep” the trolls likened to so many unsavory locations, he was polite enough to find one of the organization’s healers.

With the information given, despite the lack of it the trolls had to give in turn regarding their patients, they had some glimmer of hope in that the elves may only need time and watchfulness to recover. The Sunwell’s restoration was to thank for that, as its radiance echoed throughout Quel’thalas and touched upon the souls who lived there.

Both Darkspear could only associate that ever-present din of energy as prickles on the back of their necks. Neither found it very pleasant, on top of the other twinges and pangs felt in the curious estate.

The two hadn’t slept yet once dawn finally broke. Together they stood over their wards, cross-armed and pensive. Shavai looked to his wife and pointed at the sleeping spouses with a nod, and together they thought aloud in Zandali.

“He’s an empty vessel,” Shavai said as he reached up to rub his chin. “And here, it seems empty vessels are quickly filled by that Well. I’m less concerned about him, save for the fact that he’ll be useless once he wakes.”

Adjassou shook her head. “Perhaps not useless. He has lost his reservoir, though.”

“It’ll be harder, for sure. He’ll need some alternative. You point the man and say ‘burn’, and he’ll do it. I remember that much. I still don’t know how much burning he’s going to be doing, though.”

“It won’t be the same,” Adjassou mutered, “but there may be hope for his craft, yet, in a way.”

Shavai waved a dismissive hand and pointed to Sanathas’s wife. “I’ll worry about him soon enough. What are we going to do about her?”

The woman paced around to stand over Padija’s side of the bed and rested her hand on the elf’s temple. “If she still has her magic, then perhaps she is worn. Exhausted. I do not know from what. We can only see so much here, and the place is in disrepair. Both still live, as does the pikne, but something happened.”

That something was still evidenced in the great sprawl of personal affects and lighter furnishings in the bedroom. Nothing was burned or destroyed per se, but it truly did look as if a rabid ogre was given some candy and unleashed to have his way with the bedroom. All the while, the ever-present thrum of magic was gone. The room, much like the man on the bed, was blank.

When the sun rose, Shavai and Adjassou were about to fall asleep on their feet when Sanathas began coughing violently. He was wracked with these spasmodic lurchings, but this time he wasn’t bringing anything up with it. The sound woke the trolls up with a start, and together they stood over him by the bed.

Sanathas could barely speak; his lips were dry and cracked, skin pale. When his eyes cracked open, Shavai reached down to thumb the gunk from their corners. They were a muted jade now, but the touch of such corruption would never go away. He had silver eyes beneath all of the fel green shine, and the bloodshot sights fell onto both trolls slowly.

“…Marou,” he started after a final cough, “you’re both still here.”

“How do you feel?” Shavai asked clinically.

Sanathas nodded, his body motionless. “Like I’ve been trampled by a kodo.”

Shavai nodded sagely, glancing between his wife and his patient. His long arm swung around like a whip, the troll’s palm driving viciously into the warlock’s face. Before the elf could do anything, he was confronted with a barrage of welting slaps.

Stunned, the elf was at the mercy of the Darkspear barking in his face. “DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE, YOU SHIT?! Look what you do to my wife!” Shavai screamed, grabbing Sanathas by the shoulders and shaking him menacingly toward Adjassou.

Shavai’s wife took the opportunity to slap Sanathas around herself. Stunned, confused and too weak to protest, the man took his beating and was heaved back down onto the pillows. It wasn’t until the man’s cheeks were raw from their beating, and the trolls’ palms and backhands were raw from his stubble, that they stopped.

All three of them caught their breath. With a stern, threatening point, Shavai wagged his finger in the warlock’s face. “We are a fair and balanced people, elf-kin, and I swear to you that when your wife wakes, we will do the same to her. Her face does not carry her child, and I would much like to beat the stupid from both of you.”

Adjassou crossed her arms and nodded beside her husband. Sanathas shut his eyes and coughed again, his face aflame. The Sin’dorei nodded groggily and tried to speak again. “That’s… fair. What did you do to my house?”

“Nothing that your idiocy has not done to my own. There are seven children in our home, and there is Soubo, my wife’s fool of a cousin. He is likely teaching my children, and my niece and nephews, how to smoke and ride waves on planks. The Echo Isles are being watched, so I hear, and my holy land is submerged beneath the waves,” Shavai went on, leaning in until the edge of his tusk just barely poked against Sanathas’s throat.

He seized the elf’s attention with wild yellow eyes that seethed with enough rage to make the rest of the troll’s body shake. “You will look to whatever god you worship, Sanathas, and you will ignore them. You will look to mine instead, and lay prostrate, and you will thank MY gods for my compassion, and for our friendship, that would have me abandon my worries to take up your own. You will nod.”

Sanathas did so. Shavai drew away. “Bon,” the troll grunted. “Tell us what happened, and do so in detail.”

The elf propped himself up in the bed, legs folding under him as he sat. “…It was Ayida. I had to siphon her so that she could explain… everything. Everything with the ley lines and what she did for the Kor’kron. The surge of it all swept through me. We did what we could to blunt it, but toward the end it was too much.”

“Ayida did this?” Shavai asked. “Before she dies, I will beat her as I have beaten you. I should have known that trouble would follow in her wake, sister in law or not,” he said matter-of-factly.

Sanathas waved a hand, and then brought his palms along his temples to clutch at them as he sat. Doubled over, he shook his head, eyes clenched. It looked like the headache from hell, but the elf continued. “The next time you see her will be her last day, troll. Have some mercy, won’t you?”

“No,” the shaman both answered curtly.

Ravalta sighed and looked over at his sleeping wife. Her face was untroubled, and her breaths were slow and steady. “…Padija finally came home and found me. The energy I took from your sister was unstable. Once the siphon was broken, it not only left as rapidly as it entered, but took everything else with it. There wasn’t enough time for the forces at work locally to replenish it all.”

Adjassou raised her eyebrow. “She fine’ly came ‘ome? Wheah she been?”

The warlock recounted the many contentions he and his wife suffered recently; exile, faith, the child’s upbringing, politics, work interest… The list went on and on. Adjassou took a step forward and slapped Sanathas once he was done. Shavai brought his palm up the back of the warlock’s head afterward, for good measure.

“You are both truly, truly stupid. That does not explain her state,” Shavai said. “Why is she taken by sleep unending?”

Sanathas looked down at Padija after slapping at the troll himself. The beatings were making him angry. The anger, of course, was made worse by the thoughts at the back of his mind that agreed with the violent reproach. They both needed their due, he thought, but now wasn’t the greatest time. “Stop hitting me for long enough to let me tell you, you fucking churl.”

Shavai eased back. Watch out, his expression said, we’ve got a badass over here. He waved his hands slowly, lips pursed. “Then speak, dear elf, and do so well.”

“When she found me, she used… Did… something,” he croaked, gesticulating as he spoke. “I don’t know what. The siphon and the absence of the ley energy made a vacuum,” he started, looking over to Adjassou, “an undertow, if you will. Even the energy here couldn’t stop the flow and refill me. The jar had a crack in the bottom. She mended the crack. Gods below, my head hurts…”

Adjassou went through the belongings that the trolls brought and found a pipe. It was quickly filled with herbs and unceremoniously rammed into the corner of Sanathas’s mouth. Shavai canted his head to the side and calmly waved his hand between the two elves. “So you did not try to kill one another.”

“I was incapacitated,” Sanathas said, the pipe bobbing at his lip, “possibly in my last moments as I told you, and she came to my aid.”

“Ah,” Shavai grunted. “Well, that is good. Perhaps it is the beginning of your heads being extracted from the puckered holes of stupidity. Go outside and smoke deeply, fool husband, and Adjassou and I will tend to fool wife.”

They didn’t bother helping Sanathas out of the bed. He stood on his own accord and adjusted the pair of black linen pants struggling to hold themselves up. Somehow they managed to dress him. He felt uneasy at the thought and went through his house, looking around groggily until he found the front door.

Once he was outside, he hunched over on the stoop of his estate. Cupping one hand to brace the wind, his fingers came up behind it to light the pipe’s contents.

When he snapped them, nothing happened. Glaring, Sanathas continued, and then it became frantic, each failed snap followed by a four letter word of the elf’s choice.

Shavai’s hand came into his field of vision. A single broad finger pressed against the herbs and caught them. “Inhale, elf,” he said, hunkering down beside Sanathas. “You and I must speak, regarding your crippled fire.”

Ravalta shook his head and snorted the blue-gray curls from his nostrils. He wasn’t going to like this.

Zufli’Marou Adjassou did not know the fire in which her husband had departed her presence to speak with the Elven man about.  She was an In’ama by birth, guided by the water and the shifting skies, blessed by the spirits to walk with them.  The idea to walk with Padija Ravalta in her slumber had swept through her mind, it was originally dismissed due to consequence.  Only three years had passed since her Maman had lost her own spirit and the twins she carried after walking with an Orc to save the soul of a Shu’halo Elder.  Jin’In’ama Erzulie had given three lives to the task.  Adjassou was not willing to give the life of her own child or her own life to the Elven woman, nor was she willing to give the life of the unborn Sin’dorei to the task.

There had to be a way.  She stalked the room, wrecking her mind over the task.  On a subconscious level Adjassou was always open to the spirits of her elders, her Patrons and those around her.  It was part of her position.  And as she stalked, the influences of what was around lead her to begin the preparations for one of her walks.  Incense and offerings were laid out, salves were dabbled onto her forehead as well as the forehead of the slumbering Cleric.  The In’ama were not unfamiliar with the use of Holy magics, whether they were voodoo or the Light, it was uncertain.  Faith was a tricky thing in the way it shifted around cultures, the ways in which it adapted.

The Witch Doctor laid her hand over Padija’s face and kneeled down beside the bed to rest her head on the edge.  It never took her long to slip into the dreams of others or into the spirit world, from a child she was taught the ways.  But she had never made the attempt with an Elf.  Adjassou was taken back by the assault of bright Light and the murmuring of a thousand voices imprinted in the memory of the Cleric.  For all the order she believed the woman to hold dear, her mind was a chaotic mess.

It was in the center of the chaos that Adjassou found Padija sitting beside a basonnet and gently rocking the child inside of it.  “I thought it was a girl.” She told the Troll quietly in common.  Adjassou did not understand the language and as quickly she had entered the mind she found herself expelled from it, waking violently.

“I do not know what to do for you or your pikne, I do not know how to wake you.  I do not have the strength of my Maman to force the information from you consciously or not.  I do not have the wisdom her age brought her.” She spoke softly in Zandali knowing that langauge wouldn’t matter at this point.  She wasn’t speaking to Padija for Padija’s sake, she was speaking to Padija for her own sake.

“Your husband says you fight. You have no reason to fight.  I told you that you must find understanding and instead you destroy what he is.  What he was.  That would be like me cutting off the Jin’s balls because I got sick of them being tools of his divination.  You are dumb. Dumb.  Wait until you have seven pikne to look after! You’ll be thankful just to get five minutes of silence! There is no time to fight.  No time to fuck.  No time to think.  You two have your work, you have a people that are rebuilding and not systemactially exterminating themselves.  You people…you.  You had clarity, you didn’t care what he did before.  I remember. We fought Twilight’s who used his same magic and what did you care? You didn’t, you didn’t care so long his cock knew where to go after the fight.” Adjassou poked at the Sin’dorei’s stomach. “I see that hasn’t changed. But you have.  Where is the warrior?”

The frustration built up in Adjassou, she was at a loss and she was exhausted.  As the men talked and her monologue came to a close, the Troll climbed up into the bed to hold the Sin’dorei cleric close as she fell into the embrace of sleep, praying that her gods would give the Elf strength.

Shavai wanted to sleep. He felt the weight of his eyelids and the dryness beneath them lacking to anything remotely pleasant. One of them was up and moving, and the other one wasn’t dead at least. He was quickly losing his ability to care for their physical and emotional states.

War had made them all friends against the Twilights, as the Earthen Ring and the Argent Dawn joined forces throughout the Shattering to spare the world. It was inevitable that, through these contacts, hatreds would be buried and camaraderie would be forged against a common foe.

There was only so much that friendship could weather, now. Beside him, Sanathas sat, hunched over with his elbows braced on his knees. His eyes were bleary, cruelly woken as he was. The man had no interest in the world around him, and in truth he had no love for it in this moment.

“A thing to be reckoned with, now laid low,” Shavai thought aloud. “You were always reckless, and now you have paid a price dearer than life. What is life, without potency?”

“I still work, troll,” Sanathas scoffed, still chewing at the pipe’s stem. “Not that it rightly matters. Everything I’ve worked for has come to a halt. I can’t do anything. The Naramn, the line charting… Even before, I couldn’t do anything because I had to walk on eggshells and tip-toe around.”

“Not always. She once had a glint in her eye, to see you so callously bend things to your will as a lecherous old bokor takes vestal water girls at a temple.”

Ravalta snorted another plume of the harsh herbal smoke. Tobacco would have been nicer, but trolls were known for their penchant to breathe anything that burned. Sanathas laughed sarcastically and ran a hand up through his hair, shaking his head in disappointment.

“Ever since I’ve come back and this business with Pandaria unfolded I’ve gotten an undying earful about the Light. That never happened before. She’s been exiled, and she likely owes some disgusting debt to the galavanting twat that gave us the writ. I never see her at home, she’s always off in Hearthglen…”

Shavai reached over and patted the elf’s back. “You think you have trouble? Adjassou does not bother to learn the common tongue. She babbles and trips over her words, and then becomes angry when she cannot speak. Her sister comes to visit, and she goes into a rage and threatens to destroy our home. She has kin that incessantly bother us, and cause trouble for us. Her sister? Her sister is why we are here. Ayida is nothing without causing disruption. I feel that, in the strange way fate works, there may be some good to it yet.”

“In-laws are all the same, regardless of the blood in your veins, friend. We see the other half’s family and commence to play damage control for days on end or run in horror. One thin bit of silver lining is that Padija’s family is all dead and buried. They’d likely bitch at me all day as well.”

Sanathas paused and looked over at Shavai. “I didn’t say that, did I?”

“No. You told me how dearly you wished to meet them.”

The men nodded sagely at each other and turned their eyes back to the Ghostlands. Shavai rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “You said that she threatens to take your child.”

“Yes,” Ravalta said flatly. “When she comes around she’ll give me an earful and then abscond with her precious daughter to Hearthglen, all the while telling me how horrible of a person I am for providing them both with a home that isn’t a room in a barracks.”

“Ravalta, tell me true,” Shavai started as he took the elf’s pipe. “Why are you both so angry? Adjassou and I resolve our conflicts where and when they rise, and we are done with it. We had four children, and now with her sister dead? We have seven. Three are not of my blood, and I must tend to them and be the good uncle. Seven Darkspear children, and one annoying cousin who has turned his brainflesh to glue from indulging in so much herb. My home is no longer my own. My holy land is destroyed. I have told you all of these things, and yet… I feel your fighting is so…”

Shavai stood and cracked his shoulders, glaring in the distance. “So petty. It is not even like the both of you to fight as you say you have. You are both so painfully stupid.”

“I have every right to want to strangle her right now. She’s caused me grief, she’s caused my life to upend. She’s caused me to abuse an office I took out of civic duty to keep her in a place she hates with people she doesn’t understand and a place she can’t get over being unnatural. I’m sorry to say, Shavai, but if the elves were natural, and your annoying ‘history’ was right, then we’d have tusks.”

They were silent. Shavai sighed and sat down beside Sanathas again and gave the pipe back. He figured with the quiet, Adjassou could sleep, and so it was his turn to hold the long vigil. Ravalta looked over and shut his eyes, taking a deep breath.

“This isn’t the woman I married. If I could go back in time and stop myself from going to Northrend to find her again, I would. I would have let her dwell on her dead husband and her dead friends and her dead–”

Shavai waved his hands and shook his head. “Enough, enough… So you hate your wife. There are times in which I hate mine, but she is still my wife.”

“You have no idea how often I’ve tried to bite my tongue, all the while hers continued to run. Do you know how hard it is to get Padija to shut up? I can hate something my wife does. You can hate something yours does. You don’t hate her, though. Me? I’m beginning to think–”

“Not as hard as it is for me to bestill the words of mine,” the troll spat. He wouldn’t let the warlock finish that sentence.

“But does your wife threaten to destroy your family, your home and your work by asking for the impossible?”

“No, but that is because my wife is not stupid like yours, and I am not stupid like you for taking an idiot into my life, and encouraging her idiocy with my own. Remember that there was a time when you both were not idiots. Try to reflect on that time.”

The repetition of his suggested lacking intelligence was grating. Sanathas could flick a wrist and render the Darkspear ash. He could go inside, cast his arm wide, and burn the other to charred bone. Instead, that power was gone, and he had to sit and listen to people that called themselves friends destroy what remained of him.

His only consolation was that the beatings and the sagely insults would be shared equally. Shavai stood and went back into the house. The warlock could only stare and fume on the stoop.

Sanathas refused to stay inside for long throughout the day. Shavai and Adjassou stirred in his house, trundling through and, in some places, having to duck under doorways to pass from one room to the next. They were staying there, much to his discomfort, and it was already clear that they had made themselves at home in their own ways. The kitchen smelled of Zandali cooking, and some of the furniture was rearranged. He had no idea where they were sleeping, if anywhere, but his apprehensions were dwarfed in light of a gratitude he both acknowledged and yet internalized. He was glad that they’d come to nurse him and his wife back to health, and that they’d saved his child, but the man’s mind was all but made he would be unable to do his work, or he would try again at great length to have some semblance of it back, and lose everything in the process. He caught glimpses of Padija in the bed, her face peaceful as she rested. The child barely stirred as well, and the little one milling about inside of her brought a smile to his face when he stopped to lay a hand on Padija’s belly. Shavai was gone, leaving Adjassou alone in the house with the warlock. Their paths crossed when he left the bedroom and headed for his library. “Adjassou,”  he said with a nod.

“Sanat’as.” She replied, smiling softly.  In her hands she carried a gourd, the top had been cut away and inside was the mixture of mango, coconut and banana she had fed him in his delirium. “‘as Padeejah woke?” Her question was hopeful but she knew the answer would not meet those hopes.

He looked back into the room over his shoulder and stared at his wife’s sleeping form for a time. It was after an awkward silence that he turned to face the troll and shook his head. “No, not yet. She’s sleeping, and so is our child. Or hers. That determination waits to be seen.”

Adjassou shook her head, the beads and shells clattering together, “Come. Sit wit me w’ile I feed dem. Dey are still bot’ jou’s. Jou are re–.” She pursed her lips and took a deep breath, “Jou are on de weh te being well.  Jou dunn’a want, we take ‘er, dis jou know and dis, jou not ask.”

With a sigh that seemed reluctant at first sound and expression, he gave his consent with a nod and went with her into the bedroom. Once they settled in, he sat beside his wife on the bed and propped her up. Something in Shavai’s words still rang true; she was still his wife, and Adjassou’s contribution had no lost potency, that despite Padija’s insistance that a little version of herself was in the works inside of her, it was their child. His love for her and their family to be was burdened under a great amount of those thoughts playing in his mind. He would have given everything to see to his wife’s well-being, and that of their child. Now he truly felt as if he had, and he feared it would be recieved with ingratitude, among so much else. Despite his inner conflict, his actions spoke more for his real feelings on the matter. Gently, he cradled his wife in his arms as Adjassou began to stir the gourd’s contents.

“No, I haven’t asked, and I won’t ask. I imagine she has her own contingency in place. She likely has for some time. Saying they’re both mine, though, doesn’t really… Alleviate my concerns, I suppose. For myself, for her, for the child, or for all of this.”

“Es dat why jou two ‘ave fo…battled?” She asked, unravelling a long hollow reed from her belt with one hand and setting the gourd on the bed as she opened Padija’s mouth to insert the softened reed and work it down into the Sin’dorei womans stomach.  It was not an easy task but feeding her in traditional ways had proved ineffective.  “I know not wut jou tell de Jin.  ‘e ‘ides not’ing from me but I be knowin’ when de conversayshun must be… privayte.”

Sanathas craned his head back as if to ask the gods for guidance, or to beg them to vaporize him where he sat. He’d do the deed himself, but not one whit of magic had come to him. Even snapping his fingers for a spark of flame was impossible right now, and so invoking Hellfire to burn himself to oblivion was out of the question. Eyes shut, he looked back down to Padija and Adjassou, staring blankly for a moment at nothing in particular. “Yes,” he said. “I’ve been able to confide in the both of you. I can’t tell my wife anything. She lashes out at me. A concern is seen as a personal attack, and she puts me on the defensive. Even when I try to ease my point and speak more to my concern in a way that’s… well, intended to be innocuous, it’s a personal affront. It all started when I asked her to bury her dead. Not literally, mind, but more figuratively. We have a life together, and we have a future, where so often she and I simply lived in the present. I miss those days, but really, I needed her to be here, and now. That didn’t go so well,” he said, delivering the year’s understatement.

Sanathas took a breath and shook his head. “It’s all born of fear, Adjassou. I can’t handle fear, because I use fear like a weapon, literally and figuratively. Strange, not being immune to your own poison. My fear for her and the anxiety of a new life entering the world drove me to a great deal of harshness. I know that. But Padija wanted me to become like this, I think. She never made an effort to understand why. She just suddenly… hated me for my work, once we came back. She’s seen it for so long, and she’s been beside me when I invoke it. Ever since, it’s just been… Hate, for me. Hate for my craft. Hate for our home. I’m not her human. We’re not in Lordaeron. I’m sure there’s more to it all than that, but I’m at a loss now.”

Adjassou has begun working the mixture into the tube, it was not a pleasant process and she kept a grimace on her face she worked. It was her hope that the woman wouldn’t hate her for it when she woke.  “I was wit ‘er w’en she t’ought jou dead.  I was wit’ ‘er when she buried jou.  Et was te much, we let ‘er go, jou cannah stop a ghost when dey try te go te dere end.  Jou come back, but jou wife, she didn’a. No.” Adjassou shook her head, “I ‘oped de child would bring ‘er back.  No. Jou wife… w’en she t’ink jou die, she knew she’d alone.  ‘Er people, dey be in the Light waitin’.  Dat she know.  Jou? ‘Er love? No.  Jou gone. Jou spirit gone.  She fears like jou, but jou wife fears bein’ alone.  Jou people, jou live te long. Jou take foah granted wut we cannah affoahd te take foah granted.  Jou undahstand wut I seh?”

“Jou es a good man, I like jou but I ‘ate jou magic.  Don’t make jou bad.  Jus make jou magic bad.  Jou de good t’ings wit et d’oh. She see dat. But she know dat when jou es gone, jou es gone. Jou wife, she know ‘ow te serve. She know ‘ow te take ordahs. She know ‘ow te die. She dunnah know ‘ow te live.  She learnin’ but she ain’t dere yet.  I read de book.  She on de pat’ of wut de In’ama know alreadeh.” At this she cackles, “De Marou, dey don’t know. ‘ooman fait’.” She cackles again.

Sanathas nodded absently as she told him. His face held that blank stare as if it was stone, only moving to blink and to breathe as he held his wife. The full impact struck him when she said he was a good person. In an unsettling instant, Sanathas bowed his head and broke into sobs, doing his best to hold Padija still. He refused to look up as tears ran down Padija’s bare shoulder. When she was done speaking, despite her cackles, he continued to stare at his wife’s body. Her humor was lost on him, perhaps for good reason. “I tried. We fought for what we have now. Truly, dearly fought for it all. But even if we’re alive and here, we still have to. Life presents one trial after the next. I’ve accepted this. Have you thought of where I stand on it all? Do you people honestly think, for all I’ve done with my craft, that I truly pursued it with any joy whatsoever? I do not bring the things beyond under my yoke because I want to, damnit, I do it because I have to.”

“As a result, I’ve come to terms with what consequences await when I die,” he said bitterly, thumbing the water from his eyes. The softness of his emotion was gone, and his face became stone again.

She set aside the now empty gourd and carefully removed the softened reed from Padija’s throat.  She motioned for Sanathas to keep her upright incase she brought up the mixture.  “Jou make a sacreefis foah de good of jou people, dis I know.  De ‘ting es, jou -could- make dat sacreefis te save dem.  She? No.  ‘er people, dey die.  Dey die an’ den dey come back.  She tell me once dat she saw ‘er faddah in de Undahciteh.  I brave de steench.  I look.  Dere he be.  Dere was no sacreefis. I tell jou bot’ time an’ time ‘gain dat jou must balance.  Jou are balance.  Jou dark, she light. But jou tell ‘er te bureh ghosts den bring ‘er te jou’s?” Adjassou shook her head.  “Jou must get jou Fel back.  Don’t listen te de Jin. Don’t listen te jou wife.  She es de lost one, na jou.”

His face contorted in rage longer than it should have. Gain it, lose it, find a way around it. He was tired of the conflicting streams of insight moving into his ears, and the result came out in a loud, deep bark of some Thalassian profanity. Sanathas spit it out like poison, glaring from one side of the room to the other. Padija didn’t budge. Once the tube was freed, he held her upright, but his hands clenched around the woman. “I am done, Adjassou, in my attempts to pander. In my attempts to curry favor and ease minds. What of my own torments, hm? Ever the pillar, but Gods below I can only hide the fucking cracks for so long. She saw her father, did she? Did she watch him transform? Turn dead? I saw that in my first wife. She doesn’t have the luxury of being dead. Go north, then west, into the ruined half of the city. You’ll find her grinding up against a broken Guardian, I’m sure…” Sanathas shook his head and took a deep breath. The slightest touch apparently brought on a flood of anger from the man. Justice hadn’t favored him in life, nor did fairness. “She was able to fight for her dead. I was able to fight for mine. I have damned my people in order to see them survive, Adjassou. Wherever you see jadefire in an elf’s eyes, the Magisterium had its hand. I am a Magister. That sin stains my fingertips. It stains my face. My soul. I accepted damnation for them to live, for ME to live, and in turn the lot of them must all bear the trace of my deed,” he growled. There was a silence, and another shake of his head. “None of that has any bearing on my marriage, though. Why she and I are digging at yesterdays. They make today and tomorrow, I know this. It was never relevant before.”

“Mahbe et es.  Why jou fall in love wit’ ‘er?  Dis es imporahtant.”

His grip eased as he held his wife up. Her face was peaceful in her rest, lips parted just so. She wasn’t limp like a corpse, but she slept, and hopefully she slept well. Adjassou’s question brought him back to the present, something he’d taken to lecturing Padija about. The irony wasn’t lost on him, and the man actually snickered to himself. “For all of my anger toward this woman right now, Adjassou, she is my wife. She bears my child… I love her for her strength. I love her because with the world as backward as it is, as it was when we met, as it may always be in the centuries to come, the burden of it was always eased in her presence. The problems were no longer insurmountable. Tomorrow wasn’t so dismal. With her at my side, there’s a fighting chance. She’s seen what I’ve seen. Not the same things, but enough to know what it all does to a person. I love her because she’s beautiful to me. Look at her… Strong, but no less a woman for it. Her eyes, her face… The way she laughs. The way she’d share those cigars with me. So many people that fall in love spend their time staring at one another,” he said distantly, his anger subsiding. “Padija and I stared in the same direction together. We used to.”

The Troll smiled again, tucking her long hair behind her ears and looking to Sanathas with her damaged violet eyes.  “Den wut changed foah jou? De line ‘tween love an’ ‘ate es t’in.  Jou crossed et.  I see dat en jou anger.”

He combed his fingers through Padija’s hair as he always had in the past. He hoped she could feel it in her dream. Adjassou didn’t exist for the moment. He bent down and pressed his lips to hers and drew away to look up at the troll. “…It was the parting. I couldn’t control what happened, or how long I was gone. The boat sank. I clinged to life, and when we found one another?” he stopped and shook his head. “We were so afraid we’d lost one another. I don’t think the impact of that has gone, as you said. I want to force our lives back to what I thought would be normalcy for us. She wanted nothing to do with it. I brought her to my home, and to our homeland, and she hates me for it. She hates me for everything I am, and everything I do. I don’t know why. I know she does. She doesn’t want to, but she does.”

“If dat es wut jou believe den why keep ‘er? Eef de Jin t’ought I ‘ated ‘im, de bastard wood run me off.  Jou ‘tink I kid, I dunnah.” Adjassou sighed and pushed herself up, “Et es not en our powah te make ‘er see.  Dat es on jou.  Dere es ickle else we can do foah eiddah of jou ‘cept keep our eyes on dat pikne of jou’s. Jou son es strong but ‘e es ‘er’s.  I told jou bot’ jou will ‘ave a pikne togeddah when jou find balance.  Jou two onleh find a rockin’ ship.  Jou need te let ‘er go or jou must get ‘er back.  An’ jou will survive neiddah as jou are.  Go te jou citeh.  Put de Fel back inside jou. Fuck de Jin’s lessons.  ‘El’ll be angreh but I will take care of dat foah jou.”

“Wait,” he said, eyes narrowed. “No. I need answers, not vaguery and not soothsayings, Adjassou. I know you’re capable of them, and you’ve been forward with me thus far. I need you to continue. I won’t leave my wife. I won’t let her go, and I won’t let go of our child. The blood is hers, and the blood is mine. You know full well that there is a bond in nature that works to one’s thought, one’s actions, one’s deeds… I won’t leave them like a Dal’Nestran. I’m not him. How do I get her back, Adjassou. Don’t tease and play mindgames with ultimatums,” he said sternly. “How do I get her back. And no, I don’t care about your husband or his fool suggestion that I pilfer the Firelands’ embers.”

Adjassou climbed onto the bed and leaned forward to get a good hard grip on the groin of his pants. “Jou make ‘er remembeh. Don’t playcayte.  Jou take ‘er back te dat first. Jou take ‘er back te wut made her love jou in de first place. An’ den jou fuck ‘er like jou did dat first time. Jou know de secret te de Jin an’ I? I nevah foahget.” Her grip released and she returned to her feet.  “Dat es wut jou men foahget.  Jou foahget te remind us.”

He eased his wife down onto the bed, carefully laying her head to the pillows. He wasn’t fond of the imposition her hand made, but he shooed her away and stood next to his wife. He bent down and kissed her again, likely longer than he should have, and whispered something to her in Thalassian. He stood tall. Proudly, even, for his weakened state and shot a deathly glare at Adjassou. “I don’t need to return to the city,” he said calmly. The calm was shattered like a rock through glass when he screamed his imp’s name. It came doddering out fearfully, that one nasty whit of magic they’d yet to purge. He reached down and grabbed its throat, fingers clenching until the knuckles were white. His arm held steady as the demon wilted in his grasp, and then finally crumbled to dust. The fire in his eyes returned, for what it was. Enough to get him by. For how foul a force that Fel was, it revitalized him. Veins stood, joints popped. Perhaps it was his posture, but he didn’t look so willowy after that. “Tell your husband to respect the domain of House Ravalta, but that I thank him for his help. I thank you as well, Adjassou. I request that you both stay here to watch my wife, my son and my home. You will be compensated in gold and sanctuary within this Kingdom, for what you’ll have of it, so long as Quel’thalas and your tribe remain affiliated within the Horde, leadership notwithstanding. I cannot do anything for Padija yet. When she awakes, we can all have a very long-winded discussion. Until then, I have my work.” he said at length, nodding finally when he was done. In only his pants, the man strutted off as if a fire had literally been lit beneath him. Surely along the way, he’d find clothing. The door slamming behind him left Adjassou with his wife. There was silence.

In the past, Padija’s dreams had been of Lordaeron, walking through the vineyards with winemakers and farmers as they explained their vintages. She loved wine and often spent her days off wandering the country side seeking the best from the small farms. She had found a sweet, tannic red from a farm just outside of Tyr’s Hand that quickly became her favourite.

The wine and the country of Lordaeron were not her dreams this time. In her dreams, she remained in the Ravalta Estate and the lands surrounding it. In her dreams, she cared for her son and urged him to stay with her.

The skies in this otherwhere had been shifting until Sanathas took the life of Laztai; at that point they became a bright fel green and she rushed home, cradling her son to the room in which she lay sleeping. Padija looked upon herself and the child within for what felt like hours, until she grew tired and she and her son laid down for a rest.

It was from that rest she woke, not in her dreams but in reality. After four days, her eyes fluttered open. It took her a few moments to blink and focus on the large form of the Troll in her room. “Jin’Marou,” she groaned.

Shavai loomed over her, exhaling slowly with his hands folded behind his back at full height. What stood before her was the ominous representation of the troll’s ancestral name. This was Jin’Marou, and as brightly as her eyes shined, so too did the mouth and eyes of his red lacquered mask burn with golden flame. He let out a thoughtful rumble and nodded calmly.

His words issued forth like an avalanche. The troll knew eloquence, but his words were marked in a heavy Zandali accent.

“Padija,” he growled, gesturing a broad hand toward the bedroom’s window. “Your man has refused to rest. He is bound by his duties, even in his illness, though my wife had suggested what was destroyed in the first place. Gaze outside for a moment, and fill your eyes with the serenity of this land’s calmed spirits. Gather your nerve, once you have had your fill of the calm, because what is going to follow… you will not like. Nor will your face. Go on. Look.”

All the while, his extended hand and the adjoined arm remained steady, not even trembling as it continued to point to the window.

The Sin’dorei Cleric did her best to push herself out of bed, she was weak, that much was certain. Her legs were unsteady as she stood and, even willing to admit her weakness, she reached out to the Jin for support. She didn’t understand what was happening, or what had happened. All she remembered was the Light and then her dreams. As Shavai lead her to the window she was overcome by the serenity of the Estate.

It was a home, it was her home and it felt less like a masoleum for the Fel and her husband’s dead ancestors. “It feels as it should.”

Shavai gently turned her around and tilted her face to meet his mask.

“Yes,” he said, still looming. “It feels at it SHOULD. Not as it did. Your husband, as he lay dying, and shortly before you fell to your sleep, sent for Adjassou and I. We have, in this time, inherited three other children, and all of the pikne are being watched by my wife’s idiot cousin, Soubo. We have come here, into your haunted woodlands, and through your city, to aid him, and to aid you.”

Padija listened carefully as her senses came about. With each word the shaman’s voice seemed clearer.

“He and I have spoken at length… What the two of you did, I cannot say, nor can my wife. You burned the power from his body. He was unable to invoke. You castrated your man, and as I was working on finding a way for him to have his balls again? My fool wife tells him to take the Fel once more, and she has gone on. And on. And on. And on, about how you have both missed ‘the point’,” the troll lectured, raising a hand to make air quotes.

“You are welcome for our aid. You still live, as does he, and as does the child born of your union. A son. Little boy. He will resemble his father. I feel he will have your cheekbones, and your arms. Strange how blood divides itself and settles, in birth. But there was something more to this idiocy. This I know. You and your husband, you have contentions. This is no good for your child. I wish you to sit upon the bed now, that I may bloody my palm and my knuckles to beat the stupid from you, as Adjassou and I beat the stupid from your man. Do so. Go on.”

“You can beat me with your words and I will hear them, but I will no–” She silenced when the Jin grabbed her jaw and held her gaze up to his. He guided her down onto the edge of the bed. Padija held no fear of the Marou in the past, but seeing the fire in the Jin’s eyes lead her to fear him now.

She knew the power he and his wife carried and she had respected it. Her hands moved over her stomach to protect her child, though she knew the troll would never mortally harm either of them. “Do what you will but I did what I must to save my family.”

Shavai barked out a harsh laugh in her face. “Padija. As is the odd tradition of your race, my wife and I have stood beside you and your husband, long before you and he were man and wife, in the strangeness of what your kind call a ‘date night’, but where there is libation, our drink was blood, and our feast was war. Long before he slid himself into your deep places and seeded the boy of his and your father’s namesake. Long before you both began to hate one another. I have mended this world, and I have mended many countless lives, woman.”

“Adjassou and I have abandoned our lives, our Way, to mend your family,” the troll lectured, his grip tightening on the sides of her jaw. “And family is more than a woman and her child. That is not family. That is incident, and an absent man. Family is the child, and the parents. Family is the trinity, and family is the village they live within, for the village cares for its own. Your race does not know this, be that race blood-child or Argent. You and your husband were to be balance. You did not understand him. Instead, you destroy him. You destroy your other half, and you leave your bonds riven. He has not forsaken you, that man. He has not forsaken your child. We are here because of him. Begrudgingly.”

The troll let go of her, shoving her face away as he stood. “We are here because my wife and I see truth in what the two of you should be, as we see truth in what this home should be. So… No,” he went on, “This man loves you beyond reason. Were I him, and you my wife, and if I am to understand it all, he should leave. But he will not. He is a good man. My wife chants this as a mantra, that he is a good man. This is all born of Ayida. Were it not for my sister in law? We would not be here.”

Shavai took her jaw again and tilted her head up. “Gaze skyward and honor her ghost. Because of you two, I cannot see her off to the Baron, and my wife goes alone, until the deed is done and she returns. We will not leave until you both are dead, or until you both are as you should be – are as you were.”

He let go of her face again once his words gave rise to his hand trembling, claws pressing into her skin but not breaking it. He took a step back from her and stood again, tall and ominous as when she woke. He was not a pleasing sight to greet the world again through, but he and his wife were the sights that the Ravaltas needed.

“I would not have you forsake your family for this, join your wife. She is strong, but she needs you more than I.” His words did not fall on deaf ears. The flash of Light, the change in the house, the dreams. She had tried to change her warrior’s heart just as she had emasculated her husband. She had tried to change them both when change was not needed.

They had both misheard the words of Adjassou when she spoke of their balance. “Where is Sanathas? This is between he and I and only he and I can repair what has been done. Thank you, Jin’marou, you and your wife have been true to us. We hold you dear and we will protect yours as if it was our own.”

Shavai denied her the easy escape with a stern headshake. “Your husband, as I said, is working. He can do nothing but his… paper-signing. He is still weak, even though he… Consumed his demon. Alive. It was unpleasant. I did not think the strange things from beyond the stars could die, but perhaps it has not. I do not know. I will not leave your union to its devices, half of ass and dull of mind, nor will I leave the work we have done to preserve your lives.”

The troll paced from one side of the room to the next, his gaze never breaking from her as he lectured on. “You will speak to me of all of these contentions, as Adjassou told me she spoke to your husband. He was angry at you, until… She said what he needed to hear. She said he broke into tears as he held you, while my wife fed you, when she told him that he was a good man. She said his hate faded when she asked why he loved you, and that his answer was a long matter worthy of its wind. He will return tonight. He always returns. He returned last night to hold you, and he left this morning to ensure this family remains where it should.”

Padija was silent, looking up at the Troll for some time. She hadn’t blinked, until she leaned down to rest her head in her hands. Her chest heaved with deep breaths, there was control to maintain even if her voice cracked with grief as she spoke.

“I wanted him back, not… the ghoul that came out of the waves to return to me. I lost him. Before his ship sank and he was gone, he was unapologetic. His craft was a badge of his sacrifice and his power was a force to behold,” she said. She didn’t cry, but the emotional pain she had held within her for so long wrecked her.

“He had complete control over it. It was never about the Light or the Fel, it was about us. Anything we stood against would be awed, blinded by my Light as his fire and shadow consumed them. ”

As she spoke, her tears rolling down her cheeks to platter against the run beneath her feet. “The man who came back was filled with so much regret. He had so little control of his magics, instead of trying to control them he was trying to control all that was around him. He could do no wrong because in his mind, he was wrong. If that was the way the Fel was going to be… I wanted it gone, I didn’t mean to do what I did, I only wanted to save him. He was so sick, Shavai… I was scared for my lover.” She didn’t call him husband, he had always been more. She continued to try talking but her grief had overcome her and she sat on the edge of her bed, shaking and crying.

The troll sighed long and hard, cursing under his breath in Zandali. If he was in this position, his grief wouldn’t be so eloquent. He would raise his head and scream, until his sound was ragged and blood came up from his throat. He reached down and snapped his fingers in front of her face. She was still sobbing.

Reluctantly, he placed his hand on her shoulder and shook her gently. “You would be proud to know, then, that when your husband supped upon the stars’ poison, he found his vigor. Does this make sense? I feel all he has done, he has done out of fear. All of his placation was out of fear. He nearly lost himself, and in the North? Perhaps he nearly lost you as well. I cannot say, though I feel a great loss between you.”

He sat on the edge of the bed, his weight and its awkward size made the mattress bow down. “Adjassou said as much, that you feared of dying alone. The Other Side is a broad thing, woman. You lose your husband in death, or he you. So what of it? You think he is prey for demons. Demons whisper his name in fear that he will break them next. His soul is blackened, but his soul is his own. His heart is still yours. As are other things. It will be trying, but you will find each other. You will know him as your husband eternally, if you find him there, but you both forget something vital,” the troll told her, offering a reassuring nod.

“And what is that?” She asked, lifting her head to look to her friend. Their gods were different, but their positions were not so. This was the bond she held with Jin’marou Shavai.

The troll’s hand was large enough to encompass her belly, but only a long, single digit poked her navel. “You and he, not one alone, not a sole provision, but the both of you together, made this boy. This boy will honor his father, and he will honor his mother, and in a strange way, will consider them both. Not of Fel, not of Light. That is a fool’s notion. In your hearts, where you and you alone exist, he will be your man’s son, and he will be your’s,” he lectured.

“That life, woman, does not stand on its own. As a parent, I will tell you, that when you look upon your child, you see a new thing born of yourself and another. This boy was not seeded in fear. He was brought into being by life’s tenacity, in light of so much death around you. I was not there to see him conceived, and for this I am thankful, but life does not come from empty souls and the mourning of loss when there is no loss to mourn. I see why you love your man. What will you do when he returns? I ask you this, as you should ask yourself.”

To Padija’s amusement, he had a bottle of Teng-Lo Fire Sauce that Sanathas had painstakingly made from an ancient recipe. The troll had taken it from their pantry. Shavai reached over, took it up, and drank from it as if it was a bottle of beer. “…And I thank you for the brew, as well.”

“Jin..” She reached up to grab the sauce but stopped herself only to stare at him in disbelief. That disbelief shattered into laughter that only a scene such as this could bring. Her tears became laughter and it all bridged on hystria as she struggled to calm herself and breathe. “Hot sauce. It’s hot sauce, not a brew.”

“Answer my question. I know the fires of Teng-Lo,” he grunted, tilting his head back as the bright orange sauce fell into the vivid, golden-white flames of his mask.

She shook her head, the motion serving to calm her. There was much she didn’t understand of trolls, even these two. “My glasses, Jin.” She motioned to the bedside table where her glasses had been since she arrived home four days previously. “There will be a fire between us Shavai, what it burns, remains to be seen. If we are lucky enough for it to consume us both, then we may be able to save what is between us.”

He handed over the thin-framed lenses, setting the bottle back as he did so. He stood and began to pace calmly again, his charms and armor rattling with each thudding step in the elven home. “Padija, you do not understand, do you? Your fire has already burned. You, and he, when my wife and I found you both, you were the ashes. What was burned has been washed with your tears, and… against his desires for it to be said, his as well. The ashes are spread along the soil, and they have been watered, that much the both of you have seen to,” he said, muttering something about crybabies.

“But just as Shango’s spears fall upon a forest,” he went on, “and burn all to char and ash, when the rains come, new things grow, and the ashes of the old feed the new. Do you see?”

She slipped her glasses on and adjusted them perfectly over her eyes. “I do. Where the rain falls, there will be regrowth. From what you tell me, the regrowth has begun. You cannot show me if what grows are oaks or weeds, only we can look upon the seedlings and know.”

Shavai crossed his arms and nodded. “If weeds grow, take your pikne to Dalaran. What he would know in his future is not among your husband’s sorcerers, or your argent priests. This I feel in my balls, and they are burdened. If oaks grow, I bid you to raise his timber, and to saw well. Make peace in flesh as you do in heart and spirit. If you can. If not, that is your problem, but make peace and move forward. He will be home soon…”

Padija’s eyes set on the troll intently. Slowly, the woman nodded as the shaman lectured.

“And if there are oaks, you will come to Honeydew in two days. You will see what it is to be burdened by family. Dine with Adjassou and I, and our four children by blood, and our three children by family, and… Soubo. I hate Soubo, but he means well. Look into my eyes, woman,” he commanded.

“Tell me that you will do these things. Swear it upon the soul of Jin’Marou, lest his furor return ten thousand fold, and render all seedlings, oak or weed, into ash,” Shavai rumbled. His tone took a turn for the severe, as did his implications. At the end of the day, the troll still didn’t want to be there.

“I give you my word.” She whispered, the strength in her voice and spirit having returned fully. “May our friendship never fail us, Shavai. Weed or oak, you have my thanks. Weed or oak, I will come to Honeydew in two days time.”

“Good,” the troll spat. “I do not wish to end the lives of those I would call ‘friend’, especially those strange friends so hard-earned by the alembic of war that they would know their blood and race as elves,” he bellowed, standing as he began to gather his things.

“I bid your gods keep you, Padija. I bid your soil be fertile, and I bid it be tilled well by the man who has given you his heart, his life and his son. This is my boon, and so may Maman Dantor guard you and your pikne and your vows, and may her blade strike deeply into that which would threaten such,” Shavai said, bowing his head after the long-winded blessing.

The trolls had odd magic, and their paragons of faith had a strange way of being effective by the words alone of those paragons if the cause was righteous. As strangely as he came, Shavai left the home. There was no sound of opening or closing doors, or final footsteps. There was, however, the sound of a hawkstrider’s claws raking against the ground outside after the long silence and her moment of reflection.

Slowly, Padija found her balance even if her strength still failed her. The walls served as a support for her to guide herself to investigate the sound of the great bird’s talons. The estate called to her as it never had before; it welcomed her. There was no Light here and there was no Fel, only the generations of Ravaltas, anxious to see their line continue. She felt their hope and it became her hope.

The words of the Jin remained with her, and when the front door of their home opened, she was leaning against the doorway of the foyer, waiting for him.

Sanathas threw open the door with his boot. His footsteps were hard and quick as he came in, the armored robes of his office rattling as he moved. “Shavai! Adjassou!” he called. “Trolls!” – There was no answer. He saw Padija there, in the simplest gown. The warlock froze. His eyes widened, and his jaw trembled. “…Padija,” he mouthed quietly. He said her name again, louder this time. She hadn’t seen him move so quickly in so long.

Before she could get a word in edgewise, his arms were around her. She collapsed against the body of her husband and hugged his neck. With his words her tears returned and she buried her face against his shoulder. “They’ve gone, it’s just us now.”

She whispered through her tears, “It’s just us.” It was a sentiment and a fact that she repeated a few more times.

All he could do was nod as she spoke, doing his best to avoid pressing against the bump. He didn’t say a word, and he was happy to have her. That was a feeling he missed; one that had to be beaten back into him, literally and verbally. “You’re alive,” he finally croaked. “Sun’s light you’re both still alive. I was afraid, Padija.”

“Stop.” She responded and lifted her head to look into his bright, fel green eyes. She hooked a finger beneath his chin and raised his gaze to hers.

“There will be no more fear. Fear destroyed us, it tore us apart and burned us to ashes. Fear drove us to idiocy and damanged both of our reputations. Fear is what made your magic control you. And fear is what drove me to weakness.” Her voice was strong, the tone commanding. When she spoke like this, it was no surprise that she had been able to lead a regiment through such desperate times.

This was the woman he married.

“Fear is a tool,” he said, “not my end. Not our end or the end of anything but what I set it to. I won’t lose you, Padija. I won’t lose myself to something at my fingertips,” he told her. Where she commanded, so did he. She heard as much from him when he ordered his creatures, or dragged them kicking and screaming from beyond.

The great terror that did so much to them was another such beast, and together they were banishing it from existence with these oaths. “Before incident and worry nearly claimed us, you and I knew nothing but conquest over anything we stood against, in all respects. We’ll have those days again. They should have never stopped.”

Meanwhile, Shavai held himself up against the wall outside, doing his best to be clever as his hands and feet pressed against the four pillars that held up the stone awning over their front doorstep. Beneath the burning rictus grin of his mask. he smiled ear to ear and snickered.

“Elves,” he muttered in his native tongue. “These people don’t know how to settle an argument.”

Slowly, the troll eased himself down and landed with a thud and rustle on the stone steps below. The door was still open. He looked inside to see his patients necking in the hallway. It was a miracle they got anything done back in the day. That much he remembered. Meanwhile, Sanathas and his wife were oblivious to being watched.

To his own amusement, Shavai snuck back into the house for the hot sauce. The Ravaltas had since moved into their lounge and claimed the couch. It would only be a matter of time before their reconciliation segued into the bedroom where the Teng-Lo stood where he left it on an end table.

Thusly procured, the troll tiptoed and struggled not to laugh as the elves were trying to make more of themselves. He eased the house’s door shut behind him, noting the heavy imprint of a heel by the handle. With his reward in hand and the few precious days he was able to spend away from his children and extended family, easing the Ravaltas’ problems seemed like a vacation in comparison.

“Be well, blood-children,” he said in the vernacular to their house. “Please avoid being idiots; your lives are too long to permit this stupidity.”

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