Thursday, November 5, 2009

Little Cat's Third Lesson

Written while listening to Welcome Home by Yusuf Islam (f.k.a. Cat Stevens).

. . . . . One of the seven survivors the Little Cat and Sennar had found would not wake up. His left horn was almost entirely broken off, and the skull behind where it would have been was dented. Yet, the draenei man clung stubbornly to life, so there was still a very good chance that – with enough healers – he could recover.
. . . . . The Vale didn’t have enough healers, however. Anchorite Zalduun had recovered and taken over the infirmary duties, so the de facto leaders of the Vale decided to send the Farseer with the badly injured survivor to the Exodar’s main crash site to seek out more healers. A stretcher was fashioned from a mage’s staff found in the wreckage, the Little Cat’s broom, and a cloak. Anchorite Zalduun put a levitation spell on the stretcher so that the injured survivor’s escort need only carefully guide it.
. . . . . Technician Zhanaa sent word ahead through the holo-emitter so that the next nearest post-crash settlement, Azure Watch, would expect them. The Little Cat, the Farseer, and four other draenei were to accompany the survivor to the healers, if there were any at the Exodar.
. . . . . The night before they were to set out, everyone who was able to do so gathered in the infirmary. Under the anchorite’s direction, nearly thirty draenei sought out the Light within, called upon the Naaru’s blessing, and lent their healing gifts to the injured survivor. The draenei fair glowed from the infusion of healing. As the pale blue marks of their gifts faded from the foreheads of those gathered, the Little Cat caught a glimpse of the Farseer through a break in the infirmary’s makeshift walls. His back was to them, and the set of his sloped shoulders as he looked up at the sky nearly broke the Little Cat’s heart.

. . . . . It was a crystal-clear blue morning when the escort set out to take the injured survivor to the Exodar. A mage had found a stash of blank scrolls and enchanted charcoal pencils in the wreckage of his former quarters. Since the Little Cat had a fair hand and was going with the escort, she was tasked with mapping the terrain as they covered it and sending the map back with one of the draenei who would be returning to the Vale. The Little Cat was not returning; she had decided to search for her mother and uncles, and – yes – even her grandparents.
. . . . . Half the day passed with the escort gently guiding the stretcher along as they walked. The Farseer tended to range ahead or fall behind on his own whim. The air was clear and warm, the sun bright.
. . . . . The Little Cat smelled the water before she saw it. With a small cheer, the escort came through a pass in the hills to a small beach and a stretch of clear, salt-scented water. Back in the Vale, there was a lake, but it was so affected by radiation that few dared bathe in it. This apparent river might smell like sea-water, but it certainly seemed better than the lake.
. . . . . Most draenei, after thousands of years sharing close quarters on ships until finding Draenor, did not have much care for privacy when it came to bathing. Amidst a great deal of jubilation, they carefully settled the survivor on the stretcher near the edge of the water, stripped off clothes stained with weeks of hard work, and ran into the water. The Little Cat noticed that all four of the other draenei in the escort kept their eyes averted from the Broken Farseer as he disrobed and slowly entered the water.
. . . . . The Little Cat swam towards the Farseer and tilted her head to the right, watching him for a moment. His eyes were closed as he cupped the water with his hands and blew a breath over it.
. . . . . “Revered one, does the water speak here too?” she asked quietly.
. . . . . For several moments, the Farseer didn’t acknowledge her, continuing his ablutions and washing the blood of the people who barely acknowledged his role in their recovery from his hands. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked at the curious girl standing in the water nearby. “Xeremuriis, right?” he rumbled. She nodded at him, her wiry black mane not yet tamed by the water. “I do not think I have thanked you yet for helping keep the infirmary clean so I could concentrate on tending the wounded…” He looked across the river to the beach on the other side. “Yes, the water here speaks. Where did you hear that the water speaks, child?”
. . . . . The Little Cat flushed violet and moved to the shallows a few feet towards the far bank. She sat on the sand and scrubbed dirt from the thick fur above her hooves. “Chakaa,” she said quietly as explanation.
. . . . . The Farseer made a rough hacking noise that had the Little Cat looking quickly up in alarm until she realized he was chuckling. “Ah… So you must be the curious cat his students were grumbling about.” The Little Cat splashed her face with water to hide her blush of embarrassment.
. . . . . A distant look settled on the Farseer’s face as he seemed to look at her but See past her. “There is a protocol for these things, Xeremuriis. There is a respectful way to learn. Eavesdropping on another student’s lesson is probably not the most appropriate way to go about learning…” He let out another rough chuckle as he climbed slowly to the shallows and out of the water on the side where they had all left their clothes. “I will answer your questions when I can while we travel, but if you truly want to learn, you need to seek out someone with the time for an apprentice.”

. . . . . The escort group washed their clothes in the water too. One of them was a fire mage, and so blew a careful, controlled hot wind at the clothes to dry them after they forded the river. A short debate followed about whether or not to wash the injured survivor, but it was eventually resolved that moving him off the stretcher might do more harm than good.
. . . . . On the far side of the river, they continued onwards for the rest of the day. By the time the sun sat low on the horizon, they still had not reached Azure Watch. They decided to set up camp among the piney blue trees. The Little Cat helped forage firewood and set up the three tents they brought, and then she sat before the campfire and began working on the map to send back to the Vale. As she sketched out the area around the Vale, the Farseer came and sat down next to her. On the blank scroll, the glade where she had encountered the earth elemental took two-dimensional shape.
. . . . . “Have you met elementals, revered one?” she asked as she drew.
. . . . . A tendril twitched under the Farseer’s chin as he considered the question. “Yes, several of them.”
. . . . . “Any earth ones?”
. . . . . “Erhm… Yes.” His voice took on a tone which implied he had an idea where she was going with this.
. . . . . “What do they feel like to you?” The enchanted charcoal flew over the page and the Little Cat did not look up to see the surprise on the Farseer’s face at her question.
. . . . . “Solid. Old. Heavy… The earth is generally very stable.” The Farseer settled a hand on one of the totems tied to his belt. “Xeremuriis, the others here might have asked me what an earth elemental says or how they look. But you asked me how they feel. Why is that, child?”
. . . . . The Little Cat began sketching in the river they had encountered on her map. “Oh. That. I found one in the glade up in the hills.” She tapped the non-marking end of her charcoal pencil on the spot she’d drawn. “I think it was upset. It asked me to help settle a little of the balance we interrupted when we crashed on this place.”
. . . . . The Farseer blinked. She was a little young to already be feeling the intentions of elementals; she was going to need a mentor soon before she inadvertently tripped some fire elemental’s temper – or worse, a water elemental’s… Ever since Farseer Nobundo started teaching in Zangarmarsh those years back, some of the younger draenei who hadn’t yet chosen a path were showing some propensity for shamanism – now that the draenei knew what to look for. He lifted a thick, short-fingered hand to rub his fused scaleplates on his forehead absently. “Did you help, then?”
. . . . . “Yes.” She sounded pleased, but distracted as she kept working intently on the map. “But I think I need to find a metal mace. My wooden one doesn’t do very much against snarly rocks.”
. . . . . “Snarly…rocks?”
. . . . . “Oh, yes. The earth elementals who couldn’t understand it was an accident. We helped them return to the earth to heal.”
. . . . . “‘We’..?” The Farseer pinched the bridge of his nose. This girl was going to give one of his colleagues such a challenge. He almost wished she’d find… No, that was cruel. He wouldn’t wish her on the poor fellow.
. . . . . “The teal water and the whirlwinds,” she explained, more of her mind on the map than her explanations.
. . . . . The Farseer rasped a quiet chuckle and shook his head. “I’d better go check on my patient. Try not to find any more elementals before morning.”

. . . . . All the combined gifts of the Vale survivors had helped the injured man somewhat. He still would not wake, but he moved restlessly from time to time, like one caught in a dream. The escort group broke camp with almost as much enthusiasm as they had greeted the prospect of a bath. By most estimates, they expected to reach Azure Watch by midday.
. . . . . As with the day before, the Farseer frequently broke away from the escort for a time and returned after communing with the land. Unlike the day before, he found the Little Cat somewhere nearby more often than not.
. . . . . “What does the wind whisper here?”
. . . . . “Uneasiness. Concern.”
. . . . . “How does the water feel?”
. . . . . “Vast. Calm. Wide.”
. . . . . “Do you think it will rain today?”
. . . . . “Xeremuriis… A Farseer doesn’t usually apply his Seeing skills to simple weather predictions.” His tone was gently exasperated.
. . . . . Chastised, the Little Cat was silent for a time, allowing the Farseer a bit of peace.

. . . . . The escort group and their injured survivor reached Azure Watch a little after midday. The Farseer met with the anchorites at the settlement and updated them on his patient, turning over the care of him to them. The Farseer would be returning to the Vale from here.
. . . . . In the center of the settlement, a large draenethyst crystal was placed high on a podium to lend its soft glow to the area at night. The Little Cat had missed that gentle lavender glow. She sat on a bench below the stone that evening to sketch the map from the salty river to the settlement.
. . . . . Nearby, the escort group had joined the settlement in a shelter built from wreckage. The draenei laughed and talked and reconnected with one another over a hearty stew ladled out by a Broken cook. The Little Cat set aside her map and went over to the shelter to get a helping of dinner. She asked for a second bowl and got a curious look for her request. She nodded towards the Farseer sitting at the edge of the light being spilled by the draenethyst crystal.
. . . . . The Little Cat brought her bowl and an extra over to the edge of the light, where the Farseer had spread a small rug on the dirt. She knelt at the edge of the rug and offered him the bowl of stew. “You should eat, revered one. It will keep your strength up.”
. . . . . The Farseer accepted the bowl with a small smile. “Thank you, Xeremuriis. Please sit.”
. . . . . She folded her hooves to the side and sat at the edge of the Farseer’s rug. With the gusto of an active youth, she dug her spoon into her bowl of stew and ate, giving the Farseer another several minutes of peace. As they ate in companionable silence, the Little Cat looked towards the second shelter where they’d set the stretcher and its precarious cargo for the night.
. . . . . “Do you think he’ll get better?” she asked after she finished her stew.
. . . . . “I think so. If the anchorites cannot heal him, Farseer Nobundo may be able to.”
. . . . . “Farseer Nobundo survived? How do you know?” That incessantly curious note was entering the Little Cat’s voice.
. . . . . “Ehm… Students and teachers still have a connection, even when time has moved on.” Hoping to stave off further questions on the subject, the Farseer set down his empty bowl and sent a silent plea to the water spirits around Azure Watch. They answered with a tiny popping sound as a small, rounded stone totem – a shimmering blue glow bubbling from its top and cascading down its sides – appeared on the rug. The girl gasped in amazement and watched the totem shake from side to side with the force of the water energy contained in it. “Water is soothing, Xeremuriis. Think on the quiet stillness of a pond for a while.”
. . . . . Recognizing both a lesson and a subtle hint when she got one, the Little Cat closed her eyes and sat in silence on the rug with the Farseer, attempting to still her mind. If it did nothing else, it gave the Farseer a break from her questions.

. . . . . The next morning, the Farseer said his goodbyes to the escort party. They were not ungrateful for his help, but – like most draenei – they were a little diffident in their treatment of him. The Little Cat held no such fears. She wrapped her arms around the Broken Farseer in a strong hug, her face turned away so she missed the stunned expression on his face. He patted her back awkwardly.
. . . . . “When you get to the Exodar, if the Crystal Hall is still intact, see there if a Seer or Farseer has need of a diligent young girl to sweep floors and bring him stew.” He chuckled at the scowl which settled on her face. “In exchange for learning, child.”
. . . . . “Oh. Well, that’s fine, then. You mystic sorts spend too much time in magic and forget simple things like eating sometimes anyway.”
. . . . . The Farseer almost asked her about that statement, but then decided it was probably best he not pursue it. He probably didn’t want to know. “Be well, child.”
. . . . . When he turned back after walking for some distance, he could still see the curious girl standing on a rise in Azure Watch. She waved at him. The Farseer let out a raspy chuckle and walked into the woods.


  1. Heh, I wonder what color a draenei blushes. I'm thinking it'd be a deeper blue.

    Sorry it's been so long since my last comment; things have been hectic around here. Anyway, I'll have some time to read up on the other stories. Merry Christmas!

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