Saturday, December 5, 2009

To Touch the Fire

Written while listening to: “Scattered Rain” by Tsuneo Imahori.

. . . . . I still remember the sense of awe and wonder I felt when I first saw Farseer Nobundo wield the elements as easily as our Vindicators wield the Light. Like most of my people, my head was still clouded by fear and prejudice; I believed the Broken were somehow tainted and unworthy. I was such a fool.

. . . . . My path had been a simple one until that day. Born to the life of an eternal refugee during the early centuries of our exodus, I trained as a scout and tracker, my reckless disregard for myself allowing an unusual amount of skill in finding which places on each new planet we landed on would be safe to inhabit and which places were potentially fatal to us. I spent the millennia learning to be self-sufficient, to rely only on myself – a very bizarre habit among the communal draenei. I think, then, my reasoning was that I spent so much time while we were off-ship alone, that when we were on-ship, it just continued to be my habit. Maybe I just never wanted to own up to the fact that I didn’t quite fit in. All in all, it was a simple path, and I did not entirely stay alone; I had friends and lovers among the other scouts. Never anyone too close, anyone I could not leave behind when the restlessness struck.
. . . . . When we landed for what we had hoped was the final time – didn’t we always hope it was the final time? – I went a-wander across the new planet. My hooves didn’t touch the same soil twice for many years. I saw the rolling hills of Nagrand, the graceful plains before the Temple of Karabor, the lush greenery of the Peninsula in the Devouring Sea. I found glory in discovering untouched lands, places even the orcs hadn’t seen yet. Perhaps the way of the eternal refugee lives under my skin and will forever more. I never have quite seemed to settle down.

. . . . . It was only luck and happenstance that I even learned about our exodus to Zangarmarsh. I had heard about the sacking of Farahlon, of course, and it was why I retreated to the high mountains of Nagrand alone. I found peace in solitude and even under threat of attack from the orcs, I felt safer alone in the mountains than in a city. But when one of my climbing spikes broke, I had to leave my hermitage behind and descend the mountains to Shattrath City to get a new one.
. . . . . There in the city I learned that our most sacred temples – Karabor and Auchindoun – had fallen already to the orcs, and they were headed toward our last bastion of safety. It took me less than a day to volunteer to join the scouting party to lead the city’s refugees to the small anchorite settlement of Telredor.
. . . . . Telredor was much too small for so many of us. Some went on to form Orebor Harborage, some settled at the Twin Spires, but we all stuck to the safety of the marshes. As scouts, we were often sent to gather food for the refugees. Even now, I hate mushrooms and will not eat them unless I have no other option. And I will consider eating my own hooves as an option before eating mushrooms again. We managed to eke out several years of relative safety, although the pass in from Terokkar and from the Peninsula had to be heavily guarded.
. . . . . The Prophet Velen? We did not know where he was. After Karabor fell, he had come to Shattrath to share his wisdom and point us towards the marshes. But somewhere along the way, he departed into the marshland and we knew not where he had gone or if he even still lived. The anchorites at Telredor told us to remain fast to the Light, that it would hold us safe. I admit that I no longer had such faith. How was a life of constant retreat, of death to a deathless race, of loss and sorrow and fear…how was this what the Light wanted for us? I attended prayer services and mouthed the words, but I held more faith in my ability to provide for myself than the Light’s providence.

. . . . . I returned from a food-gathering expedition, laden with two baskets of edible fungi, to find a crowd gathered in the central terrace at the top of Telredor. The Prophet had returned, and he was bringing with him someone who would help him guide our people to a new peace, a new communion with the world. Despite my lack of faith in the Light on the whole, I did still have faith in the Prophet’s wisdom, so I joined the milling throng with excitement in my heart.
. . . . . That excitement burned to ashes when I saw the stooped, warped, Broken man leaning on a walking stick at the Prophet’s side. The buzzing murmurs around me reflected my own disappointment. A Broken. A tainted one. What if his presence here began to mutate the rest of us? What if the fel energies clinging to him spread to us? There was a reason, after all, that they were not allowed among the unaffected! The crowd grew restless, stepped back almost as one. Someone shouted a question about the wisdom of this to the Prophet Velen. I was already searching a path out through the crowd with my baskets when the sky cracked open above our heads with a deafening sound.
. . . . . I froze in place as all the hairs on my body stood at attention and a blue glow infused the air for less than a second before lightning streaked down and whipped around the agitated crowd, just above our heads, just far enough away to keep us from true harm. I looked to the platform above us, awe suffusing my soul. The Prophet Velen had his hands folded in the sleeves of his robe and an inscrutable expression on his face. The Broken he introduced to us had his face turned up to the sky as the rain began to fall. “Everything that is, is alive,” he said, his voice quiet but audible to us even over the rain.

. . . . . This was self-sufficiency! This was power! This was providence at its most basic level! Like several in the crowd, I ended up approaching the Broken – Farseer Nobundo – to seek to join his growing number of students. I learned later that I was in the larger, second of the groups he mentored along this new path for the draenei, having followed behind a smaller group of students who had sought him out without the Prophet’s guidance.
. . . . . I was an arrogant and envious fool, then. I believed that I chose this path for myself, that I would master it, that I was somehow less desperate than the first group because they had all been Broken – or nearly so. I was impatient, impertinent, and entirely too stupid. It surprises me even still to think that it took so long for sense to be knocked into my empty head.

. . . . . Ten of us were gathered around Farseer Nobundo, sitting on the wet marshlands near a lake in Zangarmarsh. We were practicing listening to the spirits of Water, and – as was typical for me – I was struggling. I could not hear them, no matter how I raged and pleaded with my soul. I demanded, I begged, I railed and requested by turns. I had conquered the natural world through my own determination and skill, and now to find that all the mountains I climbed were living, the water I drank freely given to me, and that all I conquered was merely a gift, not a victory…
. . . . . I rose from the wet ground and stomped away from the lesson, my hooves guiding me out of earshot and to a clearing at the edge of the lake. I was so angry, so upset, that even the one spirit I could hear – the sibilant whisper of Air – did not seem to get through to me. I ignored it…to my own peril. Frustration guiding me, I turned my face to the sky and shouted my rage to the heavens. I did not see the group turn to look at me. I did not see Farseer Nobundo take a step towards me. All I saw was the fluorescent blue glow light the air a split second before the bolt of silver fire from the heavens answered my rage with its own.
. . . . . Though I know now from simply looking in a mirror that the strike was a small one and made contact with only a few inches of the left side of my face, it felt at the time as if my entire being was enveloped in agonizing flame. My last conscious memory is of every muscle and tendon locking into a rigid and violent contraction, and I do not have another memory from that until two months later when I awoke to being tended by one of the other students, a wonderfully kind woman named Beluuma, in a small room in Telredor.
. . . . . I am told that the lightning strike threw me from the lake back to the clearing and that my insensible form landed rigidly at Nobundo’s hooves. I am told that he had to pound on my chest hard enough to crack my sternum to restart my heart. I am told that I was carried – a twitching, spasmodic mess – back to Telredor by two of my peers. I am told that it was approximately two months before I regained my senses. I remember none of it.

. . . . . It is a wonder what such a universal clue-by-four to the face can do for one’s attitude. Although I remember being an arrogant and power-hungry woman, I no longer am able to find that part of my personality. It is as if the lightning burned it from my brain. Near death brings a certain humility to the soul, and it is only due to that humility that I managed to complete my training with Farseer Nobundo.
. . . . . Approach the elements with reverence and humility, with polite deference and gentle requests – lest they find their own ways of ensuring that you are humbled.

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