A Quiet Respite ((Story?))

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A Quiet Respite ((Story?))

Post  KaijinRhada on Thu Jul 28, 2016 9:25 pm

((This is just something I have been working on, but I figured I would post it here. It's just some character development (or attempt at), based around the time Deathwing was defeated and onward. I intend to do more than one character's story and past chapters may be done, but that shall be seen.

If anyone wants to add their own here, feel free to do so. The stories don't have to intersect, it's just interesting to see what one does after a major battle.))


After the fall of Deathwing

The calls of geese upon the pond signalled the arrival of another chilling dawn. The frost clung to the vegetation in a cold embrace, one that the sun was unable to release through the nigh impenetrable canopy of Ashenvale Forest. An eye peered from the window of a cabin that appeared to be dimly lit, but more than illuminated for the eyes of a night elf. He withdrew from the view, after ascertaining the time, and moved a paint-mottled hand to a washing basin in the small kitchen, while using a mechanical hand to grab a cloth.

The house was half hunting lodge and half artist’s studio and fully utilitarian with a small kitchen. The studio was closed off from the rest of the cabin and connected by the kitchen. In another room, there was a set of bunk beds and just enough space for a set of beddings on the ground. Connected to the sleeping area was a den, and within it was a riding sabre with black fur and moon-white stripes, curled up and resting. Nestled in the middle of the sabre was a pile of white feathers. It shuddered slightly, and shortly after, the owl, as it was, peeked over the mass of sabre fur with sleepy eyes. She let out a small coo for her friend and stretched her neck.

“Did you sleep well, Falathir?” the kaldorei asked, to which the owl chirped.

Jaou dried his hands on a clean towel after flicking his left hand in particular with a great deal of force to get as much water out as possible. He himself sounded and looked to be tired, though it was not particularly late in his day. He looked back to the canvas he had been painting on; an evening scene of forests upon rolling hills giving way to an open valley. It was still rough, but it was a work in progress and a good way to pass the time before meeting with his clients with more polished works amongst other things. Such a long term project allowed for him to come and go as he feels to work on it.

Now it was almost time for him to depart. Jaou stepped over to the sleeping area and rummaged around for a clean shirt and started to don a more casual set of armour than that of his war set. Having changed, he looked into a mirror to brush his hair. The scars of the past few years and beyond had unfortunately not been wiped clean from his restored body, though neither had he recovered his arm. It was not in his place to complain about it though, he was thankful to be a night elf again and that was more than he could have hoped for. Still the scars he carried only reminded him of darker times, as did his prosthetic. His false arm was at least refitted with a new design that improved upon the flawed one that the demons fitted to him, though at the cost of losing what little was left of his original arm and shoulder. The arm now more closely resembled a real one, and thanks to the artistry of the inscriptions that were upon his armour, it looked more to be a fashion statement or armour at first glance.

With a light sigh as he turned his thoughts away from the scars, Jaou ran a hand through his now shortened hair, giving it a more feathery look and emphasizing the layers. He turned slightly to see how his hair was in the back. Though he was now without the braid, it still reached down to the middle of his back, and the lack of weight revealed a look of waviness to his locks. When he was satisfied with how presentable he was, the ranger started to gather the items he required for the meeting.

Three painted wood carvings, five canvas paintings, he catalogued in his mind as he inspected the carefully wrapped bundles upon the chest by the door before placing it in his back pack. Jaou looked to his sabre and called out for him, “Ganymede, it’s time to go.”

The sabre, still laying upon the ground, arched it’s back and stretched its limbs as it yawned, causing Falathir to flutter to Jaou’s shoulder. Ganymede opened his brilliant turquoise eyes and rolled over to get up, stretching as any cat would before padding towards the elf. As Jaou held his hand out, Ganymede was quick to have his head meet the kaldorei’s palm, chuffing happily as he did. At that, Jaou smiled.

The ranger took Ganymede’s saddle off of a stand and started to fit it upon the sabre. As he did so though, his heart started to palpitate faster. This was an all too familiar feeling; it was anxiety that started to build within him. He had to live with it as part of the aftermath of his experiences as a satyr. He had medication to help him manage various aspects of his psyche, but he tried not to rely on them, only using them if he could not manage it otherwise. Jaou eyed the first aid cabinet where he stored such medications and debated whether he should take any with him.

It’s only a short trip into Astranaar, I should be fine.

Jaou finished fastening the saddle and supplies to Ganymede, leaving the pieces of art for last. He opened the door and instructed the sabre to wait outside as Jaou gathered what was the last of what he needed. “You sure you don’t want to sleep instead, Falathir?” he asked the owl who still sat upon his shoulder. The bird cooed and steadfastly stayed where she was, not one to say no to an outing.

The night elf chuckled and rubbed the owl behind the ear, just as she liked it. He took his back pack with him and closed the door to the cabin, activating a runic locking spell on the entrance. With the cabin secured, Jaou put on his hood and face mask, and he and Falathir set off upon Ganymede and rode towards Astranaar.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

By the time Jaou had arrived in Astranaar, it was well into the morning. Many of the residents had eaten dinner and gone home, while some started on the morning shift for foreign traders and adventurers for, unlike the kaldorei, lived diurnal lives. The meeting that was arranged was with one of the local shop keeps, Maeva Stillbreeze, a woman that dealt in much of their people’s arts and crafts in the market; she had a reputation for a shrewd eye and a cunning sense of business, always getting the most out of her gold. The proprietress worked the usual nocturnal shift of the night elves, and thus she was done with her shift for the day; as determined beforehand, they were to meet at one of the local restaurants, the Wolf and Stag.

The ranger rode up to the sabre holding to drop Ganymede off, and he and Falathir continued to his appointment. Jaou subconsciously readjusted his hood and mask as he walked towards the restaurant. His owl companion found her usual perch on his shoulder, and from time to time she would ruffle her face into his hood as a show of affection and support. The anxiety was starting to swell within him. It certainly was not his first time meeting anyone with art business, nor would it be the last if everything continued smoothly, but there were just some days where his anxiety, for no discernable reason, would be worse on one day compared to another. The near-unpredictability of when it was worst was a point of frustration for him. Having committed himself to this meeting, he could not turn back. No matter what, he forced himself to go through with this and all previous meetings and has yet to be driven off by his own mental shortcomings.

Jaou and Falathir continued on their way through the streets of Astranaar when they arrived before the Wolf and Stag. He entered the restaurant and went on to find the store owner. Though it was getting late in the morning, there were still quite a few customers dining in the establishment, but it did not take long for him to find Maeva sitting at a smaller table. The she elf sported a bob cut with side-swept bangs, and as a rarity amongst her people, she wore a pair of glasses. She was nursing a half of a stein of ale and a plate of cheese and fruit, but it did not take long for her to notice Jaou approaching.

“Ah, you’re here, right on time” the store proprietress observed as she stayed seated. She eyed him up and down in a casual manner and took a sip of her drink. “And still not up to showing your face?”

“Not particularly,” Jaou replied dryly as he took a seat across from Maeva. He made a more conscious effort to conceal his prosthetic more. One of the servers immediately brought a cup of water to him. “I have my reasons.”

“You probably would turn less heads if you just went and got it over with,” Maeva rebutted, taking note of the other patrons that have thrown numerous glances towards Jaou. “Their curiosity continues; sure, it’ll peak when you waltz in here with naught but your mug, but after that they’ll become disinterested in you when you lose your mystery. You’ve only the markings of a veteran, no more than that. Rumours and gossip are but words and words slip into the wind.” She offered her plate to the ranger and his companion. “You hungry? I’ll get you something if you’re not in the mood for apples and stilton.”

“You don’t have to.” Although Jaou was the one to reply, Falathir bobbed her head about at the mention of food.

“Nonsense, I know you well enough to see that you aren’t getting your fill. Your little friend agrees too.” Maeva flagged down one of the servers. “Get me an order of lentil stew and a crust of flax with a side of grilled spider, and make it to go.” After paying the server, she regarded Jaou again. “I figured you’re only in town for a short while. You may not be an adventurer, but artists are as fickle as they are, and you’re extra capricious with your way of living.”

“I appreciate your kindness. I can pay for it.”

“Don’t sweat it, I have it covered. Besides, you bring me customers and you bring me profits with your own works. I reward those that know the value of hard work,” she said with another bite of her fruit. “Now, speaking of which, what have you got for me today?”

Jaou presented the package to Maeva and opened up the wrapping to reveal what he had brought. “Five paintings of the forest in different locations and seasons, and three animal wood carvings.”

The proprietress examined the small paintings, taking note of the use of colours in the shading and highlights. She then moved onto the carvings, taking each one in turn to look at. The carvings were of animal pairs: a bear and eagle, a fish and deer, and a sabre and windserpent. “Metallic paint with the carvings certainly brings out the features very nicely. Your technical skill is ever on point. I think these will sell well.”

“Thank you.” Jaou said with a nod. He took a drink of water before offering some to Falathir. “Anything you’re running low on?”

“More paintings wouldn’t hurt. Your dream catchers and handcrafted flowers are popular with the younger and foreign folk, too,” the she-elf stated. She handed Jaou his earnings from the sales. “We could use more of those in the next order.”

“I’ll get to work on that.” Jaou pocketed his gold.

“You’ve only been at this for a few months, but your wares are definitely getting traction. Have you considered taking up the arts full time?”

The question came as a surprise to Jaou as his right hand twitched as he held the cup. “I-I haven’t really thought about that.”

Working on the arts full time, I would have to officially retire from my postings as a ranger...

“It might be worth thinking on,” Maeva commented, gesturing with her stein. “It’s more regular and stable work; with your talents, and a bit of showcasing, you could be a big hit.”

“I’m not so sure...” Jaou murmured. “I didn’t really intend to stay out of active service for this long.”

“Maybe it’s a sign, who knows? People get propelled down their paths in mysterious ways.” Maeva finished the rest of her food and drink. “What I do know is that your stuff sells well and people are getting more interested in you as an artisan. This is a real opportunity for you.”

The ranger was not so convinced, but he never thought of his future any farther than even the next week these days. What was he aiming for, what was his goal? All he had on his mind was training and work, but not where it would lead him. He was still on leave with the Cenarion Circle, but would he make it back into active duty?

Before he could say anything more, the server that Maeva had flagged down then returned to their table with a packaged meal in hand. “Here is your food, Mrs. Stillbreeze.”

“Thanks.” The proprietress accepted the food and handed it to Jaou, who placed it into his pack. “You don’t have to become a full-time artisan, but just give it some thought. It’s your new beginning, but not everything has to be the way it used to be. Some times change is good. Now, it’s time for me to head home.” Maeva stood up and Jaou did so as well.

“Thank you for meeting with me,” Jaou said with a bow.

“Always a pleasure. Until our next appointment, Master Stormchaser, don’t work too hard!”

By the time they had finished, it had started flurrying and Astranaar was already covered in a few centimetres of fluffy snow. A chilled wind rushed past Jaou and Falathir, both turning their faces away from the gust. I should have brought a warmer cloak, the elf sighed, but he still looked up at the falling snow fondly, being his favourite type of weather. Falathir also seemed more at home in the cold weather as she groomed herself in comfort. Two more stops.

Jaou walked from the Wolf and Stag towards one of the shops in town across from the eatery. A sign neatly hung from one of the posts that neatly framed the entrance: it was the butcher and fish shop. The ranger stepped inside was was customarily greeted by the store front, though not from an attendant he was familiar with.

“Welcome!” the butcher on duty said. “What can I get for you?”

“A leg of moose, a strider thigh and a brace of salted sagefish, please” requested Jaou. Falathir squawked and fluttered her wings, beating them into Jaou’s hood. I think that’s a reminder. “And a filet of lean bear tenderloin as well.”

“Right away, sir,” the butcher replied. She had already started to get his order together as he spoke.

What am I doing with my time? This is normal, isn’t it?

“Sir?”

Jaou was broken out of his musings. “Sorry, yes? How much do I owe you?”

“Four gold and fifty silver altogether.”

Jaou paid for the order and placed the meat in his pack as the butcher thanked him. “How does the hunting board look like?”

“Oh, you one of the hunters? Let’s see.” The shop keeper took a look at a folder that was kept in a drawer and started to read through the latest page. “We’re starting to run low on moose, actually. Wolf meat and river ray too. There’s a meeting posted for next week to assign hunts.”

“I will come back then,” Jaou stated. “Thanks.”

“You know, you look familiar,” the butcher commented.

“Familiar?” Jaou thought for a moment to himself. He did not recall meeting with this shop keep before. “I’m unsure of what you mean.”

“Oh, sorry, you look and sound very familiar to me. It brings to mind Raynewood Retreat from a few years past. Were you there when Astranaar was occupied by demons?”

The ranger hesitated in answering the question. It was his presence and his efforts that, in the end, caused much of the trouble that came to the settlement. He still could not remember everything that happened, but he knew he was there, and that it was a hard time for all. “I was there, but I can’t remember too much of it...”

“It was strange living with satyrs in the town as if it were normal. Stranger still that the Sentinels were taking orders from one. I only heard him speak in passing, but he spoke with respect the soldiers seem to afford him a degree of respect in turn,” the butcher reminisced. “I never felt comfortable with them around, but they didn’t seem too bad. Ever since they were relocated, I wonder what happened to them.”

Jaou turned away slightly, thinking back to that time and place. It was all a haze to him, but he still remembered the result of the upheaval of what he and the others faced.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to babble on. It’s just funny how things were back then, so different from what we are used to, and what we have now.” The butcher smiled in a carefree manner.

“It’s no problem,” Jaou said as he left. “Thanks, again.”

What I have now is different from what I had before, even before that mess even started... It’s more peaceful, but why do I feel so unhappy?

His mind was beginning to become tumultuous with questions and the ponderings of where his life was going, but he set them aside for now. He needed to get home and he still had one more stop before he went to pick up Ganymede. Jaou and Falathir proceeded to the post office. As he walked in, Jaou took out a key ring and made his way to the community mail boxes. Finding his, he opened the box up and took his letters and notices. The ranger closed the box and started to go through his mail. These days there was always an air of anticipation and trepidation. There was an invoice for a package that arrived for him, and then a letter a letter from Ravenstar. I’ll have to read that when I get home. He looked through the remaining letters, looking for particular addresses, hoping that his wait would be over. The remaining missives however were simply notices from local authorities regarding security in the forest and the areas beyond the borders of Ashenvale.

Nothing from the Circle, and no reply from her... It’s been many months now, did something dire happen in Silithus, or maybe...No, it wouldn’t be like that. Well, all that’s left is the package.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

The flurries continued and the snow had accumulated enough for Ganymede to leave deep paw prints. The trip back to the cabin was longer than the trip to Astranaar, but now they were home. Jaou unlocked the door and brushed off the excess snow upon his cloak. Likewise, Falathir and Ganymede shook off the snow upon their coats and the three filed inside.

The first thing Jaou did, after setting down the box that was his package, was retrieve the meat he had purchased for his companions. The owl and sabre eagerly crowded the elf, each mewling and chuffing for their treats. He unwrapped each of the packs and give the leg to Ganymede and the steak to Falathir. Both, now having their meal, retreated to the common area while Jaou started to get settled in, taking off his boots, cloak and mask.

Jaou placed the rest of the meat in the cold storage and went on to eat his dinner and see to the package, setting both down on the kitchen table. As he started to eat his now cold food, the ranger opened up the box using the claws on his left hand. The contents were as he expected: metallic dust, pigments, liquid matte and gloss, brushes, art tape, and various oils and solvents. Secretly, he was hoping the package to have come from Silithus, but he had to remain patient. My supplies from Darnassus, I can at least get more painting done now. As he ate his meal, his mind wandered back to the discussion he had with Maeva.

“Have you considered taking up the arts full time?”

The elf looked to the painting he was working on. Granted that he only worked on art when recovering from training, it was a good change of pace, yet there was something in him that felt out of place, or rather something felt like it was losing its place.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been on longer breaks, but it’s different this time.

Jaou finished the rest of his meal and disposed of the packaging. It was already early in the afternoon and he would be back to heavy training tomorrow. Training... He suddenly remembered that he still had a letter from Ravenstar. He took it out from his pack and opened the missive.

“Jaou,

I trust you are still continuing with your training and conditioning. In addition to your menu, you’ll have a sparring partner coming by shortly after you receive this message. Focus on your agility, speed and stamina. Don’t forget to work on counters.

~Ravenstar”


A sparring partner, I wonder who it is. Jaou looked out of the window and was reminded of the time. It was late enough as is and he felt drained and tired from the anxiety and meetings from the day. The questions that continue to swirl in his mind would have to wait another day and he would eventually find out who his partner will be.

Jaou placed the letter down on the table and went to close the curtains to the windows and to lock the door. He then proceeded to make sure the hatch in the den was open to let Ganymede and Falathir out when they pleased. Everything is secured, the fire in the stove is still out, but why do I feel like I’m forgetting something? Falathir hooted and flew in the ranger’s direction, landing next to one of the cabinets and proceeded to peck at it.

At that point, he finally realized what he was forgetting. Jaou approached the first aid cabinet and opened it to find various labelled bottles. Shortly after his recovery, Jaou was prescribed medication to help with his mental wellbeing; some were to be taken if he ran into issues, but quite a few of them were to be taken on a schedule. The elf did not particular take to the medication for its side effects; fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and headaches were common for him and though he could take more medication to offset those ailments, it was an inconvenience. It was terrible when he had to adapt to taking them, and he was told it was equally as bad coming off of it. His diligence in taking them was also spotty.

I forgot to take them earlier... I guess taking them now is better than nothing.

Jaou prepared a cup of water to help wash down the pills as he went through the various bottles, taking them in succession. At least now he will be sleeping through the side effects, but he knew he had to do better with himself and his prescriptions. He walked over to his bed, shedding his clothing down to his breeches. Walking around Ganymede and Falathir, who now laid on the floor in a relaxed manner, Jaou reached his bed and placed his clothing into a hamper. He then proceeded to remove the armour around his prosthetic and stored it in a bedside cubby. Jaou now settled into his bed, tossing the down throw over his body.

So tired... Hopefully this will be a dreamless sleep.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Jaou rode upon Ganymede as he ran through the forest with all of the speed he could muster, yet he could not shake off his pursuers. He bade the sabre to run in more erratic patterns and run through obstacles to throw them off, but no matter what they tried they were always on their tail.

“Ganymede, the ruins!” he called out. The sabre let out a growl in response and started to make way for the kaldorei ruins in the distance. They weaved back and forth between the behemoth trees and roots that dominated the landscape. Despite their advances, the ranger could still hear the growls and snarls from the fel stalkers giving them chase.

They came to the ruins. Ganymede jumped the fallen stone and pillars with grace as Jaou led him to one of the buildings, hoping to find a hiding spot. They were soon joined by Falathir, who crooned that their pursuers had been, strangely, lost. The night elf did not question it and nodded. He bade the sabre to take them to an empty chamber where they allowed themselves to relax. Jaou breathed a sigh of relief and dismounted from Ganymede as Falathir took up a perch on the pommel of his saddle.

“I guess we aren’t going home quite yet,” Jaou muttered to himself. He looked around the chamber aimlessly, yet he started to get chills running down his spine. He was not sure why, but he looked back to Falathir and Ganymede. The owl and sabre were flying and running at him, yet he was unsure of why. More of an oddity was the fact that they were not closing any distance between them. Jaou took a step forward, but as he did, the floor beneath him started to give way. He stepped back and the floor started to crumble there was well. The elf barely had any time to frantically look around before the ground beneath his feet was no more, and he was sent plummeting into the infinite abyss below.

His scream rang out into the great expanse, falling for what felt like forever. Then his body was jolted by the sudden impact of falling into water, or at least a substance that was like water. Jaou sunk down a metre or so into the liquid, before finding himself and floated upwards. He broke the surface with a gasp, immediately breaking into a coughing fit from swallowing the water. His first instinct was to find some ground, but as he desired it, he felt a solid surface suddenly appear beneath his being.

Jaou sat in the water, which was now only mere centimetres deep. He still coughed and hacked, with his lungs becoming sore from the convulsions. The night elf brushed aside his wet hair to get a sense of where he was now, but there was nothing in the abyss that his low-light vision could pick up. Am I alone here? he thought to himself.

“Falathir, Ganymede?” the elf called out.

There was no answer, but he had already suspected as such. Jaou got to his feet and took a few steps forward to start ascertaining where he was. It was then that a cacophony of noise assaulted his ears. He covered his ears, wincing from the sudden noise, but it soon died down to a more bearable level. The noise that surrounded the elf was a mixture of growls, hisses, and maniacal chortles. Jaou looked around, half in confusion and half in panic, and called out, “Who are you?!”

The din grew lower for a moment, and from out of the darkness came several figures: demons, all of them. The fel beings came in the myriad of species found in the Burning Legion’s forces, but there were some familiar faces, faces the ranger found dread in. There was Gazheel, the tothrezim that had caught and experiemented on Jaou when he was lost on one of the demonic worlds; Xarathor, one of the dominant satyrs of the Jadefire clan; Ran’Shali, one of Xarathor’s advisors and alchemists that created satyr-hounds; Taur, another Jadefire satyr, a rogue that had a perverse sense of humor; and then there was Morvai, the blood-red satyr that sewn terror throughout the night elven holdings of Kalimdor, and who was still possibly at large.

Jaou’s heart was now racing, but there was no clear escape, he was utterly surrounded. The demons began to advance and crowd towards him. “Stay back!” he shouted. He went to reach for his weapons, but Jaou found himself unarmed. The ranger was prepared to breach the throng of demons, however futile it may have been, but the mass of demons stopped only some metres away from the single elf. Their halting baffled Jaou, he was vastly outnumbered, but then he noticed they were merely watching him.

The liquid he was standing in suddenly lit up, washing everything in light, but it was a sickly green glow. Jaou was standing in fel liquid. An audible gasp escaped the night elf as he came to the realization that the 'water' he had fallen into was actually a fel-infused substance. Various demons started to snicker at the ranger as they watched him, and Jaou started to feel like he was burning from the inside. A familiar pain began to relentlessly assault his being. No, no, no, no! Not again, I can't! he frantically thought to himself. He wanted to run, to escape whatever hell he was in, but he just doubled-over from agony.

Jaou's body started to grow in mass, his armour began to tear and fall apart, and even his prosthetic started to change with him. Jaou caught a glance of his hands, that were now actively changing into a vicious set of claws, and his prosthetic was becoming more imposing in nature. The skull-splitting migraine he was experiencing was only a sign of the horns that were sprouting form his head, growing long and curving back. As Jaou went through the unstoppable changes, he could feel the sensation of a tail thrashing about as he tried to fight through the pain.

The cries of pain he let out only fed the furor of the gathered demons around him, and as their din intensified, so did the metamorphosis. The ranger's gasps became snarls and growls as he felt his legs reshape themselves; his toes merged into cloven hooves, and his feet lengthened to suit his changing form. Fur sprouted all over his body, and as the metamorphosis came to an end with a final wave of agony, the satyr let out a thunderous roar.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Jaou suddenly woke up in a cold sweat and a shout in surprise, thrashing in a fit of disorientation. The kaldorei flung his sheets from his being, but in his panic, he managed to fall upside-down off of his bed and onto the floor next to a still-sleeping Ganymede and Falathir. Amazingly, the ruckus he caused was largely ignored by the two, with Ganymede only shifting slightly in his sleep.

Jaou sighed, and as he did after such vivid nightmares before, he looked around his surroundings to make sure it was indeed a dream. I'm home. I'm still home. He placed his right hand over his chest, noting that it was still palpitating quickly. Jaou let himself slide down completely to the floor into a laying position. With his hands over his head, the ranger stared at the ceiling for a moment. His nightmares were always worse when there was a disruption in his medication; Jaou needed to become more disciplined with his prescriptions. And now I get to spend who knows how long awake and not sleeping.

The ranger held up his right hand to see, that the nightmare was indeed just a dream. A normal kaldorei hand and claws, nothing out of the ordinary. Though it felt like he was a satyr for ages, in truth it was only some years that he lived as one. Granted those years saw many changes in him, speaking volumes of the destructive force of the fel. Yet now his life had become strangely normal; normal was still so bizarre for him. Jaou slowly got up and crawled back into his bed. Despite the fact he could very well stay up for some time, the ranger took in a deep breath and closed his eyes again.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Howls filled the air in the forest as the moon was reaching its zenith in the skies above. The flurries had stopped, simply leaving a clear night sky and a perfect blanket of snow in Ashenvale. Jaou was still sleeping inside his cabin, covered in heavy blankets, though his animal companions had been more active than the night elf. Ganymede and Falathir came back from outside, using the hatch in the den, and shook off the snow that clung to their hides before entering the area that was covered in a rug. Falathir fluttered to Jaou, landing upon the outermost throw and settling down on her humanoid parent. Ganymede on the other hand took to a more disruptive show of affection. The sabre cat rested his head on the bed, bringing his snout close to the ranger's face, before letting out a loud huff. The elf in turn let out a soft groan and turned in the blankets, staying asleep. Falathir adjusted with Jaou's movement, but let out a coo at the sabre. Ganymede continued undeterred and started to paw at the top edge of the sheets, though being careful to not draw out his claws.

Jaou stirred increasingly as Ganymede sought for the kaldorei to wake up, but it was ever so comfortabe in his bed, and he still felt tired. However, his sabre, for better or for worse, was stubborn in his efforts. As Ganymede redoubled with pawing at Jaou, there was a knock on the front door. Jaou got up from his slumber almost immediately, and looked at the door with confusion. Who would be at his door? As he got out of bed, Ganymede moved to the side, while Falathir stayed where she was, simply falling with the now-empty sheets. Jaou, still not properly dressed, used the peephole in the door to see who it was, and from what he was, it was a night elf with their riding sabre, though their back was turned to the door at that moment. Jaou unlocked the door and opened it.

“Yes?” asked the groggy ranger.

The visitor turned around and revealed themselves. It was a clean-shaven male kaldorei, dressed in a feathered cape and dark leather armour similar to Jaou's. His silvery hair was kept loose and hung down just past his shoulders. “Oh, sorry, did I wake you?”

“Irian?” It was one of Jaou's best friends and colleagues. They both worked as rangers for the Cenarion Circle for many years, and he was one of the few colleagues that helped support Jaou during the past years with his corruption. Jaou gestured to the inside of the lodge. “What brings you here?”

“Well, I'm going to be your sparring partner,” Irian replied as he looked around the cabin and entered, taking off his boots. His nightsabre followed inside, and Ganymede went to greet the other riding cat. “It's nice to see Faris and Gany still get along well with each other. Anyway, sorry I'm a few days early, but Ravenstar mentioned it in a letter, right? Or maybe it hasn't gotten here yet.”

“Yes, I got it yesterday, but he mentioned no names, so I wasn't expecting you.” Jaou closed the door and rolled the tiredness from his shoulder. He followed Irian in as his friend took a seat across from his bed. “I thought you would be on some missions.”

“I finished early, so I thought I would come by earlier,” Irian replied in a chipper tone. “I have to say though, not having you around to do scouting, patrols, and cartography is making it tough to even finish on time. The newbies still aren't exactly up to snuff when it comes down to it.”

Jaou lightly shrugged as he sat down on the bed, causing Falathir to shift to the side. “Well, it's always like that, considering I've been at it for longer than some of these new recruits have been alive for. Sorry I'm not there.”

Irian smiled and waved the apology away with a hand. “Nah, don't be. You're on medical leave, you need a break before you even think about coming back to work.” The smile on the ranger soon became an expression of puzzlement as he noticed Jaou fidgeting with his hands and having an uncertain expression upon his visage. “Is something wrong?”

The unkempt ranger took a moment to gather his thoughts. It was a noted difference in his character since his recovery, but Irian understood and remained patient and silent, waiting for Jaou to speak when he was ready.

“Well, it's actually about the break,” Jaou started. “I've been out of commission for years, officially speaking, but at least I still worked a bit as a satyr. I've been on actual medical leave since summer, and now it's nearly winter. It feels like the break is driving me crazy.”

“Maybe a case of boredom?”

“I'm not cut out for civilian life anymore it seems. This time is different from any other break I took, it feels like I'm only living a small part of my life.”

“Hey now, you've been through some rather unbelievable situations,” Irian reminded Jaou. “You still need to take it easy. If you didn't pursue Ravenstar about it so much, he wouldn't have made the training menus for you. Mental and physical health is important, and it takes time. If you push yourself too much, it won't be good for you.”

“It's been years since any real work.”

“I wouldn't say that. Even while you were a satyr, you still did work. Even if that weren't the case, it's extenuating circumstances,” said Irian, who waved a finger at Jaou. He then sat back with crossed arms. “Look, I know things are tame now, but this isn't really a break or a vacation. It's you getting better. What you been through, the transformation, the torture... it's hard, and you can't expect yourself to bounce back instantaneously. No offence, but for those years it was near non-stop conflict for you, and particularly severe, so now when peace comes along you're not sure how to deal with it.”

Jaou sat down with a pensive look, placing his hands together with interlocking fingers. “I suppose that could be true,” he replied. The more he thought about it, the more accurate Irian's assessment seemed. He was still recovering, right? It was not a break. But it still felt like a long time for him to be so... unproductive.

Irian quickly thought to change the topic away from such thoughts. It was important that Jaou felt like his life was continuing back to normality. “So, what have you been up to? You're still doing art and handcrafts? I think I saw some of your work in some shops here and there.”

“Ah, well,” Jaou started to say, rubbing the back of his head. “It gives me something to do during the resting periods, and when I'm bored. It keeps my mind off of things.”

“It's good to keep busy. Do you go into town often?”

“To put up my wares, help out with hunts and to get essentials,” explained the ranger. “There's only so much conversation i can make with Falathir and Gany, so it's nice to get out to Astranaar.”

“Oh yeah, I suppose most everyone is dealing with Deathwing,” Irian said, bringing a hand to his chin in thought. “He's been defeated though, just this past week.”

“Has he? That's good to hear. Sundar, Ashtalar, and Ashthiel went. I hope they're alright, but I think they'll be fine.”

“I'm sure they are. Hmm, have you heard anything from... um.... Sorry, I'm bad with names, it's Niashado, right?”

There was a name that still caused his heart to flutter. They had last met in Felwood, just after he had returned to Azeroth. While there were some bittersweet moments, it gladdened him that he was able to see her. After the shamaness had left to see to her duties, they kept in touch with letters. They managed to send a couple of letters each, before they stopped coming. Jaou had not heard from Niashado for quite some time, and he started to worry.

He contacted the Earthen Ring in case, but there was nothing heard of the events in Silithus, where she was posted; communications to the area had been tight at best, and cut off at worst, and even the Cenarion forces had a hard time with getting any information in the desert. The campaign she was in was finished for her while he was in a coma in Mount Hyjal, but her whereabouts were still unknown. Jaou was concerned for her well being. He had gone as far as contacting his colleagues in the Circle and other friends to keep an eye out for her.

“Nothing past the last letters,” replied Jaou. “I'm worried, but I have faith in her. She'll make it out fine.”

“Yeah, she's a tough one, from what you told me,” Irian said with a nod. “I believe you'll see her again.”

Jaou nodded, with a small smile, and then looked out of the window. “Late evening. Have you eaten yet?”

“No, but don't worry about me. I kind of dropped in on you, you're not even dressed yet so I don't want to impose.”

“It's nothing troublesome. I'm just going to start the fire and get started for the night.” Jaou grabbed a set of clothing from his drawers. “I've slept in too much this evening.”
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