The Wolf Path

--by Shingetsu

((Original thread here))

A light breeze stirred the hair that hung down over his eyes. Eves well accustomed to the land of Elwynn stretching before them. He bent his neck to look up at the sky through the Tree's boughs. He'd already made the decision, but he couldn't see to the other side of it yet. He placed a hand on a root that twisted from the trunk and down into the ground. The Tree's energy seemed to suffuse his hand. It's strength was well on the way to returning. It might never be again what it had been, but it would not risk fading away any longer.

There would still be trials on it's path though. Zahress would have to surpass many obstacles before he became complete. Laynne would likely always flit about like grease on a hot skillet. There was no telling how Korena might react when Zahress decided the deadline for their courtship had arrived. They would all stumble from time to time, and some would fall, but at least the path would go on for awhile now.

He placed his other hand on a small mound of bare dirt. Even now grass refused to grow there. Below the soil was Durgaraf's armor, and the broken pieces of the uloph-talah. A pitiful end to a tragic spirit... marked without ceremony or call, just a small patch of land and an unmarked mound. The ghost of it would ever haunt him, but at least he was free now.

Silver-blue eyes closed and it took a deep breath in through his nose. It wouldn't be long now...

Some hours later, as Winter's End has gathered for it's weekly meeting...

((This is all taken from the log, so there's no refuting what happened!))

Eyes closed he rested with his back against the trunk of a tree by the stream. The sounds of the stream lapping on the rocks, the smells of grass and friends, the feel of breeze in his hair... He could hear the others talking about something or other, something about gliding and leaves, but his focus was turned inward for the most part. After a few moments the breeze brought a familiar scent more strongly to him and his hears could just pick up the soft footfalls on the pebbly grass-covered ground.

It wasn't until Laynne stopped right next to him and sat down that he popped open an eye to look at her. "Hm?"

Her whisper was quiet, intent on privacy, and she kept her eyes on the sky above. "I admire you. I always have... Durgaraf, you... What you have been through. The strength you have... It is astounding." She smiled up at him and he gave her a grin in return.

Shingetsu closed his eye again and whispered back his reply after a few moments of silence. "I thank you for your compliment, but you know I cannot stay..."

"I wish you could. I want you to."

"I've done what I can he-"

He was interrupted as she whispered suddenly. "Shingetsu? I believe that... I... Am in love with you." The rogue's eyes popped open and blinked at her and he forgot to whisper his response. "...Oro?"

Laynne smirked at his reaction and let out a playful giggle. "Got your attention, didn't I?"

He grinned back at her. "I suppose you did at that."

They sat in silence for a few moments and then Laynne placed her hand over his quietly. The wolf's hand dwarfed hers but made no move to reject her gesture. "You are a good friend." He smiled down at her, seeing she was lost in her thoughts.

"I do what I can... I might have stayed if things were different, but I belong elsewhere."

"Is that the only way?"

"There are many ways, many paths. There always have been and always will be. My way is diverged from this group's however. I have walked this path long enough to see Winter's End safely along it and now I must return to my own way, for the time being." He caught a glimpse of of Laynne's sad eyes before Zahress's needless loud voice called his attention.

"Well...oh, hey, Shingetsu. Some guardsmen were looking for someone earlier this week to help them out with some dwarf problem."

"Ah, I thought you might be behind that..." The rogue grinned at the youth.

"Ah, they found you then. Good."

Korena looked at Zahress in puzzlement. "Why'd you send them to Shingetsu?"

Laynne retorted: "'cause Shingetsu has ACTUAL muscle!" She cringed, smiled at the youth and then whispered back to Shingetsu. "I feel, somehow, that I am losing you."

He whispered back, splitting the conversations. "We may walk different paths but our destination is the same."

Zahress glanced up and down the river, then looked to Korena. "Oh...they needed someone to...yeah, what Laynne said." Shingetsu gave a wolfish grin to the youth who nodded in casual agreement.

"What did they need taken care of?" asked Korena.

Zahress explained. "...something about Blackrock. I was a bit distracted at the time." and Shingetsu soon answered. "The military is somehow confused. They seem to believe they need Kal'dorei strength to shield them from the Dark Irons. As Zahress was unavailable, they came to me, and I naturally reminded them that this sort of thing is the very purpose of the military."

It was at this time that Priestess Aroral arrived and quietly sat down so as not to disturb the conversation. Korena didn't delay with her reply. "You could've sent them to -me-, you know."

Zahress snapped his head around to stare at Shingetsu. "You sent them off alone?"

Shingetsu shrugged in response. "We all have paths and burdens, Zahress. If the military chooses to rely on adventurers and the like to carry them down their path, then how will they walk it when the time comes for them to carry their own weight."

Zahress gritted his teeth at Shingetsu's explanation, arms flexing briefly, then releases a sharp breath and looks away. Shingetsu looked at the youth for a few more moments before turning his neck to see the Priestess sitting behind him. He smiled and nodded at her "Greethings."

Aroral smiled back at Shingetsu and said "Hello..."

Laynne then blinked as if in sudden realization and released Shingetsu's hand. She whispered quickly, "Wouldn't want to ruin chances with the lady-friend." and winked at him.

Shingetsu grinned wolfishly down at her and replied in the same whisper, "There is no lady-friend" Then, in his normal gravelly volume he said, "In either case..." as he rose to his feet. He pulled a silver broach from a pouch on his belt and a glittering green stone from his hearth stone. He then handed these, his guildstone and the badge of a member of the Council, to Laynne. "It appears it is time for me to return to my own path."

Laynne blinked at him, taking the broach gently and watching him carefully. A round of "What?" soon reverberated from those sitting around them.

"Leaving us to find our own way, brother?"

The wolf replied to Zahress. "I came back to Winter's End because you were experiencing a troubled time. That time has passed, and there are those that are lost, those off any map and long forgotten. They need someone to help them."

Maitana looked sadly at Shingetsu, "Will you visit?"

Shingetsu turned to Mai. "Who's to say where one's feet are liable to take them..."

Zahress replied, "Well-meaning vagabond..." While Maitana nodded. Shin gave them both a wicked grin.

Laynne glanced up at Shingetsu, "I have said my bit... You know how I feel of this." And he nodded back to her.

"You apparently have methods to reach me if need be. I may not be on your path, but I am still your friend."

Korena looked down, scuffing her toes through the dirt as she muttered under her breath. Maitana said "That is good to know...but you will be missed." and he gave her a smile.

"Must you go -now-?" asked Laynne. "Like... -right- this very moment? You cannot stay... Until this meeting is finished?"

"I can delay the night I suppose..." he answered.

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