Svetlaena

On the Ashen Beach

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This… isn’t supposed to happen.

 

It was hard for Svetlaena Ascent to even think for a moment before more coughing racked her body and sent shockwaves through her mind. The Sin’dorei lurched forward and caught herself on her hands and knees amongst sands rapidly being blanketed in ash. Her head was pounding, her eyes stinging and tearing over. Despite the efforts of her lungs to cleanse themselves, all she managed to do was hack some gray slime onto the beach.

 

Not like this.

 

Nearby, the priestess’s hippogryph Ipolit collapsed, breathing but utterly spent, twitching his singed wings every now and then. She watched him for a time to assure herself. Once confirmed, she set about trying to rise to her feet. Easier considered than done. Svetlaena’s head was spinning far too much. It wasn’t just the pain and suffocation, either.

 

She settled for simply kneeling there, falling ash sticking in her frayed hair, and staring back at the horrible beacon of war that the Horde had lit.

 

Not like this…

 

Within this burning ruin of the world tree a dark splotch of smoke amassed into the form of a storm crow as it propelled towards the Sin’dorei woman like a meteor, falling mere feet from her where she knelt. Sand, ash and cinder alike spilled in the area around them as the scent of smoke threatened to overwhelm her once more. As the disturbed debris once more began to settle, a silhouette of a druid stood where the crow had fallen. Standing about a head shorter than the average Kal’dorei female, the figure stood ready for martial combat; one hand held a shard of something, the other balled in a fist illuminated with a blue light. A familiar, wrathful tone of gravel greeted her after a hacking cough. “...I should have guessed... I should have known. Of all people to be spearheading this… atrocity

 

‘Atrocity’ was right.

 

She wanted to tell Vaedoras that, but of all the people on Azeroth, he was probably the least likely to believe her. He had seen her blazing hatred for his people first-hand; an inner fire born of past betrayals and lingering resentment, he himself had been burned by it more than once.

 

She wanted to say that she would have at least taken prisoners. She wanted to tell the druid how she’d tried to save as many as she could until the heat burnt the very air out of her lungs and forced her back for good. She wanted to say so very much, but all Svetlaena managed was more painful coughing fits, shaking her head and hoping the despair in her face and the burns on her skin said enough.

 

“Five years.” The druid growled, gripping on the shard that pulsed with brilliant shades of red as if feeding its owner’s rage. It cut into his skin, blood dropping into the ash-ridden sand. “For five years, I’ve known you a Monster. But She begged me to spare you. She said you could be saved.” Vaedoras began the first step of his march. “And I did, for Her. But what has it cost us? I should have done this a long time ago…”

 

“No. Syl...Sylvanas…” Svetlaena stammered out, trying to explain despite her scorched throat, beginning to realize just how vulnerable she was and just how enraged Vaedoras was.

 

If only She were here.

 

An attempt was made to stand. It failed. She fell back into a sit, reduced to trying to scramble backwards. The head-shaking became more frantic. “I didn’t… I-I wouldn’t… she’s…” And the strain was too much, the small priestess breaking into more coughing spasms, only broken up by the occasional ‘no’.

 

“You wouldn’t?” The rough, incredulous voice raised in indignation at the perceived lie.

 

“I wouldn’t!” Svetlaena spat back, finally with some conviction behind her voice, sounding nearly as rough as the druid in her current state.

 

He would normally have found this absurd, perhaps even laughed at her, but any sense of humor seemed burned with the tree and those within. He continued his grim march towards justice. “You’ve always been an opportunist, I assume those burns are from trying to steal more victims for your wretched sins. Too long have I stood idle, too many have suffered at your hands because of it. I have neglected my burdens from Elune for too long, may I remain forever damned for it.”

 

At this rate, he’d be upon her in moments and she had precious little strength left. The backwards flailing ceased. She raised a hand, realizing he was closing the gap far too fast and trying in vain to halt him. “I know what I’ve done,” her voice cracked, “I know what I am.” Eyes that burned struggled to focus on his to convey her honesty. “It isn’t this!”

 

“Is that so?” Short as he may be in comparison of his own people, he still towered over the priestess. Behind him his trail was marked by his own blood, that which stained the crystalline shard that he pointed at her. “This is your last chance to confess, Svetlaena Ascent. May Elune hear you and judge you accordingly.”

 

Cornered, guilt-ridden and at the peak of frustration, she slammed her fist into the sand beside her, “She won’t hear me. Nor will she hear you, nor did she hear them--” she gestured to the tree. “I saved as many as I could. She did nothing.

 

“Then I will serve in her place.” His natural fangs remained bared, the shard still poised to strike as a makeshift blade to deliver some supposed divine justice. “You expect me to believe you actually sought to save my people? After all your past crimes?”

 

Svetlaena’s defiance seemed to lose its fire; she lowered her head, and slowly shook it to answer him in the negative. “Of course not. Not after all we’ve been through together.” Her tone suggested that she was almost amused by the question. Almost.

 

It fell just short, too deflated and defeated to really embrace the irony as she typically did. “All I could think of was when my own city fell.” She just stared at the ground now, watching the ash accumulate. At least this way she could avoid the terror of that final moment if, or when, it came… and rob him of the satisfaction of seeing it in her eyes.

 

“A fate that you’ve now brought upon us.” The Druid’s fist surrendered its illumination, only to grab the woman’s chin and force her to look back up at him. “You and your abomination of a leader. She was one of yours in life, was she not?”

 

Svetlaena raised one of her weary, singed hands to grab at his wrist, but little else. She simply hadn’t the strength to pry him away or even tear out of his grasp. “She is no kindred of mine. Merely a shadow of it.” There seemed to be some hesitation to these words, but once they were said, it was replaced by the tiniest shred of relief.

 

“And yet you still march to her commands.” Vaedoras hissed as he kneeled, getting closer to her face.  “You’ve made this mistake before, with the brown orc. He destroyed a city, like your ‘Shadow’. He renewed conflicts that benefited none but his own ego-- as this one does, this wicked Windrunner and her designs. How do I know you truly regret it this time? What will you do to prove you have learned from your past, Svetlaena? Why should I believe that you can still meet salvation? Tell me, why are you worth sparing again?”

 

His increased proximity seemed to be fanning the faded inner flame of defiance, for she ceased to avoid his gaze once more, “What makes you think you have this right? We once agreed that we two are monsters, didn’t we?” Narrowing her stinging eyes, she continued, “This is beyond us both. You’ve no right to be talking like a paladin… nor do I have any defense for myself.”

 

“Because, I have the only thing Monsters like us seem to respect.” The Druid waved the now crimson shard where her gaze lingered before applying pressure on her entire jaw. “Might. You are right that we are both monsters forged in elven flesh-- cast from Elune’s graces for our sins. If she has truly turned a blind eye on us all this eve, then it is my time to do my proper duty as an apex predator and feed upon those like us. For the rest of my nights, I will seek out and hunt those who will prey upon the weak and innocent, as is my destiny-- endowed upon me at the hour of my birth when I claimed my first victim.” His voice was deathly calm, seething as the shard began its approach. His amber eyes never leaving his prey as he made her position painfully clear. “And yet, in my neglect of these burdens, I have caused far more suffering than if I had my fill. I see this now, Svetlaena… tonight's the night I accept my dark purpose as one of Elune’s Damned. Tonight I, Vaedoras Starshade, realize my true nature as an Apex Predator. And so I ask one final time, why should your final judgement not mark the start of this new era? Are you certain you have nothing more to say in repentance?”

 

The entire speech was so long-winded and bizarre that it assisted the priestess’s disorientation; it all eventually becoming a blur of his anger and a strange awareness of the silence that now hung in the air, outside of the sphere of Vaedoras’s crazed declarations. Previously one could hear the echoes across the water, cries of the doomed and dying… now there was nothing. The flames on Teldrassil didn’t roar quite as high now. The fire was finally running out of life to consume.

 

All this talk of predator and prey. She’d said similar things to Vaedoras, once, at a time when he had been at her mercy rather than the other way around. But this was amplified. Demented, even.

 

Or, perhaps, she had always sounded just as mad as he. Svetlaena wasn’t sure anymore.

 

“Do what you feel you have to,” she spoke with some strain from his grip on her, “if someone had tried to talk sense into me after Silvermoon fell, I wouldn’t listen either. I don’t blame you.” A deep breath. “But as someone who knows what I am, and what I am capable of, all I ask is that you answer me one question.”

 

The shard lingered within her peripherals, his harsh gaze seemingly unblinking. “...I will grant you this request. Speak.”

 

Her gaze is unwavering, despite the tightness in her throat. “Would I have allowed so many children to die that way?”

 

There was a silence between them, the shard close to her neck, ready to bleed her out at any given moment-- assuming the searing heat that seemed to radiate from it didn’t cauterize her wound. “Fair enough.” The improvised weapon retreated. “Pray that you are telling the truth, and if not… that I never learn of your deception. You are granted one final chance from the Damned of Elune that stands before you. My mercy is spent, this is my final favor to Her and you both. Use it wisely, for my wrath will not be spared a second time if I hear you so much as touch another one of mine inappropriately.” He released the woman, pushing her back into the sand as he stood. “Have I made myself clear?”

 

The wind knocked out of her, it took Svetlaena a moment to reply with a weak, “...yes.”

 

Physically and emotionally spent, the Sin’dorei made no effort to move from where she lay, watching the ashes that continued to drift down from above. So many things she thought to say, but none of them would help at this point, and she knew it.

 

With a sigh she settled on, simply, “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

 

“And yet we bask in the fruits of the pale’s efforts.” Starshade scoffed as he turned his back on the woman that lay in ash and sand. He retreaded his dread march, as if it were the only path that remained for him. “Tell Windrunner and those who follow to enjoy her little empire of ashes, we will not forget this day. These flames will spread to all your Horde holds dear, and from this divine retribution, the Kaldorei will once again flourish. This is nature’s way.”

 

When his foot finally touched where his march had begun, his form shifted back into the stormcrow, grasping that foreboding shard as he flew towards the east beyond the mountains to leave her to her thoughts.

Edited by Svetlaena
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