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Aruku

Moving Day

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((Takes place before the War of Thorns))

Gentle waves lapped up a short slightly pebbly beach, the small shallow passageway between the two islands deflecting any of the larger waves from the Veiled Sea. While there wasn't as much sand to run around on in this eastern inlet there were more things of interest to kids; like the scattered seashells, small crawlers in the water and tall hardy sea grasses lining the edge of the beach. Soft puffy clouds drifted lazily overhead, the sea was a muted aqua and the light refreshing scent of surrounding pines pleasant accented the salty breeze.

Schools of Red Snapper darted away from the herd of kids playing noisily in the water's edge as Aruku watched from shore, keeping a closer eye on the youngest toddler who was playing with some shells and rocks near the water's edge. Besides being closer to home and more entertaining to the kids, he'd chosen the less popular shore to avoid any of the local Draenei asking why there was a blood elf on Azuremyst. While they'd gotten permission for him to stay at home, it didn't mean the locals were comfortable with it. But the less they saw him, the less trouble there would be.

It had been a few weeks since Niala had helped him return from The House. Once away from the stresses of that place the young man had been able to eat more regularly and properly, regaining some strength and health. In that time he'd talked with Janala, his wife and finalized the plans for their family moving. The large sword that had gotten stabbed into Azeroth and the disturbances in nature Janala felt since then helped finally decide them on moving to Shattrath, off world. There were also rumors of tension between the factions flaring up again, making the neutral city even more of an appeal.

So Aruku stayed home, watching and caring for the kids which uplifted his heart whenever he started growing morose thinking back on certain irrefutable things the House had made more apparent about Baal'themar and Syreena. Meanwhile Janala took almost daily trips to the site they'd picked out, just up against Shattrath's outside walls in Terokkar Forest growing and shaping a tree to be their new home. He'd have to remember to write letters to his friends to inform them of the new house and ask for assistance with the move on moving day once it was ready.

Lightly shaking his head of the thoughts the redheaded blood elf turned and packed up the remainder of the picnic brought with them, which reminded him of all the packing they still needed to do at home. Getting the kids to pack their things was a chore in an of itself, but they'd done some so today was a treat-break from it.

Finished gathering up what he'd brought out with them the golden eyed elf turned, cupping his hands to his mouth and hollering to the kids, “Time t' pack up! We're goin' home!” As expected this was met with groaning and moaning about wanting to stay out longer and deliberately dragging feet as they made their way to shore. But Aruku didn't give in as he went to gather up Jess'an, the youngest from the shoreline. The rest of the kids went to their little collection piles of special pebbles, shells and other bits of treasures found at the beach, picking them up to bring home with them as mementos of their first home.

Several minutes of corralling later the herd and Aruku were headed through the sea grasses and into the pine forest. Things would work out better at the new place, they could have friends from both sides visit with ease and being so close to the major city Janala would be able to travel to Darnasses daily for her work and return home. And being so close to a Naaru, maybe Aruku could spend the time relearning the Light again. Optimistically Aruku escorted the kids home, the late afternoon sun coloring everything warmly and lighting the meadows in the thin forest. Off to the northwest out of the inlet, framed by the trees of Amenvale and Azuremyst Teldrassil glowed softly blue, reassuring in the horizon's haze.

((To be Continued))

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As with most such things everything had started out fine. Time had come around for the visit to the Exodar Sanjay had said he'd work on getting through for Aruku. As Janala was off in Outlands working on growing their new home that meant the young blood elf had brought along the entire entourage of half-breed children with him to visit, much to the dismay of his host Sanjay. Fortunately the human's working partner Ingrid, an easygoing dwarf lady was delighted by the additions.

Dropping the kids off at their friends was uneventful enough and allowed Aruku to pay attention when he was brought over and shown about the human monk's pride and joy in the Crystal Tier: 'The Sands of Time Healing Clinic.' Tucked in a back corner it was a modest establishment but homey. It wasn't long before the blood elf had been introduced to most the workers and had waded in with Sanjay to lend a hand, having some casual.... ok, maybe not so casual conversation. But before the talk could get more awkward and uncomfortable...

Sanjay!” Ingrid cried as she burst into the room, looking panicked. “There’s been an attack in Kalimdor! The Horde is marching on Darkshore!”

Those words marked the end of the pleasant trip, and the beginning of working full shifts along with the others in the clinic as they received injuries that couldn't be taken care of out in the field. Sanjay left to go to the warfront, leaving Ingrid in charge. Temporary beds and rooms were set up outside and still there was concern of not having enough space to handle it if things got worse. Everyone in the city was pitching in in their own ways, even the older kids were being sent on tasks and given responsibilities around the Exodar. Aruku's wife, Janala had returned to Darnassus and was doing work she could what with being in the late stages of her pregnancy. Mostly giving orders and handling the Shadowblade family's organization to this crisis, or at least that's what Aruku understood of it.

 


The week rushes by at a blinding speed. Injured soldiers and civilians run through the clinic like a river of blood, and in the thick of the tide stand Aruku, Ingrid, and Vemynisa. Ingrid mostly operates on her own, leaving Aruku and the Draenei woman to work together most of the week. She’s quiet mainly, and her thoughts seem preoccupied. Yet she always seems strangely close to Aruku. Every so often their hands brush against one another and she rushes to hide her blushing face. When she does speak to him, she always seems out of breath and flustered.

Between treating the injuries, grabbing bites to eat here and there and the tiredness at the end of the long shifts, Aruku couldn't find a good time to ask Vemy about her shy reactions to him. His golden eyes ask questions but there never seems to be a free moment to put voice to it.

When a full week has passed, Vemy finds Aruku in the break room with a roll of paper in hand. “I have something for you,” she says.

Hearing her words and seeing the paper his heart jumped in his chest. He'd nearly forgotten his pass here was only for a week, was this an order for him to leave? Worried he raised his golden eyes to meet the draenei lady's, "Is it good, or bad news?"

"That depends on you. I spoke with the ambassador's office, and convinced them to extend your visit indefinitely to assist with wartime treatments." She hands him the scroll, sealed with the pink and gold seal of the Prophet. Her hand lingers by his a moment before she promptly retreats a couple steps.

The thin man's eyes grow big as he looks at the seal then up at her. Questions come out as incredulity and relief fight for space on his features, "I can stay?" The rhetorical inquiry was quickly followed by, "You did this for me?"

 

Vemy opens her mouth, closes it, then clears her throat and says, “I did it for the sick and wounded of this war. They need your help — our help.”

 

While he might not be quick on other things, social things he was decent at. Giving Vemy a soft smile despite the tiredness from the long week of work he took the few steps over to her and gave her a quick, strong hug of thanks. "Yer a nice gal, ya know that?"

 

Vemynisa freezes at the embrace. Her face flushes a deep blue color, which she tries to hide with her facial tentacles. "You...you're not bad," she manages with a cough.

 

Giving one final squeeze he lets her go, a hint of mischief twinkling in his eyes as he looks up at her. "Thanks cutie."

 

Her blush transcends embarrassment. This time she reaches out to pat his cheek. “It—it was my pleasure,” she says awkwardly before clopping out of the break room.

 

Smiling after the nice lady (and view) exiting the room he took a seat, happy she had willingly touched him at last without moving away. Breaking the seal open on the paper he read over it, more of a formality since Vemy had told him what was inside already. At least something good had happened.

Edited by Aruku

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Things continued that way for some time. The routine changed when Sanjay returned with the new patients and healers. The clinic exploded in size and began to resemble a true hospital, albeit with few real walls or beds. Though it was easy to get lost in the tangled mass of wounded, sick, and healers, Aruku found himself constantly working alongside Vemynisa. Every day they grew more in-sync, able to assist one another with barely a word spoken between them. The Draenei spoke to the elf freely about nearly anything, and was an attentive listener when Aruku spoke.

While Aruku didn't seem to think the near constant presence of Vemy was odd, he did end up opening up and relaxing around her more, acting more his normal self. That came with both raunchy jokes, casual flirting & talk of his family, at least as far as she was comfortable with.

 

One of their break conversations over hot beverages; coffee for Vemy, tea for Aruku; turns to baking plans to treat the staff. Both of them have spouses who are hazards in the kitchen so it'd be a nice change of pace to make food with someone else... and maybe afterwards they can enjoy one another's company in a different way.

Before more plans are made Sanjay bursts into the room, clenching his jaw with iron strength. “Those damn maniacs...you two haven’t heard yet, have you?” He glances between the two, his eyes stern and angry, but underneath the anger there lies something Aruku has never seen in Sanjay before.

 

Fear.

 

Puzzlement and worry showed on the thin man's face, and by the lack of reaction it was evident before he even spoke that he hadn't heard. "What happened?" While his mind flew through several thoughts he wasn't about to presume what it might be yet.

 

It’s Teldrassil,” the monk says, “The Horde set fire to it. The entire tree is ablaze.”

 

Vemynisa gasps. She puts a hand over her mouth. “By the Naaru...”

 

Aruku stared blankly at Sanjay for a long moment, his mind refusing to grasp what the words meant. Teldrassil couldn't be completely on fire, it was giant! When Sanjay's expression didn't change his golden eyes grew wide in alarm and he spun to dash for the door. While recklessly speeding off he dug out his hearthstone, trying to reach his wife in Darnassus to let her know if she didn't already.

 

Sanjay sidesteps, still cursing under his breath. Vemynisa leaps to her hooves and races after the elf. "Aruku!" she calls after him, "I--I think we're going to need you even more now..." She fidgets nervously.

 

Too wrapped up in the panic of trying to make sure his wife was alive and safe, and needing to see this with his own eyes the blood elf bolted out of the clinic and across the Exodar. It seemed everyone was still in a bit of shock at the news so he managed to exit unhindered, panting as he passed through the bits of wall around the city till he could get a view of Teldrassil. Already there was dark smoke making a smudge on the sky in that direction, under lit by an angry orange light. He wasn't the only one out here either. Others had come out to stare in horrified disbelief to the north east. Men, women, young, old, all were gathered in an eerie quiet vigil only broken by sobbing here and there.

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Lor'Danel was falling, the last defense before the Horde reached Teldrassil. Pressing her lips together grimly the green haired night elf surveyed the map and markers of her family's assets. People, goods, equipment, knowledge stores; it was too much to move at once but if they could just move things that couldn't be taken now into hiding, they could be retrieved under the noses of the Horde during occupation of the city. Her people were skilled at that. Snapping out orders and arranging plans to the best of her ability she sent clan members out of the hidden burrows with missives, knowing they were racing against time with their lives on the line.
 

Not enough time, never enough time. Janala felt like she was always trying to beat time; first in her own life, then in her husband's life, now for all of her clans' family's' lives. She'd won the first two of those, now...

There was a little shudder in the ground under her feet. It'd not been long enough, by her estimations only the most essential things had been moved and non-essential family members should just be packing up or heading out now. Looking about the empty burrow alcove she slowly walked out, her pregnancy slowing her down. She should be leaving soon as well, once everyone had their orders. Giving a little harrumph at the idea of having to use a beast for transportation instead of shifting forms as she usually did the young lady rubbed her rounded abdomen, smiling softly as she murmured reassurances to the baby girl within.

Up ahead she could hear running, stumbling footsteps coming towards her. Frowning Janala started at her slow pace up the passageway, stopping when she saw a panicked mother and child round the bend. These clan members were not the ones she expected to see.

“Teldrassil...” gasps out the other lady, tears welling up in her eyes. “It's burning! We... we're trapped!” Hugging her young child tightly she trembled.

Pursing her lips Janala tried to stay calm, someone had to have a cool head here. “We will exit the burrow and get the nearest Hippogryph, there should...” she was cut off by the other lady's wail.

“No, we're trapped, in the burrow! Fire's everywhere outside, in the entrance...” Shaking her head she sobbed, already the smell of smoke was drifting down from the passageway up.

 

Violet skin blanched in color as understanding set in. Placing a hand on the other lady's back she rubbed and asked softly, “Honey, is anyone else in here with us?” A 'no' shake of the head was the reply given. Options were quickly becoming slim.

 

Awkwardly standing there trying to soothe one of her subordinate's and her crying child Janala had many thoughts running through her mind. There was one way out but it wouldn't take all of them, even this small of a group. Selfishly she had wanted to use it for herself to get out just before the Horde came in. It'd take her to her home on Azuremyst, where she could be with her children and her loving husband. Her eyes softened as she thought of them and him, then looked down at the two next to her. She knew what Aruku'd do, crazy as it was. And she knew how he'd feel if he knew she didn't try to save these two when she saved herself.

Giving a sad little smile Janala settled heavily next to the pair with a little 'ooopf,' taking and drawing their hands into her own. “Do not cry, everything is going to be alright sweeties.” With one hand the druidess reached into a bag at her side, withdrawing a hearthstone. “This is not set to Darnassus, this will take you to my home on Azuremyst.”

 

I.. we couldn't you're Head of...”

“Shhhh,” Giving the two a reassuring smile she placed the stone into the middle of their joined hands, “We will just see how many it can take at once, perhaps Elune will bless our trip.” With a deep breath she made up her mind. Please Elune, let this work. “Be sure to hold on tightly, ok?”

 

When she'd gotten nods of agreement and saw hope in their eyes the three of them held onto the hearthstone, practically covering its surface with their hands. Smoke wafting in thickened as Janala traced the rune to activate the teleportation device, a soft green glow issuing forth from between the group's hands. Reaching out it enveloped them, whisking away to safety those who had previously been without hope.

 

As the green glow disappeared, only Janala was left behind in the otherwise empty burrow corridor. Gently lowering her hands onto her rounded stomach she began to sing softly, strangely at ease with her fate but still mourning for her child to be.

 

You had your whole life ahead

And that I took away from you

Was it selfish of me to decide this

To save lives precious to another?

 

I wish I could have shown

the joys and wonders of the world to you

Held your perfect little hands in mine

and shared in your triumphs as you grew.

 

But it shall never pass now

so to you I give a lullaby,

a story of the place where

we lived and shall die.

 

In purity, all things are born.
The eldest tree was once a tender sapling,
And even the stars were young.
O Lady Elune,
Weep tears so sweet
At the thought of the innocence
That once was ours.

The huntress' horn has sounded!
To battle, it calls us now,
To the defense of all we hold dear:
This city,
This well of the moon,
This soft song of the evening breeze.
it calls us,
And we answer.

The jewel of our city
Lies within their craven grasp.
One last time, we shall stand.
One final act, we shall perform
By the light of the moons,
By the flash of our blades,
By the song of our arrows,
We shall triumph--
Or we shall fall.

The tree has fire for leaves
And skeletons for branches
And its roots feed only upon
The ashes of the dead.
The winds that sigh through it now are the cries of the dying
And this daughter,
This lament
For horrors unspeakable,
For cruelty unimaginable,
For this life and the beauty and the grace that once were
And shall never be again.

By the moons' glow, listen.
Beside the river, listen.
Holding those you live, listen:
To the cries of the dying,
To the whisper of the wind over the silent dead,
To the song my broken heart will ever sing
Of the story of the Tree of the World
And the death of all the dreams
It once cradled in its mighty boughs.

-----------------------------------------------

Edited by Aruku

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The Exodar:

 

At last there was a response on his hearthstone, an unfamiliar woman's smoke-roughened voice gave a quivering reply. "Are you, Aruku?"

 

"Yes, where's Janala?!"

 

A pause, then, "I'm... I'm sorry. We got trapped in the burrows. My child and I, she shared her hearthstone with us. We all tried to use, but she didn't... make it."

 

Janala's hearthstone had been set to their home, here on Azuremyst. The bottom dropped out of his previously clenched stomach, leaving him feeling cold and alone. They were gone, his wife and his unborn daughter both.

 

"... Hello?"

 

It took him a long moment to regain enough composure to reply, voice thick with emotion, "Thank you, for letting me know."

 

Long ears wilted and shoulders drooping he stared at what was now the funeral pyre for two of his loved ones, along with many other unfortunates. Some time later his kids found him, having come up to see as well. They all hugged one another, a small family group among the crowd of many.

 

"Where's mom?" One of them asked timidly, afraid of the answer.

 

Looking at the kids surrounding him the young man swallowed his feelings, forcing them to the back and locking them away. Vemy was right, he was going to be needed even more right now. They all were. "Don't worry, I'm sure she's fine. She's a druid, she can fly, remember?" Forcing a smile he tried to reassure the kids and keep them calm. Once they weren't needed for the injuries coming from Darnassus, then they could mourn. "But there's gonna be a lot of people from the big tree who'll need our help, so let's go back inside and start, aye?" Giving each a kiss and hug he went back inside with them, dropping them off on the way to the clinic.

 

When he came back the elf was no longer smiling. Instead a subdued, grim person returned and went quietly to work, eyes hollow with pent up loss.

 

Finishing his shift with Vemy he saw her off, then went back in to keep working. Sanjay seemed to have the same idea. The monk had not left the hospital since he returned to the Exodar, and had worked through several assistants in the whirlwind days since. He adopted Aruku during nightly rounds and forced a cup of tea into the elf’s hand.

 

If you intend to stay and you wish to be useful, you will drink that and steel yourself,” he says.

 

Aruku didn't balk and simply drank the tea, not noticing the taste at all. "Alright." He couldn't sleep anyways. Being assistant to Sanjay kept him occupied and they worked together in quiet accord. It was like a grim test of stamina between the two as they settled into a work rhythm.

 

Working their way through the next few days without sleep and only taking breaks for necessities the pair efficiently treated as many victims and refugees as they could; mostly those folk from Teldrassil or near it who had gotten 'lucky' in escaping via means other than the portal to Stormwind. Azuremyst was the nearest safe port for anyone without teleportation.

 

It was dawning on the third day after the tragedy when the thin blood elf finally collapsed between one step and the next, having driven himself to his limits. Strain lined his face even while unconscious, leaving him looking worn out and used up.

 

With all the beds in the clinic and its overflow area filled it ended up being Vemy who took the exhausted young man home and put him in bed there. With her husband gone there was plenty of room for a scrawny elf and between her shifts she took care of him too.

-----------------------------------

 

Resting he might be in bed but Aruku's mind was fitful, struggling to make sense of everything that had happened.

 

The Horde set fire to Teldrassil, a World tree. Those damn stupid orcs, those hateful undead. Why had no one stopped it? Why had no one stood up? What had the Tauren been doing with all their Earthmother talk? The blood elves should have known destroying a magical world tree was bad! Even the goblins should have recognized that Teldrassil was more profitable existing than being ashes! …. did those in the Horde he had counted as friends, had they been part of this? Had people he'd healed been the cause of this suffering? Even unprovoked, the Horde would attack and kill. They might as well be The Grim.

 

He could feel bitterness replacing the emptiness inside of him, that once had held such love for everyone and everything. Was this how the world had always been, and the Light had just made him blind to it? Without Janala he alone had to raise all these kids; find a way to support, feed and clothe them. Bitterness sparked anger, helplessness turned into frustration. Without magical talent, physical prowess or mental sharpness how was he supposed to do that? Alchemy made some gold, but all the best herbs were in dangerous places.

 

And worst of all he looked like a Horde.

 

Aruku was almost tempted to fix that by embracing the Void but some lingering bit of self preservation kept him from doing it. With the state of mind he was in he'd be lost to it immediately. Driven with no goal he rose, mechanically taking his hearthstone to set up a place for his kids to be taken care of while he lost himself in trying to find a new path to follow, a reason to continue.

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