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Saphiara

Forgiveness

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The ruins of Azsuna were a place of palpable sadness, especially for her people. The weight of history was heavy here, a reminder of the fact that her ancestors had nearly destroyed the world, and of the price others had paid attempting to stop it. An entire city of ghosts, trapped reliving their final days in an endless cycle of misery. She wondered if there was a way to release them from their torment.

For now, she contented herself with hunting naga. Her most recent foe collapsed under Elphorus's weight, its scales ripped by the tiger's razor sharp claws. She took the opportunity for a breath to recover, glancing around the area for any naga attempting to ambush her.

She froze at the sound of a pebble being kicked, ducking behind a collapsed wall and signaling Elphorus to slip into the shadows. It was a moment before she realized that a naga couldn't kick anything - there was someone else here. She closed her eyes, allowing her perceptions to slip into Elphorus's, seeing the world through his eyes. It left her body vulnerable, but the area should have been cleared of enemies for long enough to scout.

The tiger slinked into the ruins, sniffing the air to track his prey. There! It slinked closer, until with a rush of alarm Saphiara pulled him back and returned her sight to her own eyes. She took her sword in hand, hoping that the presence of someone wearing a purple and gold tabard was simply a coincidence and not a hunting party.

Sanctuary had arrived.

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One day earlier

Vilmah trudged through Orgimmar. Having visited the contracting office to learn the procedures that the Horde used to do background checks on their grunts and peons, she discovered that their department was not only inefficient but inept as well. She traded insults with one of their supervisors before being given an armful of paperwork to go through. Dumping it all into one of her enchanted bags, with her jaw in an irritated grimace, she walked through the once familiar streets of a city that felt completely alien to her.

Eventually, she walked into the Valley of Honor. Dressed in her plate mail, she seemed like most of the other warriors, despite her size. Without her helmet, her long purple hair and brownish skin was recognizable enough, so in Orgrimmar she went without. Many of the orcs gave her a salute as she walked by, which she returned begrudgingly. As she approached the warrior training area, a sound caught her attention. Steel against steel, grunting. A hand instinctively went to the handle of her sword, but she did not draw the blade. Before her, in a small patch of dirt, was a circle of orcs. They surrounded two warriors; one, a young male with two blades the size of his wrists, and the other an older orc with a missing eye. The one eyed orc held a single blade in his hand, and although his opponent was fully armored, he was mostly bare chested.

Vilmah watched curiously as the two orcs circled each other. She nodded at one of the bystanders, a blacksmith in a heavily charred apron. “What’s going on?”

“Some pup challenged Blademaster Ronakada,” the orc laughed, grinning with a missing tusk. “Two swords are better than one, he said.”

The orcess felt her eyelid twitch with irritation. Having trained in combat using only a single blade, she watched the Blademaster for the same cues her own teachers gave her. The use of a single blade, she was told, was a study in patience. To wait for the perfect opportunity and strike when necessary. Recently, Vilmah found it difficult to be patient in this way, but Blademaster Ronakada had no such trouble. He stood perfectly still, and waited for the match to begin.

“One… two… three…” An orc called nearby. “Go!”

The younger warrior ran for Ronakada, his twin blades glistening in Orgimmar’s blistering sun. He leapt for the older orc, a battle cry on his lips, and swept both blades toward his opponent.

Ronakada took one step to the left, and drew his sword.

The butt of his weapon hit the other orc squarely in the jaw. Ronakada used this moment to turn the blade, and push its sharp end against the younger warrior’s throat.
The fight was over in less than ten seconds.

A cheer went through the crowd, and Ronakada was hailed as the victor. Humiliated, the other orc grunted in defeat, but Ronakada pat him on the shoulder. “Quality over quantity, pup. Do not forget that.”

The calm manner in which Ronakada spoke after the fight filled Vilmah with a sense of wonder. How was it possible, she wondered, for any orc to be so collected in the face of blades flying at them? Most of the warriors she was taught by put an emphasis on rage. This one seemed to do the opposite. In a way, he reminded her of Nojinbu. The troll’s abandonment of his rogue lifestyle in pursuit of peace as a monk had gifted him with a certain grace that she did not understand.

After the crowd cleared, she walked to the Blademaster’s training area.

“Blademaster Ronakada?” She asked, approaching him. Respectfully, Vilmah removed her helmet.

The older orc looked up with one eye and regarded the warrior with a glance. “Yes?”

“My name is Vilmah Bloodborne,” she said, helmet at her side. “I saw you fight outside.”

Ronakada grunted. “You and every other orc out there. What about it?”

“The way you fight,” she began, looking for the right words. “It’s… I mean, it’s different. I was trained in the arms style, one blade. It was always my preferred way of fighting, until I took up the shield. But I was taught to utilize my rage. You don’t seem to do that at all.”

The Blademaster shook his head, folding his arms across his chest. “It’s a misconception. Some of our kind uses rage to intimidate. That is not the case with me.”

“Why not?”

Ronakada grinned. “Because I do not need to.”

Vilmah paused, then took a step forward. “Teach me.”

The other orc blinked. “What?”

“Teach me,” she repeated, patting her sword. “I’m a warrior. I use a single blade. I'm obviously never going to intimidate anyone, so I need to know how to do what you do.”

Ronakada grunted and waved a hand. “You’re a seasoned warrior. Already fighting on the isles, from the looks of it. What the hell would you want to learn from me for?”

“Because I have to get better, and my emotions are in the way,” she explained, removing one of her gauntlets. Vilmah exposed her mechanical arm to the Blademaster, it’s metal reflecting their faces.

Realization came to Ronakada’s face when he saw the arm. “…I know who you are. You are the one they put in the fighting pit. The one they said was plotting to kill the Warchief, years ago. I heard you tore someone's throat out with your teeth.”

Vilmah looked away, shame in her face. “I gave my life for Thrall. I still do,” she added, holding up the arm. “I may have one that fight, but I lost my arm. I can’t lose my head.”

The Blademaster was silent in his reflection. Turning his back to Vilmah, he sighed. “I can hear desperation in your voice. You have unfinished business. A weight is in you, and it has to be lifted before I can teach you anything.”

“What sort of weight?”

“Guilt,” Ronakada answered, turning back to her. “You feel guilt over something, and until you learn to forgive, you will never win this battle.”

Vilmah pursed her lips. There was guilt, and there was fear.

“When you can learn to forgive, come back,” the Blademaster said, folding his arms. “I will teach you, Bloodborne, but you have to be willing to do exactly as I say.”

 

 

The next day, Vilmah rode through Azsuna. She remembered Ronakada’s words, and tried to think of a time when she was not burdened by her memories. The early years of Sanctuary, when she and Nojinbu rode together through Stranglethorn Vale, or when she and Grisch spoke of the glories of the Horde to come. Before Garrosh Hellscream, before the blaze. She cursed herself and kicked Edmund’s sides, urging the wolf-dog on.

He stopped suddenly, startling Vilmah from her thoughts as he sniffed the ground.

“What the.. Edmund? What is it?”

Something in front of them moved.

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Vilmah. One of the least subtle members of a traditionally unsubtle organization. Perhaps she was simply serving as a set of eyes to search over a large area, but that would require Sanctuary to even know she was present in Azsuna, much less the Broken Isles. No, the odds were much better this was simply a coincidence. Still, better to be cautious than captured. She prepped a special grenade just in case things turned sour.

"It would be a tiger." She stepped up on top of the ruined wall. With the sun behind her, the height, an ally, and the ability to switch to her bow if needed, she had a definite advantage. Between the glare and her newly reddened hair, she might not be recognizable. The sword might give her away though.

"Vilmah Bloodborne. I will admit that you are rather low on the list of people I expected to encounter."

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Vilmah blinked.

It was a familiar voice, and she was starting to get used to hearing familiar voices. Squinting through her helmet, she saw what looked like an elven woman. Eventually her face came into focus, and Vilmah blinked again. 

"...Saphiara?"

The name had a lot of memories, most recently of which involving Saphiara attempting to blame Vilmah for her absence during Sanctuary's scattering. She was also fairly certain that the elf wanted to kill her, but that would have put her on a very large list of potential murderers.

"Uh.. yeah, it's me."

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"The same." She stepped off the wall, landing lightly on her feet at ground level. Elphorus returned to her side, wary but peaceful. She held up her hands, slowly sheathing her blade at her back. Her arms went back to sides - again, slowly - but hardly without weapons at her ready. Her armor was heavily modified.

"It is clear that you are not here to hunt me. A truce, then? At least for these few moments. I wish you no harm." She sat on a large chunk of debris nearby, ready to leap up at a moment's notice. She didn't expect to need to, however. She suspected the orcess's curiosity outweighed her need to pursue justice.

"I understand that the war I inadvertently started continues to rage between the Grim and Sanctuary. Have there been casualties?"

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Vilmah raised an eyebrow. Sliding off of Edmund, she hit the ground with a thud.

"Not to my knowledge. Didn't really know there was a war.. and honestly, I don't have the energy to be hunting anyone. The Legion is in our midst and we're too busy trying to fight them off to worry about old grudges. Besides.." She sighed and scratched the back of her neck. "There's too much to worry about right now to hold grudges for something. You were one of at least a dozen people out to kill me and I don't think I care to keep track anymore."

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"Kill you?" Saphiara scoffed. "I had no interest in killing you. My purpose was to punish you. I wanted you to feel the same pain I felt, that those under my command felt. YOU abandoned US... or did you forget that? Clearly you have not learned the lesson in the slightest."

With the warrior dismounted, the huntress was on edge. The Light had given much of her strength back, but she was still weaker than the work. A conflict would rely on her cunning and skill. Elphorus, for his part, shifted slightly, ready to charge in if called upon.

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"Uh..."

Vilmah closed her eyes for a moment. The weight of her actions and her past sunk into her stomach like a stone. Years ago, it would have made her nauseous. More recently it influenced paranoia. Today, however, it fell flat. After years of exile, fear, and retribution, she finally understood the lesson of the blademaster. 

Vilmah opened her eyes.

"Whatever helps your sleep at night, Saphiara. I'm not going to argue with you. You're mad at me for leaving? I get that. Fine, I was wrong for not fighting more. I could have come back, I could have stormed into Orgimmar, I could have challenged the Kor'kron and I could have stood my ground. You know what else I could have done? I could have died, and what happens then? You feel better? Because I let myself be killed so you can feel good about yourself? That's not how it works. 

"Death isn't an answer to your problems. You want me to feel bad? Well, wish granted. I feel like shit every day because I can't be the mythical hero people wanted me to be. Death is final, and the only way I can do anything is if I'm still alive. I'm here right now, I'm alive, I'm fighting. If you don't like it, that's your burden. I'm not here to make you feel good. I'm here to do my job."

Grabbing her wolf by the reins, Vilmah hoisted herself on to his back. She put her helmet back on and shut the visor to hide her eyes.

"Good luck, Saphiara."

Kicking ber wolf's flanks, she lened to the left and guided him away from the elf. Her heart was pounding, but for the first time in a lomg time, Vilmah felt relief.

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For a moment, she was dumbfounded. She had expected a fight - craved it, perhaps. Had she expected to lose? Wanted it? Permission to heal did not mean she was healed. It was a process, one that she was clearly still undergoing. Her wounds were deep, and the healing was slow, by layer.

At a wordless signal, Elphorus dashed around, cutting off the wolf before it could gallop off. The tiger set its stance wide, and although smaller the move had seemed to at least pause the riding beast through surprise if nothing else.

"You are not the one I was angry at. You never were - you, or anyone else I attacked." She paused, the welling emotions accidentally realized threatening to overwhelm her. Unfortunately, she didn't have a helm to hide behind. "Death follows me like a close companion - and yet, I am unable to embrace it. Imagine wishing to receive the ultimate punishment for your crimes and being unable to receive it. That was the curse I felt."

She drew her sword and tossed it on the ground, followed shortly after by the deactivated remote with which she had planned to take control of Vilmah's mechanical arm. "I... am not well. I am seeking help, and healing, but I am not whole yet. I beg your forgiveness, but I am not worthy to receive it yet."

She closed her eyes, reaching into her pack and pulling out a small bundle of letters. She had written them weeks ago, but until now had been unable to post them. "Please, deliver these to those I harmed. I cannot bring myself to do it in person."

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Edmund was startled by the other animal, his large blue eyes in shock at the sudden change in course. Vilmah pat his neck to calm him, squeezing her eyes shut behind her helmet for a moment, willing herself to be patient. By the time Saphiara spoke again, the orc forced herself to listen. The weapon and the remote confused Vilmah at first, but after a few seconds, she understood their significance. Instinctively, she flexed the fingers of her mechanical arm, just to be sure.

"Please, deliver these to those I harmed."

Vilmah looked at the letters in her hand.

"I cannot bring myself to do it in person."

Blademaster Ronakada's voice echoed in her mind. Until you learn to forgive, you will never win this battle. She wanted to learn from the Blademaster, to discover what it was that brought him such peace. It was the clarity she needed to move on, if not to simply survive. Was this a test?

She kicked Edmund's flanks gently and urged him forward. Without hesitation, she reached forward and took Saphiara's letters with her mechanical hand, a defeated expression hidden beneath her helm.

"None of us are well, but it takes courage to admit it. This is a good start," she sighed, holding up the letters. "I'll deliver them. It doesn't do anyone any good to hold a grudge. I hope you find the peace you're looking for."

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"As do I." She reached down, picking Quel'Dalar and the remote off the ground and returning them to their proper holsters. "Perhaps one day I can return to Sanctuary, but today is not that day. I do not know peace, and my presence will do nothing but endanger others. Still... if I am needed, you may call upon me."

She turned and started to walk away. "Also, please tell my sister that she knows how to reach me, assuming she wishes to talk to me once again. The letter will explain." As she spoke, the surrounding terrain seemed to warp around her, her body fading into the background. Within a few steps, Saphiara had vanished from sight. Elphorus roared, slipping into the shadows himself.

Quote

To those who wear the purple and gold:

To my great regret, I have done great injury to those who follow the new incarnation of the banner I once followed. I have no viable excuse for my actions; I can only assure you that there are wounds deep within my soul that I am healing with the aid of others. My intent was never to cause the conflict with the Grim that erupted in my wake; it is that same conflict that I will not exacerbate by attempting to return to the fold.

I will not return in any case, as I simply do not trust myself, nor do I believe there are any out there who trust me. I have provided them with no cause to. Perhaps in time I will learn how to live with myself and become a functioning person once again. Until that time, I am still your ally if you will have me. I am at your call should the situation be dire.

May the Light Guide and Protect You All,

Saphiara Sunspell
Bastion of the Timewalkers

 

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