Voidborn 2: The Ruby Lifeshrine

Voidborn 2: The Ruby Lifeshrine
Veritistrasz sitting on the edge of the Ruby Lifeshrine

Rain poured down on the Lifeshrine. Naiavara clung to her parasol – she had the foresight to enchant Theotar’s parting gift to repel water – though her companion’s tall figure made it more difficult to stay dry. The shadows would have kept her dry alone, but Erila insisted the priest attempt to spend as much time without them as possible. The consortium folks had set up a small tent on one side of the platform to have their discussions. The old dwarf on the other hand sat on the ledge of the shrine, staring off at the isle’s scenery.

In the weeks that Naiavara had spent in the Isles, the dwarf had not moved.

The shrine keepers whispered this fact among themselves frequently. She shared the keeper’s sympathy but not their confusion. She was often called Priest, and sometimes she could even play the part when it was a simple one. Loneliness could be dispelled easier than most magics, and with far less skill. Time was the only issue.

Naiavara pulled away from Erila to approach the dwarf. He was a dragon by the name of Veritistrasz. Even if the rain did not drown out her companion's protests, Naiavara was proficient in ignoring them.

She sat on the wet stone an arm’s length away from the dwarf – just close enough that they could speak over the rain if they chose. Far enough, however, that it was just as easy to ignore and be ignored. Erila was a slow study and took several minutes to sit similarly on the other side of the dwarf. She looked miserable without a hooded travel cloak – she'd put away her keepsake one for safekeeping and had yet to request one from Naiavara. Naiavara turned her attention away from them and focused on the scenery.

“This view, it may look beautiful to you,” the dwarf spoke, finally, “To me, it reminds me of how long we have been gone. I barely recognize this landscape.” Naiavara glanced to him to make eye contact, and to affirm his decision to speak with a nod and a soft smile.

She prompted him to continue when he paused and asked the obvious when he seemed to finish. Naiavara imagined that the dragons, the long lived and mostly absent caretakers of the world, would understand that not every problem needed a meddling hand. Was she really the first to come to him without the intent to fix the man or request his aid?

“Although... Arthas Menethil did cut a bloody swath through Silvermoon, I imagine you can relate to what I speak of.”

Naiavara nodded. She kept her expression neutral, though if that appeared forced then it was all the better. It would be a shame to douse his empathy by revealing she could not relate to this. Erila on the other hand could, but none meddled more than her. So, Naiavara kept his attention on herself and for the sake of her companion she spoke louder, “Ten thousand years is a long time.”

Veritistrasz spoke of the Dragon Wars. An obtuse and literal name, so direct and heavy as to require no further explanation. Perhaps, she thought to herself as he spoke about corruption among the Black Dragonflight and how it affected his beloved, it would have been better to send Erila back to Veldrakken before speaking to this man.

“I always wondered, if I had been a better friend, could I have prevented it? Did she not feel like she could come to me as she felt the corruption starting?” Veritistrasz took a deep, guilty breath, “If I was a better friend... if I had told her... Oh Titans, if I had told her how I felt... Could it have gone differently?... I loved her... And I can't remember her name.”

Erila’s armor clattered and scraped the stone as she pushed herself to her feet and sprinted off into the shrine. They watched her disappear into the shrine with the same distant stares they gave the scenery. Veritistrasz turned back to Naiavara after she had left their line of sight. Naiavara let the moment sit until they both stared out at the Waking Shores.

“It might have been better if Arthas had succeeded in destroying the entirety of Quel'Thalas. The survivors have only continued to suffer,” Naiavara forced herself to speak. It was important to her, suddenly and inexplicably, that the dwarf understood that he was not alone in his experience. “The knight and her lover parted in Icecrown. Her lover had been Wretched for years. Must have hidden it very well, considering how close they were. Your story hit very close to home for the knight.”

"Wretched? Parted?"

Naiavara nodded. "A slow, painful corruption. The woman died somewhere in the frozen wastes after the knight drove her off to save their squad. Guilt and a lack of closure haunts her."

After a time, he nodded. “Thank you for listening to me Young One, I appreciated it more than you can know. You should look after your friend.”

“I will,” Naiavara smiled as she stood up to track down her wayward paladin. She’d managed to stay dry from the waist up. A small, but important, victory.

Erila Pyresong sat in the fetal position on the small wall overlooking the Lifepools proper. It wasn’t secluded and Naiavara had to use magic to turn away the eyes of onlookers as she approached, stepping behind crafting tables and past some low shrubbery.

The sound of the rain was overpowering, echoing up the stone structure and its many tiny ledges. Perhaps dragon ears were less sensitive and it sounded soothing rather than hellish. The knight was thoroughly soaked to the bone. Her shaking was likely equal part painful sobs and shivering. Naiavara twirled her parasol, waiting to be acknowledged.

“You said that healing would make me strong,” Erila’s voice was ragged already. Naiavara applied extra pressure to anyone she could see, forcing the knight and herself further into the background. Erila shifted suddenly and pointed towards the dwarf’s perch, “Ten thousand years and he still feels all that pain! All of that guilt! How strong do you expect me to get?” Her volume managed to attract some minor attention even through the priest's soothing.

Naiavara tilted her head. She did say that didn’t she. Even so, the knight had a fundamental misunderstanding of strength. A demonstration was in order. “Why did you think that the pain would go away? In your short life you have lost more than most could attain in several.”

Erila’s raging voice dropped and she sat back on her knees. The shadows dampened most of her senses, but the priest had gotten very good at reading lips because of it. The knight sobbed beneath the rain, “I can’t live with this. I want it to end. I want it to—

The priest’s ritual dagger clattered to the ground in front of the knight. Erila scrambled for it with sickening desperation. She stopped short, holding back her own hand at the wrist. Her fingers trembling inches above salvation. Her hand steadied and picked up the dagger and stood slowly.

“I think you dropped this.” Rain ran down Erila’s freckled face and around her forced smile. She spun the knife around to offer it back to the priest.

The priest stepped forward and grasped Erila’s hand, dagger and all, and pushed it against the knight’s cuirass. “Time will not heal this wound. Every day when you wake up, this pain will be the first thing you feel. Until one day it will be the second. Until that day, I want you to remember the choice you just made.”

She slipped the dagger from the knight’s hand and put it away. Erila hopelessly ducked under the parasol for all the good it was doing her now. Naiavara refused a sad, wet hug from the paladin. “There is a time capsule at the bottom of the pools. Retrieve it and return it to the dwarf. Then, sit with him.”

“Didn’t he ask you? I want to get dry,” Erila whined, shivering.

Naiavara narrowed her eyes and let out a short, disgruntled noise. Almost certainly inaudible.

“Yeah, yeah. It's for my own good, right?” Erila wipe tears from her face. Or she made the motion at least. She’d been in the downpour for so long it was hard to tell where the actual tears were and her face was only wetter for it. “I hate to admit it – I never got along with the old bag myself – but I think the Accuser was right about you. You’re better at helping people than you seem to think.”

Naiavara slipped out a black stone, adorned with a small chain, and began to worry her thumb against it. Shadows swirled at her feet as the sinstone began to warm her palm. Naiavara was looking forwards to a warm bath and drinks at The Roased Ram, and she couldn't be bothered flying back to the capital in this storm.