The woods in Ashenvale sped by rapidly as Draccus carried Wades on his back. The grievously wounded Hunter was strapped down with all the care the Sentinels back at Maestra’s Post could muster. A weighty body that seemed lifeless as his body was rushed to Astanaar on the back of his Druid friend.
The Commander of the regional Sentinels, Lady Warwood, was personally escorting them through the forest. She was indebted to their sacrifice and their efforts in helping them fend off the recent attack at the hands of the Horde against her outpost. A shutter rippled across her mind to think what would have happened had they not arrived when they did. Eleven to five odds were not the best conditions to defeat an enemy that had surprised them by attacking out of nowhere.
“I will make those cowardly, green beasts pay for this assault.” Lady Warwood whispered to herself as she matched pace with the Druid running alongside her on a worn game trail. “But, firstly may Elune grant us haste in gaining our destination before we are attacked or the Hunter dies.”
Thankfully their endurance and speed allowed them to cover the distance in just two short hours. The sun had already started to dip closer to the horizon, the light was fading fast. A cool chill of the coming evening heralded in a sense of urgency for them both.
The last thing Wades could afford was going into shock from losing his core body temperature. He had already lost a significant amount of blood, and the lower part of his torso and thighs had already turned a blackish brown color.
The final stretch of terrain gave way to the Village of Astranaar surrounded by a lake on both sides, with a bridge crossing. Here was a safe place of refuge and recovery awaiting them. Several structures displayed the Kaldorei craftsmanship, markings in the design and natural flow of the wood. These buildings had existed for ages, hopefully for more ages to come.
One of the main shelters was a large Inn, with an open lower floor and a middle section that lead up to several private quarters near the rafters. It was this building that Draccus and Lady Warwood came to stop near.
“Find me the Inn Keeper! Fetch any extra bandages and water you may have to spare!” The Sentinel Commander ordered the nearest towns' person to respond. “We have two strangers in need of our help, and I have four Sentinels out at Maestra that need reinforcements quickly.”
This part of the wood was accustomed to responding to emergencies with military like efficiency. Within a few short moments the requested supplies were gathered and a squadron of ten Sentinels from Silverwing Grove mounted their Night Sabers and headed westward.
A small crowd formed as Lady Warwood and two other Night Elves helped lower Wades off of Draccus’s back and onto the ground. Among the crowd was a Druid of the Cenarion Circle who had studied, taught, and experienced more than most other Druids had even thought about. Her silver eyes locked onto the charm that hung around the large Cat’s neck. She reached up with her elegant hands to touch the same charm that hung around her neck.
“So why do you not shift out of your Cat-form my Brother Druid?” She mentally reached out to him.
Draccus heard the voice speak clearly to his mind as if spoken aloud. He looked around at those gathered near him. He saw a hooded figure staring at him. Her silver eyes pierced him and her faced was tattooed with markings over her fair face. Her aquamarine blue hair spilled out around her shoulders.
“Yes I am talking to you. Apparently you’re either new to the unique communique all us Druids share or you are alone and haven’t heard someone speak directly to you in awhile. I am going to venture a little of both.”
“How is……? Who are you?” Draccus fumbled to respond with his mind as he formed the words silently.
“I am Lissanna a Sister of the woods, a fellow Druid of the Cenarion Circle, and an answer to your prayers to Elune I believe.” She motioned him to follow her away from the crowd of the Village and talk more privately.
“I cannot leave my friend here unattended. He is gravely injured and I will not abandon him. He was there for me when I needed a friend, so will I be there for him as a friend.” Draccus responded firmly, not giving any ground for discussion.
Lissanna looked at Draccus and then looked on the motionless form of the Hunter on the ground. She stepped forward towards the Hunter and reached into a pouch within her cloak to retrieve a small potion.
Out of instinct Draccus growled and raised his teeth at her. A sound of warning to not harm his friend rolled out his throat. The small hairs on his back started to bristle.
Lissanna looked at Draccus and said, “Calm yourself!” Immediately Draccus felt a sensation of soothing release wash over him and every ounce of aggression drained out of him. She proceeded to kneel next to Wades and examine his injuries and the state of his vitals.
“What do you make of him Lady Lissanna?” Lady Warwood asked. The Commander gave full respect to this Druid that held important position and opinion among the Kaldorei gathered there in Astranaar.
“He is incredibly weak and there is a strong infection that has set in the tissue of both his legs. My healing is powerful as a Restoration Druid, but I fear my skills are better used to heal over time. What he needs is someone that can directly heal and remove the disease and damage that is destroying his flesh.” Lissanna answered honestly the difficult question that had been put before her. “What I would recommend is that we stabilize him here. He can take my quarters in the Inn. And we send for assist from Theramore, seek out Amerence a Holy Priest that is staying there. As far as Human healers go, she is respected throughout the Alliance and her abilities to deal with these injuries are his best option.”
“I will dispatch a Hippogryph and one of my fastest riders to go and bring her here.” Lady Warwood declared and then she strode off to the nesting area where the flying steeds where housed.
“Now with your friend being taken care of and receiving all the care available to him at the moment, it is time we talked.” Lissanna again made the subtle motion for Draccus to join her away from the rest of the people assembling at the Inn or others going about their tasks for the evening.
Draccus was starting to not like being told what to do or from someone he had just met. A rebellious streak, contrary to his normal personality, had started to invade his thoughts and attitudes towards others ever so slightly. There was something unexplainable about this Kaldorei Druid that was challenging that characteristic within him. “No!”
“What do you mean no? Do you dare disrespect a fellow Druid and sister of the woods like some common person? I have feathers and bark older then you. Sounds like your wild feral form might have caused you to lose some perspective and manners.” With that last word-thought she grasped her mace and off-hand item and approached Draccus with the intent on restoring some perspective and manners.
Normally not one to back down from confrontation, but this time Draccus quickly surmised that he had bitten off more than he could handle. He saw a path of escape towards the water’s edge on the other side of the Inn. Thinking his feline form was quick enough to bolt away, he made for the corner of the building. He was not quicker then Lissanna’s spell.
Roots sprung up from the ground and grasped Draccus. The controlling element forcefully brought him to a halt. The vegetation continued to entangle and squeeze him with pressure.
“Nice try Brother of the woods. I would not recommend testing me further.” Lissanna mentally warned. “I only want to lend a hand to your situation and remind you of your place. Least your fall prey to the powers of the Aspects left unchecked within you and completely lose your way.” She concluded a little more gently.
Draccus realized that he had nothing to hide from her, and since she obviously had powers and abilities far greater than his own, he might as well become fully transparent with her.
“I shamed myself, my Master trainer, and the Cenarion Circle as a Druid who lost control, Lady Lissanna. I……I……I killed another Druid. I took his life from him and it can never be given back. I am lost.” As the words were verbalized and confessed openly between their bonds, Draccus broke down and began to sob. The pain and regret came welling back up between his weeping tears. “I am sorry, I am sorry……” The last images of Scarrock’s lifeless eyes staring at him from his memories were overwhelming.
Slowly Lissanna came over to Draccus and released the entangled roots and stood by his side. “I am sorry too. The weight and guilt of your crime must be a terrible burden to carry. You shed tears for both you and your fallen brother.”
She placed her hand lightly upon his shoulder and began to pray to Elune. Lissanna was no priestess of the Temple, but as a sister of the woods and a fellow Druid of the Circle she asked for a small miracle on behalf of this hurting and lost Druid. The moon was climbing over the canopy of trees and a ray of moonbeam stretched across the water. Its light enveloped them there by the bank. There in that moment, an answered prayer was seen.
There was no longer a tall Kaldorei woman standing next to a broken Cat-form, trapped man. On the bank of the lake that night there stood two Druids, one standing while the other was on his knees. The woman said nothing for the longest time; she simply witnessed the other’s grief. He cried into his dark purple hands until there were no more tears left in him.
“While Elune has granted you this grace, there is still the Council of the Cenarion Circle that must decide what you do with you.”
“I do not expect any mercy for my crime or the dishonor that I have brought to our people’s name. I will submit to their judgments and accept any punishment they see fitting. All I ask for is forgiveness.”
Those were Draccus’s first words spoken. He would face the consequences of his actions and atone for his failure to do the right thing.
Lady Lissanna led Draccus back into the Inn from another entrance, a quieter passage, to a small isolated table away from anyone else. She purchased a loaf of banana bread and a wine skin of berry juice and brought them back to their table.
“I will take you to Nighthaven in Moonglade tonight. This issue needs to be resolved quickly and with swift justice. I cannot stand by or for you when we arrive. There will be a Ceremony of Mending or Breaking depending on what the Druids overseeing the Council decide. Our ways are separate from the laws of others. We are not above their justice or beyond contributing to the betterment of all people on Azeroth. However, the judgment once passed is final and you are to take it with humility and dignity.” Lissanna told Draccus.
They touched down on the edge of Nighthaven before the darkest part of the night had passed. Lady Lissanna’s Hippogryph had carried them far and fast. The entire flight Draccus had said nothing. He was preparing to embrace whatever fate awaited him at the hands of the Cenarion Circle Council.
Draccus allowed himself to be bound, without resisting his hands were secured with tanned leather straps. He had changed into a fresh cotton robe that had been dyed the color of earth brown with the center of the chest bearing the insignia of the Cenarion Circle’s green tree.
He waited patiently as the three different Council Members were selected carefully from those that had been summoned and informed of the circumstances. This rare judging of a Druid before a Council had drawn in everyone that was staying there for training as well as respected Druids from both the Woods and the Plains. Because the Druid that had been slain was a Tauren Bull the three representatives would be Tauren as well.
Normally another Druid would stand with the guilt party and speak for them. Traditionally this role was filled by the Druid’s Master or mentor. No one stepped out of the crowd that night. Draccus bravely faced this challenge alone head on.
There were fires lit to illuminate the area better. Several faces from different races all looked on the scene. Everyone present was a Druid, this was an internal affair to be dealt with, and an outsider would not appreciate the significance of this ceremony.
Stealing glances around him, Draccus noticed that this was the same spot he had first been transformed into a Cat, a Druid of the Claw. He also saw in the back of the crowd his former mentor, his Master in training, the person he had let down and disappointed. A fresh wave of injury hit him. It was time to hear the Council’s decision regarding his life.
The sound of a heavy wooden staff beat the ground three times and a clear voice rang out in the night, “Draccus Moonsayer step forward and hear what the Druids of the Plains as members of the Cenarion Circle have to say regarding the death of Scarrock Wildmane at your hand.” A hush immediately silenced everyone gathered.
Draccus stepped forward into the light to stand before three magnificent Tauren Druid women. Each of the three Druids represented a different tribe within the Tauren nation and of the Cenarion Circle members.
The Druid that had called him forward was Akabeko Runetotem. She was leading the Ceremony from the way the others gave her deference in speaking first and the way she carried herself. There was an air of official office about her, yet she seemed to hide a look of pity for the Night Elf standing before her.
Standing next to her was a Druid named Lessah Wildmane, she was anything but friendly towards Draccus, or so it appeared. Her connection to these events was that she came from the same tribe as Scarrock, which meant if the Ceremony was one of Breaking it would be her role to deal the punishment onto Draccus. The punishment could range from getting expelled from the Cenarion Circle to possibly even death. It would be at her hand that Draccus would suffer should that be the Council’s decision.
The third Tauren was a Druid called Navimie Mistrunner. As a Restoration Druid she was skilled and respected for her ability to heal not only fleshly wounds and fatal injuries but to bridge gaps in relationships and bring healing to the hearts of many people. The task and responsibility would fall to her if the Ceremony was one of Mending. This duty entailed the assigning of a guide to bring someone back into the ranks of the Cenarion Circle and inviting the offender a chance at forgiveness. She would symbolize life and hope should Draccus find favor.
Akabeko Runetotem raised the staff in her hands high above her horns. She looked at Draccus for a long period of time. Weighing his life in their hands was a huge responsibility and burden. The judges had been unanimous in their decision. She just hoped that this Night Elf would see their wisdom in the difficult judgment and sentence she was about to pass.
“We believe that life is to be cherished above all things. We are entrusted and sworn to preserve life at all times. There exists a balance between life and death. You have broken this cycle.” Akabeko Runetotem let those last words hang in the air.
“By your own actions and confession you killed Scarrock, a fellow Druid in training with you, a Tauren Druid from the tribe of Wildmane. As a whole, the Cenarion Circle regrets that his life was torn away from him at such a young age. Tonight on behalf of the Wildmane tribe Lessah Wildmane, a revered Restoration Druid of the Grove stands here now. Her Tauren brother’s blood is on your conscience.”
“I do not want your blood as payment Night Elf.” Lessah reached out privately to Draccus standing before her defenseless. “That you came forward and genuinely mourn my brother still says much of your inner character.”
Draccus quietly asked her the most honest question his spirit could think of.
”Why are you giving me such generous grace?”
Lessah Wildmane did not respond to his heartfelt plea. She stood next to the two other Druids looking straight ahead.
“The exact details of what happened between you and him are not under question here tonight.” Akabeko Runetotem continued with the Ceremony. “What we three have to determine is whether your place among us is worth Mending or if the time of Breaking has come.”
Not even the wind stirred around the assembly as everyone waited for the fate of Draccus to be announced. The moonlight bathed down on them serenely.
“You are to be spared banishment and death as punishment for your transgressions. However, till you have had time to reconcile what these events mean to you and rest of the Cenarion Circle, you are to be immediately taken to the nearest Dream Bough Portal and sent to Emerald Dream. There you are to seek out harmony and discover how you are to rejoin us as a Brother Druid. Until there is that peace, the peace that resides within every member’s heart, you are not to return.”
“The loudest voice of influence on us reaching this decision was in the wise and far-seeing guidance of Navimie Mistrunner. Her special gift as a Restoration Druid is mending the broken places in people’s lives. She sees a future for you that is promising but also one that twists around many difficulties and trials.” Akabeko Runetotem lowered her staff to the ground and placed it at Draccus’s feet. “May this Ceremony be validated in the action you will take, marking a significant change in your life. This staff and the clothes you wearing now are all that you are permitted to bring with you into the Emerald Dream."
Now that the Ceremony was concluded and Draccus had received his grace, he was taken to the Dream Bough Portal in eastern Ashenvale.
“I hope that Anachan our Sister Night Elf Druid is able to help him on the other side as much as she was a reliable source of help here.” Navimie Mistrunner spoke to the others as they prepared to leave Moonglade for Thunder Bluff in Mulgore.
“You know Navimie, you still have not chosen a personal mentor and guide for Draccus when he returns to Azeroth. He will need assistance and someone to show him how to regain his place within the Cenarion Circle. Who did you have in mind?” Lessah Wildmane asked as she mounted her Proto-Drake and tightened the saddles belt.
“Have you heard of a Druid named Terrielle? He is a Night Elf Lord of the forest and has specialized in the training of being a Balance Druid. I believe he might be the best one suited to influence and mould our young Draccus Moonsayer when he returns.”