"One cannot cheat fate."

(( "Perhaps we can't, Mr. Data. But at least we can give it a try." Another Ovistine story. ))

Ovistine hoped this could be considered irony and not cowardice, but she doubted it. Rather than confessing her problems to Laurena, the way she should have done — it was the Cathedral of Light that Ovistine was attached to, after all, not the more loosely-organized priest and paladin trainers in Ironforge's Mystic Ward — she'd gone to Braenna Flintcrag first.

They'd gone to a cozy little pub just off the beaten path, one that catered to the womenfolk of Ironforge. Tea's Cakes, it was called, but despite the teakettle on the sign outside and the soft handknit blankets over the chairs and couches inside, the place had a dozen brews on draft and more in the back room. Braenna tended to favor Tea's whenever she and Ovi had something to talk about. Ovistine was glad there wasn't much of a crowd here today.

"Have you heard about–" Ovi frowned down at her stout, trying to figure out how to explain this. "You know the story of Tirion Fordring, aye? The way he was cast from the Order of the Silver Hand, back in the day, for helping an orc?"

"O' course," Braenna said. She raised an eyebrow. "Been helping a lot o' orcs lately? Yer mum approve?"

Ovistine looked away. "No," she murmured. "But the stories about how he was set apart from the Light–I never thought that could really happen, you know? I thought it was legend. Exaggeration. I thought perhaps he was never really cut off, he just thought he was."

"Ye'd 'ave tae talk tae Mr. Fordring 'imself tae know fer sure," Braenna pointed out. She took a swig of her ale and sat back in her chair. "Is tha' really what we're 'ere tae speak o'? Humans, Fordring, an' th' Order back when it were fallin' tae pieces?"

"No," Ovistine admitted. She sighed and set her stout down on the table in front of her. "I need to tell you something. And I'd like it to go no further."

"Aye, a'right. If ye trust me with th' tellin', I'll tell nowt else."

"My guild's been under heavy fire lately. We're still working out who and why, but our leader–"

"Gearspinner? Th' lad who caught a bomb nae so long ago?"

"Homrend. Aye."

"Th' lad who–"

"–aye," Ovistine interrupted hastily. Braenna harrumphed softly and nodded. "We went looking for his spirit, and we found it–shackled by a snake god, nearly lost to us."

"Snake gods," Braenna said; her tone made Ovistine think that if they'd been outside, or in a rougher bar, she might have spit on the ground. "An' then?"

"I–I made a deal." Ovistine took a deep breath, clenched her hands around the ends of her braids. Tell her. You have to tell someone. "My Light for his life."

"Muradin's beard," Braenna whispered. She reached out and put her hand over Ovistine's, fingers gripping hard; Ovistine let go of her braid so she could lace her fingers through Braenna's. Braenna frowned, then frowned deeper, and tightened her grip until Ovistine's eyes welled up with tears. "Damn," Braenna growled. "Damn an' blast. Snake gods dun' fool about, eh?"

"They don't," Ovistine murmured, taking her hand back and rubbing at it. Braenna's face softened with sympathy, and she began to reach out again, but Ovistine squirmed back in her chair, out of Braenna's reach. "I've been thinking–hoping–researching, reading everything I can get my hands on, but…" She took a deep breath. "This may be permanent. Probably is permanent." Her eyes stung, and this time it wasn't because of her hand. "And it was fecking well worth it, but I don't know who I am anymore."

"Is it everything?" Braenna asked softly. "Th' Makers' gifts of chaos as well as order?"

"No." Ovistine shook her head. "No. I can still walk in shadow." She frowned. "Hell, I can still throw a shield. I can still burn the disease out of someone, but it–" She winced, remembering the way Valinar's ears had drooped at the tips when she'd cast an abolishing spell on him. "It seems to be a little more uncomfortable now."

"Higher-level order spells, then? Th' gifts o' infusion, o' suppression?"

"Still there," Ovistine confirmed. "Anything that's based fully in discipline and not the pure connection to the Light–"

"So th' Light's gone, but no' th' Makers' presence. Huh." Braenna rubbed her hand over her chin and nodded. "Ye said ye'd done research."

"Aye?"

"I think ye've got a hell o' a lot further tae go, lass. An' I think ye'd best start frae th' beginnin', aye?"

From the beginning, Ovistine thought, her thoughts suddenly snapping back to a gnome in the Plaguelands, to Southshore as it had been long ago. "The beginning," she said softly, "aye–"

"Uldaman," Braenna said, and Ovistine shook her head, coming back to the present. "Ye willin' tae walk through a few dozen troggs?"

"Of course," Ovistine said. "Thank you, Braenna. I appreciate the advice."

"Nae worries," Braenna said. "An' ye git back 'ere when ye've looked int' this further. I'll be thinkin' o' other things t' try, other questions ye may not 'ave asked yerself."

"Yes." Ovistine stood up and tossed a few coins onto the table to cover her stout. "Yes, I'll do that. Thank you."

She took the tram home, as usual, and asked Jeeves for a quill and some parchment. Her mail-bot was at the ready, too, so it took virtually no time at all to write the letter and ship it off to the Cathedral.

That was cowardice and not irony, for certain, but Ovistine was willing to live with that.

With utmost regards to High Priestess Laurena,

Recent events of a personal nature lead me to request a furlough from my duties at the Cathedral of Light. I apologize that I can't be more specific about how long I'll be gone, but please be assured that I would not ask if it were not of great importance.

Regards,
Ovistine Lighthammer

MOLL-E was pinging by the time Ovistine stepped back into her apartment. She pulled out the note and braced herself, but it turned out not to be necessary.

Dear Ovistine,

Please take care of yourself. Those of us at the Cathedral wish you the best, and hope your circumstances improve soon.

–Laurena

"The beginning," Ovistine murmured to herself. She dug through her packs until she found the transporter–the first one she'd built, the one that went to Gadgetzan. To Tanaris.

To a cave where the beginning was nothing more than a tunnel away.

Dec 16th, 2009
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