Catch up on Day 19: The Things Aka Carried
I don't know what would make me stop playing WoW entirely - until now my interest has not waned enough for me to give it up for good. There might be another insurmountable fiasco like RealID, or I may become too busy to play, or maybe the servers are shutting down for good. Although it seems to be a popular decision, I don't know if I would destroy or gift any of my stuff; it seems pointless to do either. I would give Akabeko a proper sendoff, maybe throw on my best duds and head to Mulgore or Grizzly Hills or Hyjal or whatever new zones there are to log out for the last time.
At first I didn't think I could write a piece without the prompting of actually quitting the game, but I toyed around with the idea of either promoting her and fading to black as her life comes to its happy and natural conclusion, or implying that she continues to fight the same fights over and over again, and is finally destroyed by them. Although I have read a few series that end that way, suggesting that the characters go running headfirst into the fray and meet their ends, and I love the heartbreaking poignancy of that sacrifice, I couldn't do it. Then I poked through a few fanfictions, got my head completely filled with present-tense, and sat down to write this. Not gonna lie, it actually made me pretty sad!!
When the summons come, no one is really surprised. She gets congratulations and backslaps from the other guild members. Fellow druids are more awed, and read the letter with reverence before turning wide eyes on her.
You are formally summoned to Moonglade to appear before the council of Archdruids.It's signed Archdruid Hamuul Runetotem, and the spidery handwriting looks like something the impossibly old tauren might produce.
Dutifully, Akabeko attends the audience in her best armor, repaired and polished until the leather shines as if not stained by gore, and smells more like beeswax than death. She stands stiffly, like a soldier, and idly tries to remember how she is connected to the Archdruid in her clan while he talks.
"Long have you worked with druidic power, Akabeko."
"The Cenarion Circle has recognized your accomplishments." He lets out a soft sigh. "To become an archdruid requires intense commitment and struggle, more than you have known until now."
"I understand, Archdruid."
"You have been an instrument of the Horde. To join the Cenarion Circle is to fully renounce hostility against druids of the Alliance."
Her eyes flick only briefly to the night elves also gathered in the hall before she responds, "I accept, Archdruid." She hopes they can't hear the bloodshed in her voice.
That night, there is a tauren celebration to honor her raising, and the next day she is roused early for training. It is as difficult as Hamuul promised, and she struggles and questions her resolve and submits to more training. Akabeko has always existed as two natures: rage and serenity, motion and stasis. Now they teach her to combine them, and she finds peace as a dire bear and rage as an elder tree.
Her duties change; she can no longer storm threatening keeps with an array of allies at her back. Now she travels with emissaries, and instead of the colorful but serviceable armor of her youth, she wears neutral leathers designed to radiate peace. Rather than her beloved guild mates, she spends her time with trolls and night elves and worgen, all druids, all part of their powerful alliance. The trolls appreciate her grasp of their unique humor, the worgen find camaraderie in their bestial appearances, the night elves accept her insatiable wanderlust, and her fellow tauren find solace in talk of their home and culture.
Hamuul Runetotem dies. She attends his funeral and is given new responsibilities the next day as each Archdruid is elevated in the peculiar hierarchy. There is less time for travel now, and instead of checking on the Overgrowth in the Barrens or the Cenarion Grove in Desolace, she is spending more and more time in Moonglade, negotiating. Akabeko is considered patient and fair, although her methods can be fierce. In addition to lobbying for greater cooperation between Horde and Alliance, she becomes a compassionate ear for young and old druids alike.
She is getting older. The hot rage of her youth, tempered in her training, is now almost completely gone. She is all serenity. Her eyes change from deep red to amber, and her fur looks dry but still curiously organic. No one comments; who can say what powers consume those venerable archdruids in their waning years?
The wanderlust returns. Akabeko presides over two new archdruids as they are raised. She still tries to council Garrosh, now not so young, not so headstrong. When able, she walks around the Moonglade, and sometimes tiny shoots and flowers follow her footsteps. Many times she wakes in the night, indescribably thirsty. Her fur feels stiff and brittle and she's often taken with fantasies where her body is something else. She confides in a friend, an aging troll woman who also fought in Northrend, and is rewarded with a soothing but patronizing pat on the arm. Of course her body is something else; that's what druids do!
It is dusk, and Akabeko is on the shore of Lake Elune'ara. She is slowly walking toward the Barrow Downs. In her fist she clutches the cord of her seashell necklace - for the first time in her life it feels heavy and she has to take it off. She stops abruptly, and something prompts her to look down. On her finger, a tiny vine is twining from tip to base. She looks at the palm, where a curling leaf is sprouting.
"I am something else," she says, half-remembering. The words tumble from her, redolent with power, and where they land wildflowers spring to life. "Aaahhh," she sighs, and breathes petals. She is stretching, growing, shifting upwards. She raises her arms and a shawl of moss drapes her shoulders. She shakes her mane, and it rattles with the sound of autumn leaves. She wiggles her roots, which dig further into the ground, and laughs throatily, "Ha ha ha," and each syllable is a mushroom, an acorn, a sapling.
"You're back," she sobs happily, and the tears nourish the new growth around her. I was always something else, is her last thought before her eyes close and her bark stiffens. A breeze blows across the lake, shaking a seashell necklace hung amongst the yellow leaves of an unusual tree.
Thus concludes the 20 Days of Blogging challenge. It took me over 3 months to get through it all, but I'm so glad I participated, both because it prompted me to share more with my readers and also because it made for some guaranteed content. Thanks, Saga!!