So I learned a bit ago that #Draecember was a thing:
So I decided I needed to participate in the writing portion. So here we are. ^_^
It was you, and yet not you.
Ylaara clutched the crystal in her hand, eyes shut tight, screening out all distractions. It wasn’t enough to just will the words into order, but also the specific pieces of memory, which in this case was even more difficult than it would have been in any other case.
She sat in a hidden glade in the hills of Azuremyst Isle. The ancient, tall trees were silent around her, with the occasional humble chirp of a spring bird. Flowers bloomed in a splendor of color in the glade, making the woods enigmatic rather than ominous. Ruins of a section of the Exodar lay nearby, overgrown with moss from years of exposure. It was a tender place.
She was wearing her grandfather’s armor. I remember that armor well, the scratches in it. I remember him telling us once that the scratches were like scars; they were memories, some good and some bad. “Polish them away, and you are like child again, remembering nothing,” he said.
And yet she was like a child. The armor was too big for her, the hammer too heavy. And she did not recognize me.
When Ylaara had traveled through the Dark Portal to the other Draenor, the changed one, so much was exactly as she remembered. So much that it hurt. Seeing the world of her childhood destroyed again after living through it once was almost too much to bear, but the Alliance was depending on her, and after awhile, she thought of it as a second chance to do for her people who no one could have done for her.
But on that road to Auchindoun, before the spiritual guardians who barred the path against those who lacked the resolve to survive that place, she saw her friend Illona.
Illona, who was a friend as dear as a sister, as close as a lover, and ever had they kept others guessing on which it was. Illona, who had grown up with her, survived with her through the decimation wrought by the Horde, shed tears with her as they wandered as refugees with the Prophet, fought beside her when they stole the Exodar from the blood elves at Tempest Keep…
Illona, who died when the Exodar crashed into Azeroth.
And there she stood on the road to Auchindoun, like none of that had happened, because for her, it hadn’t. She was the same uncertain youngster Ylaara remembered, but she was alone. Ylaara remembered walking this road with her, remembered the challenge of the guardians. But Ylaara had learned since coming to that changed Draenor that she… had never come to be there.
When Illona saw Ylaara walking towards the guardians in her priestly garb, she had approached and begged for help to defeat them.
“Forgive me, sister,” she said to me. You said the same thing to me, so many times, and I always did, except for the last time. And yet here she said it to me, and all I could do was help her. She was you and yet she was not. And this changed world had no me, so she had walked this road alone.
The other Illona, impressed with Ylaara’s prowess and strength, offered to join her in order to better learn how to save her world. Ylaara couldn’t say no, but she couldn’t bring herself to tell this Illona of… herself. Of the Illona that Ylaara remembered. And so many times, she convinced herself that they were two different people, even with the same face, the same voice. The same disdain for tart fruits. The same fascination with colorful birds. The same dreams of wedding a tall, statuesque male and bearing his children, and raising them in a peaceful world.
Dreams that never came true.
The Legion was defeated. The Alliance returned to Azeroth. The other Illona was torn as to what she should do.
I wanted so much to tell her to come with me. I wanted a second chance. I wanted to show her everything here that I was never able to show you. All of the wonders of this world.
But I realized how selfish that was. When we were young, you and I, before the war, all we wanted was the world we saw before us. She and I were able to save that world. She deserves to have it. I don’t know that I fit in that world any longer, but instead, I’ve found a place for myself on this world.
You asked me once, while we cowered together for warmth in a damp cave in Zangarmarsh, if we had been fools to dream of a peaceful world. If our fate was either to stand and fight or run forever. I didn’t have an answer then, but time and scars have granted me wisdom. Azeroth, for all her wonders, is not a world that is well-suited to peace. On this world, war will always find you somehow, and all you can do is struggle against it.
It was tempting to stay there, in that other place, but I could not. I don’t believe I’m suited to a peaceful world any longer. So I said my goodbyes, encouraged her to find some tall, statuesque male to make children with, and returned here to catch my breath before the next battle calls to me.
Time was running out. Ylaara had given her escort very specific instructions that she was not to be disturbed, but the ship to Stormwind was due to leave soon.
I miss you, every day. And I knew if I’d kept her by my side I would be waiting for her to become you. I’d resent her for failing to become you, even knowing how impossible it would be. So now she is a scar on my heart, a memory I’ll treasure, just like you.
Be forever in the Light, beloved sister.
Ylaara opened her eyes, wiping the tears that welled out. The crystal glowed lightly in her hand, and she held it close to her chest, as if she could pull the memories back into her heart.
After a long moment she stood and faced the sunlight that dappled down into the clearing, and looked up into that last piece of sky that her Illona had seen. With a last prayer to the Light, the memory crystal floated up and away from her, as the Light itself consumed it, like a letter tossed into the fire. When she could see nothing left but the same gentle sunlight, she took a breath, and set off down the path to the sea.