The deep violet sky of night was fading to a pale amethyst as the sun began to rise over Teldrassil. High up in the city held within the boughs a Kaldorei woman sat, legs swung over the side of one of the high open-walled buildings, head tipped to one side, resting against the wall. For some time she was alone, and to the untrained eye she would easily appear to be sleeping, her chest rising and falling with every slow breath. Minutes passed and she did not move, not even when another Kaldorei appeared, his long sapphire hair trailing like a cloak down his back and shoulders. The male remained standing and watched the younger woman for some time before choosing his moment to speak, his voice low, scratching through the peace of the morning.
"Nhaera, thero'shan. It is rare for you to seek solitude these days."
The woman's eyes opened slowly, her silvery gaze flickering briefly towards her companion as she bowed her head respectfully.
"I have a lot on my mind, Shan'do Bearwalker. I thought the peace of the dawn might help me to... straighten out my thoughts."
Shan'do Bearwalker, or Mathrengyl as he was known amongst the elders of the Cenarion Enclave, gave a low, gravelly chuckle, shaking his head as he relaxed against the opposite wall.
"May I guess? Your rag-tag group of companions are causing you more trouble than you would like?"
Nhaera let a small smile lighten her features momentarily. "Sadly for the Enclave, Shan'do, that is not the case. The Winter have bonded well. I am proud of them all."
"Then what is it, Nhaera? Surely you are not still conflicted over your chosen path...?"
The watery smile fell, and she wrung her hands together as she spoke. "With respect, the path was never chosen, but... I have learned to accept that it was never my choice to make. I am satisfied with where it is leading me, for now. I am troubled, though. A friend, a brother really... he has gone missing for some weeks now. Word came to me from the Temple, they believe he... they believe he may have fallen in the hunt, somewhere in the East."
Shan'do Bearwalker huffed, dragging his cloak around him, blocking out the chill of the dawn air. "The Temple say this? What business is it of theirs? The Enclave know of only one of your associates who may have fallen, Nhaera. He was no priest." His words hung heavily in the air, and Nhaera knew what lay between the lines.
"Cenariath was... is not a priest, no. He was another of your pupils, Shan'do, and had as much to do with the Temple as you or I -"
The elder man gave a gruff snort.
" - but he does have interest within the Temple walls, or at least he does now. He has a daughter there."
"I see... and what of of this child? As wild as her father?"
"Sharyssa? Wild? I do not believe so."
The man nodded at the child's name as Nhaera gave him a cursory glance. His gaze penetrated her own more than she found comfortable, and she turned to watch the waking city.
"She is unsettled, as expected. She continues to ask for her father. The priestesses are at a loss, they do not know how to explain to her th...- She is so young, Shan'do. She does not understand the permanence of death."
The elder sighed, a barely concealed grimace crossing his face. "The child is not the only one who has difficulty with the concept. What of you, Nhaera? Have you accepted your friend's fate?"
"Acceptance is a strange word."
"You are not answering my question, Nhaera."
"How am I supposed to answer, Shan'do?" She met his gaze once more, and was surprised to see that there was no sign of anger at her disrespectful tone.
"Truthfully, of course."
"...I have to believe that he is gone, if only because I know he would never choose to leave his daughter with no contact for such a length of time. Yet..." She sighed and pulled her knees to her chest like a shield, resting her chin on her knees.
"You have doubts about his fate, Nhaera?"
Her voice was smaller now, less certain. "It does not... It does not feel as though he has died. I have known others who have left this life for the great beyond and it felt as though something extinguished. I do not feel that now, even though there is no response from his rune..." - she pointed to the small piece of bark strung around her neck - "...and when I ask within the Enclave or at the port in Auberdine, the answer is always the same. Nothing. Yet something, something makes me doubt the certainty that all the evidence suggests."
Mathrengyl sighed heavily, both sympathy and frustration evident in his expression and posture. He crouched low for a man of his years, one clawed hand resting on the younger woman's shoulder.
"Nhaera, child. Whatever your thoughts on your friend's death, put them to one side. You cannot give his daughter false hope..." Nhaera opened her mouth to speak, but Mathrengyl held his hand out, and she knew to remain silent - "...No, Nhaera. You may not express your thoughts vocally, but she will pick up on your hope, in your emotions and your posture... and, dear girl, you must know that there is no hope. If Cenariath truly fell in the Eastern Kingdoms, he is lost forever." He paused, adjusted his cloak once more, then rose to his full height. "Tell the child in the Temple that her father runs through the stars forever, hunting with his blessed namesake."
The great Bearwalker fell into silence, and Nhaera made no effort to break it. Despite the honour of his words, she knew she would say nothing to Sharyssa about her father's fate. She was a child, too young to know about the horrors of the world, and if Nhaera was not allowed to hold onto the thin scrap of hope she had for her friend, she would be damned if she would steal the same hope from his daughter.
The morning sun continued to climb through the sky, light pouring through every break in the Teldrassil canopy, the comforting buzz of city life growing with each passing minute. As the final star's light grew dim and finally faded in the amethyst sky, Mathrengyl rose to his feet and with one shared bow between teacher and pupil, left the woman to the silence of the city and her own conflicted thoughts.