I don't yet know if or how these letters will reach you. And perhaps by the time they do my name won't mean a jot to those who read it. Has it been years or centuries since I walked amongst you? The Other one here doesn't care to count the passage of time so I don't get to know. Anyway, I'll tell you more about him later. Right now - since I'm so rarely privileged to remember who I am - I'm going to tell you a little bit about me.
Where should I begin? Do you like stories? I could write a few good stories for you. I could write about the coward who became a mighty warrior. Or the unlearned Druid who became a Shan'Do. Sorry, but sitting here on the brink of my own existence, perhaps the time for self-modesty has passed. Maybe I should write about my glorious rise to become Keeper among you, or how I nurtured some of the most influential leaders of my time. I've fought great beasts, and made clothing of their skin. I've stared into the eyes of daemons and watched them die. I've absolved dark legends from histories best forgotten. I've helped the most unfortunate people's of this world survive and seen the unworthy perish in the ice. Yes, if you like stories I could write a few good ones for you.
But, enough of that. I'm kidding myself. There is only time for one more story and I know which story it must be. It's the story every writer waits a lifetime write. This story will be my last.
I have been Kaldur Winterwind, and this is the story of how I died.
He always knew she would be the real challenge. He'd climbed mountains and swum across raging rivers. He'd healed wounds, countered disease, and tended to a broken forest. He'd shown great skill in befriending the wildlife, surviving off the land, and removing the taints of corruption he encountered. All the while she was there watching. It's difficult to sleep, eat, and relax when your nemesis stalks your every movement.
Yet, when she finally came at him, Kaldur couldn't help but cry out in surprise. As he rolled to escape, she yanked out locks of his long lank hair; which froze, turned brittle, and shattered between her icy fingers. His frantic feet slipped on the wet ground so that he slid and fell some twenty meters down the bank, coming to a stop in the mud. It was an accident, but it bought him the distance he needed. He looked up and met her hollow eyes. Those eyes didn't feel compassion or grant mercy. For a thousand years the Wraith had been locked in an eternal cycle of hate and revenge - seeking the deaths of those who had slain her kind. He should pity her really. But it's hard to pity something that terrifies you and chills your skin.
Run or attack? Fight or flight? He waited too long and suddenly she was upon him again. He knew he had to get out his dagger and defend himself. A well placed stab would break her grip on this reality and send her hurtling back to where she'd first latched onto him. Instead he froze. Her face reminded him too much of the last woman he'd fought. The Wraith was already dead, but his instincts weren't to be swayed by such reasoning.
I can't fight again. I can't kill again...
He slipped away inside his mind. He let the Beast take over and do its worst, working with his own limbs. He heard the growls his lips made. He felt the claws snag and tear. When it was over, the Wraith was gone, and Kaldur returned as a quivering pile on the floor.
"Stand, Thero'Shan." A voice commanded - it was powerful enough to silence the gossiping birds and still the leaves on the trees.
Kaldur wiped the tears from his eyes and spat the mud from his mouth. He rose slowly. Five Druids stood in a semi-circle before him, resplendent and serene. They didn't smile or frown, they were too great for that. One shook his head. Two of them turned their eyes away. One didn't even move in a way Kaldur could see. He had failed.
"Kaldur Winterwind, you have shown a good understanding of the natural forces, and a delicate approach to maintaining balance. But what you just did is not something we can condone."
Kaldur looked down at his feet. The short battle had brought it all back; the raid on the Highborne camp some 20 years ago. The face of the girl he'd killed. The Masters had designed the trial specifically to test his deepest fears. Somehow they'd known. Shame, he thought of himself. Murderer.
"The power we teach must be controlled by a calm and thoughtful mind. If you let fear guide your actions, you can only spread chaos."
I'm out. I'm done. He thought. Worthless.
"Spend another decade in the forests. Let them heal your mind. And when you are ready you can apply to rejoin the..."
One of the five stepped forward, interrupting his colleague, and moving to cast a looming shadow over the ground. Kaldur looked up. The figure before him was fierce - larger and wider than any Kaldorei he'd ever seen. Where the others wore leaves, bark or feathers; this one wore furs and bones. His hair was a tangled mess and his canines jutted out from inside his thin lips.
"I'll train him." His voice was like two rocks being scraped across each other.
"Gryr..." The lead Druid started.
"It is my right as Shan'Do to choose my own students. I'll train him."
The lead Druid looked at his companions and shrugged.
"Very well. Come brothers, our next applicant will be completing the trials shortly. Congratulations, Kaldur Winterwind. It appears you have passed."
The others departed silently, and Kaldur was left alone with the large Druid who continued to look down at him - glowing eyes studying him, as though picking the thoughts from his head.
"Master," Kaldur said softly. "May I ask why you..."
Gryr Bearmantle lifted the Staff from his back and stabbed it into the ground between them. As he took hold of it, orange flames burst along its length. Kaldur took a step back and regarded the Stave in awe. It must be some enchantment. It doesn't burn his hand or the wood...
"The others think you're broken boy. They think you're dangerous. They think the trauma of your past has left you unfit to become a Druid."
A predator never respects a creature if it thinks it too meek. Kaldur looked from the burning Staff before him and forced himself to meet the lopsided gaze of his new teacher. Gryr was quite clearly a Druid of the Claw - the most fierce of the Druid classes. Kaldur understood he was now to become one himself.
"And you think they're wrong?" Kaldur asked.
"Oh no, Kaldur Winterwind. I know you're broken. But sometimes you have to break a person to find out what stirs beneath their skin."
"Come, young bear. I have much to teach you."