The night in Shattrath was a cool one, and even though Aldraen was inside a building, he could feel occasional breeze that slipped in under the door. He sat on a pillow, reading and scribbling notes on a stack of paper in his lap. He hadn't kept track of time, but it was surely an hour or so after midnight by now. He had been working with the research, analyzing and trying to perfect the plan he was making, for a long time now. Drowsiness had been creeping up for a good half hour, and Aldraen was close to falling asleep right where he was sitting. His head would from time to time get heavier and heavier before he would react and shake it back.
He looked over to the doorway to the neighbouring room, where he knew his draenei friend and owner of the house, Kenelas, was working with hers. She had probably went to sleep by now, perhaps slumped over her notes and lecture. Aldraen smiled to himself at the picture of her happily sleeping in a pile of tomes, scrolls and paperwork. He liked to watch her in her sleep. She looked so peaceful when asleep, which Aldraen to a part envied, which was because he hadn't been sleeping well for the last weeks. Something haunted him in the dreamscapes. He didn't let it show of course, he was quite experienced at hidding his true feelings. He wouldn't burden those around him with his own personal problems.
He rose up from his cushion, making a tidy stack of his notes and put them under his arm, being careful to not make any noices that could disturb Kenelas in her work or slumber. He walked on light feet through the draenei house with its so very special architecture, built in some kind of brownish stone, that possibly could be taken in from Nagrand. He passed by the door that lead to Kenelas's room, stopping for a second. Out of curiousity, he opened it a little to peek in, making sure she wouldn't notice if she was awake.
Looking through the small hole, he could see into the room. He spotted the table where Kenelas used to be working, and there she sat. It appeared as if she was very well asleep, lying over the table. Aldraen thought it was so incredibly sweet, and for a moment he had the impulse to go into the room to touch her. Just to make sure she still was real. Resisting it, he sighed, closed the door gently and walked down to the door out of the house. He was going to short take walk to chase away the sleepiness so he could get back to his work.
Shutting the door behind him, Aldraen walked out into the late night. The air was a little chilly, colder than it used to be in Stormwind. Though it was in the middle of the night, the city of Shattrath was quite well-lit. The magical braziers casted their light over the Aldor Rise, and he could see the light coming from the Shrine of Unending Light at the highest point of the area. It felt tranquil here.
Aldraen began strolling down the walkway, enjoying the cool breeze that washed most of his drowziness away. The wind this night was soft and very gentle, nothing like the thunderous winds that Stormwind was known and named after. It rustled his mane of hair that reached just below his shoulders, blowing a few leaves around on the street. Aldraen didn't want to go back to the house just yet, but instead set off to watch the city during night-time. The night was lovely, the sky clear of clouds. Tomorrow would be a beautiful day. Stars that couldn't be seen from Azeroth twinkled, along with the celestial phenomenons that this planet always had in the sky. Purple bands of energy and other planets far away inhabited it.
Aldraen went back to his walk after stopping to admire the sky. There was an open building at the end of the Rise that had a balcony on it for people to enjoy, so he turned to walk that way. He could already see the ray of light, coming up out of the roof of the central building down on the Terrace of Light. It shone brightly, as it flared up into the sky.
Aldraen approached the ledge on the balcony of the building he'd entered to get a better view. He stood as close as he would dare without getting dizzy and feel sick. Below him, he could see most of the capital now. The Lower City was still quite active, but the Terrace of Light was only patrolled by the occasional peacekeepers at this time of the night. The Scryer's Tier was hard to make out in the darkness. Aldraen turned his gaze upwards, looking up in the sky once again. The constellations he was used to from Azeroth couldnt be seen. Nothing surprising though, as it was on Outland.
"Draenor", Aldraen corrected himself in his mind. Kenelas would never take the word Outland in her mouth, and Aldraen had agreeded with her on that point. "No matter if the demon lord of the world has renamed it, it's still Draenor."
He backed away from the ledge of the balcony and sat down against the wall, pulling his knees up so he could rest his cheek on them. He took his research from under his arm and tried to focus on the text. But his mind slipped off to something different, even though how hard he tried not to let it into his head. The thoughts were always stalking in the fringes of his mind, gnawing its way in.
He looked back at the house, his current "home", if he ever would have one. He thought of Kenelas, and at the same time he felt overjoyed and empty. And as he did, the two battling voices in his head started again. His logicly thinking part, the one that he had always heeded, told him what he already so well knew. She could never be his. She was a draenei, he was a human. She must be over hundreds of years, if not thousands. She was old enough to be his ancient ancestor. He was a child compared in age, and she must see him as a one, if not less.
The other voice told him of what he also already knew. How he had never felt so whole before than in her presence. That a side in him that he hadnt felt for a lifetime had reawakened, something he had thought would never happen.
The two parts of him had been battling for weeks, if not months now. Eternaly present in the back of his head, he did all he could to supress them. He knew he loved her with his very being, but he knew that she couldn't love him back. It was impossible. At the best, she must feel like taking care of a small child. She had had lifetimes to learn from the Naaru. He had only learned himself everything he knew, and that could in no way rival a Naaru. From his short experience with them during the time in Shattrath, he had understood that it was unfathomable to measure their intelligence.
Aldraen shook his head to clear out the swirling thoughts, the whirlwind inside of his head. He knew this was all ridiculous. If someone could see into his mind, they would straight away get tired of all his pathetic ramblings.
He rose up on his feet again, holding his papers under his arm. He continued on his walk, heading first towards the shrine to the Light. He passed under the majestic trees that were planted along the walkway. They looked beautiful, easily outdoing the trees of Elwynn that he had grown vup around. The trunks were bent in a half-arch, almost as if stretching down to protect those walking below it. He thought that they were originaly from Nagrand, as he had spotted similar ones the day Kenelas and he had taken a walk to the tunnel through the mountain, to Nagrand.
He walked up the steps to the Aldorite shrine to the Light. The building had no door, as the priesthood believed in the keep it open to everyone. The city had low criminality anyway (at least up in the Rise), as the Peacekeepers were very tough with criminals. The story about the Lower City was a different one, of course.
When looking inside, he could see that there were, as always, a small number of draenei Aldorites inside, some praying, some meditating or otherwise. He walked inside and could feel the serene power of the Holy Light in the area, almost a tangible presence. In the center of the room there was the blessed icon, shining brightly and sending a beam of light into the sky above through the hole in the ceiling. It made a low, humming noise that brough vslm into almost anyone who approached it.
Aldraen stopped a just inside. He looked around, not spotting the High Priestess, Ishanah, anywhere. She must surely be resting now as most other people in the city. The draenei inside nodded in greeting to him, and he nodded back. They had learned that when he visited the shrine, he wanted to think and needed to be left alone. He walked over to the icon, which he believed was blessed by the Naaru themselves as a gift to the priesthood. He put his hands together and, shut his eyes and prayed. It was only a short time since he had begun praying once more, when he had first met a Naaru. It had been different before, but he had taken up praying again.
He prayed for forgivness, to forget. Another low humming mixed with a chiming sound blended in with that of the icon. Though nothing spoke, Aldraen knew that a Naaru was listening to his prayer. It could be A'dal himself, or it could be one of the others. Aldraen had learned that A'dal very often heard the prayers that one spoke, and he had more than once answered back in the mind. It had first startled Aldraen, but he had gotten used to it and liked that his prayers were heard by someone else than himself. It had become some kind of confession for him, and to vent his feelings and empty his heart to one that wouldn't judge him helped him hang on.
"You must not judge yourself so, young Aldraen", the chiming, calm voice that was A'dal's spoke inside the mind. Through what Aldraen had learned, it wasn't unique that the benevolent Naaru spoke with their protectees.
"I cannot keep on doing this, A'dal." Aldraen thought. He knew that the Naaru could her it. "What can I do? What should I do? There is no way to escape this trap."
"You must do what your heart desires. Only then will you let yourself rest once more. The plague of your mind will only resolve itself once you have taken action." A'dal answered in its normal, enigmatic way. It would never speak straight to anyone.
Aldraen didn't like to think of A'dal as "it", neither the other Naaru. He had once asked if A'dal was a female or a male, but noone but the Naaru themselves knew. A'dal hadn't given him a straight answer, but answered in riddles. Perhaps they were genderless as the beings of pure Light they were, perhaps the gods of the Holy Light.
"What action should I take? How can I know the right course when my own mind shackles me?" He asked, desperate for a true answer.
"Only you can know. We are to guide, not to control." the Naaru leader told him, and the chiming faded away.
Aldraen could almost feel tears forming in the corners of his eye. He wanted the thoughts to go away, to leave him alone. To forget about it all, to go back to how it all used to be. If he kept on his loosing battle to shut the voices out, it would surely consume his sanity in time. Every smile she showed, every kind word, made him want to scream out his agony so it wouldn't remain hidden anymore. But he wouldn't. He had decided himself. She had saved his life when he lay deathly ill in the Ghoul Fever, and he would stay at her side to repay it. Then, he would depart. He could never live on like this in silent pain. He would have to forget, push the voices back into the darkest corner of his mind and lock them there forevermore. Try and go back to a life in solitude. A life alone like it used to be was better than being locked in this, his mind being torn into two pieces he couldn't control.
Apart from leaving her forever, he had only come up with other solutions. He could live with her, trying to purge himself of his feelings for her and lock away the voices. To go back to how it was before, where he was her friend. But forgetting it would never be possible if he saw her so often. Leaving and forgetting would be easier, even though he didn't knew if he could forget her, even if leaving this very night and lived in solitude until his day of death.
He could also tell her everything and hope for the best, but if he did, it would only lead to her casting him out. He could take the easiest way and end it all. Silence the voices forever, just throw himself off the cliff ahead of him... but that wouldn't do. Kenelas had saved his life for him to live. He wouldn't repay it that way.
A'dal had in no way helped him to decide himself. He rose up from his kneeling position, giving the anchorites a nod of farewell and walking out into the night again. The Naaru could be so incredibly frustrating at times. Meeting one had changed his way of thinking about religion, from respecting them all but not seeing that any worshiping would repay itself. He had seen so many different ones that he had settles for respect to them all but keeping his belief in the Light as his own. The Naaru had showed him that the Light did indeed listen. Praying felt real again.
He sat down against a tree trunk, just breathing in silence and listening to the silence. The chill crept inunder his clothes and he could feel goosebumps rising, but it didn't bother him.
In thoughts, he let his hand run along the tree he sat under. The bark felt smooth under his fingertips, with small, small veins running though the surface. He broke off a little piece of it, about the size of a leaf. It was close to be as thin as a leaf, as well. He let it rest in the palm of his hand, examining it with his other hand before simply dropping it to the ground. He got a sense of anger rising inside of him, against himself and his stupidity and crushed the bark under his heel before going slumping down again.
In his thoughts, he could feel sleep beginning to try and conquer him again, with his eyelids growing heavier and the body going number. But he fought it as good as he could. He could try to keep the thoughts away and sometimes win, but he could never control his dreams.
He was suddenly washed over by an insurmountable drowsiness. He shut his eyelids, only for a short moment. A second wouldn't do anything, and he felt so tired. He sat there for a while before feeling how it began taking over again.
Without being able to stop it, the world went black around him. Aldraen opened his eyes again, but all he could see was darkness. In a distance there was a soft, white-blue light that was the only brightness in this dark, new world. He began walking towards it to see for himself what thing could create the light.
As he neared it, he could see that in the middle of the soothing light that bathed the ground around it, there stood a being of such incredible beauty. He could only make out a female humanoid shape, a slender tail and a smile in the face shrouded by mysterious blue light. It just stood there, silently smiling, and Aldraen felt as if it beckoned him over.
As he started running towards the being, he could suddenly see that there was a forest of thorns between them. He didn't hesitate, but threw himself into the thistles, crawling through a sea of sharp pain. The thorns ripped up his clothes, tore into his flesh, pierced his very being as they cut deep scars with every movement from Aldraen's side. But even though they were colored with scarlet, dripping with his blood, he pushed on. All would be worth it when he reached the woman on the other side.
But as he neared the other side, he could see the being's face change into a terrified mask. It began backing away from him in fear, dissappearing into the darkness as the light faded away.
"No! Please don't... no... " Aldraen tried to tell it, stretching his hand out but giving up. He was suspended still in the air by the thistles all around him, like hooks with ropes into his flesh.
He looked below him, as blood dripped down from hs body and formed a deep-red pool under him. He could see the reflection of his face and he understood why he had scared the beautiful being off. His lips were torn away, scars drawn in his face so that bone looked through. The whole face was covered in blood, forming rivers between the crevices that the thorns had dug. It had been turned into a mask of horror. Aldraen cried bitter tears that burned when they rolled down his cheeks and joined the blood.
It was in that moment that he woke up. He jerked up from his lying position under the tree, realising it had all been a nightmare and that he had slept for a short while. When his hands explored his face, there was no blood left, but he had cried in his sleep. He wiped the tears away, and splashed water from the nearby pool under the tree into his face, as if to wash away his shame.
He had this type of dream many times before. Always the same type of dream, but always in different in a new way. He longed for a night of sleep without being haunted.
Even though he had just slept, sleep began trying to regain its hold over him. But Aldrean wouldn't let it win once more. He reached down to a pocket on his hip. Out of it, he took a small, flat-shaped metal bottle. It had been his companion for many years now, his weapon to fight sleep. Uncorking it, he shook it gently and confirmed that there was enough left to drink. He raised it to his lips and drank a few gulps of the light-green liquid. It burned in his throat as it made its way down, like molten thorns from his dream. It fought back drowsiness a little, and after half-a-minute, the kick came. The sensation of blood rushing to the head, the numbness in his legs and arms retreating replaced his previous state. He liked to think of it that he was a blunt knife, and the mixture sharpened him again. Of late, he had been drinking more and more of the drink to keep his mind sharp. As soon as he grew unfocused on his work, the mind would wander and the voices that were his, but still not, would claw their way in. The burn in the throat had become a way for him to punish himself for his thoughts of Kenelas. He knew that if she ever would find out anything, she would break her bonds with him and cut him out of her life. His logic part had come to that conclusion long ago.
Aldraen began walking back towards the house again. The soft pillows seemed so appealing now and working in there was closer to his borrowed bed. He stopped close to the door, looking back out over cliff and Shattrath below.
Aldraen took a second sip from the swiftthistle tea, just to make sure. The flask was almost empty now, he would have to brew more next time he got his hands on some swiftthistle. Unluckily, the herb didn't grow in Draenor. His reserves were depleted, and he had been trying to come up with an alternative way to keep sleep back when needed.
Absentmindedly, he scratched his cheek, right where Kenelas had kissed him a month ago. It had been in Sholazar Basin, before Aldraen fell ill in Ghoul Fever. He didn't remember it perfectly, but he had said something that she had wanted to punish him for, in a joking manner. She had tried to tickle him, but to Aldraen's luck he was only ticklish on a rare spot, which she hadn't found. Out of the blue, she had surprised him by kissing on the cheek instead. While some people would have taken it for a good sign, Aldraen had seen it as not.
"She was just playing with me," his logic side had convinced him of. "She would never lower herself to my level. She is beyond me."
But whatever he was convinced of, he had never felt so happy in his life. But afterwards, it had only contributed to his sadness. To have a short taste of what he had wanted so much but knowing it ended there.
He stopped scratching himself and sighed. He went inside, closing the door behind him without making a sound. He walked over to the ring of cushions and sat down.
With his mind sharpened once more, Aldraen turned his focus back to his research. If he worked hard enough, the voices would drown for the time being. He didn't want them there.
"Don't let thoughts of her distract you", he told himself. "It's all just distractions. Distractions. Distractions..."
But he somewhere in himself, he knew very well that he was only trying to fool himself. It was not thoughts of Kenelas that were trying to distract him from his work, he worked to distract himself from thoughts of her.