The Temple of the Red Crane huddled deep in the primal forests of Krasarang. The retaining wall that circled the entire complex looked as though it had grown naturally from the wilds thanks to the thick, choking vines that held the crumbling stones together. Livyani Silvermane sat astride a slender riding crane at one of the four gates into the temple grounds. The bird shifted impatiently beneath its rider, eager for shelter from the chilly rain. Liv held it back. For all of her mount’s eagerness to enter the stone enclosure, the elf appeared reluctant.
After quite some time, her hands eased on the reins and the crane pranced forward through the mud and into the temple. Liv dismounted at the stables and handed the bird over to a round-faced Pandaren attendant, who smiled at her but said nothing.
No one came forward to greet the newcomer – not that she had expected an extravagant welcome. Rather, Liv’s arrival coincided (by her own design) with the evening meditations, which meant the majority of the temple’s occupants would be seeking inner peace and not gossiping about foreign visitors.
She slipped quietly through the halls of the temple. The mosaic tiles lining the walls and floor gleamed in the light from the wall sconces. Cranes dominated the pattern, unsurprisingly. As she walked down an eastward-leading corridor, she let her fingers trace the looping whorls of a wind-inspired motif. You’re stalling, she thought.
Soon, in spite of her meandering pace through the tiled halls, she reached a familiar room. A stone arch opened into a long, unfurnished chamber. Two rows of pandaren monks knelt on woven mats, heads bowed in meditation. Across from the door, the master sat in lotus pose. Her sharp green eyes met Liv’s as the elf quietly knelt on an empty mat at the back of the room. The master said nothing, though a hint of a smile played at the corner of her mouth.
Liv took several deep breaths and forced her body to relax, muscle by muscle. The process took longer than she remembered – evidence of her neglecting to practice meditation in the years since she had last visited the temple.
When a faint rustling sound brought her back to the physical world, only the master remained. She stood in front of Liv with her paws hidden in the long sleeves of her cotton robe.
“Silverhair,” she said, her voice soft and tinged with mirth. “I understand the name, now. It was brown, the last time you were here.”
“Master Ehwa.” Liv bowed low to the floor.
“It has been a long time. Are you running from your life again?”
A wry smile twisted the elf’s lips. “No. I have learned to be at peace with who – and what – I am.”
One of Master Ehwa’s eyebrows inched upward. “Oh?”
Liv nodded, feeling the intensity of the elderly pandaren’s scrutiny. She endured it, knowing from past experience that her impatience would get her nowhere with the monk.
After a few moments, Ehwa beckoned her to rise. “Come along. You have much to tell me, I imagine, and such tales require tea.”
Sitting cross-legged on a cushion in the master monk’s private meditation chamber with a fragrant cup of tea in her lap, Livyani told the shortest version of events that had occurred since she left the temple. She abridged certain parts, not out of distrust for Ehwa but out of respect for the monk’s sensibilities. When the tale finally caught up to the events of the current week, she slowed down.
Her fel-green eyes fixed on the pale pattern of lilies painted at the bottom of the teacup.
“You believe you are seeing things again? Your brother, Aveith, has haunted you before.”
Liv shook her head, breaking the trance. She looked up at Ehwa. “I am not seeing things that aren’t there, master. The shopkeeper saw him, too. Described him, exactly as I saw him – and it was not the Aveith I saw when I was here before. He was… broken. Undead.” A chill gripped her and she fought the urge to curl in on herself.
“Before, you only ever saw him unchanged?”
“Yes. Back then… he was as he looked my strongest memories of him. Alive, healthy. Even when I was literally out of my mind, I couldn’t see him as he had been at the end.”
“I would suggest that perhaps you were conjuring this broken image of him as a way of resolving the two versions in your memory,” Ehwa said as she reached across to refill Liv’s empty cup. “But the witness saw him, too. This is not in your mind, or if it is, you are projecting your vision to others around you.”
“I… I touched him. He was solid, he was… there. Real.”
“Did you speak to him again? Seek him out after that first encounter?”
“No. I… I watched him leave the shop. Open a portal… I think he might be with the Ebon Blade, now. And I wasn’t sure what I would do if I saw him again. I almost lost it the first time, and everything felt like it was coming apart.” She glanced up into Ehwa’s eyes. “I didn’t run away from my problems, but I was afraid that if I stayed…”
“You would kill him again?”
The elf nodded slowly. “I don’t think I could survive that. Not again.”
“Did he recognize you?”
“I don’t think so. He was staring at me, but… when I pinned him, when I had a knife at his throat, he didn’t say anything. Just gave me this puzzled look.”
“So.” Ehwa rested her hands on her knees. “You were minding your own business, speaking to a work acquaintance, when your brother – whom you killed some five years ago – walks into the shop to stare at you.”
“It sounds crazy, I know.”
Ehwa shook her head. “Not crazy. Put aside that word, and tell me what you think was really happening.”
Liv blinked, momentarily confused. “But I just did that.”
“No, you told me the sequence of events. If I asked the shopkeeper, he would likely describe the same key events. I am asking for your interpretation of them. What was really happening?”
“I… He… He must have come back, somehow. Been put back together, raised again. I left the pieces behind in Northrend, it’s not that unlikely. Maybe something went wrong with the raising, or with the magic keeping him from dying, and he doesn’t remember me. Maybe he doesn’t remember who he is, either. Some of the Ebon Blade are like that. Unable to recover who they were before they died.”
“Unable, or unwilling?”
“You think that he would have reacted somehow, if he knew who you were.”
“Well… he’d have to, wouldn’t he?”
Ehwa stayed silent for a few long moments. “If he is alive – in whatever sense you interpret that word – and with the Ebon Blade, what will you do?”
“I don’t know. I guess that’s why I came here, to figure out what to do.”
The pandaren stood, brushing dust from her robe. “You may make use of the quarters you were assigned last time, and participate in our meditations and meals. But Livyani, this is not a place to hide from your problems forever. Make a decision, and then act on it. Understood?”
Liv rose to her feet and nodded. “Understood. Thank you, master.”
The pandaren ruffled her silvery hair with one paw. “You always were a strange kind of student. It is good to see you again, Silverhair.”