(( This is the story of what Valerie Briade was doing just before returning to the SWU. I'll be posting small parts every few days. Hope you all enjoy! ))
The sulfur odor of the fel lakes was brought by the strong gales of the Antoran Wastes.
“Say something! Anything! You can’t just walk away without saying a thing,” Valerie yelled desperately.
The sayaad stopped. She took a deep breath before turning to look at the woman she has always loved, but that she wasn’t certain she could keep on loving anymore.
“I can’t deal with this right now! You use fel as if it was a toy, and nothing I say will change that. You will just continue to do horrible things without thinking it twice, and later regretting your actions. It seems nothing can change that. I think it has come to a point where I have to decide if I walk away from you to avoid the pain, or I stay and deal with the fact that I am your accomplice,” said Aelna with dripping frustration.
“I’m sorry…”, muttered Valerie hesitantly.
“It won’t be enough today,” said Aelna. “Don’t follow me.”
Valerie was unable to escape the cage her memories placed her in. She couldn’t concentrate in anything else since Aelna had walked away. The people’s voices, talking to her, were just background sounds to the spotlight that was only occupied by her face; covered in tears.
“Ms. Briade, you aren’t listening. Are you?” said Emmanuel Felgem, a nice and almost fatherly forsaken warlock she met in Dreadscar Rift some time ago.
“Sorry, Emmanuel,” said Valerie with sincere shame, “I have a lot in my mind right now. It’s hard to focus.”
“I know who is on your mind. But we need to be ready for this expedition. I really don’t want to die again.”
“Sorry. Please, continue.”
“From my research, the most suitable place will be a planet called Maldeb by the Legion. From the information I’ve gathered, it seems they planned on invading it soon, but with the imminent possibility of invading Azeroth, it was delayed. So, it is a place reachable by portal, and with a somewhat significant population of pure demons; untainted by the Burning’s Legion influence.”
“Do we know anything else about the place? Maybe, what kind of beings are going to try to kill us?”
“No. The Legion usually sends a few forward troops to scout the new planets, and gather information about their powers, numbers, and tactics. But, in this occasion, they hadn’t gone that far. We are going in blind. I know it may sound like a suicide mission…”
“…but I don’t think we will have a better chance to contact pure demons. Specially not in your lifetime.”
“Are you certain?”
“Look,” he said, “we have been looking for this opportunity for over a year. But I have been working on it for the entirety of my undeath. So, believe me when I tell you: We won’t get another chance.”
Valerie sighed. She knew she should trust him. She knew it would make her a fool to waste such an opportunity. But it felt impossible to overcome her fear. Why? She usually was too bold for her own good. Why was she now cowering away from this opportunity?
“And, about your succubus Aelna, I think you’re right. I’m sure she’ll love to come with us. Don’t kick yourself too much. If you ask me, I don’t think she’ll be gone for too long. She needed some space, but I’m sure she’ll be back soon. She always has, hasn’t she?”
“I’m here”, said Aelna, “but don’t confuse this with a sign of forgiveness or that we have solved anything.”
“I understand”, said Valerie, “but then, why are you here?”
“I met your friend Felgem in The Vindicaar a few days ago. He told me about your plans to find pure demons.”
“So, that’s it? You are talking to me just to be part of the expedition?”
“No. Of course not,” said Aelna, noticeably investing a good amount of energy into each word, “this time has helped me remember what it feels to be without you. To be honest, I don’t like it. But that doesn’t mean much. I still have to figure a way to be able to keep on loving you without having to sacrifice all that I am… if there even is a way.”
Valerie swallowed, trying to keep herself together, but her efforts were in vain. She burst into tears in a way alien to her. The lack of control was unexpected for both. She dropped her staff and cowered from the consequences of her actions. She felt the pain of being close to losing everything in her life.
Aelna was shocked. Something was different, new. This wasn’t the usual way Valerie dealt with pain. Maybe this time things would be different? It was impossible to know. Aelna wasn’t about to let hope spark again. She took a deep breath, sat in front of the woman that had caused her so much pain but that she couldn’t stop loving, and waited for her to calm down.
- - -
They crossed the portal and found themselves in an arid valley. The sands and rocks that covered the landscape had a greenish grey color. The air felt dense as they breath it in.
“Are you sure this air is breathable?”, asked Valerie.
“Aren’t you breathing it?”, responded Felgem as he let himself marvel with the view.
“You know what I mean…”, said Valerie.
“No, Ms. Briade”, he said, “I don’t know if it will hurt you. I really hope it doesn’t.”
“Is there an efficient way for us to find what we’re looking for?”, asked Aelna.
“Sadly, no”, answer Valerie. “The main problem is that we don’t know exactly what we’re looking for. We know that the Legion had flagged this world as inhabited by demons born from the Twisting Nether. So, we know they are pure demons, but we don’t even know what they look like.”
“That means, we don’t know if they will be hostile towards us”, said Aelna.
“No”, said Felgem, “we need to be ready for everything.”
They started looking for a good place to set up camp.
- - -
The silence was painful for both. Valerie walked on front, and Alena behind her. They had been rotating the scout team so there was always someone resting and keeping the camp safe. It was the first time the two of them were alone since they arrived. The rock formation they were walking towards was bigger than they had calculated.
“There is no way that thing was built”, Aelna said with disappointment, and tiredness.
Valerie stopped walking and turned. She agreed with Aelna, but she didn’t want to return without reaching the place.
“Do you want us to return?”, said the warlock.
“Well, to be honest, I’m tired, and it will be a pain to arrive and see it was nothing. But, at the same time, we’ve walked our fair share already, and I don’t want to feel that we wasted so much time and energy. Let’s reach the damn thing”, said the sayaad.
“Are you sure?”
“I am. Let’s go.”
“Do you want to walk by my side? If we’re going to do this, at least I would like to talk.”
They continued walking, now side by side. Aelna broke the silence.
“Do you think there is a way for us to continue being together, while avoiding hurting each other so much?”
“Please, don’t sugar-coat it”, said Valerie, “I know I messed up. I know my actions affect you and I don’t usually take that into account.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“Well, I do have hope. I believe things can improve.”
“Then, how come they haven’t? Because I keep on telling myself that you can change; that love can heal the wounds and guide us. But it hasn’t…”
“This doesn’t feel like the other times we had fights. Things are different. It makes sense to me to think that, maybe, I can really change this time.”
“It does feel different. But it’s because I am more concerned with taking care of me, than taking care of you. For the first time this doesn’t feel like I’m asking the world for forgiveness on your behalf. This time I’m letting you realize that you messed up, and that you are the one that needs to seek forgiveness. It’s me who’s changed.”
Valerie felt the need to defend herself, as she was so used to, but kept silent. She didn’t want to convince herself to avoid listening to Aelna’s words, as she used to. She didn’t have the need to be right, as she used to.