"The Moonglade?" Rodney repeated doubtfully. "Sounds kind of… elvish, don't you think? Is it safe?" He breathed the teleportation spell to himself silently, not lending any power to it, just committing the words to memory. He had an excellent head for spells - it was part of the reason his greatmother had encouraged him to become a druid. Personally, he thought he'd much rather aid the tribe with his alchemical skills, providing healing draughts and strength elixirs to the warriors of Thunder Bluff, but what the greatmother wants….
"The Moonglade is a shared haven. Violence is not permitted." His trainer looked at him severely, and Rodney barely managed not to roll his eyes. As if he needed to be told to avoid confrontation. He wouldn't even fight the docile plainstriders that roamed the area unless someone charged him with the task. And even then, he kept a healthy distance, calling roots from the earth to entangle the land-bound birds while he fired at them from range. Some might call it cowardly, but he hardly had the strength to take them on face-to-face. That was why he was here.
"Those who walk nature's path do not allow minor differences such as race and faction to cloud their minds. Unity with nature is the goal of the elven druids as much as it is our own. Go, and do not return until you have met the first of your challenges."
"What will-" Rodney began, but cut himself off when the high druid of Thunder Bluff raised his arms and Rodney found himself surrounded in wispy trails of white light that curled around his legs and up his torso. Panicked, he held his breath and squeezed his eyes shut. He felt a light tickle against his face, and then… nothing.
Cautiously, he opened his eyes, expecting to see Turak Runetotem looking at him disapprovingly. It would be just Rodney's luck to be the one trainee that the high druid's spell wouldn't work on. It seemed like things like that were always happening to him.
But instead of Runetotem's scowling face, he found himself standing in a room filled with bookshelves, staring at a wall about twenty feet away. He snorted in surprise. There was a small staircase tucked into the corner of the room, and a carved wooden railing to prevent anyone falling to the floor below.
The furnishings and design didn't look like anything from the tauren homeland of Mulgore, and Rodney felt his breath quicken. "No no no. Oh, no no." Not even Runetotem could hate him so much that he'd send him to elven lands, in the middle of an elven city, without guards or protection or-
He never taught me the spell to teleport home.
Rodney closed his eyes again and tried to steady his breathing. He had to stay quiet and hope nobody came up the stairs. Just stay calm. There's got to be an answer here.
Working on the assumption that he wasn't just sent here to die, there had to be a way out of this. It was just another test, another level to his training. Runetotem wouldn't have reached the rank he had if he routinely sent his trainees off to be beheaded by elven Sentinels, even if said trainees were tauren who suddenly appeared alone in the middle of hostile territory.
Deep breaths. Wide open fields. Wide open-
"May I help you?" A silken voice purred.
Rodney spun around, his breath catching high in his throat. "Ah!"
A night elf stood a mere arm's length in front of him, with long, midnight-blue hair and shining yellow eyes. He'd never seen one in person before, but the long, pointed ears were unmistakable. The elf blinked at him, unconcerned, and the action made the light from his eyes disappear, then reappear like the flickering of a candle. It was creepy in the extreme.
"I-I don't… I'm not-"
"Do not be afraid, young one. Turak Runetotem told me of your arrival. All druids are welcomed to the sacred lands of Moonglade, tauren and night elf alike. I am Dendrite Starblaze, and this is the city of Nighthaven. You are welcome here, at any time you wish, be it for training or solace."
With a restraint he was proud of, Rodney didn't say that he'd be more likely to look for solace in the haunted mists of Duskwood than in a night elf city, and instead managed an awkward bow. "Uh… Rodney."
Starblaze gave a regal nod. He didn't seem surprised that Rodney had yet to reach the level of training that allowed him a second name, and that gave him hope.
"Are you… am I here to learn from you?" he asked, hesitantly. Night elf manners were notoriously formal, and ticking off a named night elf wasn't something he particularly aspired to. He could feel his tail lashing agitatedly behind him, and hoped the elf wouldn't take the nervous habit the wrong way. "Uh… sir?"
Starblaze smiled, which did nothing at all to relieve Rodney's nervousness, and said, "In the northwest part of Moonglade resides a wise and noble being we call the Great Bear Spirit. For all druids, it has served as a tutor and mentor into the first true natural understanding of the bear. All druids at one point seek the spirit's wisdom, and you shall be no exception. When it is satisfied with you, we will see if you have truly taken account of the lessons it teaches."
Rodney nodded emphatically. "What?"
The high druid blinked again, calmly. "Seek out the Great Bear Spirit in northwestern Moonglade and learn what it has to share with you about the nature of the bear. When you are finished, return to me."
"Oh." That was much more concise. Find a ghostly bear, talk to it about bears, come back. Rodney appreciated clarity in all things. A clear, step-by-step set of instructions was vital when dealing with volatile substances in alchemy, and he tended to apply that philosophy to everything.
He supposed it was different for night elves, though. Accustomed to immortality, they probably made everything more complicated than it had to be. After all, there was plenty of time for them to work it out. Then he remembered that the elves had lost their immortality with the destruction of the World Tree, and felt a niggling sense of discomfort. It wasn't only the Horde that had suffered from the war with the Burning Legion.
Starblaze was watching him patiently, as if he could read every thought that passed through his head. For all Rodney knew, he could. Who knew what things elves learned over their centuries of life? He shivered. Tragic, fallen-angel race or not, night elves were still creepy.
"Okay, I'll just… go then. Find the bear- Great Bear Spirit." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "I'll be right back."
A slow incline of the head. "Go in peace."
"Sure. Thanks." With a relieved sigh, Rodney turned and headed for the staircase. Standing at the top step, he peered down, but couldn't see anything on the ground floor. Presumably, the place was full of elves. He'd just have to be confident. His greatmother had told him, when he was just a pup, awkward and ill-fitting even with the other children of the mesa, that if you spoke and acted like you belonged, others would treat you accordingly.
He straightened his spine, held his tail down and still, and started down the steps.
The building was deserted.
His shoulders fell and he rolled his eyes. Figures.
He picked his way across the wood floor, careful not to touch any of the furnishings. The rough-hewn chairs and tables were arranged in comfortable sitting areas and looked sturdy enough to hold his weight, but he felt too much like an interloper to try them out. Despite the demilitarized nature of Nighthaven, it was clearly a city built by the elves if this building was anything to judge by, and he would be willing to bet that at least some of them would be horrified at such a beastly creature contaminating their space.
When the Allied races looked at a tauren - large size, bovine facial features, fur, tail, hooves, horns - they saw an animal, not a sentient being. The humans even had a legend about a tauren lying in wait at the center of a great maze, waiting for victims to fall into its ravenous jaws, or some such nonsense.
An open doorway led outside and he stepped from the building onto a cobbled stone path. On either side of the path, the grass was lush and neatly kept. Dark purple flowers lined the edges of the yard, and beyond he saw miles and miles of thick forest. He breathed deeply. The smell here was a richer, leafier smell compared to the open plains and wild grasslands of Mulgore, where he'd grown up with the sharp smells of wind and wet earth.
The path led around the side of the little house, and he froze when he turned the corner and saw an enormous wooden arch, guarded by two Sentinels. He couldn't tell if they'd seen him, half-hidden as he was by the wild bushes next to the building, and he crouched down, trembling.
This is the druid haven, he told himself. The rules and alliances outside don't apply here. Still, there wasn't a day that passed at home that some traveller didn't bring a tale of the latest battle at Astranaar, or recent raid on The Crossroads. His own father was killed by a night elf outrider while he was minding his own business, hunting kodo in the Barrens. A lifetime's worth of caution wasn't easily overcome.
Still, Turak Runetotem hadn't gotten him killed yet.
With as much confidence and dignity as he could muster, he stood up and stepped around the bush, and walked purposefully, if a little slowly, toward the arch. His stride slowed further the closer he got to the end of the path. A few strides from the arch, and the Sentinels hadn't even looked at him, eyes focused straight ahead, diligent and military.
He kept his own eyes on the ground as he passed between them, hyper-aware of any movement in his peripheral vision. Then he was under the arch, and he couldn't help the burst of speed as he put a more comfortable distance between himself and the armed elves.
He supposed that proved it, though, he thought as his heart rate slowed to something approaching normal. Apparently he really could walk around this place as he pleased.
He looked around, feeling giddy from adrenaline. There were several low buildings, none more than two storeys high, connected by stone paths and small wooden bridges spanning shallow brooks.
He moved vaguely northwest, clopping across a wooden bridge here, taking a shortcut through a building there, glancing surreptitiously at all the elves he passed, none of whom took any particular notice of him. Just as he was beginning to truly relax, he saw another wooden arch, this time guarded by a night elf on one side, and a tauren on the other. That sight, more than anything, bled away the last of his nervousness, and he cheerfully grinned at her as he passed under the arch.
On the other side, he was met with another stone path, leading away into the surrounding forest. Obliging lanterns hung on gnarled trees lit the way, and he started out, staff at the ready should any forest spider or wolf cross the path.
An hour later, he decided that Moonglade truly was a haven, and also frustrating as hell. The forest seemed to be devoid of any predators, the only wildlife being the butterflies and hornless gazelle-like creatures that were apparently so unmolested here that they walked right by him, close enough to touch. The path, unfortunately, was less than helpful, as almost as soon as it left Nighthaven, it had turned directly south, and Rodney was forced to wander through unmarked forest, quartering the area as he moved northwest. When he came to a wall of rock, he turned back, searching the same territory all over again, moving southeast.
"This is ridiculous," he said irritably, as a light broke through the trees ahead. He'd made it all the way back to the path. He sighed and headed toward the lantern's light. He'd just have to go back to Nighthaven and ask for more detailed directions.
He walked around a tree and stopped short, his breath catching in his throat as he saw the source of the light. An enormous bear, on all fours half again as tall as Rodney, stood in a small clearing. It seemed made entirely of ghostly light, trails and wisps floating away from its body as it swung its head, testing the air. Its jaws hung open, revealing teeth longer than Rodney's hand. The creature eyed Rodney silently, and he stepped forward.
Greetings, my young friend. If you have come to me in search of guidance, perhaps I can help you with what you seek.
The words appeared fully formed in Rodney's head, without the benefit of having passed through his ears. He blinked at the strange sensation, then replied out loud.
"Yes, I've come to learn from you. Uh, about bears." He winced.
The bear nodded once, slowly. In order to know what it means to draw upon my spirit, you need to understand the importance of the strength of the body, as well as the strength of the heart.
The bear looked at him severely, and Rodney swallowed noisily, nodding.
The bear's girth highlights its strength, as it is a ferocious foe in combat. That girth, however, belies its lithe agility and sharp mind. These are surprises you will use to your advantage. The mother bear shows endless conviction in protecting her young, as does an elder bear protecting his den. It is this resolve, this strength of heart, which you must come to know if you are to master the way of the Claw.
Rodney waited another moment, but it seemed the bear had said its piece. "I understand, Spirit," Rodney said deferentially, hoping it was the right thing to say. "May I have your blessing?"
Heed what I have taught you. There will be a time when you will have your strength tested. You must face your foe as the bear would - with strength of body and with strength of heart. Go, with my blessings.
Rodney let out a breath and bowed, then backed away from the spirit a few steps before turning around. He looked back once, half expecting the bear to have disappeared, but it was still in its clearing, watching him with a steady, placid gaze. He gave a jerky wave, then hurried back to the shelter of the forest.
That was weird, he thought. That low, disembodied voice was no longer in his head, but he still felt… unsettled. Different. Well, he supposed that was the point. Maybe he could give it a try?
He concentrated on the feel of the body he'd always known, from the tip of his tail to the jagged end of his left horn that had broken when he'd fallen down a water well as a child. His arms and legs, his chest. He concentrated on the center of himself and held the image of the bear in his mind.
Suddenly, with all the grace of that tumble down the well, he fell to all fours amid the fallen leaves of the forest floor. His eyes snapped open and he saw a cloud of white light dissipating around him.
Love of the Earthmother, he did it!
Staring down incredulously at the giant clawed paws in front of him, he grinned. The expression felt strange on his elongated face as his lips pulled back over his new, sharp fangs. He swivelled his ears around, hearing things in the forest that he hadn't before: the chirps of far-off birds, the rustle of creatures moving through the brush, even the rush of the streams trickling through Nighthaven to the east.
His lower field of vision took a moment to get accustomed to, and his center of gravity had changed so that when he tried to walk forward, he tripped over his own front legs and hit the ground with his jaw.
"Ow," he tried to say, but it came out as merely an irritated growl.
Carefully, he padded around between the trees until he had the rhythm of walking on four legs. Then he made his way back toward where he thought the path should be. After a few moments, the cobbled stones and lanterns came into sight, and when he reached them, he sat down heavily on his rear, feeling very pleased with himself.
He, Rodney of Red Cloud Mesa, was now a real druid; he'd learned his first form!
John ambled along the stone path, enjoying the sights. Moonglade was what Darkshore could be, if it weren't under constant threat from rabid thistle bears and nightsabers, and didn't have the port that allowed feisty travellers from across Azeroth to land on its shores looking for glory and, more often than not, finding trouble instead.
He waved casually to the Sentinel on guard at the west entrance, and eyed the tauren female as he approached. He'd been told that there would be druids of both races here at Nighthaven, but this was the first he'd seen.
She didn't look as frightening as the tales would have him believe, though she was tall - taller than him, even. Actually, she was kind of pretty, in an animal sort of way. Her armor was as well-kept as any Sentinel's, and she stood with the same steady alertness as her counterpart. Her head was just like a cow's, with small horns atop a slightly bowed head, but if it weren't for that and the dainty hooves in place of booted feet, she would look just as natural in any Alliance city as he would himself.
Hm. Maybe it's the druid influence, he thought as he passed beneath the arch. Maybe the others of her kind were more warlike. He couldn't really picture a race of creatures like her committing the atrocities spoken of with such fear and hatred in Stormwind.
At the edge of the path, a deer picked its way through the leaves, stopping to nibble the dew-wet grass pushing up from the forest floor. He trailed a hand along her fur for a moment, glad that the sickness afflicting the deer of Darkshore had apparently not reached all the way to Moonglade.
Suddenly, there was a loud thump, as if a branch or something heavy had fallen somewhere close, and the deer bounded away north. He turned his head to look south, but nothing was immediately visible.
Well, Dendrite Starblaze hadn't put a time limit on his little spirit quest, and the path itself lead invitingly south, so he figured he could take a moment to investigate. He grinned and headed down the path's gentle decline.
After a moment, he made out a large white shape sitting next to a far lantern. A few more moments, and the shape stood, resolving itself into that of an unnaturally large bear. It was easily twice the size of a thistle bear, with dark, curling shapes painted on its shoulders and down its sides. The shapes were familiar to him, having seen similar markings on shifted druids in bear form. What was startlingly unfamiliar, though, were the long white horns arcing outward from over its eyes, one of which was broken off halfway down its length.
This must be the Great Bear Spirit, then. He took a deep breath.
As he stepped forward, the spirit turned its head and watched his approach, intelligence shining from striking blue eyes. The creature's head came nearly to John's shoulders, and its horn could put out his eye without the animal even needing to stand up on its hind legs. Unconsciously, he drew himself up to his full height as he stopped directly in front of the spirit's giant head.
In response, the creature took a step back, eyeing him sideways, and snorted.
He lifted both his hands, palm first, in a calming gesture, but that just made the animal take several more backward steps, crashing into a bush behind him. Threatened, the bear lowered its head as if to attack and snorted again, loudly.
"Whoa!" John said, panicked. "Hold on!" The animal paused, looking at him suspiciously, and John took a breath. Using his most formal voice, he called, "O, Great Bear Spirit, revered master of the Claw, I've come to you to… to further my training in the ways of the druid. Please, share with me your wisdom, that I may know your strength. And grace. And… form."
He stopped, watching the bear apprehensively, arms held carefully out to his sides, trying to look as earnest and respectful as possible.
The animal blinked at him once, twice, then its lips slowly curled over its teeth, and it bared its dripping fangs at him. John tensed, and calculated the distance he'd travelled from the sanctuary of Nighthaven. He was just about to take a careful step backward, when the spirit swung its head to the left.
It's over there. The voice sounded amused as it curled like smoke inside John's head.
The Great Bear Spirit. It's that way.
Again the bear swung its head to the left and slightly behind where it was standing. Blue eyes blinked back at him expectantly.
"So, you're not-"
No, sorry. Again he was treated to a view of jagged incisors. Was that a smile?
"Oh." John straightened his tunic and glanced sideways at the bear. "Right," he muttered, and stalked off toward the thicket the bear had indicated without offering any thanks for the directions. Humiliation tended to make him ungracious.
You don't have to be so theatrical about it, either. You looked like a carny.
John spun around. Giant mutant bear or not, that was just unnecessary. "I was trying to be respectful!"
You sounded like a barker. Come one, come all, to the Darkmoon Faire! And that was definitely a giant mutant bear laugh.
John scowled darkly, and the bear pushed back from its front legs to land on its rear with a loud thump that made nearby twigs bounce. Well, one mystery solved.
John turned from the amused bear and made his way into the thicket. He wouldn't be at all surprised if he found himself stepping off a cliff into a river. That bear was probably sending him straight into a wasps' nest or a den of-
Oh. He stopped short.
Oh, that was more like it.
A few very weird minutes later, he stepped back out of the clearing and through the thicket to see the bear still where he'd left it.
So? he heard in his head. Did you get the blessing?
The voice sounded eager and genuinely curious, so he decided he could let bygones be bygones. Besides, this was way too cool to keep to himself.
"Yep," he said proudly, rocking up on his toes.
So do it! Let's see. The bear hefted itself up onto all fours and watched expectantly, jaws hanging open.
John closed his eyes and thought to himself, Okay, I'm a bear. I'm a bear. I-
Hey, neat! the other druid exclaimed. That looks really cool from this end.
John opened his eyes to find he was now looking slightly up at the face in front of him, instead of slightly down. He also saw the tip of his own muzzle and, looking down, clawed bear feet.
"Hey, this is great!" he said, but it came out as a rumbing gurgle and the other bear snorted. Oh, right.
Right, he thought, and lifted one foreleg to run it over his head. No horns. Huh. He did feel that his ears were apparently much longer than the other bear's, similar in length to his ears in his normal form, like all shifted druids-
He stopped and jerked his eyes back to meet the ones now staring at him inquisitively.
Like all shifted night elf druids.
Tauren! he spat, backing away quickly.
The other druid reared his head back, startled, and when John snarled, he loped quickly over to the path, giving him a wide berth. His claws scrabbled on the stones as he turned to keep John in his line of sight.
Hackles raised, John stayed in the cover of the forest. If the tauren wanted to fight, he would have to come to him. He dug his claws into the soft earth and waited for any movement, muscles trembling with tension.
The larger bear didn't seem inclined to come any closer, though. He stood, still as a statue, in the middle of the path. His horns were slightly lowered, but his eyes were cast off to the side, not meeting John's gaze. If anything, he looked defensive, as if he were the one expecting an attack.
Cautiously, John took a step forward, and the tauren druid danced sideways, eyes casting about wildly, apparently looking for a way back up the path that wouldn't take him any closer to John. Now, beyond looking defensive, the other druid looked frightened, and John was starting to think that perhaps he'd overreacted.
After all, the tauren had had plenty of opportunity to gore him to death when they'd first met, if that was what he'd wanted to do. And against those horns and claws, John wouldn't have had much to say about it. Now that he thought back, the tauren had looked frightened then, too, when John had first approached him.
Now the other druid was trying to slink unobtrusively against the rock wall on the other side of the path, creeping slowly back uphill toward Nighthaven. As well as a six-foot tall predator built like a brick house could creep, in any case. John was starting to feel like he'd kicked an enormous puppy.
"Hey," he tried, forgetting, and when it came out as a strangled growl, the other druid flinched and started creeping faster.
Sorry, he tried again. I was surprised, that's all. But the words felt flat and dull, without the resounding echo he'd felt when he'd spoken to the tauren this way before, and he could tell the other druid wasn't hearing him, had closed his mind off from him in fear.
Damn it. Wanting to make amends, he ran after the other bear, but as soon as his claws hit stone, the tauren was off like a shot, moving with surprising speed for something so large.
Wait! He tried again, but the tauren didn't even pause. Well, if he had to chase him all the way back to Nighthaven, he would.
His breath huffed out of his lungs in great gusts as his front legs hit the ground, and the muscles in his back and hind legs worked to give him more speed than he'd ever had in his usual body. He was gaining on the other bear slowly; the tauren might be larger, but John was faster.
Just as the arch of the western entrance came into view, the other bear spun around to face him with a snarl, rising up on his hind legs to roar in rage. John skidded to a stop, just out of the reach of the other's claws, should he try to take a swing.
At the sound, the two guards at the gate ran into view, axes held aloft, ready to end any acts of violence in the sacred glade with deadly force. The tauren snorted at him, breath steaming in the damp air, eyes wild.
The guards stood ready, not ten feet behind the raging bear, and John had no doubt that the tauren female would have no more mercy on her druid brother than the elven Sentinel would have for him, should things escalate.
Carefully, John lowered his head down almost to his feet, and inched forward slowly. Easy, buddy, he said soothingly, though the tauren still wasn't hearing him. Neither of us wants to get killed today.
He inched forward a little more, and the other bear swung a paw toward him and roared again.
All right, okay, he thought. We'll try it this way.
He backed up as carefully as he'd advanced, and when he was a good distance away, he concentrated… and shifted back into his normal form in a puff of smoky light.
The tauren eyed him and snorted, then after an uncertain moment, dropped to all fours, horns at the ready.
"That's it," John said encouragingly. "Easy now. I'm not gonna hurt you. It was just a misunderstanding and I'm sorry."
The bear swung his head back and forth agitatedly, clawing at the ground. Neither the guards nor John moved a muscle.
Finally, with a confused whine, the bear backed up several feet, then sat down with a thump. The guards relaxed slightly, lowering their axes, and John sighed in relief.
"Hey there," he said. "You hearing me now?" No response. "Come on, buddy, you hear me? Say something."
I hear you, came the voice in his head, though it sounded tentative.
"Good, good. So, like I was trying to tell you, it was a misunderstanding, okay? I'm sorry I scared you back there."
The other druid snorted at him and glared, then turned around to walk back into the city.
"That's okay, John. I'm sorry I almost got you killed," John muttered to himself, trailing after the tauren.
The bear ignored him, leading the way between the buildings, claws scratching on the wooden planks of the little bridges, until they were back at Dendrite Starblaze's house. He couldn't help smiling as the tauren huffed his way up the stairs on four legs with an uneven whump-whump whump-whump.
The high druid nodded at them when they stood before him. "I see you have found your way past your… altercation?" John flushed, and the tauren's head drooped slightly. "That is good. As druids, you must be above such small-minded matters of faction, and the mistrust of old. Only then may we repair the damage our wars have done to this world."
John nodded solemnly, and patted the tauren on his furred shoulder. The other druid snorted in indignation. John patted him more firmly, and moved his foot just in time to avoid it being stepped on by a giant paw.
"I see one of you has learned the teaching of the Great Bear Spirit. And you, young one? Show me what you have learned."
Obediently, John concentrated, and shifted, the process much easier this time. Though he had to take a quick step back, as landing on all fours had put him practically on top of the high druid. He pulled even with the tauren, and saw that he was laughing at him silently. John scowled.
"Well done, both of you. You are well on your way to mastering the way of the Claw. Go now, back to your homes, and continue your training. There are flight masters to the east that will take you to Darnassus and Thunder Bluff. And remember, you are welcome to return at any time, young druids. The Moonglade is open to you. Farewell, and Elune be with you."
Starblaze bowed, and John took that as his cue to leave. He gave the high druid a respectful nod in return and turned to the staircase. He thumped his way down the stairs, the tauren following after, and headed out of the building and east.
The hippogryphs were easy to spot, settled in their nests on a promontory over the lake, preening their bright feathers, and the Horde wyverns lazed on their posts a safe distance south, their scorpid tails curling above their feline bodies. At the fork in the path, John turned to his unlikely companion.
Well, it's been… weird. Fun, he added.
Interesting, certainly, the tauren replied dryly.
Oh, so you're speaking to me, now?
The other druid frowned. I was never not speaking to you.
You weren't! You were pouting.
I was not pouting. I was- The tauren stopped mid-sentence. Hey, what's your name?
John blinked. My- John.
I'm Rodney. The tauren paused. I just thought that... You know, we may run into each other here again, and it would be nice to have something to call you other than That Elf That Tried To Kill Me That Time.
I was not trying to kill you!
Rodney rolled expressive blue eyes. Whatever. That Elf That I Misunderstood That Time.
John huffed a laugh. Well, Rodney, it would be a pleasure to see you again.
The other druid looked startled, then curled his lips back over serrated teeth, and ambled off toward the Horde flight master.
On the back of the Nighthaven hippogryph, winging his way back to Darnassus, John mused that in his bear form, that toothy, menacing smile was one of the most honest and beautiful he could remember ever seeing.
It was all just a matter of perspective.