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Brazier of Dancing Flames

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On the streets of Silvermoon City, where the midsummer fire burnt, she danced and danced and cried tears of flame onto the ground.

It was a very long time ago that she had first awakened there in Deathknell, climbed tentatively up from the crypt and made her way to the chapel. She was happy to help out with their war effort. The empty, rotting figures stumbling about under the control of the Scourge weren't the way forwards either.

They told her to embrace the Shadow, but she knew she was a child of the Light.

The memories had never properly returned. Sometimes they didn't, she heard. There were occasional flashes, sitting on the porch steps, attending chapel, the healing power of the Light flowing from her hands. Standing on the chapel steps warding off the new, stumbling zombies with bolts of pure light.

Whatever she'd done, it hadn't been enough.

She had a certain numb detachment from it, most of the time. Most of what she was doing was right. The rest of what she was doing made her stronger. The Light still flowed from her hands, out to the mismatched group of friends she'd taken up with, out to the strangers she accompanied on their quests.

Sometimes it got to her, though.

She'd started taking instruction from banshees after seeing how the priest treated the human mindslave that wandered Undercity carrying messages. She became acclimatised to the green slime that flowed through her home. She tried to avoid the Apothecary Society as much as she could. She tried to ignore the demon in the throne room.

She dabbled in the Shadow, once, just a little. It made her feel dirty, and it didn't really help, so she stopped.

When she made it to Shattrah, she stopped dead in her tracks just to admire the Naaru at the centre of the city. She signed up with the Aldor as soon as she could, despite the looks of distrust and the mutual unintelligibility with most of her cohorts. She became somewhat embarrassing around Draenai.

Every time she came back to the centre of Shattrah she had to stop for a moment and just soak in the light from A'dal.

She argued with her friends about the philosophy of the Light, about blood knights, and coveted Tanathiel's stolen wings. When the Lady came to A'dal in the centre of Shattrah, she wanted to shake him, to tell him 'Don't trust her!'. But then she realised that it was only the capacity of the Light to forgive Liandrin that let her use its power herself.

Things didn't really get better. The Forsaken were almost as evil as the Scourge. Possibly more so. Some days it was hard to tell.

She began to feel guilty about the stupidest things. They tore into the Botanica, five of them and the druid was a Moonkin and the paladin was a squishy one, slaughtering the blood elves as they ran. If they broke into the Undercity like this, she thought to herself, if a party flew in and slaughtered us as we ran, could I blame them?

She was soon caught up in the manic rhythm of the fight, but as the Light flowed through her hands, she wondered. Am I fooling myself? Is the Light I channel just a reflection from the Shadow?

They shook the confused Ancient down for loot and she found a lotus growing in some felweed. The success felt hollow.

She could really get behind the notion of rescuing Thrall and making sure the Epoch Hunter didn't get its way, really she could. It hadn't lasted but a little peace was better than none at all, and the Burning Legion were unambiguously wrong whichever way you looked at it. And it meant she could see the chapel, the Tarren Mill chapel she'd been in and out of many times, shining and clean in its full glory.

Reading the texts, admiring the windows, trying to determine whether a mark was decoration or a bloodstain, wishing she could shed a tear for the chapel's defenders they had been forced to slay (the disguises were good, but not that good), she almost missed the start of the ongoing battle.

She didn't explain. They wouldn't understand.

Back at the Aldor inn she painted tear-tracks down her cheeks, but it wasn't the same. She needed a new form, although her embarrassing vanity demanded that it was less plain and unappealing than the human disguise she wore in the Caverns of Time. Then she heard some revellers talking about the latest thing in Midsummer extravagance. A living statue that could turn you into a dancing, fiery Draenai. It was all the things that she had been looking for.

She took a few windrider rides across Outland, almost got shot down over that dwarvern enclave in Shadowmoon Valley, and finally jumped through a portal to Undercity for an epic horse-ride around the world she had left behind.

Down through the lands of her second adolescence, pausing at Dalaran for some acknowledgment of her recent work against the demons in Karazhan. Light's Hope Chapel, a town whose name tugs at her rotten, undead heart. She rides all the way through the Eastern Plaguelands. It feels like coming home. It feels like the place she belongs. The bulging, putrescent trees are beautiful. The wildlife is all the right colour, which is like nothing found in nature. She spurs on her horse, disturbed by the feeling of comfort here, but she can't help but stop to pick the purple flowers, and she slides one under her hood and through her hair, for reasons she can't fully articulate. Plaguebloom. Arthas' Tears.

The Western Plaguelands feel less like home, more like the ugly and desecrated land she expects from the Scourge. She accidentally heads up to Uther's tomb and turns back, disgusted, remembering the blood elf telling her to desecrate it, wondering how many of her erstwhile friends have cheerfully followed his orders. As she pulls into Chillwind Post there are guards around the fire, not just the revellers that guard every fire but people like her, people who have been to Outland and seen A'dal and come back changed. She returns her horse to the skull, waits on a hill behind a couple of trees and wonders what to do.

She entertained thoughts of running in and stamping out the fire right in front of them, a suicide, clean and honest. A sacrificial death to atone for her sins. But her hearthstone isn't ready yet and she doesn't relish being chased halfway across a continent for them, or sitting under the sad gaze of the ever-patient spirit healer in the land of the dead until they lose interest. She chases a deer around, entertains the thought of killing it, just because she could, just because she's frustrated. Then she cries on its neck, the poor confused living creature just standing there, dry empty sobs which cannot turn to tears.

The fire's guardians leave, one by one. The last one teleports to Stormwind. Shame-faced, she creeps out of cover and stamps out the fire, heading into the hills behind the graveyard and hiding until pursuit is unlikely.

Across the world she rides. She finds a path from the Burning Steppes down into the Redridge Mountains that she hadn't walked before. In Elwynn Forest she gets killed by a frost mage, apologetically trying to run away and shield herself from the bolts of frost, not wanting to fight back. She sits in the world of the dead for a while, letting things calm down, and rides in from a different angle. He tries to chase her on foot but she's already mounted and out of range before he's noticed her.

Another mischievous impulse crosses her mind in Westfall, but she refrains from doing anything more unpleasant than putting out their fire, feeling kind of bad for all the young humans and other Alliance running around trying to complete their tasks, suddenly deprived of the aid of the elements. She feels like a fraud at her own fires, 'honouring the flame'. She's never really revered the elements. They're just kind of there.

Down in Booty Bay she spots the kegs and mugs, and engages in a fitful attempt to drown her sorrows in appalling festival booze, but she can't get more than tipsy and her mug runs out as she sways towards the boat to Ratchet. Outside Silvermoon for the second time she refills her mug and dances with a blood elf. It's just one of those things that happen on the spur of the moment.

She honours the fire by Falconwing Square. On the way, she feels moved to talk to the ranger standing in the Dead Scar, whose dusty armour and sensible disposition suggest that there are Blood Elves, too, who don't fit with the rest of their race. The ranger does not disappoint her, although she feels unhappy about wasting her time, and destroys a few skeletons for her, but the task is hopeless. There are always more skeletons. She catches a glimpse of what the ranger's life must be like, standing there fighting this everlasting battle to keep the undead away from her fair city, and comes back with a toasting goblet, so that she can at least partly enjoy the celebrations.

It becomes increasingly difficult to find new fires, and so she heads back to Outland and kills some frost elemental for the Earthen Ring, over some kind of elemental dispute she barely understands. She's not sure what possesses her to go back to Silvermoon other than some kind of obscure penance, but go there she does and hands over the huge, overflowing piles of blossoms for one of these fiery Draenai devices.

It is everything she wanted. She sets it up on the ground right there, the dancing firey Draenai smiling from its podium, and as she dances with it she feels herself catch fire and change shape, matching the form of the creature on the pedestal. It is beautiful and empowering and empty and futile and shallow, and she cries as she dances, because this is all there is to the world, this is the pinnacle of her existence, and not all blood elves are evil and not all Draenai are good, and maybe, just maybe, not all Forsaken are lost.