Sunday, March 7, 2010
I watched as Emette lifted a cup to thin lips with trembling hands. Steam from the tea veiled her face, eyes downcast. Taking a slow sip, she lowered the cup back to the table, the porcelain rattling on the wooden surface. She looked up at me for a second before turning away.
“I’m sorry, Destron. I’m not bothered by the Forsaken. It’s hard to look at you when you’re like this though. I remember how you used to look...”
She trailed off, lifting her cup for another drink.
“I wasn’t particularly handsome when alive, surely the undeath can’t make things much worse,” I said, in a lame attempt at humor. Levity never came naturally to me, but Emette had always inspired me to try, my weak jokes amusing only her and myself.
“I’m sorry. I can’t laugh right now.” She suddenly grabbed my right hand, the feeling bringing back a thousand memories. Still not looking at my empty eyes she probed the dried skin.
“You’re not in any pain, are you?”
“Good,” she said, releasing my hand. Her eyes searched the room as if looking for something to say. We sat at a table in the Legerdemain Lounge, a sumptuous cafe near the Violet Citadel. A quiet evening crowd filled up the parlor, happy faces illuminated by smokeless candles.
Emette finally looked at me, hiding her horror with firm resolve.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I never knew—”
“You have no need to apologize. Emette, I am very happy. I’ve done more in my undead state than I ever could have while alive. Please, you have no need to feel sorry for me.”
She smiled, in that wondrous way unique to her, and I felt the corners of my mouth turning up in response.
“What do you do in the Violet Citadel?” I asked, wanting to change the subject.
“Oh, I research new forms of abjuration. I’m one of the lead researchers.”
“That’s wonderful! You always were very talented.”
“Just a hard worker, really. I love the subject. There’s so much to study.”
Then Emette made a curious sound, somewhere between a laugh and a sob.
“I’m so sorry if I sound confused, I never thought I’d see you again. I thought you truly dead. It’s just that so many of the Forsaken I’ve met are so angry at everything, in so much pain.”
“Only the most vocal. A fair number, like myself, have learned to appreciate the advantages it offers.”
“But you can’t feel things the way you used to, can you?”
“There are drawbacks, but such is always the case.”
“I see. Destron, I’m married now.”
She stiffened, as if expecting some outburst. I cannot say I felt entirely calm, but I was not exactly surprised. All I had really wanted to learn, I told myself, was if Emette still lived. Though if that were really true, I reflected, I would not have wandered the corridors of the Violet Citadel for an entire afternoon.
“I knew—I thought I knew—that you were dead. I didn’t want anybody else though, I just kept working through my tears as we tried to rebuild the city. Destron, you have no idea how sick I was, I cried every night thinking I could stand it if you were just with me.” Tears welled up in her eyes as she recounted the story.
“Emette, you were always stronger than me—”
“Was I? Where did you—I don’t know. Everything seemed so perfect before the war. It was like the world turned upside down or something! You must have been in the Scourge for some time.”
“I was, though I remember almost nothing.”
“Good. Thank the Light, I mean, the things I hear, what the Lich King forced you to do. I had nightmares of you in the Scourge armies because I knew how much you’d hate being made to burn and murder.”
She looked away, taking a moment to compose herself, and I felt a sudden pride for her, in her determination to keep going. I’d always seen her as stronger, and myself as undeservingly fortunate to have her love.
“I’m glad you don’t remember anything,” she said. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it though. I worked under the dome, rebuilding Dalaran for years. I practically starved, never slept, just worked. They finally had to force me to stop, they kept me in a hospital for almost a year. I didn’t know what to do.”
“Emette, I can’t imagine—”
“It wasn’t as bad as what happened to you,” she said. “Everyone suffered horribly in those days. There was nothing special about my case. It was just the shock, every day I expected you to come back to me, to restart our future.”
Some part of me had envisioned Emette taking charge of Dalaran’s reconstruction, mustering her fierce intelligence and boundless enthusiasm to the cause. Getting a better look at her, I finally noticed how she’d changed, made older and gaunter by suffering. I hated the idea of her breaking under the strain. I suddenly felt ashamed. What could I hope to accomplish by reminding her of so much pain?
“Why? I was safe, I was fed. Thousands weren’t. I’m not as strong as you thought, is all. When I met Jalos, just before the relocation, he could make me forget.”
“Jalos is your husband?”
“Jalos Taliere. He’s a soldier. He always smiled when he saw me, thanked me for doing such a good job. I suppose he believed in me.”
“When you needed it most.”
“Exactly.” She looked away again. “I don’t know what I should say. Are you angry at me?”
“No. Emette, I only wanted to know if you lived—”
“Why didn’t you try to find out—I’m sorry, I know you couldn’t. I’m confused. I wanted so badly to see you for years, to have you hold me again. Almost all of my—all of our—friends died, you know? I was in Ambermill when Dalaran fell. Inorienne, Cataly, Michel, Avelette... every single one, dead or marching with the Scourge. They call us the lost generation, did you know? Because so many of us died.”
“I had no idea,” I said, feeling sick. Seeing Emette had been a mistake, my ruined form only able to reopen old wounds.
“I still don’t know what happened to Danner,” she said, forcing her voice to stay level.
“He’s alive. I met Danner in Shattrath, a little over a year ago. He seems to be doing well.”
“Oh? Oh, I didn’t dare think... he’s really alive?”
“Yes. I’m not in regular contact with him.”
“At least there’s that. I’m sorry, Destron. I know this isn’t what you wanted to see, but this is all there is. I’m still trying to come to terms with things.”
She pushed back her chair and stood up as if to leave. I got to my feet in response.
“Emette, you don’t need to apologize. I did not realize seeing me would hurt you so much. If I’d known—”
Emette threw her arms around me without a word. Obeying a long-lost instinct I embraced her in turn, clutching her to my chest.
“I loved you so much, Destron. Always remember that, even if I cannot love you any longer.”
“I loved you, Emette. You made my life worth living.”
We held each other in that shadowed cafe corner for a few golden minutes. I longed so much to again feel that mad desire, the promise of fulfillment in her arms. But I could not. We had both changed too much.
She disengaged from me, slowly as if reluctant. A wan joy lit Emette’s face, her eyes still flooded. I smiled in turn, feeling an elation in my spirit.
Neither of us needed to say goodbye. We left the cafe and went out onto the street, side by side as the spires around us turned into the colorful shops and homes of old Dalaran. We looked at each other one last time before going our separate ways. I have not seen Emette since then, and I do not expect I ever will.
A chapter in my life had come to a close. Given what had happened, I do not think I could have asked for a better ending. It is a strange thing, to want to love, but to be unable to do so. The more I think of it though, I realize that this has less to do with me being Forsaken, and more to do with the way people change.
May’s warm sun freckled the broad and tree-lined streets as Danner and I made our exit from one of Alois’ interminable lectures. Both of us mocked the teacher’s boasts as we walked, weary as we were of listening to his self-aggrandizement.
We were crossing the garden paths leading back to the dorms, books in hand and the restlessness of youth in our steps, when Emette came into sight, surrounded by a cluster of girls as she so often was, her clear laughter ringing out above the chatter.
Danner waved, as did I. I’d only met her a few times before, and hadn’t really formed much of an opinion. I couldn’t help but marvel at the way she seemed to hold her entire group spellbound with every remark, and I must confess I suspected her to be another one of Dalaran’s shallow student heroes.
Somehow, we fell into the crowd. Given Emette’s cheerful invitation, and the four girls with her, we’d have been fools to refuse. I could see Danner’s shyness competing with curiosity, his cheeks flushed and his eyes hungry. I remember how he spoke faster than normal, trying to compensate for his nervousness. In this case, my diffidence served me well as I eased into casual conversations about studies and tiresome teachers.
I never got the sense that Emette particularly cared what I had to say, busy as she was being the center of attention. My interest lay more in the tall, green-eyed girl at her side, whose name I can no longer recall. Emette’s friends (though not Emette herself) were on their way to a lesson, and soon disappeared into their instructor’s lyceum, waving goodbye.
The three of us stood there, and I made a comment about a popular and irritating song that had been making the dormitory circuit at the time. Emette looked to me, and I first noticed the wide brown eyes that seemed to take me in all at once. She agreed, sharing my opinion of the song, and at that moment a spark flared in my heart.
I realized, then, that she had not become well-liked by choosing good clothes, or by manipulating others, or through gossip. Rather, it was because she found something fascinating in nearly everyone she met. Despite all her friends around the school, and the trivial nature of the conversation, I felt one thing above all else: that when speaking to me, she had made me the center of her world.