Saucy Wenches Writing Prompt for February 2009.
Fire and Storm
Kafive clutched the thin envelope in his fist and stared up at the massive purple crystal formations rising up through the floor of the Crystal Hall. He tried to lose himself in the complex facets, allowing his eyes to travel familiar paths across the violet stones, but it was no use.
He was unsettled, and he did not like it.
He liked his world to be neat and orderly. Solid. Unchanging.
He was so disturbed by the letter that he had actually burned the red snapper he’d been searing. Burned it! Him! The last time he had burned food, it had been…well, it had been a very long time ago. He’d excused himself from the kitchen amid the shocked expressions of his fellow chefs and come to the Crystal Hall, seeking the peace of the earth beneath his hooves, the feel of the cool crystal resonating around him.
With a sigh, he turned his eyes from the crystals and focused again on the letter. It had been short. Less than a page long, in fact. Of course, Nyisa had never been much for letter-writing. The fact that she’d responded to his original letter at all was proof that she cared.
It wasn’t the length (or lack thereof) of the letter that was truly bothering him. So why had the letter unsettled him so deeply? He read it again, searching the hastily scrawled words for a clue.
Overjoyed to hear that you are alive. We are in Northrend, battling the Lich King. We miss you. You’d be shocked at the food they serve here. Will try to make time to visit the Exodar and see you.
Kafive frowned intently at the letter. What meaning was hidden in the words that had so unbalanced him?
“He is not ready,” hissed a sibilant voice scornfully. “Still he waits. Still he sits. He is too much like you. He will grow moss before he makes a decision.”
Startled, Kafive looked up and saw that he was no longer alone. Crouched in a semi circle around him were four figures, each with their features and shape obscured by a hooded cloak. The voice had come from the figure to the farthest left, cloaked in red.
The figure wearing a green cloak responded with a deep voice, each word drawn out and savored as though the meaning were measured multiple times before being used. “He is ready.”
A third figure spoke from within the depths of a blue hood. “We should give him a chance.”
The first figure spoke again, the edges of the red hood and cape shuddering angrily. “He had had chances. His life is nothing but opportunities. We cannot wait.”
The final figure finally spoke, gray hood lifted in Kafive’s direction, a lilt of amusement touching the edges of his voice. “Be still. He can hear us.”
Immediately, the three remaining hoods snapped up and faced him. He could see nothing in the shadowed folds of cloth, nothing that would identify any of them even so far as their race. Were they draenei? Human? Night elf? He could not be certain.
The blue hood spoke. “If he can hear us, he can be tested.”
The red hood jerked. “He will fail. Even now, he says nothing. Does nothing. He is a stone.”
The gray hood’s voice came again, still tinged with humor. “He is thinking. Do not mistake silence for stupidity.”
Subdued, the red hood fell back and Kafive found himself scrutinized once more by his companions. He looked to the rest of the room and saw nothing out of place. The remainder of the Hall continued as it always had, with Broken miners collecting crystal and merchants haggling prices with visiting adventurers. No one seemed to notice his companions at all.
He turned his attention back to them, but they had not moved. All four sat, motionless and staring at him.
Was he supposed to do something? He wasn’t even entirely certain they were real. Perhaps the letter had unsettled him even more than he knew.
He glanced down at the envelope just as a gust of air loosened the letter from his grip. Eyes widening, he clutched at it, but it threaded neatly between his fingers and landed softly in the lap of the gray-robed figure.
“Let the testing begin.” Test? What kind of test? Kafive frowned. This entire situation had a tinge of unreality to it, as though he were dreaming. Dream or not, he felt that whatever was happening was important, so he tried to concentrate.
“Kafive,” spoke the gray hood, “this letter has made you unhappy. Why?”
The letter? Why would they want to know about the letter? For that matter, why would they want to know about him? He was just a cook. Granted, he was a very good cook, but that did not generally open one to some kind of bizarre spiritual test.
He let the question go. He had a feeling that they would not answer, even if he asked it aloud. After all, it was he who was being tested, not they.
Kafive closed his eyes and thought about the letter. Why had it bothered him?
After a few moments of deep thought, he nodded and opened his eyes. “It bothered me because…because she has moved on. When we were children, we were inseperable, but now…now she is fighting in a place that I have never been, against enemies that I cannot understand. I do not even know what a ‘lich’ is, and yet she battles against the king of them. She says little, because she does not know what to say. She mentions the food, as though that is the only part which I might understand or care about. The concerns of her life are beyond mine, and I am so very far behind. She battles evil while I poach fish and tend to stews.”
He felt the truth of his words, but if he had expected some response from the gray-robed figure, he got none. Another breeze lifted the letter, settling it this time into the lap of the blue-robed figure.
“So you are jealous? You feel insignificant?” she asked.
He shook his head slowly. “No. I feel…unprepared. I wish that I could help. I wish to be a part of her life again, and she a part of mine.” He spread his hands. ” But I am a chef. Perhaps if we had woken at the same time, I would be there with her. By her side, fighting for what is right.”
Another gust, sending the letter to the green-robed lap. Slowly and methodically, the figure spoke. “There is no dishonor in being a chef. It is safe. It is familiar. You are respected here for your work. It would be more comfortable to stay.”
Kafive nodded. He knew this to be true. Here, he was respected. He prepared meals for Velen himself! He taught the craft and love of cooking to others, and he knew well that all were needed in a time of war, not just warriors. His role was not insignificant. It was tempting, the desire to stay. Change was rarely good – it was upheaval, unsettling. Uncomfortable.
“This is true,” Kafive finally said aloud to the green robe. “But I do not wish to stand by while others fight for me. And I do not wish to leave my friend.” Kafive nodded. He hadn’t been certain until that moment what he would do, but now the answer seemed clear. He relaxed. “I wish to stand at her side and help her.”
The letter fluttered again, landing in the lap of the red robed figure, who spoke swiftly and without mercy. “You? What will you do, bake her a cake?” She cackled humorlessly. “You are a chef, not a warrior! You would only hold her back, if you could even find safe passage to where she is. You are weak, and foolish.” The edges of the red robe fluttered, and he could almost feel her scorn and dismissal.
He felt a thread of anger, but suppressed it. She was correct. Getting angry with her would accomplish nothing. “You are right. I am a chef. And as I am now, I would be a danger to her, this is true.” If a robe could look smug, he would swear that hers did there. But he wasn’t finished. “So I will have to become more than a chef. I will have to learn new skills. There are trainers here who might take me, and if they do not, perhaps I can learn in some other way.”
The gust of wind caught the letter and set it back neatly in his own lap again. He resisted the urge to hold it and protect it from being taken again.
The gray-robed figure nodded. “The test is complete. Kafive has shown wisdom, finding a deeper meaning. He is accepted by Air.”
The green hood dipped. “Kafive has shown fortitude and strength to resist temptation. He is accepted by Earth.”
The blue robe joined suit. “Kafive has shown compassion and loyalty. He is accepted by Water.”
There was a pause, and three hoods turned to face the red hood. The silence mounted and Kafive realized that he was holding his breath. Slowly, he released it, watching the figure carefully. He wanted to know what the figure would say, but he knew in his heart that it would not matter. His decision had been made. He would find a way.
Finally, the remaining figure spoke. “Kafive has shown passion and control. He is accepted by Fire.”
At that, all four figured disappeared as though they had never been there. Kafive looked around, but he could see nothing strange in the Crystal Hall. They had simply vanished.
In the place where each of them had been sitting, he found a long, slender object. He leaned forward and examined them more closely. They were totems – elemental totems. The nearest was the gray. He picked it up. It was slightly longer than his hand, but still easily gripped in his fist. The surface was a smooth gray decorated with stylized symbols of clouds and wind. As he held it in his hand, he heard a whisper, no more than a breath past his ear. “Farseer Nobundo.”
He paused, but no other wisdom was given. Farseer Nobundo. They wanted him to visit the most ancient and respected of the draenei shaman.
The absurdity of it caught him by surprise. He was no master of the elements, no lightning-bolt wielding, weapon-slinging shaman. Nobundo would likely take one look at him and send him back to the kitchens.
But, in truth, he had nothing to lose. He looked down at the totem in his left hand and the letter in his right, his grip tightening. He had a great deal to gain.
After a moment, he collected the remainder of the totems.
Taking a deep breath, he carried his new burden to the center of the Crystal Hall, where Farseer Nobundo waited. The Broken shaman was seated with eyes closed as Kafive approached and stood before him, awkwardly balancing the four totems and waiting silently for the shaman to acknowledge his presence.
“So,” said Nobundo without opening his eyes. “The chef has come to us at last. Many of the elementals believed you too far into Earth to find the balance necessary to be accepted by the other elements. They said you might win over the Storm, but you would never pass the Fire’s test.”
Kafive said nothing and Nobundo opened his eyes. “I am glad that they were wrong.” The old shaman smiled broadly. “Welcome, brother.”
For a moment, Kafive would have sworn that he saw the Crystal Hall with different eyes, for the place teemed with elementals of every type. They moved through the crowd easily, intermixing and weaving around the draenei that had no hint of their existance.
In a flash, the sight was gone, and all he saw was the Hall. But he knew, from then on, he was no longer just a chef.
He was a shaman.