Whiska let out an involuntary yelp as the hard wooden edge of Kavaan’s wooden practice blade connected with the line of her jaw. She landed hard, the breath knocked from her lungs. Immediately, she scrambled to her feet, using her wooden practice shield as a crutch, and was blindsided by the edge of Kavaan’s weapon, sent back onto her tail.
As she tried to regain her feet, she heard her mentor sigh and call out, “Stop, stop.”
“No! I’m fine!” she called, though her voice was muffled from a swollen tongue and a sore cheek. “Don’t stop!”
Kavaan simply shook his head at her, his face tentacles swaying gently at the motion. He reached forward and softly touched the side of her face, which was already swelling and turning purple. Light blossomed beneath his purple hand, and her pain disappeared.
“Whiska, child, you are wasting your time….”
Whiska jerked away from him, her eyes widening in panic. “No! No! Don’t say it! I can DO this, I just need–”
“Whiska!” Kavaan’s rumbling voice interjected sharply, and she fell silent.
After a moment of strained silence, Whiska snarled and savagely began to unbuckle her practice armor. Kavaan watched her stomp about, his eyes troubled.
“Whiska. You came to me saying that you needed more training. That you were unprepared for battle, that you had easily fallen into a foolish trap, and that you had been unable to rescue yourself. For two weeks now I have offered you training, and for two weeks you have ignored my teaching.”
Whiska had frozen when Kavaan began to speak, and now she turned toward him, her mouth open to deny his accusation, but he held up a large hand to forestall her objections.
“You see? Still you do not listen.”
Whiska bristled, then subsided, finally lowering her head submissively, her darkened horns parallel with the floor. Despite her outward composure, the tip of her tail twitched jerkily, betraying her inner turmoil.
Kavaan sighed again, then stepped forward and laid his hand between her horns, giving her the signal to straighten. When she raised her head, he caught her face in his hands and stared into her eyes.
“Child, you must learn to listen. You wait too long to heal yourself in battle, and you constantly forget to heal your companions when you are part of a team. You repeatedly forget to bless your teammates, requiring them to remind you of your duties. Your shield, which is your most important tool, is nothing more than a burden to you. Instead of using it to protect yourself and others, you let it drag uselessly at your side. You are a Paladin, Whiska! You are a beacon of hope, a selfless and loyal soldier for good. You chose this path, and I chose to accept you as my pupil, despite the mutterings of others.”
When he spoke of others, Whiska’s eyes tightened, and he frowned at her. “Still you let the opinions of others drive you. You have the potential to be a great Paladin, Whiska. Your father is a great Paladin, and your mother a great Priestess. Your cousin has answered the Call of the Naaru, put her past behind her, and has already done a great deal of good for our Allies. You have the blood of excellence running through your veins, as blue as Velen himself. But you squandor your talent, reacting rather than acting. In everything you do, I see you pay more attention to those who whisper doom than to those who would offer you hope.”
Kavaan released her and turned away. “And that is why I must send you away.”
Whiska took a step backwards in shock. “No! Kavaan, no! Please don’t give up on me, I swear, I can learn this, I can be a better student! The best! Just give me one more chance!”
Kavaan stood his ground, facing away from her and waiting for her outburst to subside. “Whiska, it was I who first placed a mallet in your hands, a little girl so full of hurt and betrayal it nearly broke my heart to see how tightly you gripped the handle.
“I have watched you these years as you trained. Watched you grow from that little girl into a young woman, so full of anger and so determined to prove everyone wrong. Whiska, this place poisons you. I suspected it before, and now I am certain of it. You are a Paladin, and I am proud to have been your teacher, but you can learn nothing more from me, and you can learn nothing more from this place.”
“I would like to write to the Cathedral of Light in Stormwind, requesting a trainer that would be willing to accept you as a student despite your unorthodox opinions on the Light. I cannot do this without your permission, so I must ask you now for your consent.”
Whiska was stunned. Growing up, Kavaan had been her safe haven. He had been her hope and her defender, her friend and her teacher. Swallowing a lump of tears, she angrily replied, “If you think me such an awful Paladin, why bother? Why not just denounce me here, rather than having some alien Human or Dwarf do it for you? There are plenty of people who have been waiting for it, it won’t come as a surprise.”
With a speed that seemed almost uncanny, Kavaan whirled and grasped her by the shoulders, his eyes fierce. “This! It is this which I cannot beat out of you, either through words or with my sword! You must find a way to drain your soul of this poison, Whiska. Your cousin is convinced that this guild of yours, this Mellonea, may be able to help you where we have failed. If people still doubt you despite being a Paladin, despite being honored by Velen himself as a member of the Hand, it is not because your skin is dark and your hair is white. It is not because you were dismissed by your Priestly trainers. It is because you have built a wall around your heart, and let only bitterness seep through.”
Startled by his action and the intensity of his voice, Whiska stared up at him through eyes swimming with tears. After a moment, she leaned forward and wrapped her hands around his chest, burying her face in his tabard. “I am afraid,” she whispered.
“To be alive is to be afraid. It is how you react in the face of fear that will determine who you are.” Kavaan’s voice was again a low rumble, and he gently returned her embrace.
Taking a deep breath, Whiska pulled away from him and slowly began to collect the practice armor and weapons from the floor where she had furiously thrown them during her bout of temper earlier. As she reached down and picked up the wooden sword, she paused, hand trembling.
“You may send the letter.”
Kavaan let out the breath he had been holding as she left the room to scrub the equipment and ready it for the next student.
Unsettled, he wondered if he was doing the right thing, if perhaps she would learn better from someone who would be able to understand her, guide her in the Light. He closed his eyes and bowed his head, hearing the melodic chiming of the Naaru thread across his emotions. He sighed, letting the soothing sound relax him.
As he turned to leave, he briefly wondered what sort of mentor their new allies would assign her. Kavaan made a mental note to add this person to his prayers, they would undoubtedly need all the help they could get.