56.

It was cold and early the next day when Whitecrow got up. Picking up the axe from where it lay across the arms of the chair beside the bed, he walked outside. Soon, his muscles were straining as he swung the axe back and forth in circles and rings and figure eights.

Though his muscles strained and groaned with the effort, he kept at it, rejoicing at the soreness that told him that muscles were growing and strength was returning. He looked to the horizon as the sun rose, and smiled in an ancient greeting, passed on from generations long since dead and gone.

It almost felt that morning as if they were all there, on the horizon, rising with the sun. The future was bright for him, no matter what life brought. He had faced his hell, and he had come home.

He practiced more until weariness made him drop the axe onto his shoulder and slowly walk to the cabin. Inside, he was unsurprised to find the bed empty and neatly made.

He went back out, leaving the axe lying back in its customary position. He determined later to make a rack for it.

Then he stopped and smiled. Home, he supposed, must surely be the place where you hang your axe.

Soon he found himself making his way towards the water, where he saw that his usual seat was taken. When he saw who it was that sat beside Sunoree, he turned and left them together in peace.

The air was still chill, so he sat down at the central fire, soon to be joined by first Ferruk, and then Groll. Not long later, Nerissa and Shantille joined them.

"Where's Sunoree?" Shantille asked him.

"She's sitting by the water, talking with Therival. I decided to leave them be. Perhaps something may be salvaged of their relationship."

"He remembers much more than most Forsaken," said a voice from behind them, creaking and groaning like old oaks. "He also feels more. I'm uncertain if I envy him that, or find him to be a fool for it." Malovici sat down across from Whitecrow.

"I know you," Whitecrow said with a grin. "You think he's a fool."

"True. With all this 'love is in the air' business, I'm off to find some work in Northrend," Malovici said. "Arthas is dead, and there are rumors of Twilight Dragonflight at the Wyrmrest temple."

"We're going with you," Ferruk said, and Nerissa nodded.

"I'm coming, too," Whitecrow said.

The others looked at him in surprise. "Not staying with Sunoree?" Groll asked him, brutish eyebrows rising.

"I'll be back," Whitecrow said. "But I've got to get my hooves wet again. I can't go on like this. I need to feel useful."

They all knew that his experiences followed him into the darkness of night, and so none made mention or comment. It was a long journey, if they chose to travel overland. And to give their friend time to recover, they would do so.

"First, though," Ferruk told Whitecrow, "we've got to spend some time getting you some better gear. I know you appreciate it, but that axe isn't quite the thing."

It was some six months later before they were ready to go.

When it was time for them to go, Sunoree explained to Whitecrow that she wouldn't go with them. It would be too difficult socially for all of them, and she had undertaken study with Tensor anyway.

She was unwilling to give up her studies, having found an incredible fascination with alchemy, the study of herbs, and the study of the non-magical healing arts.

They would miss each other, they both knew. But as the years passed, they both found that they had to go, and return, and go and return. It was the reality of their lives, but the reality of the love and the bond they shared was so strong that, no matter how often separated, they remained faithful to each other.

As the seasons passed, and changed, Therival seemed to grow more and more Forsaken, though his love for his sister alone among all of his attributes seemed unchanged.

Lysandor showed up one day at the encampment. He didn't stay long, but they were pleased to get the chance to thank him.

Another cabin sprang up, and in the following spring, it was found to be occupied by Kalandan and Cindrelle with fair regularity. The oasis grew slowly, but steadily, creating its own unique atmosphere of permissive cautiousness.

Whitecrow and Sunoree could be together here in freedom and peace. Sunoree made her own name for herself as a healer, and between she and Tensor, there were few who came for treatment, even in the darkest hours of the Twilight War, who didn't receive the best of care.

Whitecrow eventually learned to carry his scars with honor, though it was a long time in coming. And if he still woke up, years later, in a cold sweat some nights, no one ever mentioned it.

Life went on, like it always does.