Disclaimer: I own nothing but Oryane, Iulia, and Nyck. Blizzard, on the other hand, has a share in the custody of my soul...
A/N: This is only one of several versions I've thought up for Oryane's return from Northrend. It's not the one I consider "canon" in my head, but it's the one I had the inspiration to write. So here you go.
Survivor's Guild 4: Oryane Harrow, Iulia Griffiths, and Nyckolaus Clarkeson
Oryane came back from Northrend broken. Iulia knew it was because she had seen things there the rest of them couldn't imagine. It made Iulia question her resolve to join the battlefront herself. After putting Oryane back together, she wasn't sure she wouldn't fall apart if she went to Northrend.
"How is she today?" Nyck asked when Iulia emerged from Oryane's room and closed the door behind her. She shrugged.
"Better than she was, but certainly not, you know, better." Iulia mopped her brow with her sleeve and sighed. Booty Bay was sweltering this time of year and she was grateful for the Blessing of Elune that allowed her to wear her human form. Nyck, in his worgen form as always, never once complained of the heat, and Iulia wondered how he could possibly stand it under all that fur. She wondered how Oryane could stand it, locked in her room all the time without a breeze. Then again, the heat was why Oryane had chosen Booty Bay. It was about as far as she could possibly get from Northrend.
"Is she up to seeing people?" Nyck asked quietly.
"I don't think so. Especially not you, with what you're planning to do," Iulia said. Nyck wilted. "Sorry. That came out more harshly than I meant it to. I just think…"
"She doesn't need to know I'm going to Northrend," Nyck clarified. "I know. She would just worry about me and that's not something she needs right now. I just…I don't want to leave without…"
"I know," Iulia said laying a comforting hand on his broad shoulder. "But she's just starting to get better. I don't know what would make her worse, or—" She broke off as the door creaked open. Oryane stood in the doorway, eyes hollow and rimmed in dark circles, but furious as she glared at Nyck.
"People. Die. In. Northrend," she said harshly, pointedly. "People die."
"Oryane," Nyck said gently, calmingly. It was a tone the two worgen had often had to use in the past few weeks, coaxing their friend to eat, to sleep, to stop screaming, to speak at all. "People die here, too."
"No. Not like in Northrend." It was the most words together she had spoken since she had returned. Iulia could still see her walking silently off the ship when it docked in Stormwind. She had walked directly to Nyck, buried her face in his chest, and ignored everyone else welcoming her home and hugging her and talking to her and asking questions. She had stood in silence until her friends, one by one, stopped talking, too, and Iulia had pulled everyone aside to conference. Minria had wanted to take her to a healer, Tel had argued that she just needed food, Odyssia had cuffed her brother on the head and agreed with Min. Endimyon had shook his head, knowing it was shock that afflicted their friend and that there was nothing they could do but be there for her. Iulia had wished that their other friends had been there to give their opinions, but she also knew that more people would have only made it worse. There were enough of them as it was. So she had taken control of the situation and sent everybody off, promising frequent updates, and immediate recall the second Oryane wanted them around. Then she had taken Oryane and Nyck (who Oryane wouldn't let go of) to the map and told her to point where she wanted to go. They had been in Booty Bay within two days and now, two weeks later, she still wasn't fixed.
"What do you mean people don't die here like they do in Northrend?" Nyck asked, pulling Iulia back to the present. She expected Oryane to simply ignore the question, as she had done with every other question they had asked about Northrend, but to the worgens' great surprise, Oryane stumbled to a chair, laid her head on the table, closed her eyes, and began to speak.
"Northrend is…funerals. One after the other after the other. Just funerals. It's so cold there. Your breath freezes in the air in front of you. You exhale and the crystals form before your eyes and you watch them fall to the ground like snow. You survive the night by wrapping yourself in as many blankets you can find, stripped off of your dead friends. You survive by huddling as close to the fire as you possibly can, until you are worried that you will set yourself on fire but honestly, that wouldn't be that bad because at least you would be warm then. And the fire you huddle against is always a funeral pyre. There is no such thing as a campfire in Northrend. There are cooking fires and those are small and basically worthless, and there are funeral pyres. One after the other after the other.
"People die in Northrend. All the time. It's not just battles. People freeze to death, they burn to death, they get killed by the beasts they are hunting for food. People die because they have to. Because Northrend is made up of funerals. People die in Northrend and then they die again."
Iulia didn't move. She was frightened that if she moved too suddenly or even breathed too loudly, Oryane would stop talking. And Iulia knew that Oryane needed to talk. She needed to get whatever Northrend had done to her out of her system, and she needed to convince Nyck not to go. Iulia glanced at him, but he was unreadable, his face impassive as he stared at Oryane, at the silent tears slipping from beneath her closed eyelids to pool on the table.
"I counted," Oryane whispered. "I counted the funerals. I counted six thousand eight hundred and ninety seven funerals. And every day I woke up wondering if today I would be counting my funerals. If I would get two or if I would be one of the unlucky ones to only get one. Because one funeral each isn't enough for Northrend. People die and then they die again.
"But they don't just die. They do, they die the first time. But the second time, you have to kill them. I killed people. They died and then I killed them. You hear stories about the Lich King, you hear stories about what he does. Everyone knows that the Lich King rips your soul back from the dead and binds it to your dead body and forces you to do his will. Everyone knows that. But no one knows what it means.
"It means you have to watch your friends die, you have to sit and laugh and eat and talk with your friends and then, mere hours later, you have to watch them die, you have to fail to protect them and you have to see the enemy stick their swords into your friends, and watch them die and attend their funeral, and you have to survive the grief of their death and then, the next day, the next battle, you have to watch your friends not be your friends anymore, you have to watch your friends killing your other friends, until they get to you, and then, and then you have to kill your friends, you have to take your bow and aim your arrow at their glowing eyes or their not-beating hearts and you have to let go of the string, you have to force your fingers to let go of the string and you have to watch the arrow get closer and closer to your friends and you have to see the arrow pierce your friends and you have to watch your friends die, watch them bleed out again, and you have to survive the grief of their death and know that you caused their death, that you killed your friends, and then, that night, you have to attend their funeral, and you have to cry and the tears will freeze on your face because it is so cold and you because it is so cold, you have to spend the night huddled under blankets that you took from your friends while you hunch closer and closer to the fire that is your friends' funeral pyre. That's what Northrend is. Over and over and over again."
Oryane stopped talking. Iulia was stunned into speechlessness. She had known that Oryane's experience had been bad, but she had no idea how bad. She wanted desperately to pull her friend close to her and hold her and comfort her. But she was scared that if she touched Oryane, the huntress would shatter.
"Nine people," Oryane said suddenly. "It doesn't seem like a big number, nine. But it's a huge weight. I killed nine people who I considered to be my friends. I came home from Northrend with nine blankets that weren't mine and with nine pairs of glowing eyes staring at me out of my dreams. And do you want to know the worst part? Do you want to know why I haven't spoken in two weeks and why you have been forced to try to put me back together and why I fell apart in the first place? I couldn't kill the tenth one. My best friend, and I survived her death, I went to her funeral, but I couldn't do it again. I couldn't kill her and I couldn't go to her second funeral. I couldn't do it and she's dead once but she's still killing people, she's still alive because I couldn't kill her again."
Iulia made to go to Oryane, to hug her, and immediately there was a crash as Oryane's chair was thrown back and she was huddled in a corner, sobbing. Two seconds later, Nyck was crouched next to her in human form, his arms wrapped around her tightly, and they rocked together, gently.
"I'm sorry," Iulia whispered. "I'm sorry, I just…"
"No," Oryane choked past a sob. "You're not allowed to be sorry. Iul, you're not allowed to be sorry."
"You are putting her back together," Nyck said quietly. "You are putting all the pieces in place. I'm just holding them there while the glue sets." Oryane nodded, her fists clutching his shirt as if her life depended on it. He pressed his lips to her hair and whispered to her. Iulia couldn't hear what he said, but slowly, slowly, Oryane calmed down. She stopped sobbing and the tears dried and she slowly unclenched her fists.
"Promise me," she said, holding Nyck's gaze with her pleading eyes. "Promise me you won't go to Northrend. Promise me no more funerals."
"I promise," he said. "I promise you no more funerals. I won't go to Northrend. Okay?" Iulia met his gaze as he glanced up at her and nodded. She was calm again, she was coherent and speaking and she had finally told them what the problem was.
"Oryane?" Iulia said quietly, kneeling beside her friend. "Thank you for telling us."
"You can help me now," Oryane whispered. "You can find the missing pieces, put them back together. Now you know what's wrong you can fix it."
"That's what I do best," Iulia said. And she was rewarded with Oryane's first smile since she had returned. It was tiny and short, but it was a smile. And Iulia couldn't help but feel that everything was going to be all right now. That even though her friend was still broken, it wouldn't be long until the cold was leeched out of her, the funerals were made memories, and the guilt was alleviated. And soon, she would be fixed.
A/N: Iulia is the one who fixes her friends because, as a rogue, she can spy out where the pieces are, stealth in and steal them back, and puzzle out how they fit back together. It made sense in my head... Also, I should probably mention that Oryane and Nyck are together. That's another one I'll get around to writing eventually. :)