The felguard came at her. His polearm reverbing against the molten rock as it missed her head. Vasp sprang back nearly a meter, lined her shot and unleashed a fireball. The demon roared as flames charred the skin of his shoulder. He rushed her. She blinked to ten meters behind him. She realigned and fired again. This time the felguard lost flesh along his spine. He was raging now. Adrenalin fueled by dark energy. He turned and raised his weapon, doubling his immense size in the process. He charged.
For a long second Vasp felt complete clarity. She could see every rock and grain around them, every fold of the charred valley that a thousand thousand years ago was lush and green and living. Before the Legion. Before the forever war. Before the end of her world.
Vasp closed her eyes and as she did her whole body came aflame. Bright white, red, and orange, with hints of blue. The pyrotechnics took the felguard by surprise. He lost his momentum. His pace slowed. Vasp, eyes closed, extended her palms. She let the Light guide her. The explosion that followed was loud, and massive, and shook boulders off a nearby ridge. But when the smoke cloud dissipated and the dust returned to the earth, the felguard was nothing more than char, and Vasp, battlemage of the Grand Army of the Light, sat on the molten floor, panting, but very much alive.
“What are you thankful for?” came the familiar heavy voice of Arlan, her commander, from behind her.
Vasp, still weak and catching her breath sprang to her hooves with a salute. Arlan dismissed her gesture instantly and asked again: “What are you thankful for?”
The Lightforged draenei battlemage frowned at him, as she came to ease, “You could have helped.”
He scowled at her and said, “Then you would have learned nothing.” He walked past her to the charred remains of the felguard, giving what was left of the demon a forceful kick. Then, turning back: “I asked you a question, soldier. What are you thankful for?”
Vasp knit her brow. It was not a question one heard on Argus. Death and defeat were constant. Loss and agony so ubiquitous that sorrow lost all meaning after only a few hundred years. To be a soldier in the Grand Army of the Light was to be devoid of feeling, or regret, or gratitude.
“You have no answer then?” asked Arlan, a tinge of annoyance in his voice.
Vasp forced herself to ease her breath, to relax. She responded: “I do not understand the point of the question, sir.”
Arlan looked at her, studying, and after a moment, easing a bit, said, “It is something I never understood about you. You are the only one I have ever known so quick to admit to your own ignorance.” He turned to survey the landscape - blackened, broken, stone ground to the horizon.
Vasp put a hand on her hip, but before she could utter a syllable, Arlan asked, “Are you aware we have met with the representatives from Azeroth?” He half turned to give her a sidelong glance. “Are you aware that the Alliance and Horde want to help in our fight against the Legion?”
The battlemage clenched her jaw and responded simply: “Yes, sir.”
Arlan turned back to the horizon and nodded his head.
“It is a question the human of the group asked me as they were departing,” he said to her not looking at her. “He asked me what I was grateful for.” For a few heartbeats there was silence, then, finally: “I too could not think of an answer.”
Vasp asked: “Why did he ask you?”
Arlan turned back to her, wrinkled his brow, and responded, “Perhaps you will be able to answer this question.” He raised his chin. “Your request to be given permanent leave from the Army has been granted. You may travel to Azeroth and learn of its peoples at your discretion.”
Vasp was gobsmacked.
Arlan continued, sternly: “Although you will no longer be a soldier in the Grand Army of the Light you are to conduct yourself as such, do you understand? These savage mortal races have no boundaries or borders. They are weak and prone to acts of impulsiveness.” He looked her up and down. “You are to represent your people in the best vein possible. Is that clear?”
Vasp had known Arlan her entire life but this was the first moment she ever wanted to hug him. Nonetheless she stayed her emotions, only giving a short nod in reply.
The draenei commander took a deep breath and said, “This was not my choice and I argued against it,” he paused, “but it is the right choice. For the Army and for you. They are sending troops and supplies, rations. We can suddenly afford to lose you.” He looked her in the eyes. “We expect regular reports of your experiences and observations. Full and regular reports.” It was not a request.
Vasp nodded: “Of course, sir. Full and regular reports.”
Arlan’s looked at her, then after a beat, said: “Finish your patrol and then return to base. You will pack and leave tonight.”
“Tonight?” asked the battlemage, her voice suddenly betraying doubt.
At this Arlan genuinely smiled, “As the humans say, there is no time to lose.”
As Vasp nodded again, her commander turned and began up the path, back from whence he came. She stood and watched him, unable to comprehend that she was about to leave Argus for the first time since she was born. Eons of war without end had all but defeated hope. And now, suddenly, the Light would guide her forward, to a new world, and a new life.
Somewhere in it all, she thought, there was reason. A new adventure. Her first real adventure.
“I asked,” asked the dwarf cook as he placed a plate of bacon in front of her in the mess hall of Talongrab some months later, “I asked what are yee thankful for?”
“It is a curious question,” said Vasp matter-of-factly as she eagerly examined the plate before her.
The dwarf bellowed out a deep laugh and said, “Not at all ma’ dear, it’s quite simple, yea? What are yee thankful for?”
Vasp considered, she glanced about the near empty mess, then back to the dwarf. With two long fingers she picked a piece of the baked pork from off her plate and took a bite. Then, finally, with a smile, she replied: “I am thankful for all things.”