Hammaryn has been a train wreck for the last six months, or a year, or some indefinite snowballing amount of time. It’s been awhile, I forgot. She finally decided to seek out some help and take some time off of work. I wrote this with the super awesome Bika.
Hammaryn was sure that there were worse things than asking someone for help. The only problem was at that moment, she couldn’t think of a single one. Her left hand shook on the doorknob to the priest’s study. She put her other hand over the delinquent wrist, attempting to still it, and when that didn’t work she pulled both away in disgust. She folded her arms over her chest, sucked in a sharp breath of air, and started pacing in circles.
After all, it wasn’t too late to go home. Thinking back on it, she didn’t know what had even gotten into her the other day. Of course she didn’t need re-education; aside from her numerous reprimands and suspensions, she’d always done well at work. She was often complimented on her skills in combat, and she was one of the few Argents that had fought in Icecrown. She decided that really, she was an exemplary soldier. There was nothing to worry about.
Except for the nagging feeling in the back of her mind that she hadn’t been happy in years. She stopped in the middle of her pacing, and stared at the door again. Veldarin had told her the priest would have a code of privacy, and he was sworn not to repeat the things she said. That didn’t mean she needed to see him. Lots of people were unhappy, why should she be any different?
“Excuse me miss, I wonder if you might be able to help me,” came a voice from behind her. She whirled around, startled to find a somewhat pale elf in priestly garb standing in the doorway of the study. He smiled gently. “You see, I’ve made all this tea and I can’t possibly drink it by myself. Come to think of it, I have far too many biscuits as well. Won’t you come in?”
“I…” Hammaryn stammered. “What? I mean, I was just about to go. I wasn’t waiting here, or anything.”
A fat, fluffy cat appeared in the doorway, wound itself about the priest’s legs, and stared expectantly at the visitor. “That’s quite a pity. You see, Frances here was expecting company and she’ll be quite put out if I don’t find someone. She gets very tired of having only me for company, for I am old and rather dull.” He opened the door even wider and stepped aside slightly.
The cat meowed.
Hammaryn frowned, talking to no one in particular. “I think I might be hallucinating. This feels like the mushrooms.”
“My dear, this room is a magnet for wandering souls. Would it surprise you to know that you are not the first, nor the second or third visitor I have found pacing this floor today?” His small bemused smile grew to a big merry one, as though he might laugh at any moment. He took a step toward her, but no more. The cat followed and plopped its fat behind on the tiles. Meow.
Hammaryn took a slow and deep breath, letting it out in one big sigh. “Fine. I’ll come in. But you should know before I do, that I am a trained member of the military, and if your intent is to try anything unscrupulous it’ll go badly for you.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt it for an instant. I believe you could rip my arms right off without hardly trying. Now, let’s not dawdle, the tea is getting cold. Come in!” He ushered her over the threshold into a cozy, extremely tidy little room. It was circular and every wall was completely lined with shelves, all of which were filled with scrupulously dusted books and assorted knickknacks. A fire burned in the stone fireplace across from the front door, a modest table set before it flanked by two simple chairs with worn cushions on the seats.
Hammaryn sat down, sitting stiffly upright in the chair. Her eyes wandered over to the shelves of books, scanning the titles.
“Do you see something you’d like to read? Come to think of it, I believe I’ve seen you at the library. With Veldarin, is that right? He’s a good lad, if a bit on the mischievous side.” Two teacups nested near the steaming pot, beside a plate of chocolate-dipped biscuits. He set one on Hammaryn’s side of the table and filled it with tea, then filled his own before sitting down, adjusting his robes beneath him.
She took a sip of tea, blowing on it to cool it off. “How do you know Veldarin? From the library?”
“He is my cousin, though I suppose it’s so many times removed it may as well be nothing. His father and mine were dear friends, though. I’ve known the lad since he was yea high to a grasshopper.” He held his thumb and forefinger an inch apart, then took a cookie from the plate and pushed it over to her.
She helped herself and took a large bite. “He doesn’t talk much about his family.”
“And why doesn’t that come as a surprise,” he said, chewing a fastidious bite of the chocolate half of his biscuit. “He never has gotten on with his mother. Our fathers, well. They fell to the scourge years ago. It was quite a blow. I don’t know that he’s over it yet, he certainly doesn’t discuss it with me! Not anymore, that is.”
“That’s odd.” Hammaryn frowned, still chewing on the cookie. “He never said anything about his father.”
“His father was a nobleman, quite the magister in his time. Veldarin took his love of reading from him, you could hardly find either of them anywhere without his nose stuck in a book.” Frances hopped with surprising grace into the priest’s lap and curled up there, regarding Hammaryn with her bright green eyes.
“He’s training to be a soldier now.”
“So I hear! He came to me not long ago asking about the priesthood. I was sorry to turn him away, but I do believe a priest’s life would never satisfy his nature. He is an adventurer at heart, and lacks certain qualities one desires in a priest. For example, a priest ought to be meek. Do you know what that entails, miss–?”
“Miss Hammaryn. Do you know Veldarin well enough to say whether he is meek?”
She snorted at this. “I don’t believe that he is, no.”
He smiled at her. “So you see how I could not in good conscience advise him to follow his aspirations to priesthood. It’s been a while since I heard any news of him stirring up trouble, so I can only assume that his new aspirations are challenging enough to keep him occupied.” The cat meowed at him, and he broke off a piece of biscuit to feed her. “Now tell me, my dear, what brings you to my humble home?”
“I think – “ she set the cookie down on the table. “Let me start that again. I’ve been a member of the military since I was old enough to swing a sword. I don’t have a problem with my job. I think I like it actually.” She swept a few crumbs off of the table onto the floor. The cat hopped down to eat them off the threadbare rug, leaving it clean. “Several members of my order claim it’s all that I do, but it’s not. I also read, and train, and get drunk every night.” She leaned back in her chair, relaxing her posture. Her hands dropped into her lap. “The problem is…I don’t know if it’s normal to be unhappy.”
“That is a weighty thought to have on one’s mind, Hammaryn. It’s the sort of thought, I think, that leads to sleepless nights and to pacing in front of odd priest’s doorways. Let me ask you a question. Do we speak of active unhappiness? Or simple contentment without particular joy?”
“I guess the latter.” She shrugged.
“In my experience, contentment is often quite enough, and readily attainable if one knows where to find it. Is there anything that makes you feel more than content?”
“I’m not saying that I dislike everything. But I am different from my peers.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what they expect of me. I don’t know what it is that I’m supposed to do aside from my work.”
“Hammaryn. Are you saying, then, that there is nothing which makes you happy?”
“Is that wrong?”
He looked somewhat taken aback. “Oh, heavens no. There is no right or wrong associated with happiness, my dear.” Filling her cup from the still-steaming pot, he continued. “I would like to pose a question to you, Hammaryn. Do you know anything of small children, babies even?”
“Yes. I lived in the orphanage after the destruction of Silvermoon.”
“Can infants be happy, Hammaryn?”
“Of course they can. They start smiling within a matter of months.”
“Do you suppose they learn how to be happy? Or does it just happen?”
She picked up the cookie again. “People smile at babies all the time.”
“What makes a baby unhappy?”
“A lot of things. Being tired, being hungry, taking a piss.”
Unperturbed by her crude language, the priest forged ahead. “So it seems that any person, at his or her basic level, must have their basic needs met first before they can be happy. Beyond that, it is a matter of something that can be as simple as receiving a smile. Do you agree?”
She frowned at this. “I guess so.”
He pushed another cookie across the table at her with a solemn half-smile. “In this world, Hammaryn, being happy can be as simple as choosing to be happy with what one is given beyond the mere necessities of life.”
She picked up the cookie. “So you’re saying that everything is fine? There’s nothing wrong with just having my work.”
“There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, my dear. But I suspect that you will find yourself in the unpleasant position of wondering whether there’s any point to living.”
She set down the cookie, nodding thoughtfully. “I…I told Veldarin I thought I’d rather be re-educated than be myself. That’s why he sent me here.”
“So it has already crossed your mind.” The priest set down his cup and folded his hands in his lap, staring thoughtfully into the fire. “I must ask–and please be assured, nothing you say in my confidence will ever leave this room, or be shared with anyone–what has happened to make you feel as though you are undeserving of life?”
“I don’t feel undeserving. I just don’t see the point to all the stupid things that everyone else does. They lose sight of what’s important.”
“What is important, my dear?”
She stared at the priest as if he’d lost his mind. “Having a goal.”
“Has it occurred to you that perhaps happiness in itself can be a goal? Perhaps you mean something very specific.”
“I’d like to see the elimination of the scourge, within my lifetime.”
“Is that the only worthy goal in life? For that matter, what happens when the scourge is gone, and your goal attained?”
Hammaryn’s hands fidgeted in her lap. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll just…go fight for someone else.”
“And assume someone else’s goals? Can it be acceptable to set a goal of your very own, to aim for something you want for yourself?”
“I do have a goal for myself.” She cleared her throat.
“After the scourge is gone, what will you do?”
She scowled at the kindly priest. “I just told you, I’ll enlist with someone else.”
“Your goal is to serve? Or to gain military rank and prowess?”
She shook her head. “I just want to fight.”
“Does fighting make you happy?”
“I wouldn’t say it’s a feeling of happy, it’s more like…” Her forehead wrinkled in thought. “Forgetting.”
“And getting drunk every night; would you say it’s for the same reason?” He broke the chocolate part off of a cookie and dropped the rest on the floor for Frances.
She nodded. “Probably.”
The priest set down his half of the cookie and stared into the fire for several minutes, thinking. “And Veldarin, do you enjoy his company?”
She shrugged. “He’s not too bad.”
“I’m quite glad to hear it. Tell me, do you have any plans next week at this time? I have a lot of tea and never enough visitors to help me drink it.”
“I’m not working right now.”
“Wonderful! You should be sure to drop by, then. Would you care to borrow a book? You can bring it back next week when you come.” He got to his feet, stepping around the fat white cat, and went to one of the many bookshelves as though he knew precisely what to choose. The book he showed her was worn and bound in faded blue leather, not very thick but with a very fine print on the yellowed pages inside.
“This one is called Through the Portal. It’s a very old, but very fine story about an adventurous young elf in the time of Azshara,” he said, putting it firmly into her hands and settling back into his chair. Frances leaped onto his knee. He patted the scruff of her neck.
She turned the book over in her hands. “When should I have it finished by?”
“That depends entirely on how easily it reads to you, my dear. If you are finished in a day, or a month, it matters not to me. Only read it, and bring it to me once a week to tell me what you think of what you’ve read.”
She stood up, tucking the book under her arm. “Fine. I’ll see you next week.”
“Do take another biscuit with you. And tell Veldarin he ought to come visit soon.” He followed her to the door and waved as she went. “It was lovely meeting you, Hammaryn.”
She nodded. “You as well.”
Frances yowled loudly after her as she walked away.