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Mentorship


“Captain Desouza, would you kindly explain to me what you are attempting to do?”, queried a puzzled and somewhat frustrated former Ranger-General who had seen her fair share of recruits that were confused, befuddled, and yes, even questionably competent. Sylvanas prided herself on being able to identify the finest, most talented soldiers to motivate and mold them into something much greater than mere middling expectations. Many years ago, commanding the Farstriders, she had overseen the growth of many young rangers including the one standing before her now readying her bow at a distant target and curiously adjusting her aim up, then down, then to each side.


“I am attempting to simulate live combat as best I can, Sylvanas. A live target does not remain still and I must also be prepared to compensate for Redbreast darting about and taking his pecks and nips when the opportunity presents itself.” Lady Cristina had learned to adjust her aim on the fly, and rather well at that after years of being accompanied by an animal companion.


But that was not the purpose of today’s exercise, and Sylvanas would more than willingly reaffirm that fact. “I am well aware of that, Captain,” Sylvanas assuredly spoke, “but the purpose of today’s review is to examine your form from ready to draw to release and eliminate any flaws in your delivery, which I’m certain exist. As for the animal companion, the bird would be best served at a kennel or retreat while you’re away on mission.”


“A kennel?? Not my birb! Redbreast is so much more than a simple companion. He is my partner,” Cristina contended. “My protector. My confidant.” Cristina was an only child in the Desouza household and as such sought companionship in the forest animals of Eversong Woods. She became attached to them and they to her. Over the years, she had nurtured a special relationship with each creature from tiny field mouse to imposing springpaws but birds, or “birbs” as she called them were closest to her heart. She admired their ability to fly as easily as you or I could walk and dreamed one day of having wings of her own so she could join her feathered friends in an aerial dance. Birds were so special, she thought, special messengers from the gods delivering beauty and song, majesty and strength. Cristina had devoted so much time to them, she had developed a level of understanding, a basic communication with them.


Sylvanas would be neither distracted nor deterred. “We had discussed this at length, Desouza. I appreciate your passion for this creature but for you to excel as an archer and redefine your ability as a marksman, you must be willing to remove all distractions from you and your target. Your mind must shut out the world and let your eye focus only on the point where your arrow is to land. Are we clear on this concept?”


“Yes, we are clear.” Cristina’s heart sunk. She certainly wanted to be better at archery, which she loved as much as her animal friends, and at times, even more so. But to sacrifice the friendship that she had honed in the past few months with this wild ragewing, a creature of Ardenweald would be heartbreaking to say the least. The most difficult part of this separation, she felt, was approaching Redbreast and explaining to him that he would have to “stay home”. Indeed, this would hurt the deepest and she could only hope that Redbreast would remember her when she returned.


“Now, once again, Captain,” Sylvanas patiently remarked, “please ready and aim at the target.”


Lady Cristina did as she was asked this time, knocking the arrow and steadying her bow perfectly still taking her aim at a makeshift bullseye outside the regalest structure in Zereth Mortis known as the Sepulcher of the First Ones. The question once again ran through her mind of how she came to this moment. Why Sylvanas Windrunner, of all people, was taking the time to examine and aid her, a simple captain of the Farstriders. Cristina had barely even been acknowledged in her service other than her commendation to ranger by invoking the name of Sylvanas’ dear brother, Lirath, far too soon for either Sylvanas or Vereesa to properly cope with the gesture. Perhaps it was the faint connection they had shared as a once Ranger General and Captain, or a simpler kinship of two women that were still mourning the loss of a loved one. This tormented Cristina so much, she lost focus and lowered her bow.


“Now what Desouza?”, Sylvanas shrieked in frustration. “Did your precious pet decide to dance in front of your mark this time??”


“I would like to know why,” Lady Cristina meekly replied. “Why do you aid me? Why do you wish to better my skills as an archer? Is it pity? Concern? Charity? I would wish to know.” Sylvanas sighed, as if almost wrenching in torment. “Why should it matter? Do you not wish to improve so that you may perform more proficiently and aid your comrades in battle? My motivation does not matter here but if you must know, I would like to see the Jailer’s plan thwarted as much as do you. Guiding you and training you will help to achieve that goal. Now, if you please, take aim at that target! An obedient Ranger Captain would never prove this difficult!”


“Ranger Captain?”, Cristina asked. “I have never earned a stripe higher than Captain, Sylvanas.”

“And you never will if you do not follow direction, Desouza!”, Sylvanas forcefully retorted.


"She said Ranger Captain," Cristina thought to herself. Perhaps this was the real intent then – to prepare her for a promotion. But how? Sylvanas was the banshee queen, former leader of the Forsaken, ex-warchief of the Horde. It has been years since she was Ranger General of the Farstriders. That was Halduron’s position now. Perhaps she was true though and simply wanted to do all she could to aid in Zovaal’s defeat. No matter now. If she stalled for much longer, her former Ranger General may well storm away.


“Come now, Desouza”, she said to herself, “just like in the training days – ready, draw, anchor, release. No adjustments. Just let it fly.” Cristina releases and the arrow sings through the air like a Spring breeze landing just ever so slightly off center, not quite a bullseye. Factoring in her nervousness, not a bad shot, she thought to herself.


“Hmmmph”, muttered Sylvanas, “I suppose not bad for a warm up. I see why you stalled so now. Retrieve that one and next let fly a trio and group them tightly.”


Cristina did ask she was asked and this time, the results were far more impressive. The three arrows all struck within the bullseye, grouped so tightly you could not even squeeze a toothpick between any two. And so this went on through the afternoon with Cristina firing off rounds of arrows, running to retrieve them, then firing again. It was hard for her to tell what hurt more, her arm from so many draws or her legs from sprinting the distance to, then back. Eventually, Sylvanas decided to end the review, and they sat and discussed what improvements Cristina needed to make, not just her form, but how to better study her foe, identify weaknesses, and exploit them in combat.


“So, do you think I am ready then?”, Cristina asked as she gathered her belongings to return to camp.


Sylvanas replied, “If you have to ask, then no. A true warrior does not question their ability. They enter the field of honor knowing they will be victorious. But I have no doubt that you are better now than what you were before. Ultimately, your success will be measured if you walk back to camp or are carried there.”


The two walked back to camp, Cristina respectfully following the Dark Lady by several paces as any subordinate officer would do. After a good meal and a well deserved rest, Cristina found Sylvanas sitting by a roaring campfire pensively meditating on the slowly settling flames. Cristina approaches rather timidly, preparing to apologize for her distracted state earlier but before she could utter a word, Sylvanas stares at her coldly and interrupts.


“Don’t even speak one word, Desouza. As proper and obedient as you may think, apologizing will make you appear weak. The trait is less admirable than you think. A strong leader saves apologies for widows and surviving children.”


“I’m sorry, Dark Lady. I mean, errr… yes, of course. I would ask a question of you before I retire, with your permission,” Cristina mildy spoke.


“Proceed,” Sylvanas replied,” but I will not guarantee I will answer.”

Cristina continued, “Does… does the pain ever… go away?”


“Ah, yes fatigue,” Sylvanas slyly grinned. “Another curse of the living the Forsaken never need worry about. I’m sure with proper rest and nourishment your legs and arms will be ready for another round of training tomorrow.”


“N-no, I meant the pain carried when you lose a loved one,” Cristina solemnly spoke. “There are days when I mourn the loss of my betrothed as though it were yesterday.”

This was not unfamiliar to Sylvanas, losing so many close to her – her parents, her brother Lirath, the townspeople she was supposed to defend, and more recently, Nathanos. Cristina’s words almost stunned her, leaving her lost for some sharp, witty response. Sylvanas paused for a moment then stood and firmly grasped the captain’s shoulders.


“I think,” the banshee queen replied, “that this has been a long day for you, but one that will prepare you for the journey ahead. Save these questions for another day, one that is safe and without worries.”


Cristina gathered herself then respectfully nodded before returning to her tent leaving Sylvanas with the embers of a dying fire. The former warchief spent the next several minutes staring the embers down, one by one, as they slowly extinguished and burnt to black. As the last bit of tinder died away, Sylvanas said to herself, “No, Desouza, I do not believe it ever does.”

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