Lucia Zherron stood silently in the great open space at the entrance to the Heart of the Forest, gazing up at the sky. It reminded her of the Dreamgrove in Val’sharah, in a way. It even has its own Nightmare of a sort, she thought with a hint of amusement.
Ever since her own transformation and training by the Cenarion Circle, Lucia had believed in the idea of “all things in balance, all things in time”. It took going to the land of the dead to realize where that balance was. Ardenweald was both death and life, moving in a fluid cycle: Those that died would give this place life, and in some cases - like the Wild Gods and Loa who resided here - that life would one day return. She felt more at home here than she had anywhere on Azeroth. Gilneas and Teldrassil had been denied her by the Forsaken, and Val’sharah was more of a “place of work”.
Perhaps she would return here as a spirit herself, when she finally died. Provided the souls of the dead could be routed back here, rather than off to the Maw…
“Thought I might be findin’ ya here.”
Lucia froze as she turned around. Standing behind her was a Zandalari troll in traditional vestments, with two exceptions - the “soul braziers” on his shoulders, and the orc-skull mask he wore on his face. A staff carved of bone rested over one shoulder. She had heard of this one from Zhangren Puretide, the pandaren Lorewalker who discovered his brother Zhaoren had been resurrected by the Ebon Blade. This man had helped search for him. She also remembered that his patron Loa had his domain - or at least, the entrance to that domain - here in Ardenweald.
“High Priest Zulimbasha,” she said cautiously. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Zulimbasha the Collector removed his mask to let her see his face. “Nothin’, just takin’ in da sights, much like yaself.” He chuckled. “Never did I t’ink I be seein’ da Shadowlands meself… or seein’ how small a corner of it we inhabit.”
“A small but important corner,” Lucia pointed out. “I’ve heard what Bwonsamdi did for the spirits of the Zandalari. Were it not for him, your people would be suffering in the Maw.”
“And well I know dat now,” Zulimbasha agreed. “It makes what we must do here all da more important.”
The worgen archdruid tilted her head curiously. “And what do you think we must do here, in the land where the living have no business being?”
The death-priest was silent for a moment… then he said, “I don’t know for certain. Me gut feelin’ be tellin’ me dat we be here ta help restore da proper cycle of life’n’death. How, I don’t got da faintest idea. But dat banshee witch needs ta be put down like da rabid beast she be. Dat much, I do know for certain. Her crimes against da livin’, against da cycle, be too many ta count.”
Lucia felt surprise at hearing her own thoughts spoken to her by a man who had, not so very long ago, been an enemy. And it showed in her face. Zulimbasha saw this, and smiled. “We don’t be so different, you and I. We both have powah granted us by a force greater than we be alone. Da difference be where we get it. Ya get yours from dis.” He indicated around him. “Nature, life… da preservation of both. My powah be granted me by Bwonsamdi, ta ensure those ready to die be guided ta da Other Side… and ta ensure those who still got time be allowed ta enjoy it.”
Lucia shook her head, quietly laughing. “How much we get wrong about people like you…” At his curious expression, she explained, “See, when we think of a priest devoted to a lord of death, we think… I don’t know…”
“Scourge? Cult of da Damned and what not?”
“Some do. Not everybody, but…”
Zulimbasha nodded. “Nobody likes t’inkin’ about death. It be one of dem t’ings where we be all ‘what, already? I thought I had more time’ and all dat stuff.” He gestured around him. “Here… it be hard not to t’ink about it, considerin’ dis be where we be supposed ta go in de end. Or somet’ing like it.” He snorted. “Better here than someplace like Revendreth.”
“Or Maldraxxus,” Lucia added.
“Or Maldraxxus,” Zulimbasha agreed. “Bastion don’t be too bad, though. Kinda pretty. Idea of service be appealin’. But I also like havin’ my memories.” He looked out across the wood.
Lucia saw his expression, and asked quietly, “Even the bad ones?”
“Especially da bad ones. Dey help us learn.”
Lucia thought about that, as she too looked out into the woods… and frowned. “Do you see that?” She pointed a clawed finger straight ahead of her. The priest’s eyes followed… and then widened.
“She be here,” he whispered.