The sun was only just rising over the top of the jungle as a lonely figure approached the small house in the clearing. The hooded rider got off her mount and patted it absentmindedly.
“If everything goes to plan girl, we will soon be gone from this place forever.” Oiga felt sweat running down her back despite the air being chilly. She leaned against her trusty bear for a moment while she contemplated what she was about to do. Just treat it like any other spirit calling at a deathbed, just think of the others you have helped pass over and it will all be fine.
Quietly she slipped inside the house, carefully treading over toys and various objects scattered around the corridor. A stench of sick reached her nose as she entered the living space which was now occupied primarily by a large bed. She moved across the floor, carefully avoiding the floorboards that she knew from experience would creak and moan under her weight. She couldn’t count how many times she had snuck through this room and out into freedom from the very man who stirred in the bed. She paused, holding her breath and praying that he was not awake. This would all be so much easier if she didn’t have to talk to him. A feeble snoring indicated that the man had once again fallen asleep. She silently exhaled and left the room, not yet having the slightest intention of letting her presence known. Back in the hallway she picked up her luggage and made for the kitchen where she knew her mother would be waiting. The hallway was dominated by a large painting of her father surrounded by the wonderful trio as she had dubbed her three brothers. As always she was not present in the picture and neither was her mother, the women of the family were not worth mentioning as her brother had often said. Her father had expected to receive another boy, four in a row would be a good number, but it had taken too long for her mother to be with child again and in the end it was an Oiga and not an Oigan that was born into the candy imporium. From that day on it had been a fierce competition to win her father’s affections, but she had always lost. There was no room for girls in his world and especially not one that was more interested in beating up other kids or playing foot bomb instead of learning how to keep house. She drew herself away from the painting and continued to the kitchen where the smell of sick was finally replaced with a lovely smell of coffee and freshly baked bread. As long as she could remember the kitchen had been her safe place.
Minea Lupo looked up as her daughter entered the kitchen and quickly dabbed the tears away from under her eyes.
“Oh my little girl, you are finally home.” Oiga nodded and sat down, not quite sure how to react to this warm greeting. Her mother placed a giant mug of steaming liquid and a plate in front of her, before she disappeared to the pantry and brought back some cold ham and fruit. Oiga noticed that there was no offering of jam or chocolate spread made to her. It seemed like the message had finally gotten through to her mother! Having been raised in a family of candy makers and seen firsthand what sugar could do to a goblin who didn’t exercise, Oiga had always declined to test any of her father’s products. Maybe another reason why they had drifted apart? Her mother sat down next to her and helped herself to some bread with butter. Oiga found herself pondering what it must be like to have given up your whole life for another person. What did her mother have to show for it really, an exiled daughter and sons who thought themselves more important than they really were. She knew her mother had wished for a daughter she could train in the art of housework, someone who she could share gossip about the latest fashion with and instead she had been given a daughter who didn’t even have the ability to mend her only dress. Almost on key her mother’s eyes fell on the hole in the sleeve, the grease spots on the hem and what looked to be dirty handprints of oil, worry spreading on her face. Oiga had done her best to wash out the blood and grit, but she knew her mother saw right through her attempt.
“You can have some of my old ones. They are getting too clingy for me anyway.” Oiga forced a smile and thanked her mother in short gruff words.
“So tell me how your new deployment is, any new friends?” Oiga smiled and held back a chuckle. She doubted that her mother would want to hear about her new “friends” anyway, better to stick to the safe things.
“I have been made treasurer I think, it is kind of hard to figure out exactly what is in my job description these days.” She thought of Lady Alyx and the horror on her face as Oiga had presented the contents of the vault for her. It was nice feeling like she mattered for once. Her skills with an axe could always be discussed but her ability with numbers was something no one could take away from her. She owed her father at least a bit of gratitude on that account although she had received most of her knowledge through spying on meetings, “borrowing” his books at night and changing the numbers slightly to erase his mistakes and listening in on her brother’s teachings.
“I am making progress I would say, I think I might be able to turn the situation around and keep them from losing their home at least. Even if some might not welcome the changes as easily as I had hoped.”
“That sounds exciting deary. Now how about friends, do you get out much?” Oiga was glad of the red light of the sunrise escaping through the window behind her and how it hid her blushing. Who could she tell her mother about that would be safe? Myloh, her fellow goblin that had made her wonderful gadgets and always had a smile ready for her, but also had been the main reason that her dress was in a terrible shape after failed experiments and contraptions blowing up around them. Could she tell her mother about Kerelan who had trusted her with an important job when no one else would have her or Vrek… No her mother should definitely not be told about Vrek. She felt the usual pang of worry that she had still not heard from him. So far as the old saying went that a girl always found a love that resembled her father, Vrek would be the perfect match for her. He was as pig-headed, insensitive and cold-hearted as her father and yet… No she would not allow herself to think in those lines again. Instead she turned her gaze to the cupboard behind her mother’s head that she had not studied the contents of for years. This was where her father would proudly display any medals or other tokens of achievements that her brothers brought home. Her mother followed her gaze and sorrow filled her eyes. A noise in the hallway indicated the presence of another family member. The door opened slowly to reveal her youngest brother. She sighed and took a large bite of her bread while she watched the exchange of hugs that did not involve her. If Jonah was here it meant that the others were right behind. Of her three brothers Jonah had always been the one to take care of her. Being the youngest boy he had suffered partly in the same way as she had, always struggling to be accepted into the family.
“Hi Kiddo.” She shot him a vague smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
“Mika and Fritz on their way?” A glance was exchanged between mother and son, a look she had so often shared with her brother.
“Why are they not coming?”
“They couldn’t leave the business in times like these.”
“You mean they are cowards...” Her voice was rising and she bit her lip to not wake her father.
“Oiga…” Her mother’s protest trailed off. Probably because she knows I am right, Oiga thought bitterly. They had always received all her father’s affections and yet on his deathbed she was the one who was here to say goodbye. The warmth she had felt entering her body by sitting here in her mother’s kitchen and thinking of the people who mattered to her, escaped her now and she involuntarily shook. Her brother rested a hand on her shoulder and for once she didn’t shrug it off.
“Why did it have to be me? There are plenty of more qualified shamans you could have hired.” Her question went unanswered for a while. Her mother stood up and cleared away the dishes, while her brother sat down next to her and started picking a left-over chunk of bread to pieces. Suddenly her mother spun around, dishcloth still in hand.
“He has been asking for you ever since he was forced to stay in bed. He would hear talk of no one else performing the rituals for him.”
“People on their deathbed ask strange things Oiga,” this time it was her brother interrupting her. “He must have his reasons to want to say goodbye to you.” Oiga nodded but a bitter taste entered her mouth as she thought about her father’s reasoning for not wanting to see her all those years. She had not been invited to come back after she had nearly run away to Orgrimmar to have a change of scenery. When she had joined a military company he had even stopped sending her his weekly angry letter asking her to reconsider her life, telling about the various suitors he had lined up for her should she chose to live a normal goblinette life, get married, have children, make the family proud by adding more members to it. After a couple of months he had sent her an ultimatum Give up your rebel ideas and come home, last chance, after this you will never hear from me again nor will any other member of our family have permission to contact you. She had not caved in, she wanted her freedom more.
The medic had entered the room without Oiga noticing. He nodded to her to indicate that it was time. Everything happened in a blur from that moment on. Her mother pulled her out of the room and into her old bedroom which now served as a general closet space for the rest of the family. She helped Oiga out of her dress and pulled another one down over her head. It smelt of lavender, her mother’s favorite herb and she sniffed in the sweet scent as her mother combed down her hair and braided in the holy symbols that their family had always worn at times when a family member was about to pass over to the other side.
When they entered the living space again, the windows had been opened to let in some fresh air and to allow for her father’s spirit to leave freely when that time came. Her instruments had been brought in and placed on a table close to the bed. She stared at them for a moment, as if they were strange objects that she could find no use for, but then instinct took over and she started the ritual, saying ancient prayers that had been passed down to her from her master and someday would be passed on to her student if she ever got one. No one cried or made any noise as she finished the preparations for the soul to leave the body peacefully. They merely looked at her like she had materialized into some weird being in front of her. Her master had always said that you should never perform these rituals for family members because emotions and memories could cloud the sacred bond between body and soul, possibly even forcing the soul to stay in the body after the person had been cremated.
She had gotten to the part were the loved ones usually participated and just as expected she heard her brother’s deep voice joining in with the chanting. Her mother remained silent while she held her husband’s hand. She looked so small and lost that Oiga felt a great temptation to stop the ritual and just hug her mother until the pain went away, but she stood strong and did her duty.
Silence filled the room, only briefly interrupted by the hackling breathing from the bed. Now they only had to wait until he actually died before they could perform the rest of the ritual. She made to leave the room but should have known that she wouldn’t get away that easily. A wheezy voice drifted out towards her and she stopped. The once so commanding voice now had an air of desperate want.
”Come closer daughter.” She sighed and bit back her anger as she moved closer to her father’s bed, not quite sure what she would see. She withheld a sound of shock, her mother had been right, there was not much left of the once so forceful goblin that had refused to give up a trade long deemed unnecessary and unhealthy. His skin was pale and the flesh was sunken in. His good eye was fixed on her as he extended his hand. She remembered her mother’s words and carefully took the hand while sitting down next to him.
“How beautiful you have become daughter, just like your mother. I always knew you would get far.” She nodded, not wanting to argue with him at his last moments in this world. She recognized how the light was leaving his eyes fast, not long now. Her voice was slightly shaky as she asked him the words she had asked so many times before.
“Have you prepared your soul to join the spirit world?”
The funeral pire was only cinders when her oldest brother finally showed up. She could sense he was angry, but not wanting to start an argument with him she crept back into the house and found that her bags had already been packed. She noticed that not even her bag had been safe from her mother’s tears and the surface was damp. Oiga had not shed a tear for the man that had brought her so much pain; she would not give his soul that satisfaction.
As she mounted her bear she looked back at the courtyard behind her. Tables were being placed and food was pouring in from well-wishing neighbors. She knew that once the pyre was burned down there would be a big party to honour her father’s memory, but she would be far away by then not wanting to spend an evening and morning listening to people praising him. As she caught her mother’s gaze resting on her she nodded as if they were signing a mutual agreement about how things would be from now on. Then she rode away from her childhood home, not looking back once.
She headed for the vault as soon as she reached home, not exchanging more than the formal greetings with the people she met on the way. Their faces all melted together for her and her head spun. Kerelan requested a meeting but she brushed him off, longing for the peace and quiet of the vault. She knew that some of them might have worried about her and where she had disappeared to, but right now she was not ready to share. As the heavy door closed behind her she drew in a sigh of relief, this was her home despite the cobwebs, vault spiders and piles of unsorted heirlooms that the A’lorai had left her in charge of. She smiled at her make-up bed on some kegs of ale that she had constructed with the help of Myloh shortly after she had been given the position. She started unpacking her bag, placing ritual gear and the dresses her mother had gifted her in two different piles. On the bottom of her pack she found a box with her name on it. She shivered slightly when she recognized her father’s handwriting. She had heard of people speaking to their relatives from beyond the grave but she highly doubted that they were able to place items in front of her. Part of her wanted to just discard it with the rest of the useless junk she had found in the vault but curiosity got the better of her. Sitting on her bed she opened the box with shaking hands and almost dropped it when her own face stared back at her. On top of a stack of paper was a crumbled hand-drawn picture of her in full armor that she had never seen before. She went on to the next item; a transcript of how she was faring in her first ever military unit signed by the General and addressed to her father, another note from a teacher informing her father of his daughters excellent performance in his class. On the bottom of the box rattling around was the first medal she had ever won as a foot bomber and that her father had taken away from her in anger while he had assured her that no daughter of his would become a foot bomb player. From the box she procured various artifacts of her childhood that she had thought lost. An unfamiliar feeling crept up on her as she sat in a vault full of precious things and held in her hands a box of memories of the one person she had thought wanted nothing to do with her, a feeling of finally gaining the love from the man she had tried her whole life to make proud. She felt tears falling that she had denied herself earlier as she whispered to the darkness.
“Be in peace papa.”