Bindings of Family

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    Never before had I seen a Farstrider so panicked and agitated as the man I saw before me now. He was repeating a story again and again, shouting orders to flee. Those who heard his plea then ran off to gather belongings. Others who hadn't heard closed the empty space left by those who already ran off. I couldn't believe him, personally. He claimed that not only the gates had failed but that the invaders were walking corpses. The ranger general was on high alert, he said, and was off in the woods doing her best to fend off the attackers. I looked to Allidar. His usually unreadable gaze was hardened into what I could only describe as purest duty. I nudged his arm gently. Surely mother and father hadn't been informed yet. He looked to me, nodded, and ran off. I followed quickly after him. 

    "Minn'da!" I called into the house, looking around for mother.

    "Ann'da!" Alli shouted, running upstairs to our father's study. 

    Mother was behind her pile of books she had set up in the foyer. She peeked over the tomes piled like a fortress around her, half-moon spectacles sliding to the end of her nose. "Yes, darling?"

    I strode over to her. "We need to pack up. There's an invasion headed our way." Mother's face quickly melted into an expression of stern understanding. 

    "I see. I must assist the Farstriders, then."

    "Minn'da, the dead are said to make up this army!" I shook my head quickly. "They say they're headed to the Sunwell. The Farstriders say if we shift to the east or the west, they may--"

    "Put us at the mercy of trolls?" She rose quickly from her seat, whipping her spectacles off her nose and casting them onto the table. "What kind of Farstrider tells us to leave our home defenseless?! I'll have words with him!" She strode out the door, leaving me to wonder just what kind of fate awaited the defenders. I dearly hoped she would come to her senses and flee with us. When I thought about it, I looked up at the ramp leading upstairs. Surely father would see reason. I trotted quickly up to his study.

༺ 2 ༻

    "If this necromancy is as powerful as you say," father stated, "then the best course of action would be to leave." He lifted his hands in a slight shrug. "The defenses of the city are not made to withhold an onslaught as has been described. That's the purpose of the elf gates. But if those have fallen, hope is lost." He rose from his couch, looking around his study. 

    It wasn't the answer I'd hoped to hear. This man was acting like the coward I always knew he was. "Ann'da," I began, pausing to choose my words. "What if they do reach the Sunwell? What happens then? Should we not die for that which sustains us if it will be taken so soundly?"

    He only smiled. The expression sickened me. Was he crazy? "No, no, Alli, if all you have is lost that easily, you ought to rethink your priorities, hm?" He started piling books into one of his featherweight satchels. The rune on the bottom began to glow with the weight inside being alleviated. "No. If they take the Sunwell… So be it. We ourselves made the Sunwell. Do not forget that… We could indeed make a new one with sufficient power."

    This man was either senile or overconfident. It was hard to tell. I opened my mouth to try reasoning with him more, but my brother burst into the door. "Ann'da!" He looked to me, nodding. "Alli. What's the verdict? We're leaving, right?"

    I rolled my eyes. He took after father too much. Coward. Father only nodded, chuckling softly. "Yes, Tei'dran, we shall flee to Sunsail Anchorage. Your cousin Lia lives there, remember? They'll take us in." 

    The nerve! He wanted us to not only leave the Sunwell and our people to their fates but also expected us to put up with our miserable cousins? I shook my head, turning. "Bah." I headed downstairs. Surely minn'da would see reason in the matter.

༺ 3

    Alli didn't seem pleased, but then again, he never did. I shrugged it off. "Ann'da. I need a few of your bags." 

    "I have one you can use. Two of them are for my use only." He tossed a bag over to me. 

    I frowned. "But… I need far more room than just this--"

    "Tei, shouldn't you be more grateful than that?"

    I rolled my eyes as I turned. "Yes, ann'da." There was no point arguing with him on this. I headed to my room, giving each inch of it a cursory glance. I had to pack only what I could carry in this single bag… Just in this one bag! That was all I had! I looked at my bookshelves. Old text books… Oh, a book of stories. Two novels. I grabbed them, packing them in. The rest could stay. I would return to them later. 

    I stopped. Would they be here when I returned? Would there be anything to return to? 

    Focus, Tei. I shook the fatal notions off. I couldn't think about those now. I had to pack. I turned my attention to my dresser. Clothes would be essential, obviously. I grabbed the comfiest pieces, the most durable. Dress clothes could stay behind. This was about survival. If it's about survival, then this truly is dangerous. I shouldn't try lying to myself--

    A scream pierced the air. Distant, but fully audible. I had enough clothes packed now. I grabbed a few other personal effects. My quill, some ink, a bag of enchanting dusts. I threw them in unceremoniously. Throwing the bag over my shoulder, I ran to father's study. He stood in an empty room with four bags levitating beside him. 

    "You heard it?"

    He nodded. "I heard it." He strode forth, his bags following him through the air. "Come. Let's get your brother and mother, hm?"

    I followed him swiftly downstairs. We both looked around. Mother wasn't inside… Neither was Alli. I frowned. They hadn't both gone to defend, had they?

    As though to answer my question, mother coursed through the door, her feet carrying her swiftly. She beckoned us all over. "Boys. Listen to me." She looked at each of us, her family of men. "This invasion… Look, I lived through the Horde's invasion. Your father did, too." She nodded to him. "…This invading army is like nothing I've ever seen. The defenders need everyone they can to protect our city." Mother sighed deeply, reaching out to embrace us. Alli and I reached back to pull father in as well. We all held for a moment.. "Your father and I know how to contact each other… We'll come together again once this is over." She released, pulling back. "I'm going to help the defenders. You three head to the west." 

    Father nodded. "I plan on leaving for Sunsail Anchorage."

    Mother looked to him. "Good. Meet up with the Dawnsight clan, right?" As he smiled, she returned the expression. "Be careful, love… Don't let my boys get hurt or else you'll hear it from me!" 

    My parents laughed, then pulled each other close to embrace and kiss. I looked to Alli, hoping silently it would not be their last. My brother's expression was uncertain.

༺ 4

    I knew mother hoped for the best for her children and her husband. It was obvious. But what if this flight would not be best for the rest of Quel'thalas? My mind began turning over itself. This isn't hopeless. We can fend off these invaders… They expect me to simply run away while all the others risk their lives? I didn't like it. Mother was putting herself at risk simply so we wouldn't be put at risk ourselves. Hardly. 

    "Mother." She looked back to me. "I will join you in the defense." Brows raised all around me. They could be surprised all they liked. I had trained harder than Tei ever had. I wasn't some fragile little youngling like he was. "This is why I've trained, isn't it? To be of use when times are dire." I straightened my posture as mother looked at me sadly.

    "Alli, no. I don't want to lose you boys."

    "If you fear losing us, then you fear losing your own life, don't you?" I smiled. I hoped it was reassuring. "You can't tell me what to do if you're worried you won't be around to enforce your rules."

    She gave a half-hearted laugh. "My boy…" She shook her head. "No. Go with your father and brother!"

    I lowered my brow. "I'll go with my mother instead." I looked at the rest of my family. Tei looked terrified, as per usual. Father wore a thoughtful look, seeming to be weighing my chances. I returned my gaze to my mother. She looked scared as well, but she seemed to understand my sincerity. "I'm not doing this because I think it will make anyone proud. I'm not out to prove myself." The thought of facing the horde of undead crossed my mind. A vision of corpses charging at me. I couldn't let the thought unnerve me. "I want to do what's right. I want to stand alongside those brave enough to fight these invaders."

    Mother stepped forward, looking up at me with a torn expression. She didn't want her son to face death. Not on a battlefield, not ever. She closed her eyes, hugging me tightly. I wrapped my arms around her, setting my head against hers. "I must," I whispered. "For you, for ann'da… For everyone. For Quel'thalas." She held me longer, slowly drawing back. Tears had begun to seep into her eyes, giving them a glass-like shine.

    "For Quel'thalas."

༺ 5

    Minn'da held her hands out. "Boys, let me see your pendants."

I looked over at Alli. He furrowed his brow, lifting his silver-chained sapphire pendant from his shirt, pulling it over his head and setting it in mother's hand. I did the same, confused.

    Mother closed her eyes. She whispered words of an ancient tongue, magic swirling about the pendants. Only a moment later, it ended. The pendants now resonated, buzzing excitedly. She held the pendants out to us again. "There. Keep those with you, keep them safe. I've enchanted them…" She swallowed. "Once this is all over, give them a rub. You'll be able to find each other once again with them. I won't have my family torn apart over this…"

    After saying goodbyes to one another, we parted ways. Mother and Alli left for the armory. Ann'da and I walked in silence from the village. It was a long trip to the Anchorage, one we would have liked to make on hawkstriders if we had them. But between mother's business being rooted to Fairbreeze and father's teleportation points, there was little need. Allidar and I hadn't had much reason to need hawkstriders yet. I looked ahead on the path. At least the scenery was beautiful as ever. I dared not look over my shoulder. The invaders hadn't arrived just yet, but I knew I would see those waiting to face them. They would be milling about, awaiting whatever fate would bring them. I looked up at my father. "Ann'da?"

    He set a hand on my shoulder. "Yes, Tei?"

    I watched my feet as they took their steps. I barely even thought of the movement. "What do… What do you think will happen?" I looked up at him. He seemed to think a moment before speaking. 

    "I think we will lay low in the Anchorage and wait for your mother and brother's return."

    My eyes looked back to my feet again. He was right… I shouldn't even think about what could happen. I looked down at my chest, spotting the bump under my clothing where my pendant was hanging. It buzzed considerably less now as I moved further away from my brother.

༺ 6

    The blade I held in my hand was well-crafted. The armor I now wore was sturdy. My mind, however, felt unstable. The invaders had come into view, giving me my first look at them. They were hideous. Smaller creatures trudged along, hunched over, their flesh hanging loose from their bones. Their mouths hung open, rows of uneven teeth on display. Skeletons walked alongside them, carrying various battered pieces of weaponry. In the air, bat-like creatures flew, keeping an eye on the troops below. Most horrific, though, were the largest of the troops: huge masses of sewn-together flesh that came together to create a veritable juggernaut of a creature. Two huge arms spread from an oversized torso, an extra arm near the neck of some of them. Each of their hands held a weapon of some sort. Many carried chains. The fact that there were many, though, was the worst of all. It wasn't as though they only had one or two. They had about five just in the first line. I looked to my mother. She couldn't believe her eyes, either. This was the army? Truly? "Minn'da?" I asked, drawing her gaze from the army to myself. I didn't want to sound unconfident, but I couldn't help but wonder. "How do we kill an army that appears to already be dead?"

    She shook her head, her sky blue eyes returning to the army. "I don't know, dear..." For a moment, I saw the true uncertainty in her eyes that was hidden from her voice. "I honestly don't know."

    The army continued to march forward, towards our post of defense. My eyes scanned the invading force. Surely they had a commander. Someone leading them all. At first sight, I thought it had been the horrible constructs of flesh, but after seeing how many there were, I realized they were just another part of the army itself. Someone would stand out... Someone...

    There. Astride a horse of bone and scant lingering flesh. He must have been the commander. I saw no others like him, none armored or mounted as he was. My eyes focused harder. White hair... Surely not an elf. No, he was too heavy of build to be one of my people. I saw no long ears rising from his hair. He was so pale, though. For some reason, he looked familiar. As the army drew closer, I realized why. I had indeed seen him before. It had been last year. Father had traveled to Lordaeron's capital to deliver a few custom orders from the royalty there. As I had traveled with him out of curiosity, I had been afforded the chance to see how human royalty lived. We had not delivered the carefully inscribed scrolls to the king himself, of course. A servant had greeted us to accept the order. However, as we spoke to the servant, one of his masters had happened by. I realized now that I was looking at that master as he led an army through my homeland. 

    Prince Arthas Menethil, heir of Lordaeron's throne.

    My jaw clenched.

༺ 7

    Lia'era embraced me tightly as our fathers spoke. She whispered words of encouragement, but I heard few of them. My pendant had stopped resonating, feeling as though it were a dead heart slung about my neck. 

   "It's going to be alright, Tei'dran," she assured me, pulling back to look in my eyes. "Remember that time you had the fever? Everyone was so worried, but you pulled through. This is just the same. The sickness is spreading through our land, but we'll all pull through it." She canted her head to the side a bit. "Your brother and Aunt Tonara are doing something great. We'll all pull through, you'll see." She smiled. I know she meant for the smile to be encouraging, but I couldn't help but still feel despair. I turned away, stepping outside again. The house they had was lovely, but it felt stifled. I knew it was not my house. Standing on the steps leading to the door, I took a breath of the fresh forest air. What was happening to my house right now? And what was happening to my mother? To my brother? I felt Lia's eyes set on me from the doorway. "Tei?"

    "I don't know what to think right now, Lia." I turned around, looking to her again. "…Thanks for letting us stay with your family… I know your house isn't very big. We must take up so much space." I smiled. "And with your little brother here now too… Just let me know if it's too much. Please." 

    She waved a hand dismissively. "Nonsense. You're family, Tei. We wouldn't ask you to leave."

    We both tensed as the ringing of steel sounded from afar. I winced. I had to try getting my mind off of it all. I quickly strode away, making for the edge of the harbor.

༺ 8

    "They dare make war on us! After all our people have done for them, the humans dare this gesture!"

    Mother held her hands up to the elven man who had spoken up. "Calm yourself. This does not appear to be any normal force of Lordaeron." Her eyes darted to the army as it continued its approach. "Though they are young, the humans are of the ways of the Light. This… This army is of nothing more than darkness."

    I didn't know what to think of it, personally. There were several shocking facts afoot. First off, the most obvious being the dead walking towards us. I had never heard of humans approving of necromancy, much less ever using it. The second shock was the fact that not all of the creatures approaching were undead humans… Or even humanoid, for that matter. Spider-like creatures nimbly traversed the ground alongside the rest of the troops. Winged beasts with stone-like skin screamed through the air above. I couldn't fathom the shorter, rotting creatures were even human. Perhaps they were trolls of some sort. Yes, only trolls could be that ugly. I looked to my left. A woman beside me, a Farstrider, watched the army with a spyglass. I tapped her shoulder, gesturing to borrow it. She handed it over. As I raised it to my eye, I nearly dropped it. The rotting beasts were clad here and there with dirtied elven vestments. Farstrider patches were visible on some, magister emblems on others. I handed the spyglass back to her, thinking of the third unbelievable fact I beheld. I had heard the prince of Lordaeron was brash, but this went beyond any youthful mischief or overconfidence. Many of the troops of the invaders had appeared to be wearing armor like the Lordaeron military's. Would he have done this to his own people? I had heard he was so gentle to his subjects.

    The army stopped. Their commander trotted forth on his steed, traveling from one side of his force to the other as he spoke, his voice's volume increased with some sort of spell. 

    "It's been a good chase, elves! I hadn't expected you to be so resilient. Yet here I am, ready to annihilate yet another of your settlements." He reared up his horse, holding his blade high. The damned show-off. "Tell me, where might I find a Miss Sylvanas Windrunner?" I raised a brow. He wanted to speak to our commander? Most of us looked around, myself included, searching for the ranger general. However, after moments of silence without her announced presence, he shrugged. "Very well. I suppose I'll continue the party without her." His horse's hooves slammed to the ground, the prince pointed his sword to us, and the undead rushed forth. Everyone steeled themselves.

༺ 9

    The ocean was beautiful. The sun descended towards the North Sea, shimmering like a golden coin on the water's surface. Waves lapping on the sand were all I could hear now, far enough away from the steel and cries of the battle I knew was raging. I didn't turn as I heard Lia stepping across the sand, not needing to see her expression to know what she must have been thinking. She must have been trying to figure out how to comfort me. What words to say. My eyes remained set on the sun's reflection.

    "I'm doing well in my training as a Farstrider." I looked up at her. She was smiling the kind of smile that hides uncertainty. "My mentor said," she continued, sitting beside me, "that I have the right instincts to keep myself and a scout party alive." She leaned back on her hands, crossing her legs in front of her. She had taken her shoes off, letting the waves lap at her feet. "I'm set to leave for the Farstrider Retreat in a month to do my first battles against the trolls."

    "Doesn't it scare you, though?" I asked, imagining my cousin in battle. "You could be killed out there. Isn't it troubling to think you might not come back?"

    "I don't think about that. I think about my duty."

༺ 10

    My shoulder hurt, but the pain of losing was unbearable. I stared up, eyes wide as I saw the skeletal horse followed its master's urge to trot up next to me. The undead battled around us. I felt the magic buzzing through the air as the magisters cast spell after spell. I heard my mother's grunts of frustration as another defender undoubtedly fell. But though I felt and heard much, I saw only one thing in my sights. The prince himself stared down at me, a smirk playing on his face. 

    "You look like a kid, elf. Whatever business you had on the front lines is over now." He pointed his runed blade to me. "Let's see one more swing. Come on. It'll be entertaining." The smirk stretched into a wide grin. 

    My head rolled to the side, seeing another of the fallen defenders convulse before rising, bones protruding from their flesh, blood dripping from the rips formed. The defender's jaw dropped, detaching from the man's skull. He had transformed into another of the disgusting, smaller creatures, joining alongside the others who had been raised into the army. My mind raced to the thought of the same fate awaiting me next. I would not live through this. I would not die, either. I would be thrust into limbo, turned mindless, losing my body. I looked back to at the prince above me. All I could do now was bargain. My tongue wetted my lips, wiping the ash from them before I spoke. 

    "…You win. I will serve… I will serve willingly if my appearance is kept intact. And I will be the most loyal servant of all."

    Arthas smiled. I clenched my eyes shut as his blade sank through my chest. Minn'da, ann'da, you will not lose your son… I won't become a monster… You'll see me… You'll know me… A voice flooded into my head, stopping my thoughts in their tracks. It was a comforting voice, but commanding all the same. It was a trusted advisor to me now. I listened intently, standing at its command. I looked around. So ugly! The world was so despicably unsightly now! The golden forest was nothing but a lie. It was alive. Life! I couldn't stand it! But as I looked away from the forest, I saw the path the army had left. A jagged black scar on the land. I smiled. It was dead. All of it, the wake left by the army, it was all dead, never to return to life.

    Never. Never was true. Never was forever. Never was immortal.

    I was now immortal.

༺ 11

    The Dawnsights were good people. They were my cousins, aunt, and uncle from my mother's side. Father had taken to the family well, and considered Uncle Alliran to be just as a blood brother to him. Aunt Ferria was a Farstrider, and as such was away at the time of our visit. My uncle, however, worked in the anchorage itself, seeing to it that ships were loaded and sent on their way in a timely manner. As of late, his wife had been called away for a few days to combat the invaders as soon as they had appeared. Fortunately, he himself was a good cook. Tonight's dinner consisted mainly of fish. I sat next to my new young cousin at the table, offering to slice a few vegetables for him. He eagerly accepted, looking for any excuse to get out of eating the fish on his plate.

    "Tei," my uncle said flatly, "Don't do it. He has to eat his fish before he gets to eat any vegetables." He shook his head, turning his attention back to his plate. "It's hard to imagine. I can't get that boy to eat anything but his greens."

    My father waved his hand. "Oh, Tei was the same way. He'd eat nothing but steamed greens his mother made for him." As he saw my face grow red, he smiled, continuing. "I think it had something to do with his teeth, though. They didn't come in right away. Rather slow, in fact, mm?"

    The family gathered laughed a bit at that. Even my little cousin Zezu eventually joined in, though I suspect it was more from the fact that everyone around him was laughing. I leaned on the table, resting my hand on my face. 

    Father snapped his fingers. "Tei. Elbows off the table."

    "Mar'dei, it's fine," my uncle insisted. "You're guests, after all. Don't worry about such petty manners."

    "If I let him get away with it this time, Alliran, he might keep doing it."

    "What, do you put him in the corner the way mother always did to you?"

    I grinned, watching my father's cheeks and ear tips turn pink. He gave his brother a light shove, rolling his eyes. "You're hilarious, Alli."

    Zezu finally began taking nibbles of his fish. I looked with satisfaction from his plate to my uncle. "So, I've always wondered. Is my brother named after you, uncle?"

    Uncle Alliran nodded. "Somewhat. I think it's more just your mother didn't want to get used to yet another new nickname when she had her first child." He took a sip from his glass of wine. "Certainly added confusion to family get-togethers, though. He was an unholy terror when he was a little one." He grinned, pointing nonchalantly to my father. "Remember? That nice vase Ferria bought, the one with the dragonhawks on it? Remember what he did?"

    My father laughed. "Got his arm stuck in it, yes, I remember."

    Uncle Alli leaned back in his chair. "Ohh, she threw such a fit when we had to break that to get him free… It was amazing. Nothing seemed to be able to slide him out of it. And as luck would have it, the thing wasn't enchanted, so it couldn't just be reassembled so easily."

    "How did he get his arm stuck in a vase of all things?" I asked, raising a brow. 

    "He dropped a copper in it. We found out later that he just wouldn't let go of the copper, so his hand kept clenched in a fist around it. If he'd have let that coin go, we'd still have that nice vase."

    Father took a drink of his wine, nodding. "Yes, quite the terror, he was. But he's grown to be such a man. It brings me such pride that he's so cool-headed these days." He shook his head after a moment of thought. "I do wish he would hurry up and find a wife already, though. He's been of age for some time now. I worry that he'll wait too long."

    "I've the same problem with Lia." Uncle Alli looked to his daughter beside me with a grin. "Now, I want her to find who she can truly love, but if she doesn't decide on someone before she runs off to be a Farstrider, I worry she won't have a nice home to return to on leave." I glanced to Lia. Her head was bowed slightly, cheeks and ear tips now dark.

    Zezu cried out suddenly, calling everyone's attention to his plate. His father quickly raised a finger to his lips, shushing him after his outburst. He had finally finished his fish, it seemed, and now needed someone to cut his vegetables. I laughed softly, taking his fork and my knife to slice the greens into smaller bits.

༺ 12

    My master bade me prove my unwavering service to him. I was excited. What would he ask of me? What would I do to prove myself? My eyes were drawn to my mother. She looked as though she wanted to run to me, to scream in terror. She looked confused and relieved at the same time, seeming to not understand why I hadn't turned into a monster like the others had. Or had I? I hadn't felt any horrific transformation taking place. I looked at my hands. They were still intact, still perfect as ever. What was her problem, then? Watch her. She would be comforted if you had turned into a ghoul like the others. She's confused. She isn't relieved. My face twisted in rage. I bargained so I would be recognizable to her! I didn't bargain so she could wonder why I still looked like her son! What was the matter with her?! What will you do? I couldn't answer my master's voice in my head. I had no answer. This was completely unexpected! I have a solution if you can't decide for yourself. I smiled. This was comforting. I opened my mind to the solution I was offered. I begged to be told what to do. 

    Kill her.

    My mother, the woman who had raised me to adulthood, who had seemed to love me so dearly, who had tried to teach me everything I needed to know to live well in this world, was unhappy to see that I still looked like her son. She was confused that I looked like she had bore me from her own flesh. Your master always has use for his servants. Your inner conflicts are worthless in my presence. Do as I bid and you shall have happiness for your immortal life. I nodded to the whisperings. Now take your blade and kill her. I smiled. I took my blade up from the ground, striding quickly towards her. Do me one favor, I bade my master. Allow me to extinguish her life on my own.

    Permission granted. A ghoul stopped its advance on her, running with its arms flailing to attack another target. She looked at it fearfully, then back to me. As I got close, her eyes fell to the wound through my chest. "A-Allidar! You're--"

    "Better than I have ever been in my life, mother," I sneered. She would not fake her concern out of fear. "It's time I broke the chains of my miserable existence in this society of workers and takers. I'm done running errands for you and father!"

    "No." She backed away, oblivious to the chaos around her, her eyes locked to mine. "No, Alli, please, we love you! Don't become part of this! This is awful, they are the enemy!"

    I lashed out my hand, grabbing her by the throat. "No, minn'da… You are my greatest enemy now. And I'm about to win this war." Her eyes widened as the blade's tip rested against her ribs. Her lips parted, about to beg me more. Her heart stopped as my blade drove through it.

༺ 13

   Dinner ended after Zezu managed to eat one more piece of fish. He seemed to eat it even slower when the whole table watched him as we did. Afterward, Lia led me upstairs to her room, pointing out where she would set up her sleeping mattress, along with her solemn promise that "I swear, if you end up sleepwalking and stepping on me, I'll knock you into next month." I assured her I would do no such thing. I turned my attention to the bed I would be sleeping on. She had a few too many pillows on it, but luckily a basket sat next to the bed for them to go into. I set my bag on the floor, picking out my sleepwear for the night. I eventually realized that Lia still stood in the room, doing nothing in particular. I stood, smiling a bit. I was a guest, but I felt I deserved no special treatment during my stay. "Shall I change in another room?" I offered, gesturing to the door. 

    Lia shook her head, closing her eyes. "Tei," she began, trailing off.

    I stepped a bit closer. She didn't look happy about something. "What's the matter?"

    She opened her eyes, looking up at me. Tears rolled from her eyes. "Do you think… Do you think Allidar will make it back alright?"

    I blinked. Lia and Allidar weren't close, if his past visits with her were any indication. He always figured out some reason to stay away from her whenever we visited the Dawnsights. But had Lia gotten that close to him? I nodded, setting my sleepwear on her dresser to embrace her. "He'll come back. He won't leave us." I hoped I sounded convincing. I didn't know if he would come back, obviously, but I felt I needed to reassure myself just as much as her.

   "Can I tell you something?" she said, her voice muffled in my shoulder. I let go of her, nodding. She looked to the floor a moment, picking her words. "I… I know father is impatient with me. About finding a husband…" She shook her head, closing her eyes. "But I know who I want. I just can't have him."

    A very slow blink crossed my eyes. I thought for sure I had heard her wrong. "What are you saying, Lia?"

    She let out a sigh, folding her arms about herself. "I-I guess I'm saying…" She shook her head again, bringing her hands to her face. "It's wrong! I know it's wrong!" As her hands fell from her face, they gave an insistent gesture. "I love him! I can't help it!"

    "…He's your cousin, Lia."

    She nodded. "I know…"

    I blinked a few times. "…Your cousin. You two are related."

    "Tei, I know. But… But all the men my father has introduced me to have only been interested in impressing me!" She sighed a bit, smiling. "Alli never has… He never felt the need to, it seems. And why bother? He's already so amazing."

    I can't say I was exactly jealous of my brother at that point, since the source of jealousy would have been the inappropriate affections of my own cousin, but I was already tired of hearing how wonderful he was. I had been for many years. Unfortunately, I didn't think enough of what to say in response. It ended up being just the wrong thing.

    "What, I'm not good enough?"

    Her eyes snapped to mine, startled. 

    I grabbed my stack of sleepwear, heading out the door. "I think I'm going to go change now."

༺ 14

    The man held onto his daughters, all of them huddled in the farthest corner of their house. When they had first seen me, their faces had lit up with relief. Upon sight of the wound through my chest and the grin on my face, however, they quickly cowered again.

    I hadn't been very familiar with the west side of Silvermoon, but now that I had a true purpose for exploring it, I began to learn it quite quickly. The house I had entered was on the farthest west side, giving it the most distance from the rest of the army while still within the city's walls. However, I couldn't think much of the lay of the city at the moment; I had a family to kill. I strode forth towards them, stopping short of grabbing one of the young girls as their father brandished a dagger. "Stay back! Monster!" The girls cried quietly, whimpering. I could see the confusion in their eyes. Why was their father calling one of their own people a monster?

    I smiled. "You should be proud. I died for this pitiful city." I whipped my shortsword from its scabbard, disarming him with one swift swipe. His eyes filled with fear, pushing his daughters behind himself. I reached out to them, my blade in hand. Unexpectedly, the cowering man lashed out, smacking the blade from my grip. 

    "I said stay back!"

    The nerve! I had hoped to have fun with this, but here he was, ruining my moment. I growled, glancing to my sword where it lay across the floor. If I moved to grab it, they would flee out the door I stood in front of. I didn't care for strangling them. The sight of flowing blood exhilarated me. What to do, what to do… 

༺ 15

    I settled into bed, opting to keep a shirt on this night unlike my usual dressing of mere pants. Lia kept one of her softer lights on, assuring me the door being opened wouldn't wake her from sleep if I needed to leave the room. The room was quiet. I heard small noises now and then, growing accustomed to the sounds of the house settling. Now and then I heard even fainter noises, noises I supposed to be more clattering of steel. Thankfully, I couldn't hear any screams or cries. I laid on my side, thinking of all that had happened that day. I tried hard to focus on what had already happened and push my anxieties about what could happen in the future to the side, knowing I would never get any sleep if I thought anything of them. I heard  a soft click sound from the door. Lia must be getting up, I thought. That didn't sound quite like the door opening, though. My ears tensed, listening for more sounds. The soft padding of feet. I wanted to roll over and look, but I dared not for some reason. I got my answer anyways. A soft sigh escaped Lia's lips. Her hand reached down to the edge of my sheets.

    Just pretend you're asleep, I told myself. But though I kept my breathing regular and slow, she didn't seem to care that I was asleep. She slid into the bed behind me, her movements careful as though she feared she would wake me. I decided to play out my act. I did my best to start suddenly, looking back at her with squinted eyes. "Lia?" I checked her over a bit, still refusing to roll onto my back. Her silhouette in the dim light revealed little more than the fact that her clothes were gone. "…What are you doing?"

    She settled in behind me, wrapping her arm over my waist. "Tei…" I could feel it now for sure. She was completely nude. Why hadn't the girls in the village ever given me such attention before? Why did this first taste of closeness with a girl have to be my cousin?! Her leg rubbed against mine, wrapping over them as they trembled. 

    "Lia, seriously, let me sleep."

    "Tei, listen." I was in no mood to listen, but I didn't bother interrupting. "I… I'm sorry about earlier. I have noticed you, it's just… Well, you know how your brother is."

    A chill went through me. I winced, realizing I definitely couldn't roll over now, even if I wanted to. I only hoped she wouldn't feel with her leg. Surely it would only encourage her. "Lia, I don't think this is the right way to apologize to me for something that small!"

    She shook her head, nuzzling into my hair. "This isn't about apology, Tei. I just…" She paused a moment, choosing her words as her hand slid down my chest, thankfully still covered with my shirt. I shivered a bit. Her touch felt good, of course, but so wrong. "…I guess I just need someone to hold me. That's all. Please… Please, just don't think of me as… You know…"

    I did know. But this wasn't the way to go about it. "Lia, I know you feel alone, believe me! I know what that's like… But what does this solve?" My heart began to race, my mind turning over itself in growing panic. Her hand lowered along my body, causing me to whimper. "Lia…!"

    She murred softly, nuzzling me again. "Tei…" Her hand got too close. I quickly rolled onto my back, sliding her hand out of place just in time. My knees bent, hiding what would undoubtedly have been a shamefully raised area of the sheets. 

    "Lia, stop! This isn't right!" I gasped. She set her hand right on the worst possible place for her hand, a hand that held within it the same bloodline that my own heart was pounding through me. Even worse, she urged me on, to feel as she wanted me to feel. To feel the same lust she had, the eye-twitching, stomach-turning lust that she had for her own cousin. But why me? She had said she wanted Allidar, not me! I decided it couldn't hurt to ask. "L-Lia, what about Alli? I thought you--"

    "Alli isn't coming back." Her movements stopped. Her voice held a stern hurt in it, a kind of serious tone backed by pain. "…He's not coming back." She pushed herself up on her hands and knees. I watched her, stunned by her words. "So please… Tei… For tonight, you're Alli… You're the man I want so badly but can't have… The man I'll never have…"

    I understood now. She was not simply driven by some strange lust for one of her own blood. She was held back from showing her affection to someone she admired, and the pain had taken its toll. Now, she would never get to meet him in love. I knew in my heart it was true. My brother really wouldn't be returning home. Now, to deal with her grief, she asked to have the night she could never actually have with him. I lifted my hands from their grip on my sheets, gingerly setting them on her hips. My throat tightened up. I swallowed, looking her over.

    "…Turn off the light."

༺ 16

    As I took my time deciding, the man whipped a foot out, attempting to kick my leg and throw me off balance. I quickly caught myself before I could hit the floor, instinct taking over. I launched myself along the floor, the grips on my boots propelling me forward. I grabbed the man by his shoulders. He reeled back. What a mistake. My mouth opened wide, lunging for his neck. Pointed canine teeth sank in, my merciless nature propelling my strength. I felt the rubber-like consistency of his trachea being crushed in my jaws' grip. His daughters screamed, backing away while too scared to make a run for the door. Something struck me at that moment. The blood flowed into my mouth. It tasted delightful. I could feel the man's pain in it even as it left him, while the iron-like taste reminded me of the ringing of steel on the battlefield. He struggled a while, trying to yell for his daughters to run. I pushed myself up, still gripping his neck, and set a foot to his chest. Pushing myself back, his throat ripped apart in my mouth. I spit the mass of flesh out, looking to his daughters. Their faces were bone pale. I smiled, the blood already beginning to dry on my chin.

    I admit, I held back during the slaughter of Silvermoon for only one reason. That reason being that I had not yet developed enough of an arm to impale the enemies I faced as I wanted to. Slaying the man's daughters in such a manner brought the problem to my attention. During their initial shock, I had the time to sprint over and grab the sword, as well as one of the girls themselves. I held her by her throat as I had my mother, driving the blade through her ribcage. Her death was nearly instant, but my blade became lodged in her vertebrae. An embarrassing amount of tugging had to be done to pull the weapon free before I could even realize the second girl had run out the door. However, that was only one minor failure. I soon found more victims huddling in their homes to practice on. The more I worked at it, though, the more adept I became at charging fast enough to run the blade through and positioning my foot in the best possible way to push the body off my blade to go on to the next victim. I let the army face the true defenders as they saw fit. For my practice, civilians worked best. I even managed to goad a few of the ghouls and skeletons into searching the houses to bring out those hiding within. I realized eventually that I had met a few of these people. 

    But what had I met them for? To deliver my father's wares to them. They deserved to die for taking part in my petty servitude of that man. It was true, like my mother, he had raised me. However, I could not forgive him for raising me with the intention of making me a fitting servant for him or anyone else who would decide to employ me. Neither he nor my victims deserved any quarter for the society I had been raised in. Many of the cowering civilians insisted I didn't want to do it. That I didn't want to kill them. I made sure to reply that I very much did. Why keep them guessing? I supposed they did deserve some sort of answer after suggesting such ideas.

༺ 17

    Morning came with several brisk knocks on the door. Uncle Alliran called inside for Lia, demanding she wake up already and do her chores. I woke slowly, feeling as though I hadn't slept very well. I quickly remembered why as Lia stirred beside me in bed. More knocks sounded from the door, more impatient this time. Lia groggily slid out of bed, stepping across the floor to pick her robe off the corner of her mirror. She walked to her sleeping mattress, still unused on the floor, and gave the sheets a swirling with her foot. She tied the robe at her waist, then unlocked the door, opening it. Her father didn't look very pleased.

    "Lia, come on, there are refugees. We need to tend to them. Get dressed." I squinted, trying to see him from the slight crack she held the door ajar in. He paused before speaking again, this time in an angry tone. "What--Where is your nightgown?!" He lowered his voice after peering in at me. "Don't tell me you slept without any clothes on when you have a guest in your room!"

    Lia sighed. I winced. There really wasn't anything she could say in defense of that. She mumbled something incoherent. Apparently, it wasn't to her father's liking. My uncle pushed the door open, causing her to stumble aside, and strode in. He dropped to the floor on his knees, setting a hand to her cold mattress. He muttered something angrily, getting back up in a hurry and striding back out, slamming the door behind him. I heard him yell for my father. 

    Lia turned, walking back across the floor to me. "Get your pants back on," she mumbled, rubbing sleep from her eyes. I nodded, fighting embarrassment as I grabbed my pants and shirt from the floor, pulling my pants on under the sheets. I slid out of the bed, standing and about to pull my shirt over my head before my own father whipped the door open and stormed in, grabbing me roughly by the arm and pulling me out. I stumbled along with him, my eyes set on Lia. Her head was tilted down, but she watched sadly as I was pulled away. 

    "Ann'da!" I pleaded, tripping several times on our way through the hall. He brought me to my uncle's room, shutting the door only for the sake of pushing me back against it.

    "What the fel is wrong with you?" he started, continuing quickly. There would be many rhetorical questions to come, I guessed. "She's your cousin, Tei! Your cousin! What the fel went through your head?!" I remained silent, even though he gave me time to respond this time. He shook his head, stepping away. He lifted a hand to his head. There would be many migraines for him today. Dropping his hand to his side, he continued, staring out the window. "You're a guest here. You're family. This is unacceptable!" He turned on his heel, shaking a finger at me as he strode towards me again. "You are a Duskwatch! You're not some country child! We raised you in Fairbreeze, even! What, the women there weren't good enough for you?"

    I thought quickly. I couldn't let Lia be the one in trouble for all this. She'd have a very hard time getting respect among the Farstriders. She was the one with a future, not me. I would have to go ahead and lose even more of my father's respect. "Ann'da, the girls in Fairbreeze were always interested in Alli! Not me! Never me!"

    "Oh, cry about it, damnit! Tei, she's your cousin, you couldn't have at least even waited to meet someone here?! By the sun, there are refugees pouring in now! There's women among them! What's the matter with you?!"

    I raised my voice. That's right, father, stay mad at me! At me! Don't even think of Lia! "You don't even care that I slept with her! All you care about is that I slept with someone you don't approve of!"

    "She's your cousin, Tei!" He raised his voice louder than mine. "She's of your own blood! Why can't you see what's wrong with this?!" My ears tensed a moment. I couldn't hear any yelling from down the hall. Maybe Uncle Alliran was leaving Lia alone for now. Hopefully he was. I had a plan.

    "Fine, I'll apologize to Uncle Alli directly!" I raised my hands in surrender, my voice still angry. "If your own reputation is that damned important to you--"

    His flat palm connected to my face. "You think this is about me? You're sorely mistaken! I raised you better than this! I knew you had a female cousin, I specifically spoke to both you and your brother about this when you came of age!" He gripped his hair, his eyes clenching shut. "Belore, what would your mother think of this?!"

    I growled, yanking the door open and stepping out. I strode quickly down the hall, looking around. As I passed her room, I glanced inside. Lia still stood inside, looking up at me worriedly as I passed. My father passed next. She followed quickly afterward, sensing something was about to go awry. I quickly descended to the first floor, father and Lia in tow. Uncle Alliran was in the kitchen, portioning out his family's food. At the sight of me, he glared.

    "There had better be a damned good reason for what happened last night." I straightened my posture, looking him hard in the eye. He turned his gaze to Lia. "If you think you're off the hook for this--"

    "I convinced her to do it, uncle." I resisted the urge to wince from the knowledge of what would come next. My father grumbled. Lia gasped. Uncle Alliran growled, throwing his fist, already clenched with rage, at my jaw. I stumbled back, falling to the floor. He followed me down, dropping to grab my hair and throw blow after blow to my face. Lia yelled for him to stop, but after he showed no intention of listening, she grabbed him, trying to pull him off. My father stood to the side, seeming to acknowledge that I did indeed deserve it. Eventually, he, too came to my defense, saying enough was enough. He pulled my uncle off of me. I sensed the iron-like taste of blood in my mouth and wiped my nose. I looked up at him. He was held back like a raging animal, demanding to punish me more for what I had done.

    I knew I would have to get used to the idea that I was in the wrong. All for the grief of my cousin over losing the love she never had to an enemy she never saw. For myself, I knew there would be no greater shame in my life than losing my virginity to my own cousin. 

༺ 18

    My master was truly wondrous. He arrived at the north shore of mainland Quel'thalas, stared at the far-away island of Quel'danas that bore the Sunwell, and shrugged. He set his sword's tip to the water, freezing the very ocean into a wide bridge of thick ice. His army quickly crossed, crushing the remaining resisting forces. Even Anastarien himself was no match for my great king. However, the elven king had struck a blow to my master; a quick slice at my master's great, skeletal horse had severed its forelegs. I watched as my master cried out the horse's name, making quick work of the elven king. The display of power was impressive enough, but Arthas' quick tending of his horse's injury and joy afterward at the beast's recovery cemented him in my mind. My master was caring. He was no monster, not like my people had described him in shouted insults from afar. He was a true king, a king who cared for his subjects. I had seen him before watch a few of his soldiers perish. A grim expression had laid on his face. Their deaths did indeed affect him. He was a young king, true, but it only proved to endear him.

    "Funny," he said with a grin. "I had expected more resistance from Quel'thalas." He turned his gaze to me. "You. Elf. Where's the other Sunstrider? Where's Kael?"

    "I believe he's in Dalaran, actually."

    My king patted his horse's long nose. "I'll get to him later, then." He looked to the cultists who had scurried behind the army on its rampage. "Bring forth the necromancer's remains."

    Two cultists brought forth a lavishly crafted urn, funerary by the looks of it. I tuned my senses to it. There was something special inside, to be sure. Arthas took the urn in his hands, striding to the final goal of the invasion.

    The Sunwell.

    What we called the Sunwell was a fount of pure magic that sustained everything we did as Quel'dorei. At one point, I had felt the warmth of its glow for myself, seen its swirling depths and had thought they were beautiful. The sight of it sickened me now. I watched gladly as my king poured the shadowy, fluid contents of the urn into the well of magic. Corruption spread like a black dye through the well, the energies brought to the surface in the shape of a creature. The creature was soft and rounded at first, but eventually hardened into a skeletal being of purple draperies and long chains circling him. A ball of magic glowed beneath the draperies, holding the creature aloft.  Through some sort of dark magic, the being whose face and neck consisted of nothing but bones, spoke in a chilling voice. 

    "I am reborn, as promised! The Lich King has granted me eternal life!"

    A name resounded in my head, commanding my attention fully. Kel'thuzad.

༺ 19

    After nursing the bruises on my face for a while and making a point to avoid Lia, I wandered outside. Sure enough, I saw sleeping mats scattered about, some of their owners still laying upon them. I felt almost guilty. I had a bed I could sleep in, yet I had ended up making a mess of my privilege in only one night. I shook my head. What was I thinking? I could make amends. I could figure out some way to do it. I hoped…

    There were many wandering the anchorage, looking for something to do with themselves. I frowned, wondering what exactly I had come outside for. There wasn't much I could offer any of these people. I was a refugee myself, albeit a refugee with a roof over my head. My situation wasn't nearly as bad as I felt it was. I had the chance to pack my things. These people, though not nearly as many as had lived in Fairbreeze, probably left much later. I could tell by the looks on some of their faces that not all of their families had fled with them.

    "He's not coming back."

    I knew it was true. And if Allidar wasn't coming back, neither was minn'da. As if knowing my troubles, my father stepped out of the house, pausing for a moment before walking over to me. He regarded me for a moment. By the frown set on his lips, I could tell he was still thinking about what had happened between Lia'era and myself. He shook his head, closing his eyes. "Would you mind explaining how you thought you would get away with something like that?" My brow lowered slightly. I was already done thinking about it. I wished he would just let it go for now. However, that would have probably been too much to ask. He hadn't been thinking as I had.

    "Lia is attractive." I folded my arms, looking back to the refugees. "What will we do about the refugees here?" I glanced to him. I cut him off before he could claim I had changed the subject. So what if I had? "Is there anything we can do about them? I suppose that's a better question."

    Father looked to the elves wandering about. He shook his head. "Nothing. There's nothing that can be done about this. Nothing we can say, nothing we can do. We can't offer them anything ourselves, Tei. We're among them." He sighed. "Don't change the subject, though." I rolled my eyes. He glared. "I find it hard to believe that someone so gentle as you had it in him to persuade a girl to forsake her honor like that. You weren't reading any of my illusion spell books, were you?"

    "Ann'da!" I turned back to him again, waving my hands. "No! I can't even read those, thanks to you!"

    "What about your mother's shadow magic compendiums? What about them?"

    I growled, storming away. I couldn't take that man at that moment. Sudden pain seared into me, stopping me in my tracks. I felt as though I hadn't eaten in weeks. I quickly turned around, striding back into the house. How could I have forgotten breakfast? An even better question, how would I get any when the provider didn't even want to see my face in his household?

    The hunger was too much. I had to eat. Still, something bothered me. I felt the pain not only in my stomach, but also in my heart and mind. My soul itself ached.

20

    I had heard my orders and anxiously marched along with the rest of the Scourge to carry them out. I still wore the armor I had received from Fairbreeze, as well as the sword. The sword itself was coated with blood by now, dark brown flecks drying and chipping away from even the most fragile touch given. I smiled. I liked the look of the sword. Its steel was sturdy, and the hilt was decorated with an ornate phoenix design. A line on the side of the hilt hinted that the phoenix had not been made just for that sword. This was a sword made for everyone to use, produced in mass quantities. The disgust I felt beholding the phoenix emblem was eased by my own addition to the hilt. Each crevice of the design held dirt and blood. A true product of Quel'thalas, I mused. Made of the metals and earth there… As well as the people themselves. 

    My thoughts turned back to the first to add blood to the blade. My mother had begged me even to the end to spare her miserable life. Why had she felt so entitled? I was taking my own path now, following who I chose. Was that not what she had told me my whole life? She always said, as I grew older, that authority was meant to be questioned, since authority is still as mortal as I. But if that were true, what was the point of authority? Surely she had missed something. Or had she led me astray on purpose? She was, after all, a follower of the pretentious Light. The thought of her workings with such holy magic made me shudder. A ghoul beside me seemed to notice, gurgling sounding from its throat. I lashed out the blade in my hand, beheading the ghoul. It collapsed in a heap to the ground, left behind on our long trek. The other ghouls and skeletons gave me a wider berth.

21

    Everyone was sick.

    At first, the fear among the people was that the undead had brought with them an airborne plague that had spread far and wide, infecting all of us with starvation and despair. However, I found that hard to swallow, myself. A plague that did nothing but cause discomfort wouldn't be useful to an army of the dead. After such a decision, though, my mind skipped to another thought. What if this was just the precursor to a much worse disease?

    Children cried all around me. Parents tried to soothe them, but to no avail. They all felt the hunger. They all were starving after eating not even one hour ago. I had managed to scrounge for food out of my uncle's sight, grabbing a roll of bread and an apple. I had never been much of an eater, preferring to just eat a snack here and there throughout the day, but now I felt voracious. I ached all over now. I left the front steps to search for my father, finding him eventually among a throng of refugees. For some reason, he was leaning down over a mother and her baby. I furrowed my brow. What did he know about medicine? He was no doctor. He was a mage. I watched as he straightened up from the crying infant, looking to the mother.

    "I fear the worst. Not just for your child, madam…" He looked to the crowd. "But for all of us." He spotted me, beckoning me over to him. I winced as a twinge of pain coursed through me, but nonetheless made my way over. He set his hand on my shoulder. "Tei. Tell these people what your brother told me… What did that invasion of the dead seek?"

    All eyes fell onto me. I looked at the crowd, nervous. Why was he doing this to me? Why couldn't he say it himself? It's punishment, I thought. It has to be. I swallowed hard, closing my eyes. I still felt the piercing gaze of so many frightened and despairing Quel'dorei upon me. "The--" I choked. Steeling myself, I tried again. "The… The Farstriders said the army was seeking the Sunwell."

    Murmurs flew about the crowd, holding within their tones confusion, anger, and despair. I opened my eyes, looking to my father. "Yes," he said, his expression grim. "I believe they may have been successful… And if that is the case, we are now paying the price." He hesitated before looking darkly to the crowd. "…And if I am correct, these symptoms say that we were dependent on the Sunwell itself. This is no disease we suffer… This is withdrawal."

    The mother clutched her infant protectively, eyes downcast and lips parted in uncertainty. "…Even my child?"

    Father nodded. "I am afraid so, madam…"

    The look on her face was heart wrenching. Her eyes fell shut as her lips tightened, swallowing. I looked from her to my father.

    "Is that all you can do?" The voice sounded from the crowd. A grown male elf, appearing quite on edge, stepped forward, staring my father down. "You can only give us terrible news?" He narrowed his eyes. "But we are on our own for help?" My father tensed. This was not good to hear. Times were already difficult enough without dissent from the people. Father lifted his hands in reassurance.

    "This situation is new and strange to us all, myself included. Rest assured, I will work with the rest of the magistry to find an applicable solution." He looked down at the mother and her child. "None of us should have to suffer for this. Infants included…" The crowd clapped for him, many nodding their heads in approval. I hadn't realized it at first, but my father was somewhat of an authority figure in this town. The anchorage didn't have much use for a magister itself as far as I could tell, and if there was one, he or she was either away or avoiding the problems of the people.

    "And how will you do this?" The man spoke again, still doubting the validity of my father's claim.

    Father looked from the man to me. "Tei," he bade in a low voice, "gather your things. We're leaving." I blinked. Why? He turned his attention back to the crowd. "My son and I will travel to Dalaran. I will exhaust their resources for a cure if I have to." Father set a hand on my shoulder, directing me to the house. "Get your things, I said." With a push, I was on my way back to the house. I wondered again if my father was simply punishing me by forcing me back into my uncle's household. I could only hope he wouldn't be so malicious.

    I ached.

22

    It's amazing how much you can learn on foot. During the long trek undertaken after the Sunwell's corruption and Kel'thuzad's amazing rebirth, I had picked up plenty of new tricks. Specifically, magic. Even more specifically, the types of magic I would use and how I would use them.

    First had been the teachings of blood. After assistance in inscribing runes upon the blade I carried, along with the decision of how exactly to go about it in a proper manner, I learned the potential of these magics I had been given. In my enlightenment, I found the reason the slaughter of Silvermoon's citizenry had excited me so. Blood itself, the life fluid of the living, was doubly empowering to me as it was to any mortal. To drink in the blood of a living creature was to temporarily gain their natural regeneration. My own nature as a powerful, unholy knight amplified the regeneration, exhilarating and empowering me. I smiled as the cultist I had pulled aside explained this to me. I had decided I would remain appearing as alive as possible. If my mother had been so horrified that I remained in this state, then it would be my priority. This fact I was open with to the cultist. He thought it to be a commendable idea. 

    I had worried at first in my personal goal. The Scourge was powerful while it was a single mass, moving at the command of one master and never straying far from its purpose. Initially, I had feared my individuality would be rejected. Never had I feared punishment in my life, but now under my master who I so respected and admired, I craved to please him. Upon my timid request for his opinion, however, I had been praised. My master allowed Kel'thuzad to explain it to me. Individuality, it seemed, was acceptable as long as it was not for personal gain. I sought to torment the memory of my mother, making it a lofty ambition of terror and despair against our enemies.

    Ah, mother, I thought, lifting a hand to stroke the pendant I still wore around my neck. A soft scream rang in my ears. Her fearful, disgusted, confused eyes lit up in my mind's eye. She was dead. She could not even walk among the grand army of the Scourge. I had rendered her unusable through my mutilation of her. (Really, why stop at her heart?) Though she was gone physically and never to lift her sight to the world again, her own enchantment had seemed to take in her essence. Mother was with me, oh, she was definitely with me. I reminded her of it with the simple stroke to the pendant that she herself had ensured would be effective and potent.

    Interestingly, the pendant buzzed softly. The vibration was so slight I thought I had imagined it at first. We were very far from Quel'thalas at this point, nearing the Alterac mountain range.

    You are nearby, dear brother? I gave the pendant another stroke. Yet another anguished cry rang in my ears, another vision of my mother accompanying it. I'll bring you back to your mother, Tei. You'll be so happy together in the hell I've crafted for you two...


23

    I stumbled into the city of mages with such lack of ceremony that I felt I had simply been tossed into it like a bag of grain from a ship. Needless to say, the looks I received were strange, but at least they didn't last long. I assumed this sort of entrance was made often. My father calmly followed afterward.

    "Tei. You dropped your pendant."

    I frowned. There it was, silver and sapphire laying on the floor. I had decided to wear the necklace doubled around my wrist instead, where it was loose but at least not so close to my heart. I reached out quickly, chiding myself mentally for such a clumsy gesture, and grabbed hold of the necklace by its pendant. Strangely, the pendant resonated. Only slightly, but noticeably. I decided the magic in this city was the reason. Standing up, I dusted myself off, slinging the pendant about my neck once again. I didn't like the feel of it, but I decided I would rather not drop it yet again.

    My father and I had been busy most of the day with various bits of business to finish up. He had spent most of his time checking more of the people, refugees and residents alike. I watched him tend to the elven residents of the city, doing my best to stifle my own aches and hunger. All suffered the same symptoms: weakness, fatigue, hunger, and body aches. He was still scratching his head about what to do as night fell.

    "I hope we don't need to take drastic measures," he told me as we walked the streets in the moonlight. Dalaran had a blue cast of color to it now, blanketing the tones of cream and mauve of daylight. "This… withdrawal…" He winced. "If we don't find a way to fix it… We may lose our livelihood. Elves without magic. Can you imagine?" I remained quiet. He turned his head, looking at me. "Well?" I shook my head.

    "I can't imagine, no…"

    He looked back ahead. "Josef ought to have some idea of what to do, though." He smirked. "He's a good friend, but he's been studying us elves for a long time. Rather strange if you ask me."

    I nodded weakly. My eyes traveled along the path, spotting a sparkling object. Large in size, I realized eventually it was a pool of water. A fountain, at that. 

    "Ann'da… I'm going to look at the fountain. Do you mind if I do?"

    He frowned at me, nodding. "Go ahead. You remember where Josef's house is?"

    I nodded, waving him away. "Go on, I'll catch up to you." I strode towards the fountain as father hurried along to Josef's house. I neared the fountain, peering into it carefully. Swirling, pure water, a hint of magic dancing upon its surface. Not a care in the world. I knelt down to the water, reaching a hand into it. The water swirled around my fingers, soothing my body for a moment. Then it was gone, its comfort depleted. I sighed, lifting my hand out and drying it off on my shirt. This was torture. I was the starving man who had been given but a wafer to eat, nothing more. 

    I sat down, staring into the fountain for a moment. It almost looked as though it were pure magic, its ripples crested with moonlight that danced along as the tiny waves spread. The aching within me rumbled, spreading through me in force again. I clenched my eyes shut and wrapped my arms around myself. It couldn't have been good. I was looking at water and seeing magic; it was a torturous mirage if ever there was one.


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Nether Stray,
Sep 7, 2010, 10:50 PM
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Oct 6, 2010, 5:41 AM
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