Part 22: Home, or what is left of it

Ariciel walked down the path to her small house to find Stetson sitting on the bench in front of her window, Morgan at his feet. His hand was gently scratching Morgan between his ears, and his pale blue eyes shone as he watched the clouds drifting slowly over the woods of Teldrassil. Mareva was nowhere to be seen.

“Hi Stetson. Why is Mareva not sitting on your lap, and more importantly, where is she?”

Stetson raised his hand, palm up.

“We have a saying among my people. Love, it is like a small bird resting in the palm of your hand. Keep perfectly still, and still it might flutter off for no reason.” He made a tight fist. “Grab it quickly, and if you crush it, it will be yours forever.”

“My goodness. You haven’t buried her in my garden, have you?”

“Of course not. That would be most rude.” Stetson pointed. “She said she wanted to think. She went in that direction.”

“Think? Uh-oh. I never do that. Only leads to trouble.”

“I am hoping it will not.” He looked away. “Or perhaps that it will. It depends on one’s definition of Trouble.”

Ariciel gave Stetson a look. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Yes,” said Stetson. “Yes, there is.”

Stetson sat back at his ease, and returned to stroking his blue and white striped cat.

“And you’re not going to?”

Stetson shook his head.

“Mareva’s that way, right? I’ll ask her instead. I have ways. I am very nosy.”

“May you find what you seek.”

 

Mareva sat on a log overlooking the waterfall that flowed over the edge of Teldrasssil’s top. The first Night-elf on Teldrassil who had needed a comfortable place to sit and think had lugged it over, as a service to gloomy thinkers.

“Move up,” said Ariciel.

Mareva, without a word, moved over a bit and Ariciel sat down next to her. They sat there for a while, saying nothing, looking over a sea that, after the great flood wave, was now once more rippling far below them as it had done for thousands of years.

“Spill,” said Ariciel.

Mareva said nothing, and looked far away over the sea. Ariciel put her arm round her shoulder and pulled her closer.

“Spill, or else,” said Ariciel.

Mareva rested her head on Ariciel’s shoulder.

“Hunter S’dezo’houn has proposed to me.”

A big, big grin was on Ariciel’s face. She jumped to her feet and raised her arms.

“Yay! Mareva, that’s wonderful! So that is what he didn’t want to say! And in the most romantic city in Azeroth too! Lirael can do the ceremony. You’ll look gorgeous in white, purity be bothered. Can I be a bridesmaid? I’ve always wanted to be a bridesmaid. I’ve never been a bridesmaid.” She looked down on Mareva, who was looking up at her with an amused little smile on her face. “Why are you not bouncing off the walls? You did say yes, didn’t you?”

“Not yet,” said Mareva.

“You are going to, aren’t you?”

Mareva opened her hand, and showed Ariciel what she’d been looking at, a silvery ring with a red stone.

“The last man who proposed to me, is dead now. I used the metal in our wedding rings to make this.”

“Looks like a strength ring. Felt like smashing someone’s face in, did you?”

“Oh yes, I did,” said Mareva, with a grim look. “Up close and personal. I slew about two dozen Blood-elves that day. They were stealing our medical supplies and I got them back, but honestly, that was just an excuse. Unless I managed to precisely eradicate entire families, there are now many Blood-elves out there with a good excuse to kill me.”

Ariciel tilted her head a bit. “So now you think that everybody who proposes to you is going to die?”

Mareva laughed. “Yes. To love me, is the finger of death. If only I were hideous and ugly.”

“I’m still breathing,” said Ariciel.

“You have not proposed to me yet,” said Mareva.

“Don’t need to.”

“Accepting S’dezo’houn’s proposal would also mean no more naughties for you and me.”

Ariciel ‘s eyes grew large. “Oh my! Quick! Before you accept!” She plonked herself on Mareva’s lap and started on the top button of Mareva’s blouse. Mareva put her hand on Ariciel’s and laughed.

“That would go against the spirit of the agreement, I think.”

Ariciel looked into Mareva’s eyes and put her hand on her cheek.

“You are going to accept, aren’t you? I know I’m good, but I don’t think I could make you as happy as Stetson would.”

There was a little cough, and Ariciel looked up to see Ellandriel standing a little way off. Ariciel grinned and waved at her.

“Hi! We’re about to start making love like wild animals. Want to join in?”

Ellandriel snorted. “You honour me with your invitation, but I have a prior appointment.”

Ariciel looked at Mareva. “Can I tell her? Please?”

“Go on then.”

“Stetson asked her to marry him!”

Ellandriel nodded slowly. “And to celebrate, you leap into each other’s arms. Your alien ways are a mystery to me.”

Mareva poked a finger into Ariciel’s stomach.

“She makes a valid point. Get off me. I have a Hunter to knock off his hooves.”

Ariciel got up. “Go get him, girl!”

Ellandriel and Ariciel watched Mareva run off at a brisk pace. Ariciel looked round.

“So where are you going then?”

“Priestess Lirael has invited me to a place called Dolanaar, to meet one of her friends.”

“Feanor? Oh, you’ll like him. He’s Lirael’s brainy friend.”

Ellandriel raised an eyebrow. “As opposed to?”

“Her singing friends, of course. You High-borne. Always thinking of the same thing.”

“How can I not? In your company, there is always something there to remind me. Well, I must hurry. Lirael is waiting. I’ll be back sometime tomorrow afternoon.”

 

Ariciel looked out over the sea. Mareva had gone to make Stetson the happiest hunter in the world, and most likely jump on top of him, Ellandriel was out making friends with her mortal enemies, which left her on her own, with not even a big Human nice and close. No use. No use at all. She turned round towards the Cenarion Circle tree dwelling. Time for a visit to Bearwalker.


Lirael lifted the door knocker and let it fall. A few moments later, the door opened and her brainy friend looked at her. Feanor was a tall, thin, dark-skinned Night-elf man. His hair and his beard were bright silver. His eyes shone with a golden hue, which was usually a sign of great Druidic potential, but Feanor was not a Druid.

“Lirael, my flower. This is an unexpected pleasure.”

“I hope we’re not disturbing you at something important?” Lirael frowned at him. “When was the last time you ate?”

“You know very well that I eat three meals a day to please you,” said Feanor. “At the precise appointed times. I had my lunch at precisely ten past noon, because I finished an equation first.”

“Slippery slope, my love. I suggest you have your next lunch at ten to mid-day to compensate.”

“So I shall. Now if my eating habits are discussed to your satisfaction, who is your charming companion?”

“Feanor, meet Ellandriel. Ellandriel, lore-master Feanor.”

Feanor bowed his head at Ellandriel with a smile. “Welcome, Lady Ellandriel.”

“An it please you, Sir,” said Ellandriel.

Feanor looked at her face, her clothes, her bearing. Then, he gave her a friendly nod. “Please be so good as to enter. Forgive me the state of my home, as I was not expecting visitors.”

The door closed behind them. Feanor took their cloaks, put them on pegs, then waved them in.

“Please, make yourselves comfortable. May I offer you some tea?”

Lirael sat down on the sofa. “Chamomile and mint, please.”

“And for you, Miss Ellandriel?”

Ellandriel sat down on the edge of a chair, her back straight, looking up at Feanor.

“The same, please.”

“A few minutes, if you don’t mind.”

Feanor disappeared into the kitchen to put on the kettle. Ellandriel looked round. They were in a small living room. A pot stove was in the fireplace. The walls were mostly taken up with dark oaken cupboards. On one of the walls was a large still-life of wildflowers, a bowl of apples and grapes, and a copper kettle with a wooden handle. Ellandriel could see a few mistakes in the fall of the light, then noticed Lirael’s signature in the bottom right corner. On the mantelpiece were a copper pair of binoculars, a very complicated type of astrolabe and an oil lantern with the wick encased in a tube of metal gauze. Ellandriel had read somewhere that this type of lantern was used in Dwarven mines, to avoid igniting the flammable gases called firedamp.

Feanor walked in carrying three steaming mugs of tea in his hands. He put them down on the table hurriedly, then pushed one of them towards Ellandriel, one towards Lirael. Lirael picked up the mug and leant back on the sofa. Ellandriel sat up with her hands on her knees. Feanor blew on his tea.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, ladies?”

Lirael tried a sip of her tea, but it was too hot yet.

“Ellandriel is new in town. A friend of Ariciel’s. She likes books. I remembered you have one, and she might enjoy it.”

Feanor gave Lirael a disapproving look. “Well, I haven’t finished it yet, so she can’t have it.”

“Please Sir, do not trouble yourself,” said Ellandriel. “I would not wish to impose.”

Feanor’s eyes glowed brightly at Ellandriel. “I was only joking, my child. Follow me. Bring your tea, or it will be cold when we get back.”

Feanor walked to a small key locker, and took out a key to open a door. He pointed a hand, and let Ellandriel in. Her eyes adjusted to the dark in a moment, and she saw… Books. Rows of books. Shelves full of books. The large room was filled with the smell of paper, the quiet buzz of words wanting to leap off the pages into the minds of any visitor. Ellandriel walked forward with quiet, careful steps, hardly daring to breathe as her eyes glided over the titles. Geography. History. Philosophy. Mathematics. The languages of all creatures in Azeroth. Spell books. Religious texts, not only for the followers of Elune, but also on the Old Gods, and the Titans. Ellandriel raised her hand towards the P to Q part of an encyclopedia, then looked back at Feanor. Feanor raised a hand.

“Please do.”

Ellandriel carefully took the large volume from the shelf, opened it on a random page:

X

Panda-ren: Literally, Panda-people. A mythical species of
Humanoids said to have an Ursine appearance, more specifically
the subspecies known as the black and white cat-foot. Legend has
it that they are masters of brewing many and varied brews of ale,
with magical properties such as making the imbiber impervious
to fire, frost, or natural damage. Due to the paradox inherent
in including alcohol in potions meant to aid spell-casting,
we can confidently consign their existence to the realm of fable.

 

Ellandriel closed the book, and carefully put it back in its place.

“How many books do you have, Master Feanor?”

“Please. Simply Feanor will do. In this room, there are twelve thousand five hundred and thirty eight, not including the journals.”

“Is… Is there an index?”

Feanor folded his hands and bowed to Ellandriel. “You are speaking to him. What would you like to know?”

“Do you have…” Ellandriel fell silent. What did she want to know?

Lirael laughed. “Feanor does this to every book-worm to enter his library. He will know you by the choice you make. No pressure.”

“You came here looking for the lyrics to a canto named ‘Mraval Zhamier’, because there were no pieces for baritones in the Choir’s repertoire. You never quite explained why.”

Lirael’s face became a picture of virginal innocence. “Arador had just joined the choir, and there were no cantos to suit the lower voices.”

“I never said I did not understand it, my flower. I simply said you never explained it. Miss Ellandriel, please feel free to browse, as long as you put the books back where they came from.”

“Thank you, Sir,” said Ellandriel.


Ariciel walked up the stairs in the Cenarion Circle’s tree dwelling. As soon as she walked in the door, she had noticed the gloomy feel of the place. The salesmen on the first floor had been happy to see her, but they had not been in the mood to make the usual good-natured jokes about either her height or her expertise on Furbolg. She knocked on the door to Bearwalker’s private chambers, then went in. When she was in his class, Ariciel would have walked in without even a second thought.

Mathrengyl Bearwalker, her teacher, was sitting at a desk reading through his pupils’ essays. He looked terrible. Lines she had never noticed before now showed in his face. Only when he looked up and saw her, did some of the shine of old return to his eyes. He got up and hugged her with the crushing force she remembered.

“Ariciel. It is so good to see you’re alive.” Bearwalker sighed. “So many people aren’t.”

Ariciel simply nodded.

“Didn’t that big Human of yours tell you that live enemies are bad for you?”

“He did,” said Ariciel.

“Then you know something that even the Aspects don’t,” said Bearwalker. “Arch-druid Staghelm has left us. Did you know he was working for the enemy?”

Ariciel gaped. “Staghelm? I mean, he was a pompous arrogant git, but him? Working for the Horde?”

“Horde? We should be so lucky. No, he’s working for the Twilight’s Hammer cult. They want to destroy all of Azeroth. Needless to say, they’re quite pleased with the coming of Deathwing.”

“I’m not,” said Ariciel. “I lost friends in Auberdine. I take it that it’s open season on the dung-eaters?”

“Oh gods, yes. The only good cultist is a dead cultist. They’re easy to spot. Purple tabards with a hammer on a setting sun. Young Absynthus did a good drawing if you want to see what it looks like.”

Bearwalker stepped over to the window and looked out. His hands were on his back.

“Fiora’s missing,” he said, quietly.

“She was always on the pier,” said Ariciel.

Bearwalker nodded. “I’ve been looking. I haven’t found her. Dead or alive. The pier was hit full on by the tidal wave. She can’t have survived.”

“Fiora’s smart,” said Ariciel, one hand on Bearwalker’s shoulder. “She’s also a lot tougher than she looks. If anyone could have survived, she could.”

“If that is true, why haven’t I heard of her?”

“Don’t give up hope, Shan’do,” said Ariciel.

“She’s dead,” said Mathrengyl Bearwalker. “I’m good at finding people. If I can’t find her… And I can’t afford to cling to false hope. I have things to do that will need all of my attention.”

“Can I help?”

“Of course you can. If only by staying upright and happy. I’ve got a few jobs for you if you want them.”

“Tell me about them.”


Ellandriel came out of Feanor’s library, and noticed with a blush that the sun had disappeared. She couldn’t have been in there for more than fifteen minutes, could she? What bronze-flight dragon had wrought this sorcery? Feanor was sitting on the sofa with Lirael lying in his lap, bare feet on a pillow. She had a small book in her hand, and read from it in a low, sad sweet voice.

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gapèd wide
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

Lirael looked up, and smiled at Ellandriel.

“Hi. You’ve made it out. Hungry?”

Ellandriel bowed her head, took a breath.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake
And no birds sing.

“You know this poem?” Lirael sat up, reached out and poured a glass of wine for Ellandriel. “It’s not older than the Sundering.”

“One of our servants brought it to us. One of the few books of poetry we had. Sir, our lore-masters would envy you your library. Thank you for allowing me to see it.”

“As it is a cook’s pleasure to see people eat, so it is mine to watch people enjoy my collection of books. What did you find?”

“You have many volumes describing the Dragon Aspects. Alexstrasza, Ysera, Malygos…”

“Neltharion,” said Feanor. “In its benign form, Death can be the release, the end of pain, the final rest. Neltharion has chosen for himself the image of fear, of suffering. What surprises me most is how such a creature can gather followers to himself, such as those imbeciles that can be seen in Stormwind wailing and moaning and tearing out their hair. Do they think, perhaps, that Deathwing will spare them? Fools.”

“I have read of the cult of Yogg-saron,” said Ellandriel. “Its followers believed that their deity would drive all those in Azeroth insane before devouring them. They implored their god to be the first to be eaten, and to be spared this insanity.”

Lirael looked from one to the other. “Can we have some dinner conversation that is not about pain, death and screaming madness? It should be almost ready.”

“Quite right, my flower,” said Feanor. He turned to Ellandriel. “Lirael’s vegetable curry is a wonderful source of cheer. I hope you like spicy food.”

“I love spicy food,” said Ellandriel. “What kind of a fire-mage would I be if I did not?”

 

If Lirael, motivated perhaps by a subconscious dislike for High-borne, had wanted to punish Ellandriel with a bowl of curry from Hell, then she would have come up short. Ellandriel ate with only a few delicate drops of sweat on her forehead to show for it, and with every sign of enjoyment.

Feanor put down his fork and spoon. “Miss Ellandriel, please tell us of your travels here. I gather that you were in the company of Druid Ariciel and her Draenei friends…” Feanor looked at Lirael.

“Stetson and Mareva,” said Lirael.

“I was,” said Ellandriel.

She looked at the table a moment to collect her thoughts, then told of how she met Ariciel and Mareva in Outland, and how they had travelled through the wild regions of Terrokkar Forest, Dalaran, their encounters in the Grizzly Hills, their raid on Silverwind Refuge, and finally their arrival in Darnassus.

“Lor’danel must really have grown quickly,” said Feanor, sitting back in his chair. “I can remember when it was nothing more than a tent or two. Did you know Mr Daros Moonlance before you met him in Dalaran?”

“My teacher did,” said Ellandriel. “They did not enjoy an amicable relationship, I am afraid.”

“That is a shame. Have you any idea why not?”

Lirael pointed at the pot of curry, looking at Ellandriel. Ellandriel politely waved a hand. Lirael started to clear away the plates.

“Nobody holds Mr. Moonlance’s abilities in higher regard than he does himself,” said Ellandriel. “With perfect justification.”

Feanor’s eyes wrinkled. “Perhaps he doubted whether his reception here would be appropriate for one of his stature. Which explains why he sent you rather than coming himself.”

“I think his assumptions are likely to be correct.”

Feanor nodded with a pained expression on his face. “Quite possibly. Magis Mordent Evenshade met with a slight mishap when one of our younger and rasher Sentinels ran into him once or twice. Luckily, no lasting harm was done. To his credit, he endured a long wait in her company for his audience with Her Holiness Tyrande Whisperwind.”

“He offered me an apprenticeship,” said Ellandriel. “He intends to stay here as long as Her Holiness will let him.”

“Did you accept?”

“I haven’t yet. The memory of my late Teacher’s fall is still alive within me. Still, in order to combat the forces of Deathwing, I will need to learn much.”

“Would a teacher unhindered by restrictions on his movements, able to travel for information, not suit you better?”

“The Arcane energies of the world are all-encompassing,” said Ellandriel. “There is no need to travel. A frost mage may study a single drop of water for a decade, and never want for things to explore. This, the High-borne have done through all their years of exile, abroad or hidden in Kalimdor. We have continued to cast our studies in the direction that Keldorei have refused to go. Being a prisoner has the single advantage that one has time to concentrate on a subject. I very much doubt whether any Magister in Azeroth possesses a knowledge of the Arcane deeper than we do. And now, we are here to offer that knowledge to the advantage of all Elves.”

“We have other allies with knowledge of the Arcane. Many of us fear that Queen Azshara’s ill-advised actions might be repeated, if we allow the High-borne to come out of exile.”

Ellandriel looked into Feanor’s eyes. “Consider two children. One has burnt her hand on a hot cauldron, where the other has never felt that pain. Which of the children would you leave in the kitchen with the fire burning?”

“Would it not be more prudent to have neither child in the kitchen?”

“Prudent, yes. But then, who will stir the pots?”

 

Lirael stepped into bed as Feanor held up the blankets for her. She warmed her cold feet on Feanor’s legs, a thing he bore with his usual stoicism. Ellandriel had been installed on the sofa with extra blankets.

“So, my love,” said Lirael. “What do you think? Can we allow the High-borne to come out of hiding?”

Lirael felt Feanor’s chest rise in a deep sigh.

“I fear that I must conform to the old saying and say both ‘no’ and ‘yes’. Magis Mordent Evenshade strikes me as a worthy man who we can trust. Daros Moonlance… less so. According to Miss Ellandriel, he still suffers from delusions of grandeur. We don’t need people like him.”

“What about Ellandriel?”

“She is a delightful young woman. Thank you for bringing her here.”

“Fancy her, do you? You let a fire mage alone in your library. I take it that you won’t mind if she stays.”

“To send young Miss Ellandriel packing would be an act of stupidity bordering on the criminal,” said Feanor. “I sincerely hope she takes Magis Evenshade up on his offer. What do you think of her?”

“She realised you were milking her for information. And she let you.”

“Indeed. She is quite intelligent. Again, my flower, what do you think of her?”

“I didn’t like her. I didn’t like what she was. I was still blaming her for the Sundering.”

“But now you don’t.”

Lirael turned over to face Feanor, and moved a bit closer.

“Nobody who likes Milo’s Fire Elemental curry as much as she does, can be all bad.”

Feanor’s hand slowly ran from Lirael’s shoulder to her bottom.

“My beautiful flower, mysterious though they may be, your ways of judging character have never failed us yet.”


Ariciel stuck a Sea-lion head above the water, and looked round. She was on a mission for Bearwalker. Her job was to clean up the remaining corrupted water elementals, and any Cultists she could get her claws on. The water elementals, not to mention the Cultists, found it considerably more difficult to fight a fully-fledged feral Druid than a woman selling pies. Just after the event now known as ‘The Shattering’, there had been a rush to find and bring to Lor’danel as many survivors as possible. A list was pinned up in one of the buildings showing those who had been found, alive or dead. There hadn’t been an addition to the list for weeks. It didn’t stop her from looking. High-elven women don’t simply disappear without a trace. Bearwalker hadn’t asked Ariciel to look for what remained of Fiora Longears, but while she was in the area, she might as well. She flipped her tail up above the waterline, and shot away under the water, following the currents that an Elf’s body could have been picked up by. Far away at the bottom, something caught her eye. Something shimmering. With powerful strokes of her flippers, she swam down, picked it up in her mouth and shot up to the surface. She changed back to her Elf form and held the thing in her hand. It was a crystal chalice, full of sea water. She tilted it to one side, but the water did not run out.

“Enchanted wine glasses never spill,” said Ariciel.

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