Part 23: From each according to their ability

Mareva did look beautiful in her white dress. It had taken the combined effort of Ariciel, Lirael and Ellandriel to get her to have the dress fitted properly, and to have her hair done. Stetson could not take his eyes off her, so they were counting it as a success. Lirael was doing the ritual. Ellandriel had asked Mordent Evenshade to be a witness. Feanor had emerged from his library for a few hours to be present. Arador had volunteered a few of his fellow choir members to sing a hymn or two for Stetson and Mareva. Ariciel grinned to herself. Part of Draenei wedding ceremony was for the groom to come and fetch the bride, and having to pay a ‘ransom’ for her. Lirael had stood in the doorway, stone-faced, arms crossed, claiming that she knew no such person as a Draenei Shaman. Meanwhile, Mareva had been inside, screaming piteously about the perverted depravities these wild Night-elves were inflicting on her, and asking him to come back later. Stetson had forced his way in, and come out a few moments later, carrying Mareva in his arms. Lirael, Ariciel and Ellandriel had trailed him, complaining bitterly about how little ransom Setson had paid. They had only escaped by getting into one of the small floats in the waterways of Darnassus, which took them to a beautiful spot in the Temple gardens.

Ariciel watched as Lirael took both their hands, tied them together with a piece of rope and had them pronounce their vows. All the witnesses signed their name on the deed. Mareva and Stetson stood still in each other’s arms, looking deep into each other’s eyes, until Lirael coughed politely.

“Now get me out of this dress,” said Mareva. “I look like a fairy cake.”

“Gladly,” said Stetson.

The whole congregation decamped to Salienne’s inn for drinks and food. Stetson and Mareva appeared roughly an hour later, Mareva wearing her scale armour, looking very pleased with herself. She sat down next to Ariciel and accepted a pint of cider.

“Private ceremony?”

First private ceremony,” said Mareva.

“Need any help on the second?”

“Hands off. I am taken.”

Ariciel and Mareva grinned at each other. Their little party was occupying about half of Salienne’s inn. On the other side were four of the Darnassus Sentinels, having a quiet pint or a cup or two of wine after their shift. The door opened and a fifth one came in. She bumped into Ellandriel’s chair, making her spill her drink.

“Something smells here,” said the Sentinel. “I thought Saelienne kept this place clean of vermin. I suppose I was wrong.”

Ariciel slowly turned her head towards the new arrival. The expression on her face promised Trouble. Lirael recognised the signs and put her hand on Ariciel’s arm. Lirael shook her head, once.

One of the other Sentinels looked round. “Put it away, Stillbough. We’re off shift. Have a pint instead.”

Sentinel Stillbough bent over Ellandriel, hands on the back of her chair. Her voice was low, almost a whisper.

“If you think I’m drinking with a filthy High-borne, you’ve got another thing coming.”

“Suit yourself,” said the other Sentinel. “But I’ve had a long shift with a whole string of pissheads asking me stupid questions. I’m here for a little peace and quiet. So sit down or piss off.”

Ellandriel looked round. “Sentinel Stillbough. I remember your name. You are the one who bumped into my teacher. A few times, I understand.”

“My, my,” said Stillbough. “It speaks. Why is it that the smell grows ten times worse when they open their mouths? But I’ll fix that.”

Sentinel Stillbough picked up the water jug and slowly, deliberately poured it out over Ellandriel’s head.

“There. Now, you’re a clean High-borne.” She sniffed. “Still doesn’t do anything about the smell, though.”

Ellandriel’s face darkened, and she got to her feet. Sentinel Stillbough laughed, and grabbed her by the front of her robes.

“This’ll just take a little while, friends. Got to take out a little trash.”

Ellandriel breathed in, then breathed out. Her skin started to glow with a deep orange light, and steam rose from her clothes. Stillbough let go of her with a surprised cry, and looked at her burnt hand.

“Now, Sentinel Stillbough, I am a clean and dry High-borne. Is there anything else?”

Sentinel Stillbough felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked round… and up. Stetson towered over her.

“You are disturbing our wedding feast,” said Stetson. “This is not a Dwarf wedding. Do you require assistance in finding the exit?”

“Think you can throw me out, goat man?”

“If he can’t, I certainly can, Jasmine Stillbough.” Inkeeper Saelienne stood in front of her, arms crossed, with an expression like thunder on her face. “The young lady was sitting here quietly, enjoying her meal. You came in to pick a fight, and maybe get my tavern burnt to the ground. Do I have to explain to you what customers I like better? Get out, and don’t come back till you grow some manners.”

Sentinel Stillbough glared at Ellandriel, scowled at Saelienne, and stomped out muttering words nobody could hear. Saelienne turned to Ellandriel.

“I am very sorry about that, Miss. Would you like a drink, to cool yourself down? On the house.”

At the end of the evening, only Ariciel, Lirael and Ellandriel were left. Ellandriel was staring glumly down into her glass of Darnassian Green. They were all waiting for the others to move. Ariciel had a wine glass in front of her that she had brought herself. She poured some water into it, picked it up and turned it over. The water stayed in the glass.

“Guess where I found this?”

Lirael stared at the glass, and the water clinging staunchly to its bottom. “Auberdine?”

“Right in one. Fiora had a glass like this. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this is her glass. I found it at the bottom of the sea. Pure luck.”

“Poor Fiora,” said Lirael. “Did you tell Bearwalker?”

Ariciel shook her head. “He says he’s given up on her. If only I could have found her body.”

Ellandriel looked up. “Will you keep looking?”

“As duty allows,” said Ariciel. “With all the hunting of cultists and water elementals we do, we’re going to run out at some point.”

“Mathrengyl Bearwalker hasn’t given up on her,” said Lirael. “Perhaps she’s been picked up by a ship. Ships don’t stray from their course for shipwrecked people.”

“Dead or alive,” said Ariciel. “I spent two years looking for my family when common sense told me they’d be dead. Sometimes common sense is really stupid.”

Lirael drained her glass. “Time for bed.”

“My bed is full of Draenei,” said Ariciel. “Hope it survives the night.”

“Come on, I’ll put you both up,” said Lirael. “We can improvise.”

There was a bright moon, and the air smelled clean, crisp, and wholesome as they walked along the path to Lirael’s place across the pond from the Howling Oak. Ellandriel straggled a bit. A small rock had found its way into her shoe and she had just put it back on when someone crashed into her, pulled her off the path into some shrubs, and wrestled her to the ground. Ellandriel lay on her back with her assailant sitting on top of her, pinning her hands to the ground.

“Hello. Remember me?”

“Yes,” said Ellandriel, looking up into Sentinel Stillbough’s face.

“We don’t take kindly to your sort here. You filthy witches should have caught on by now, but some of you are just too stupid. But don’t worry, I’ll teach you. I’m going to enjoy this.”

Stillbough let go of Ellandriel’s hands, and before she could move, she punched her in the face. Ellandriel cried out, tried to throw her off, but Stillbough was too strong for her. She hit Ellandriel again, a vicious right hook to her cheek, then grabbed her hair and pulled her head up.

“What’s the problem, witch? Can’t do any of your little tricks? Too late now.” She slammed the back of Ellandriel’s head into the ground, punched her again.

“Maybe I’ll kill you, witch. World’s a better place with one less misbegotten High-borne in it.”

Stillbough raised her fist again, looking down on Ellandriel’s bloody face. Ellandriel coughed, spat out blood.

“Here it comes, witch!”

Ellandriel closed her eyes, but the punch never came. There was a fierce growl, and Ellandriel felt the weight of Sentinel Stillbough being pulled off her. There was a crash, and suddenly silence, apart from a low purring growl. Ellandriel rolled over, pushed herself up, and looked. Sentinel Stillbough was lying on her stomach. A white cat was standing over her, teeth no more than an inch from her face, dripping with saliva. Ellandriel staggered to her feet.

“Let her go.”

Cat-Ariciel looked up, puzzled.

“Let her go!”

Ariciel turned back to her Elf form, and stood up.

“I should have known,” said Stillbough, getting up. “High-borne and High-borne slave. May the crows pick you both clean.”

Ellandriel walked up to Sentinel Stillbough, slowly, her eyes glowing with a cold, pale light. She pointed her hand forward, and a ball of fire shot towards Stillbough’s feet. Stillbough jumped away. Another fireball followed, then another, with Sentinel Stillbough leaping here and there to avoid them. Ellandriel advanced, shooting at Stillbough’s feet, until she had her back to a tree. Ellandriel raised her fist, and pillars of fire rained down in a circle that included only her and the Sentinel.

“Go on then,” said Stillbough, teeth clenched. “Kill me. My sisters will tear you to shreds.”

Ellandriel growled. “Still, you do not understand. Still, you choose to remain ignorant. We are not here to kill you! You struck blows against an Arch-mage! Mordent Evenshade could have killed you with a thought! If I wanted to, I could set you on fire with flames that will burn even under water, and watch you be consumed.”

Ellandriel raised her hand, and a light grew between her fingers, glowing brighter and brighter till it was a dazzling white.

“Go on,” said Ellandriel. “Hit me again. I dare you.”

Sentinel Stillbough tried to press herself into the tree, looking with wide eyes at the ball of light in Ellandriel’s hand. She could feel the heat on her face.

“No? I thought not.” With a slight ‘pop’, the ball of plasma disappeared. Ellandriel’s face, streaming with blood, was only an inch away from Stillbough’s.

“This is my home. I will fight for this place, if you will let me. I will die fighting for this place if that be my fate. Now. Do you want us on the inside pissing out, or on the outside pissing in?”

Ellandriel sat on Lirael’s bed. Lirael sat next to her with a bowl of water and a towel, cleaning away the blood before casting a healing spell. Despite everything, there was a little smile on Ellandriel’s face.

“I’m so sorry,” said Lirael. She raised her hand, cast her spell of healing. Cuts and bruises disappeared in the gentle glow.

“Thank you,” said Ellandriel. She rubbed her face. “I may have convinced someone today that we fire mages have our uses.”

“Ye gods, yes,” said Ariciel. “I’d much rather have you on the inside pissing out. Where’d you learn that expression?”

“Must have read it somewhere,” said Ellandriel.

Lirael got up and pulled up the blanket for Ellandriel. “Get in. I’ll get in with Ariciel on the floor.”

“I thought you’d never ask,” said Ariciel.

Ariciel walked into her house, and looked round. The bed had either not been slept in, or someone had made it. She looked round. In front of the fireplace was a big stack of furs containing two Draenei, fast asleep. In the middle of the morning, no less. Ariciel walked round them quietly, put another few logs on the fire and put the kettle on. She sat down on her chair watching the pair of Draenei, sipping her tea, until Mareva stirred, and woke up, blinking at the sunlight. Ariciel beamed at her.


“Yes, please,” said Mareva. She gently maneuvered out from under Stetson’s arm and went in search of her clothes. “Before you ask. Whatever assumptions you make about my night are likely to be correct. How was your night?”

“Fun. We stayed in the tavern until Saelienne turfed us out, and then our friendly firestarter was jumped by a Sentinel.”

Mareva, hands behind her back to put on her bra, looked up at Ariciel.

Bozhe moi, is she alright?”

“Oh yes. She took a few punches to the face, but Lirael healed her.” Ariciel grinned. “And then, she made Stillbough think that she fancied some crispy Sentinel. Stillbough shat herself.”

“Excellent. Disrespect for spellcasters must be discouraged.”

“And then, she asks if she wants to fight with her or against her.”

Mareva searched in her pack, pulled out a skirt and put it on. “Is there no end to this woman’s virtues?”

Ariciel shrugged. “Likes boys only.”

There were some indistinct noises from the pile of furs by the fire. Stetson looked up, saw Mareva, and his face lit up. Then, he saw Ariciel and the light went out again.

“Is he wearing what I think he is?” said Ariciel.

“He most certainly is,” said Mareva.

Ariciel drew close to Mareva and slowly ran her fingers over her stomach. She breathed in her ear. “If I keep doing this, he’ll never come out.”

Stetson pointed at Ariciel. “Pale woman. Leave. Blue woman. Come here.”

Ariciel raised her eyebrows. “Is he dominating us?”

“If he is, then it is working. I feel strangely compelled to throw you out.”

Ariciel’s house was only a few minutes’ walk from the lake in the middle of Darnassus, and they all sat by the water. Ariciel had taken off her boots and sat with her feet in the water, letting the sun shine on her face while it lasted. Stetson sat on the grass, with Mareva’s head in his lap. Morgan lay curled up next to him. Ellandriel sat cross-legged on the ground, looking into the distance.

“I have always liked Telaar,” said Stetson. “In the middle of the plains of Nagrand. Good hunting.”

“I am a city girl,” said Mareva. “Do they even have electricity there?”

“There is a good connection to Shattrath, if you wish for the bright lights.”

“And there’s a portal in Shattrath to take you to Stormwind, if you’d want to come and visit me at the Caer,” said Ariciel. “Or I could take the portal to the Blasted lands and take the flappy to where you are. Easy.”

Ellandriel looked up. “There really is a permanent portal in Stormwind? My Teacher did not believe it.”

“Oh yes. It’s in the mage tower. Hey, you’d probably like it there. Lots of mages.”

Human mages?”

“Hey, don’t knock Humans. Ye gods, I miss mine.”

“I need to be here, with the Night-elf mages. Shan’do Evenshade says I can help convince the Kel’dorei of the benefits of allowing us to return.”

Mareva scowled. “Why do zlotniks still need to be convinced of that? Is it not obvious that knowledge of the Arcane is sorely missing from the Kel’dorei experience? So these stupid people need to be shown a pretty Mage girl to convince them that the Mages are on their side. Sometimes I wish that people would simply do the right thing for the right reasons. People are stupid.”

“I am more than just a pretty face,” said Ellandriel. “I can burn things and blow stuff up. Shan’do Evenshade is going to teach me how to turn invisible, turn enemies into sheep, and make people fall slowly. And how to spend my days in the company of people who wish to drink my blood.”

“Exactly,” said Mareva. “These people do not see the extra firepower and knowledge of an Elf like Magis Evenshade, or the things that Miss Ellandriel could do for them if they would only allow her. They only see someone they are still hating after a hundred centuries. Magis Evenshade cannot convince them because he is an old man, but Miss Ellandriel can, because she looks friendly.”

“That did not hold back Sentinel Stillbough.”

“Sentinel Stillbough is an idiot,” said Ariciel.

“Most people are idiots,” said Mareva.

There was a moment of silence, all of them busy with their own thoughts.

“We cannot go home yet,” said Stetson.

Mareva looked up at him. “Why not?”

“We Draenei are known for two things. One of them is our fervour in the worship of the Light.”

Mareva laughed. “And the other one is being good in…”

“The other one is running away. We ran away from Argus. Then we ran away from Draenor. I am done running away.” Stetson’s big hand gently stroked Mareva’s face. “Until this Deathwing creature is dead, I must stay in Azeroth.”

Mareva smiled up at Stetson. “There is more of your brother inside you than you realise.”

“Plenty of work to do,” said Ariciel. “Azeroth is probably crawling with Twilight Cultists. I’m heading for the Caer. I want my Human. The couple that slays together…”

Someone walked up to them. One of the Sentinels, and it was actually Sentinel Stillbough. Everyone looked at her.

“I would like to have a word with the High-borne,” said Stillbough.

“I am here,” said Ellandriel.


Ellandriel gave Stillbough a look, then got to her feet. Ariciel splashed her feet in the water, then pulled her boots back on. She walked up next to Ellandriel.

“Lay a finger on her, and I’ll rip your head off, Sentinel.”

“If I wanted her dead, cat girl, I would get rid of you first.”

Ellandriel stepped forward. “I am blessed with friends as well as enemies. Let us walk.”

Ellandriel followed Sentinel Stillbough. A little way off, but still within sight of her friends, they stopped.

“What brings you here, Sentinel Stillbough?”

“Let’s be clear on this, I’m not here because I want to be. My captain sent me.”

“That much I can see. Why did she send you?”

“You said you wanted to fight with us. For Darnassus.”

“I did, and I do,” said Ellandriel. “Do you think I did not mean what I said?”

“No. What I think is that as soon as the smell of blood is in the air, you’ll turn tail and crawl back into the hole you came out of. Which suits me perfectly. But still, you’re invited. We leave for Auberdine in an hour. Some of our priestesses have gone missing, along with their protectors, and we are going to find them. If you are not at the portal an hour from now, do not let me find you in Darnassus. Or anywhere else, for that matter.”

Stillbough turned round, and ran off double-time towards the Warrior’s Terrace, leaving Ellandriel looking a bit dazed. Then, Ellandriel’s jaw set. Ariciel, Mareva and Stetson came walking up.

“What’d she want?” said Ariciel.

“We are going on a mission,” said Ellandriel. “This is interesting. Nobody ever told me that I talked too much.”

“It’s a trap,” said Ariciel. “She wants to drop you in some Light-bereft place and get you killed.”

“I… don’t think so,” said Ellandriel.

“Surely, you do not plan to go with her?” said Mareva.

“I am,” said Ellandriel. “If I do not go, then what good is my word? I said I would fight for this place. So I shall.”

“You, my friend, need a proper set of caster robes,” said Mareva.

“I know just who to ask,” said Ariciel.

Ellandriel stood at the portal down to Rut’theran Village. She was wearing new off-the-peg dark green robes, made by Sentinel Thenysil’s boyfriend. She had put the spell power enchantments on them herself. Teacher’s staff was in her hand, and to back it up, she had a long, very sharp dagger at her belt that she sincerely hoped she would not draw this evening. She had declined Ariciel’s offer to come with her. If she was to gain the Sentinel’s trust, then she should not rely on helpers. None of the Sentinels were there yet, and in the back of her mind was the nagging feeling that this might all be some kind of joke.

The portal shimmered, and out stepped Sentinel Stillbough.

“When we say ‘at the portal’, witch, we mean at the bottom of the portal. Nice try. Follow me.”

Ellandriel sniffed, and followed Stillbough through the portal. At the bottom of Teldrassil’s trunk were a group of Sentinels, all wielding bows and arrows, and war-glaives. The captain looked in her direction, and walked over. She was a short woman, with heavily muscled arms and dark short hair. By her clan marks, she was about five hundred years old.

“Mage Ellandriel of the Shen’dralar. Welcome to our little party. I am captain Leafwind. We are on a search and rescue mission. You are here to provide backup firepower. You will stay with me all the time, and shoot what I tell you to shoot. We’ll be moving pretty quick, be sure not to drag us down. Anything happens to me, and Sentinel Silvercloud there will be in command. Questions?”

Ellandriel took a deep breath. “No, Captain.”

“Good. Everyone grab a hippogriff. Move out. Stay close to me, Shen’dralar.”

Nothing moves in the forests like a Night-elf Sentinel. Ellandriel was certain that they were holding back for her. She managed to keep up, and to avoid getting her robes stuck in the trees. Suddenly, captain Leafwind grabbed her arm and pulled her down to the ground. They stopped. At a few hand gestures from the captain, Sentinels scattered. Ellandriel looked round, extending her senses to the unseelie. She closed her eyes, and slowly turned her head round. She could sense something, like the magical equivalent of a piece of meat that has been left outside for too long. Something bad. She wasn’t at all surprised when a few Sentinels came back, and they all moved in that direction.

A few minutes later, they found themselves at the mouth of a cave. Sentries stood by its entrance. Captain Leafwind pointed at two Sentinels, then at the guards. She drew her finger across her throat. The Sentinels disappeared. A few moments later, the guards collapsed, and were dragged off into the forest. Ellandriel looked into the cave, straining all her senses. She touched captain Leafwind’s shoulder.

“Magic is being worked in that cave. Bad magic. Some kind of summoning ritual that requires a sacrifice.”

“We know,” said the captain. “Let’s tell the dung-eaters not to. Are you ready to die for your fellow Night-elves, Shen’dralar?”

Ellandriel looked into the captain’s eyes.

Those piss-heads? Surely, you speak in jest. I am only here to fry cultists.”

The captain looked at Ellandriel, then her teeth showed in a big grin. Still laughing, she sprinted forward. Ellandriel gathered up her battle spells and followed her.

Mordent Evenshade stood by the entrance to the Temple of the Moon, barely able to contain his anger, when a group of Sentinels appeared through the portal. Four of them were carrying stretchers containing one unconscious Priestess each. They ran straight into the Temple, and delivered the Priestesses to their sisters, who wasted no time in removing curses and casting their healing spells. Mordent Evenshade tried to walk into the Temple, but he was stopped by the guards. His voice boomed through the halls.


Captain Leafwind turned round, and walked up calmly.

“Mister Evenshade. What can I do you for?”

“How… How dare you kidnap my student for one of your wild adventures! You could have got her killed!”

The Captain grinned at Mordent Evenshade. “Miss Ellandriel volunteered to accompany us. Give us a nice sample of what you bleeding sparkies are worth in a fight.”

“She is not a battle mage! She is barely out of school yet! She is a civilian! You cannot hold her to Army standards!”

Captain Leafwind pulled at the straps to her bracers, then looked at Mordent Evenshade.

“Kid did fine. By the Light, we’re lucky we’ve got any eyebrows left between us. If you’re her teacher, tell her not to cut loose full force in a cave, there’s a good chap. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a couple of pints of ale with my name on them.”

The captain turned round and walked off in the direction of the inn.

“Tyrande Whisperwind will hear of this! You haven’t heard the last!”

Captain Leafwind raised an arm. She walked towards the inn without even looking round.

“Give her my regards when you see her.”

The moon shone bright on the world-tree Teldrassil when a bird flew up, and landed on one of the thick branches of the Howling Oak. It bowed its head, and scratched its chest feathers with its beak. Then, it sailed down to the small house, and turned into a white-haired Night-elf. She opened the door and walked in.

“She’s fine,” said Ariciel. “She’s curing her adrenalin overdose with a few pints in Saelienne’s. Probably be along soon.”

“That is good news,” said Stetson. “Did you have to intervene?”

“Nope. She had a whole squad of pumped-up Sentinels with her. Ye gods, they’re full of themselves.”

“Soldiers,” said Mareva. “Did you see what they were doing?”

“Don’t know exactly. Pulling a pair of cute priestesses out of a cave. Those girls did not look like they were enjoying themselves in there. But it wasn’t some kind of suicide mission.”

The door opened, and Ellandriel stepped in, face aglow. Mareva gave her a cold look.

“Do you know what time it is, young lady?”

“It is butt kicking time!” Ellandriel shook her tiny fist. “We pulled out the sacrificial victims, blasted the Cultists to pieces, and generally pissed all over their corpses.”

“Honestly,” said Ariciel. “Do you learn that kind of language from your new friends?”

Ellandriel bounced up and down, with a grin from ear to ear. “They bought me beer! They’re my sisters!”

“Since when do you like beer? You used to go for wine.”

“Wine is for sissies. Real Sentinels drink real ale!” Ellandriel put her hand on her breast. “My goodness. I never knew this would be so… exhilarating.”

Mareva stood up from Stetson’s lap, walked over and hugged Ellandriel.

“I am very happy to see you in one piece. Now if you do not mind, I have a husband to allow to please me. Are you coming my dearest?”

Stetson got to his hooves, waved, and followed Mareva out of the door. Ariciel started taking off her armour. Ellandriel sat on the bed and kicked off her boots.

“You look well prepared for trouble.”

“Warrior Druid,” said Ariciel. “It’s against my religion to shed my armour when my companions are in battle. Thus am I with you in spirit, ready to avenge you, should you die gloriously in battle.”

Ellandriel hung her new robes over a chair.

“Thank you,” she said.

“What for?”

“I saw a large, dark blue bird when we were flying from Auberdine.”

Ariciel’s eyes shone at Ellandriel. “They’re native to this place.”

Ellandriel got into bed. There was no way she was going to sleep now. She lay back, looking at the ceiling. Ariciel got in the other side of the bed.

“You know, Sentinel Stillbough actually got me a drink. Yesterday she wanted to kill me.”

“Soldiers,” said Ariciel. “Once they catch on that you’re going to keep them alive, they are your best friends. Your teacher’s got it a lot more difficult. He has to deal with politicians.”

“When are you leaving?”

“Sent mail to Bannog,” said Ariciel. “Soon as I know where he is, I’m joining him.”

“And Mareva and Stetson?”

“Don’t know. I think Mareva will want to talk to Farseer Nobundo. So they’ll be off to Exodar.”

They fell silent. Ariciel turned over, plumped up her pillow. Ellandriel felt the excitement slowly give way to a sad kind of tiredness.

“You are my first friends beyond Eldre’thalas. I will miss you.”

Ariciel looked over her shoulder at Ellandriel. “We’re not gone yet.”

“That is true. Good night, Lady Ariciel.”

Ariciel laughed. “Good night.”

They were standing by the portal, reluctant to move for just a few minutes. Ariciel had heard that Bannog was headed back to Redridge. Ariciel was a bit worried. His letter had been to-the-point, just relating the facts. Paladin Peterselie was safe, he was coming back. He’d usually include a few jokes or grubby remarks, which were conspicuously absent now. Mareva and Stetson were heading for Exodar, for some spiritual counseling, maybe to introduce Stetson to a few of her friends. Ellandriel and Lirael were the only ones who were staying. Mareva stepped forward, and hugged first Lirael, then Ellandriel.

“Good fortune to you and yours,” said Mareva. “Until we meet again.”

“May the stars guide you,” said Ellandriel. She turned round to Ariciel, who held her close, and put her hand on her bottom. Ellandriel gave her the Look, and they laughed.

“Keep safe, fire girl,” said Ariciel. “Don’t let those Sentinels send you on stupid errands.”

“Mordent Evenshade won’t let them,” said Ellandriel. “He has started to teach me the finer points of Mage-craft. He invited me to come and stay with him at the Howling Oak. I am not sure whether to take him up on that offer.”

“What? In among those hairy Gilneans? With all that howling at the Moon, you’ll never catch a wink. Here.” Ariciel reached in her pocket and gave Ellandriel the key to her house. “A house needs someone living in it or it goes mouldy. I may not be back for a while. Rent’s paid till the end of the year. Get that Evenshade character to pay you for jobs. Lirael knows the owners.”

Ellandriel looked at the key in her hand, unable to speak.

“The garden belongs to the house up to the end of the flower bed. Don’t let anyone plant anything in it.”

“Thank you,” said Ellandriel, with a lump in her throat. She coughed. “Would you mind terribly if I put up a few bookshelves?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

Mareva, Stetson and Ariciel stood on the new pier of Rut’theran village, waiting for the boat to Exodar. Ariciel would take the other ferry, to Stormwind. Then, home to Redridge. She was looking forward to it. Incredible how Humans grow on you if you let them. She’d had a talk with Shan’do Bearwalker, who seemed to think that hunting grubby water elementals was far beneath her. He’d given her the name of a Shaman in Stormwind, who could probably find her something more worthwhile to do with her time. She looked at Mareva, who was leaning against Stetson in a way that would put bees off honey. Ariciel looked at the horizon. No ships were in sight yet. Good. She didn’t want to say goodbye to Mareva just yet. Who knew when they’d meet again?

“Our paths will cross again,” said Mareva.

“Stop reading my mind,” said Ariciel. “How do you know anyway?”

“I feel it in the water,” said Mareva. “I feel it in the Earth. I smell it in the wind. I see it in the flames of destiny.”

“Yeah? Wow.”

“Also, you are just a boat trip away. We have no place in this world we can truly call home, so that castle your boyfriend is named after is as good a place as any to visit. I wish to see how Selena is doing.”

“Give her some advice on what to do with Smitty?”

Stetson laughed. “I do not think Humans have a transgoto.”

“Doesn’t mean she has to embroider at him till he gets the message,” said Ariciel. “Where are you going, after Exodar?”

“I do not know,” said Mareva.

“We can go anywhere now,” said Ariciel. “For we are awesome.”

The ferry to Exodar was the first to arrive. Mareva held Ariciel tight. “You are my friend, and I love you. If ever you need my help, send word.”

“Until we meet again, be well. Be well, both of you.”

A small Night-elf sailing ship made its way to the port. One of the sailors called over her shoulder.

“Clancula? Theramore’s in sight. Come and see what it looks like.”

The blonde High-elf woman walked onto the foredeck, staring at the port. They were calling her Clancula, a variation on a word meaning Unknown. She still had not remembered her name, since they pulled her out of the water. She’d vaguely remembered the name of Theramore as a place where once she had been. Clancula stood on tip-toe, shielding her eyes with a hand.

“What a dump,” she said.

“Not too bad, for a Human port. Do you recognise it?”

Clancula’s eyes narrowed, as if she were forcing herself to remember. Then, she seemed to shrink.

“No. Not even a glimmer.”

The sailor put her arm round Clancula’s slender shoulders.

“Don’t worry. We’ll take a walk through town. Captain needs to get a new load anyway. Maybe someone will recognise you.”

Clancula nodded slowly.


Ariciel had been on this ferry before. As soon as the sails were trimmed and there was no chance of getting under the sailors’ feet, she found her space, leaning against the fore-mast, looking ahead. Somewhere behind her, someone sang a shanty she knew the alternative words to, to the sound of a scrubbing brush. The sailors had told her of what had happened in Stormwind, the day the Dragon came. Who did she know in Stormwind? A few innkeepers, naturally. A family of Gnomes. She hoped they would be alright. Ariciel closed her eyes, leaned her head back against the mast and sang along with the song. Life was about to get scary. And interesting. Best to face it side by side with the Human she loved. She grabbed her staff and went to the galley to see if the cook had any hot water for tea.

Stetson watched Mareva with another woman in her arms. Mareva had introduced her as Oraya, and assured him that she was not in her group of perverted Deviants. Her boyfriend, named Gur’dan, stood by, looking at Stetson with a what-can-you-do kind of look on his face. It had been quite a day. They had visited Mareva’s fellow engineer, Grofal, who against all expectations had found a lovely young girl, who he had introduced as Estiria. He taken up mage-craft with her. They had caught Farseer Nobundo, just as he was making ready to leave, to lend his aid to the war effort against Deathwing. Stetson stood still, with a fond smile on his face. He had to admit that Mareva was better at making friends than he was. He’d have to think hard to remember anyone of his old hunting group he’d be willing to introduce to her. His smile faded as he thought of his brother. Would he have liked Mareva, user of Shamanic magic as she was? Would he have tried to turn her back to the Ways of the Light? Stetson laughed to himself.

“I would have loved to watch you try, brother.”

In a small house on top of the giant tree Teldrassil, a young woman sat at the table, writing her journal. Her dark hair was perilously close to the candle, but what did a fire-mage have to fear from a candle flame? She drew a little line under the paragraph and looked up at the wall. There was a small, gnawing piece of doubt in her mind about the shelves, but Ariciel had said to go ahead. One wall was probably enough for now, but bookworms abhor an empty bookshelf, and she could have sworn she’d never bought at least half of the books. Maybe they bred. She closed the Thalassian dictionary she had borrowed from Feanor, the Orcish dictionary she had found in a small bookshop and looked again at her writing. It was not comfortable reading, but several of the large players of earlier conflicts had re-surfaced. Arch-druid Malfurion Stormrage. Ysera, the Green Dragon Aspect. Lord Cenarius was rumoured to be stirring in his dwelling in the Emerald Dream. And now, the High-borne had returned. Ellandriel closed her journal and put it on the shelf. Tomorrow, she would be going on a field trip with Mordent Evenshade and a group of Druids and Sentinels. Shan’do Evenshade would be demonstrating what a fully-fledged battle-mage could do to a group of Twilight’s Hammer cultists who were making a place called The Master’s Glaive unsafe. She rather suspected the answer would be: quite a lot. The clock struck ten. Saelienne’s would be closing in an hour, and it was important for her to mingle with the other Night-elves. That Saelienne had the best honey-mead she’d ever tasted, was simply a happy side benefit. She stepped outside, into the moonlight, and breathed in Teldrassil’s wholesome air. She closed the door behind her and walked out into the night.


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