Ruination: Anger

A wasted week and now a wasted journey from one end of the world to another. Why am I doing this?

I could have joined the rebellion weeks ago. When we left for the Hinterlands, when I was on my way to Northrend, at any point during that blasted flight back.

Instead, I’m stuck in Silithus hunting a relic that won’t be used for the betterment of our people, but for another one of Garrosh’s power plays. It’s not like I nearly got myself killed in Northrend trying to stop one of them. Except I did – my new senses are proof enough of that.

Yet barely two days after returning, not only does Sorlain come crawling about Dawnlake (insofar as Sorlain can actually admit his mistakes, which is not much) but we discover that we have in fact failed those whole entire mission. Light knows how many have died in the sands here.

I haven’t felt this angry in weeks. Even when I ssaw the Cho’thaki – heard of Dawnlake and Forestfire’s plans – saw Dawnlake herself – the utter pointlessness of the last two months, when we could have been doing something useful, aiding our kin…

This anger isn’t good. Probably something to do with the explosion. Maybe I should channel it positively.

Yes. That’s a good idea. I’ll go kill silithid.

~~~

Mid-afternoon. I still have good time should we be recalled. It won’t be long until we find something else to mess up. With all the plotting, the campaign in Silithus should go to pot any day now.

The Hive is buzzing, more harshly than when I arrived. It’s probably noticed that I’m here. On cue, they’ve started burrowing out of the ground. An aerial one reaches me first, fangs dripping with some form of acid. I tap into the ley lines, feeling the little criss-crossing of magical flow through the sands. Not that I need it. I’m still overflowing with everything I absorbed when the leyline in Northrend went nuclear. Keeping a focus on the leylines, I instead draw upon my own power, stretching it out from my hand and forming a sharp, deformed claw around it. As the hovering pest gets in range, I pull up my hand and cut downwards at the beast, swatting it away. The thing hisses, spewing pheromones everywhere.

As another skitterer charges me I roll out of the way, and pull more mana to myself, firing a large bolt of energy at it before it can move. The thing is thrust into the air before falling into a heap. A miniature swarm is developing around me. Two wasps attempt to bite me simultaneously and I attempt to blow both up with a sudden detonation of the arcane energy swirling about me. It is brutally effective, and I am showered with assorted mucus and carapace fragments. It only makes me more angry.

I jump just as a tunneler bites at me from below, but it dives underground again before I can land a hit. Looking for a new advantage, I teleport ten yards west, surprising my attackers for a moment. As one turns and heads for me, I begin to saturate the air with the magical energy I have built up. It slows, tripping and stumbling as though ensconced in treacle. The quick communication of the silithid is faster than I anticipated, and they follow suit, pushing through the slowing field. Three wasps, able to fly over, reach me first. I ready my claw and spin, attempting to hit all three. The first is torn into pieces, wings fluttering helplessly as I cut them into hundreds of glittering shards. The second is impacted by both the claw and the fragments of silithid taken with it, cut down. The third flies out of reach, seeing the attack coming.

By now, I can feel the ground shaking as more borers approach. I am flung to one side as a thin worm erupts from the sand, but this fortunately just takes me out of range of the wasp, which fires a glob of acid onto the worm’s head. It rears back and screams, blinded, as another one joins it. I dispel the claw and the remnants of silithid drop to the ground harmlessly. Readying another large bolt of arcane, I throw it at the wasp, and it takes off the heads of the worms before meeting another acid spit in a bright explosion. More silithid are advancing.

I change tactic, instead throwing a pillar of fire into the middle of the large group. The noise peaks as several are utterly incinerated, and others push the blackened skins out of the way and chitter fiercely. The explosion and the fire appear to have alerted several prominent reavers, all of which are skittering across the sands to me much faster than the slowed group. I quickly begin filling the air with more magical currents, pulling the energy straight from the ley-lines by now. Just as the reavers pass through I detonate it, and the two survivors are blasted with the sticky remnants of their comrade.

The two reavers make quick work of the distance between I and them, and brutally hit me head on. I black out briefly as I am flung twenty or so yards, brought back by the painful slam of my body against a Silithyst outcropping. I hear several cracks and fall onto the floor, momentarily paralysed by the pain.

Maybe I’ve taken on too much. I push myself up into a kneeling position, feeling suddenly weak, and quickly tear open a portal to the Nether, letting creatures wash out. Being behind it, they don’t notice me, heading towards the two reavers and distracting them. They manage to hold their own against the reavers and the approaching silithid mass, so I take the time to check my wounds.

At least one fractured rib, and a whole lot of backache. I’ll have to get properly checked out when I get back. And it’s too hard to stand up. That could be a problem.

Being a temporary measure, the portal falters out, leaving me in plain view of a last wasp, which spits three blobs of acid at me in short succession. I roll out of the way of one, am hit square in the face by another and somehow flail out of the way of the third.

Ignoring the acid, which is quickly burning through my headgear, I focus on filling the area with the last amounts of power I can summon. It’s not much, but it’ll have to do. I close my eyes as the turban I’m wearing falls into ribbons around me, and focus on building up the field through the leylines. It works, and the entire battle seems to slow before me. I mutter the ritual for detonation.

The field goes dark momentarily, and then is filled with blinding light as the mass of arcane power detonates. Arcane wildfire flies out, puttering out in the evening sky. The sand around the silithid is scorched black, and burning chunks of silithid fly in all directions, landing at my feet. I shield my eyes against the blinding fire, trying to crawl a safe distance away. The fire catches on the remaining arcane creatures and I roll out of the way just before the explosion flings the sand I was laid on high into the air. Large chunks of molten sand and bright-hot remains are thrust forth, and I narrowly dodge them with another roll, but I land rather awkwardly on my arm, and shriek in pain.

Looking back over the battlefield, there is now a large crater in the middle of the hive, bordered with glittering black-purple glass formed from the explosive pressure on the sand and the silithid remains. The hive has fallen quiet, and I push upwards onto my feet, hobbling back to Cenarion Hold before any more reach the surface.

~~~

That helped, I suppose. I’m pretty spent. I hope we’ll leave soon. With Dawnlake becoming more demonic by the day, it’s only so long until something goes wrong – and I’d prefer that we not be in the most desolate part of this hostile corner of the world.

Blooddawn: Annihilation

I was blinded for a few seconds by an intense blue light, which revealed itself to be the primal energies of the Nexus itself. I had no idea where I was.

Impressive. You resisted the mind magic with that.‘ A disembodied voice clattered around me, and I scrambled, almost dropping the surge needle. It was glowing.

Oh. The surge needle had absorbed the spell! That was why I wasn’t under mind control… It was rather humbling. Wait.

‘Where are the other researchers?’

Oh, those pests? I dispatched of them several hours ago. You have been unconscious for quite some time. The needle is fully-charged, though I have no idea how you turned it back on. I thought Kalec had turned most of the complex off.

I got to my feet and looked around. The room – I think it was a room, but it seemed circular, without doors – swayed.

Don’t look for a way out. These things are impenetrable, unless you have the key.

‘Where am I? Who are you?’

Ah, mortals, so eager to ask questions rather than discover for themselves. You are within one of the Arcane Prisons that we used during the Nexus War. As to who I am, it does not matter – suffice it to say that I am one of the Guardians of this place. And your people have intruded one too many times on our territory.

My head stopped spinning. The place was completely circular, the runes on the walls moving as though they had a mind of their own. I could see no door when I turned round, and I could not be sure that I’d turned full-circle at all. There had to be a way out. I looked at the surge needle inquisitively. Maybe…

I pointed the needle at the wall ahead of me, not entirely sure how to use it. I pressed the top disc in, and it fired a bolt of energy at the wall.

The wall absorbed it and the runes shifted.

You’ll have to do better than that. Most mortals usually try teleporting out, or pleading for their lives. It’s quite entertaining when some have a breakdown.’

I bit my lip. She said it was fully-charged. Maybe it worked the other way. I slammed the disc down, quickly expelling all the power out of the needle. The place brightened and I could feel the power as the magic suffused into the air.

Well, I don’t see what you hope to accomplish with that-‘ I pulled the disc back, and much like a regular syringe, the needle quickly began drawing magic back. The runes on the needle faltered at the lack of magic, then quickly began to glow brightly. In response, the room dimmed quickly.

Impossible…’

The room went black and I felt magic pulling on all sides of me, and for a moment I blacked out. When I awoke, I was laying on a platform above what looked to be an abyss. Slightly above me was an elven-looking woman. Her hair was pulled into a long, geometric array above her that seemed to move at will. She was pale, and shrouded in long, dark blue robes. Her face… was hard to describe. Neither Quel’dorei nor Kaldorei, she seemed to embody a mixture between the two – some sort of distant link following the Sundering. Immense power radiated from her.

A dragon?

‘Well, that was ingenious. Twice that needle has saved your hide. We will have to upgrade th-‘ The dragon cut herself off, as though remembering something else. ‘Anyway, if you’re going to be this persistent, mortal. I may as well use you to send a more… permanent message.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Oh, let me show you..‘ She snapped her fingers and everything briefly went black. Where were we?

Outside Bor’Gorok.

Except the dragon was gone.

‘ELF!’A voice called out from the borders of the outpost. ‘WHERE ARE THE OTHER RESEARCHERS?’

‘I… The dragon…’ I found my voice suddenly being much more slow than my mind. What was going on?

The orc and several guards ran up to me. I recognised him as the commander, a foul-tongued Blackrock orc. ‘Speak, wench! What happened?’

‘The… the dragon… through the portal… took them.’ Was I mimicking shock? Was I in shock?

‘Impossible. Take her inside!’

~~~

‘TELL US THE TRUTH!’

‘I… I am! There was a- a dragon and we were in the Nexus-‘

‘LIAR! The dragons are all dead! There is nothing living on Coldarra! You did this. We know it. You elves are all the same, traitorous, lying scum, only in it for your own power. Now you have betrayed the Horde!’

I was perfectly calm in my head, but I snapped.

‘And if it was the goblins or the Forsaken, you would say different?’

‘ENOUGH! Take her to the dungeons! I will deal with her tomorrow.’

~~~

You have done well.

What are you doing? That wasn’t my voice! How are you speaking for me?

I am a dragon, mortal. I know magic from the dawn of time, magic that will never know the hearts and minds of mortals. Magic that takes centuries to master and centuries more to know when to use. This… this is child’s play.

What are you planning?

A lesson.

For who? I’m going to be killed if this goes further?

Ha. A magician never reveals her secrets. You shall see, in time. Good night.

What?

I woke up. I was shivering, bound in one of the dungeons in the small pits underneath the outpost. The ground was too gold to dig far into.

~~~

‘Get her out of the pit! Everyone is to see this.’

Arms dragged me roughly into the sunlight, and I shut my eyes tightly, having been kept awake in the dark all night. I was forced to stand in the courtyard, a crowd of orcs watching. The commander moved closer.

‘Elf. You are accused of treason against the Horde. Do you have anything to say?’

I recognised the words coming that weren’t my own, and braced myself.

‘I am no traitor to my people.’ The orc on my left attempted to rough me up, and the surge needle went spinning from my robe.

What? How is that still here? Oh no. Oh no.

‘What is that?!’ The commander ran over and seized the artefact. ‘By Hellscream! A working weapon! This is all the proof we need. Execute her!’

I felt sick, but words kept coming.

‘And what then? You have no one here who knows how to use it! I am necessary. More necessary than any orc here.’

He turned, rage spreading across his face.

‘You dare insult the orcish race? I will show you, elf, before you die, of just how powerful we orcs can be.’ He began fiddling with the lid. The colour drained from my face and my mouth fell open.

No. Not like that. I summoned up my courage and my magic and lunged forward, pulling the orcs with me before jumping back out of their grip. The commander did not seem to care, eyes wild as the magic flowed into him from the needle.

‘Don’t move, elf.‘ He focused his eyes on me. I was shaking. I needed to get away. I needed to get away now.

As he moved the lid, pulling more magic from the ley lines around us, I staggered back. It angered him, and as I teleported back he jammed the device-

Boom.

Blooddawn: North

‘U-Um ik’a-liss, brothers. The elfling awakens.’ A chorus of chitters drifted over my head as my eyes fluttered open. I couldn’t see a thing.

‘Greetings, creature of the Horde. I am Vizier-Understudy Count Anub-Ik’maliss, Sokhen of the Western Undertundra. It is… fil’ash ki’ki-ara pleasure to make your acquaintance.’ As my sight returned, I became aware of a very large pair of dripping mandibles about 10 feet from my face. I was not far below ground, as evidenced by the shafts of sunlight and rivulets of collapsing snow. The… Vizier shook his head to rid himself of the snow. He was about thrice my size.

‘My scouts brought you here not long ago. You are quite lucky to be alive… kar’um ish ka-khu… But I have not been merciful to you out of a desire to see you live.’ His teeth scraped together menacingly, the air filling with a similar chalkboard sound as the hidden nerubians surrounding us joined in. I pushed myself to my knees and illuminated my hand in fire. I was outnumbered, but I would fight if need be.

‘Oh! See how it prepares to die.’ The Vizier chuckled, a distorted chitter filtering over. ‘Uum’shala… I do not want to see you live… But I have been merciful. It is… easier to send a message through you than walk to your barbarous iron and steel myself. So.’ The Vizier stretched his quadraped forelimbs wide and moved closer. His breath was slightly sulphurous.

‘No, no… You will do just fine. Your… ak-umal… Warchief, as you call it, has offended the glorious Empire of Azjol-Nerub. He digs too deep for power. His Keep is an affront to the beauty of Northrend, and a scar on its underground. It stretches below the earth, searching for power… Searching for us. This will not stand. You shall inform those who dig that we politely order them to stop. If they do not, then they shall end up stumbling into the Kingdom itself… They shall find an army awaiting them.

I trust you will deliver the message. Ikk-a-liss, Voru, Voru! Go, brothers.’ At his command, two limbs grabbed me and thrust me out into the blinding white above. I was just becoming accustomed to the dark. What was more surprising was the realisation that two nerubians were flying, carrying me all the way to Warsong Hold with nary a blink of their many eyes. Even during my many years in the Ghostlands in the Third War, I had never seen flying nerubians, only ground-walkers.

Nerubians had suddenly become more terrifying to me than furbolg. I was still in shock when they dropped me off and I walked into Warsong Hold to the surprise of the guards (who had no doubt seen many troops carried off by nerubians, but none returned by them).

Distracted from my own mission, I pushed for information about any sort of ongoing digs. The orcs yielded nothing about it until I mentioned my encounter with the Nerubians.

‘The spider-men! What did they say, elf? They have been hindering our operations for weeks.’

‘They said that you are getting close to part of Azjol-Nerub. They will defend it with an army if you do not stop. And they know the underground better than anyone.’

‘Pah! The spider-men are weak to fire. We will no doubt annihilate their army when we blow our way into their little kingdom. The relics there will be free for the taking. For the Warchief! You are dismissed, elf.’

That went… less spectacularly than imagined.

When I eventually found the location of the caravan I was to be part of, I was indeed the only elf present, though there were a couple of goblins and Forsaken that looked as though they would also be researching. I was pleasantly surprised that no Reliquary members were present. No doubt the Royal Apothecary Society and Bilgewater were looking for power, but it was quite probable that they were after something entirely different to what I was hoping to requisition (anything that the orcs would use to make another mess).

The orcish guard were… quieter than I had anticipated, and the goblin and Forsaken members did not seem inclined to talk. As what looked like the late arrival, they no doubt distrusted me. Over dinner, the orcs did look at each other on occasion and grin. I got the impression that a good amount of relics had been found. I contacted the Convocation instead, and by the end of dinner had had a long and winding discussion with Kal’es and Sunshard about the nature of politics in Silvermoon (and the eventual outcome thereof). I also was informed that Twist had disappeared at what appeared to be exactly the same time I delivered her letters. Curious.

~~~

The next morning, we left for Bor’Gorok Outpost. I stayed close to the latter end of the caravan, helping scout for anything that could be following us. We saw nothing beyond caribou for most of the journey, until just after we passed the mammoth herds there was a commotion by the front of the caravan, causing all the carts to lurch to a halt. The orcs at the back ran over to investigate, and I climbed on top of the next cart to get a good view.

The cart at the front appeared to have crashed into… a bunch of gnomes? Various gnomes in hazmat suits were scattered around, moaning in pain or fighting the orcs. The remains of the cart were strewn about what looked like a weirdly-painted miniature siege engine.

Eh. Gnomes.

Given that the gnomes had somehow taken the brunt of the impact, they were quickly dispatched, although the first cart couldn’t be salvaged. We took what remained of that cart’s supplies (and, somehow, also took the miniature siege engine) and continued to Bor’Gorok, where we arrived just as the sun was going down.

After eating, we were set to investigating the relics. I had suspected that the relics were of Blue Dragonflight origin, given the secrecy, the location and the glee of the orcs, and had brushed up on my knowledge (thanks to books taken via the cloaked teleportation link to the Main Library in the Spire). I was not mistaken.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) quite a large portion of the relics I looked at were duds. Bits of furniture, deactivated pylons… All of it could, of course, be salvaged and re-used (and several items would fetch a profit) but nothing was useful as a weapon specifically. With the light too low to do further investigation, we decided to wait until tomorrow.

~~~

At breakfast we were pleasantly greeted by a third shipment of relics. I did not get a look at where they came from – indeed, it seemed as though they had come out of thin air. I wasn’t about to question things. Another short conversation the night before had yielded the consensus that the orcs would either eventually encounter Alliance resistance to their delving into Coldarra, or would come across something that would blow them all up. I did not want anything important to go to the orcs. But I felt just as unnerved about letting any end up in the hands of the Convocation. Giving them to Sorlain was pure and simply giving them to Garrosh. And the Sin’dorei had form, if the rumours about the Mana Bomb were true.

So… That left the Alliance. And while they were slightly more capable, it was treasonous and idiotic. Which meant what? Throw any important weapons into the sea and hope the orcs wouldn’t find them again? I could try and store them separately, hide them in a pocket dimension perhaps. Or send them with the other duds to be used elsewhere. But that could result in someone getting hurt.

Why did no situation these days have an easy solution?

~~~

It was nearing lunchtime, and we had just started work on the third shipment. No one had found anything major yet (or, if they had, they weren’t telling). I pulled another relic out of the bag, and the snow seemed to glimmer around it. Something was different about this one.

It was vaguely cone-shaped, formed of four ribbed ridges that curved inwards and met at the point at the end, which appeared to have been blunted during the journey. Though inactive, runes could be seen carved only millimetres into the curious metal. It was clearly old, but it retained smoothness and shine – if something so resolutely grey could shine. On the top was a miniature disk, which looked as though it could be removed, but I had no idea what incantations would be needed – or what would happen afterwards.

I wasn’t certain, but I’d only seen such designs once before…

It was a surge needle. It was smaller than the ones used during the Nexus War, but it was not a large stretch to imagine that such things existed for personal use, especially given their capacity for mana storage. This was most definitely a find I didn’t want to fall into anyone’s hands. I looked around the area, wondering if I could shroud it without being noticed. As I did so, I realised that all the other researchers were stood still, having downed tools. Was it time for a meal already?

The researchers moved away from their benches and began to leave the outpost, heading in a line further up towards the edge of the cliff. What the fel? I looked towards the guards, and their shock mirrored mine. Then I realised that it wasn’t shock. Their eyes glazed over and they fell into the snow, unconscious. Mind magic.

Shoving the inactive needle inside my cloak, I hurried up the hill towards the researchers, keeping what I hoped would be a safe distance. Building up my courage, I sent my own magic against whatever was controlling the researchers. No good. My magic was by all comparisons still novice, but this was… something else entirely. The entire spell was locked tight. I’d never seen a spell come with its own wards, and it seemed as though the wards had their own wards! Yet despite the complexity, looking at the way the runes wrapped themselves around the researchers I was reminded of how breath-taking magic could be. The whole thing displayed mastery of magic I had never seen in Silvermoon, and yet it was so flawlessly executed that it seemed as naturally done as breathing.

How was I not affected?

As the researchers reached the edge of the cliff, I crouched down, looking around for any suggestion of another thing controlling them. Given the skill involved with the spell, it could quite easily be long-range, but-

A portal. Directly on the edge of the cliff, facing Coldarra itself. Was this where the relics were coming from? Who had opened the portal? It mirrored the mind control, a seamless spell that turned magic into art. Portal-making ripped a hole into the Nether itself, and yet I could identify no damage coming from the portal just ahead. It was like it was part of the landscape itself.

This couldn’t be orcish work. But they had to have been using it. Their own hubris. But we hadn’t known about this, and now… The researchers were going in.

No doubt this was meant as a lesson to the orcs, perhaps the work of a blue dragon (the spellwork certainly suggested so). But there’d been no sightings of any dragons for months. It was as if they’d vanished. I couldn’t think of anyone able to do such spellwork. The last of the researchers was approaching the portal. If I went back to the orcs now, they’d think me responsible and we’d never see those researchers again.

Light save me… I ran for the portal, hanging on to the surge needle as my cloak whipped back, and jumped in as it began to close.

Blooddawn: Over the Ocean and Through the Fire

I boarded the zeppelin the next day, after picking up some supplies to be placed on the next shipment to Revantusk. I asked around, but the attacks were all attributed to Zandalari rebels who had since been wiped out.

That didn’t make sense at all. The ship had been sunk barely a day ago, and Durotar was under heavier security than I had ever seen. Apparently Garrosh was denying that there was any sort of opposition. I reported the news anyway.

Before leaving, I headed back into the Slums to find Rakk.

‘Ey mon, ya back! Ya been a good friend to our Twist, nat all woulda come ‘ere in dese times. Anyweh, I gots Twist’s present right ere.’ Rakk pulled a blanket off a makeshift table, revealing a light, gleaming staff. ‘Twist’s a mender at heart, but she’ll be needin’ this in de times ahead. But ye don’t be needin’ to take dis with ya. I’ll be makin’ sure dat she gets it. We got ways. And de Steamwheedle bein’ on our side ‘elps too.’ Rakk chuckled before bidding me goodbye. I gave him some gold for his troubles.

The zeppelin departed that afternoon, and aside from some turbulence, there were no issues until the Northrend coast came into view through the windows. We’d be landing in Warsong soon, no doubt-

‘FIRE!’ Yelled a voice overhead, and the ship lurched as cannonfire sounded all around.

‘What the fel? Why are they firing?’ I could barely hear a thing, but I could see quite clearly the entire ship lurching as all of the items onboard were thrown around by the explosions. I managed to grab my backpack before it – and I – went flying.

~~~

It was foolish of me to continue to allow Garrosh to continue with his own plans, foolish of all the Horde to do so. But even this small rebellion had little hope. How could I willingly abandon the Horde when the rebellion might be crushed and the Horde might win the war?

Still, I could at least rely on the fact that Silvermoon would probably not hold it against me. They seemed pretty eager to distance themselves from Garrosh – and, thanks to Sorlain’s support of Garrosh, us.

~~~

Wha…

I’d been knocked out, for whoever knows how long. It seemed pretty dark outside. We looked to be above land now, at least. I had no idea what had just happened. My head wasn’t bleeding, at least. I seemed to have hit the wall when… Something had happened…

I attached my bag to myself, unsure what had just happened.

‘Ey elf! Ya alright?’ A goblin crewmember called to me. I nodded at her.

‘What just happened?’

‘Uh… we’s been flying pretty solidly for a good half an hour. Ya been asleep?’

‘.. Uhm, I guess so.’ I rubbed my sore head.

‘All ships got orders to fire on the Alliance when we goes past. It’s protocol.’

‘It… What the fel has happened? Silvermoon, Orgrimmar, now the zeppelins… I was here a month ago! They weren’t doing this then!

‘Damn straight, sister. The Warchief’s pushing the advantage in all places. Can’t let up on the Alliance!’

‘But… what Alliance are there to fire on so close to Warsong Hold?’

‘Well, there’s a big honking Alliance keep on our route!’

‘Wait.. you mean…’

‘Yup! Valiance Keep itself! Teach that human king a lesson.’

Garrosh was… insane.

The ship rumbled as it banked, and I was thrown towards the wall along with the goblin, though this time able to brace for impact.

‘What the fel now?’

The goblin looked befuddled, and ran out of the door to the top deck. I followed suit, not willing to be thrown into a wall a third time.

~~~

It was worse than I had expected. We were being tailed not by one, but by two Alliance Skycannons, and they were firing in tandem faster than the ship could move.

Garrosh was an idiot. Firing on Valiance Keep, the heart of Alliance shipping routes in the North Sea? I scanned the horizon for Warsong Hold, hoping that we were close enough for suppor-

The ship banked again, and I grabbed onto the rail as the whole thing rattled. That was too close.

Warsong Hold was an ominous blob in the distance at the moment. Somehow, we seemed to be gaining speed on the Skycannons.

‘Attack! For the Alliance!’

What the fel? Fire soared overhead, crashing into the front of the ship. Little whirring objects bolted around the ship, firing indiscriminately. Gnomes! I tossed a frostbolt at one, slowing his rotors and causing him to plummet into the snow below.

There were too many. This was fast becoming an unevenly matched battleground-

I was suddenly aware of the lack of ground beneath my feet as I was propelled from the ship into the air by a successful hit on the fuel balloons, which blew the entire ship apart. I curled into a ball and warded myself against the debris before casting a slow-fall enchantment upon myself.

‘Shit.’

The Alliance, suitably satisfied in their victory, turned around and headed back in the direction of Valiance Keep. I drifted down into the snow. I had quite a soft landing compared to the rest of the crew. I turned my gaze back north. Warsong Hold was at least an hour’s walk away, if not more. And it was starting to snow. It was utterly freezing, so I set off. Soon, I was finding myself increasingly tired.

Mustn’t fall asleep.

Mustn’t fall asleep.

Mustn’t… fall…

Blooddawn: The Warchief’s Secret Service

‘Dawndancer? Can you come to the bonfire?’ Sorlain’s voice crackled over the communicators.

I moved out of my tent… It must have been two in the morning. The Hinterlands was illuminated as always by a barrage of stars, but the place was dark, almost unnaturally so. I suspected the trolls had something to do with it, but I couldn’t be sure what. Sorlain was waiting by the bonfire.

‘Good. I’ll make this quick. The Warchief has requested one of our researchers to decipher the products of our earlier work in Northrend. While you are not among the most experienced in the department, I would prefer that Sunshard and Kal’es stay with us for the moment. I would rather that their skills were put to use on the relics found here… And there is less chance of another diplomatic crisis if they stay under my watch.’

It was an unusual change of place, but it was not permanent…

I supposed that it would do me good to get away from the Dawnlake debacle for a bit. Northrend was an old footprint of Garrosh’s power, but our foray there prior to the exile had shown well enough that very little of Garrosh was felt there anymore.

I was not exactly able to disobey, either. I would rather Khairan stayed to keep an eye on Dawnlake than me.

Shortly before dawn I boarded a boat bound for Orgrimmar (which occasionally sent supplies to the trolls), but would not be allowed to disembark during the planned stop at Quel’danas. From Orgrimmar, I would get a zeppelin to Warsong Hold in Midwestern Borean Tundra, before proceeding by land to the Bor’Gorok Outpost, where I was to investigate the relics and take them back to the Hold – where they in turn would be taken to Orgrimmar for whatever the Warchief wanted with them.

~~~

Truthfully, I didn’t want the Warchief to end up with any of these things, but if I was researching them alone… I could easily skew the results. Hopefully, anything that was massively dangerous had not been obtained-

A large explosion sounded from the other side of the ship, and I was thrown from my hammock into the far wall.

‘Abandon ship!’

Wait, what? Several of the planks beneath me ruptured suddenly, and water quickly poured into the cabin. Grabbing my bag, I sprinted to the top deck, where… the ship was in Bladefist Bay, docked?

What the fel was going on?

I jumped onto the dock just to turn and see the ship lurch forward, a tidal wave narrowly missing two other ships as the prow slammed into the silt below. There was a massive hole in the side of the ship, and little criss-crosses of holes all along the hull.

How the hell had this happened while we were docking?

~~~

‘What do you know about the sinking of the Bladed Axe, elf?’

‘All I saw was the floorboards rupturing-‘

‘That’s not good enough! The Warchief will have answers! Your kind must be somehow responsible. Nothing else has changed in the last three weeks of shipping!’

‘Why would I sabotage one of the Warchief’s own ships? I was called here upon his orders!’

‘Prove it, runt.’

I dug into my bag and pulled out the bursting sun insignia which I’d been given in Ashenvale. ‘I got this for my service to the Horde.’

The orc on the left – a Blackrock, from what I could see of his face – grabbed it roughly, turning it over to see if it was legitimate. He tossed it back and I caught it narrowly.

‘Hmph. Very well. But we’ll be keeping an eye on you, elf. And know this: Withholding information from the Warchief about the rebels is punishable by death! You may go.’

… What rebels?

~~~

Later that night, I contacted Sorlain again.

‘Ah, Dawndancer. How are you faring?’

‘I am in Orgrimmar, currently awaiting the zeppelin. Everything was fine.’

‘What are you doing, exactly? The report was rather vague.’

Yes, I’d imagine so, because our ship mysteriously sank.’

‘Oh?’

‘Yes. It was just after they docked, which was quite impressive.’

‘How sad. Where are you going?’

‘I’ll be headed to the Borean Tundra. They want me to analyse some relics which they found ‘in ruins’, which I assume means Coldarra. After I’ve figured out how they are used, the Warchief will commandeer whatever he wants.’

‘Well, do see if you can let any slip under the floorboards. It’ll bring us prestige with little risk.’

‘I will see what I can do. It depends on whether there are other researchers involved, though I doubt the Reliquary would accept such an offer. I will contact you when I arrive.’

~~~

I rented quarters in the Hobgoblin and was eating my meal as the sun began to set over Durotar. The barkeep began to go round lighting candles. That was curious. The last time we’d been here just a few short weeks ago, they had definitely had oil lanterns. Candles seemed awfully low-tech for a goblin-run bar. There was plenty of electricity available, surely…

I tried to relax, and listened to the ongoing conversation.

‘Shipment coming from Mulgore in two weeks..’

‘Not even allowed out of the Valley..’

‘So I said ta her, “Ya be jokin’ mon!” And den she said I was de offspring o’ a troll! De nerve…’

‘…They sunk two boats in Bladefist today..’

Wait, what? I strained my ears, trying to tune in to the last strand.

‘Warchief hasn’t said a word, but most of the Valley of Spirits knows. Wisdom is supporting them, but Dezco won’t let them go against the Warchief..’

‘What about the Slums?’

‘They’re in cahoots with Steamwheedle, but no one knows if they’re helping finance the rebels.’

‘You gonna join up?’

‘Dunno. The Kor’kron are keeping a close eye on people coming and going. They’re saying that they have the Slums bugged-‘

‘Attention!’ I very nearly spilled my drink at the rather brutish entrance of several Kor’kron. ‘The curfew begins in five minutes. This bar is to be shut and all non-residing patrons are to leave if they wish to get home in time.’

Oddly accepting this as routine, most of the patrons paid their bills or handed tips to the employees before leaving. The employees followed suit, with just a few people and the barkeep left. The Kor’kron muttered a hail to the barkeep and left, slamming the door behind them.

How… disturbing. This kind of policing hadn’t been around when we were last here, and there seemed to be more Kor’kron than guards. I had considered asking the people that had been conversing what they were on about – I assumed that they were talking about the rebels the investigators had mentioned earlier – but it would be too suspicious. Conversation with the Convocation revealed that I could probably bypass the curfew using my commendation. I had nowhere to go to inquire (no one back in the Hinterlands knew anything about rebels), but I did have an excuse to get around.

Twist had asked me to take some letters back home – to her teacher, and some friends from the Slums. The Slums being goblin-run, it was probably the best place for information. And despite being a haven for goblins, it felt weirdly safer being there than in the rest of the city.

The Goblin Slums were less like a part of Orgrimmar and more like a dirtier exclave of Bilgewater Port. The red walls of Durotar’s northernmost canyon were invisible for the amount of soot and outdated neon advertising that covered the area. The place was a lot less brighter than when I had first visited it almost a year ago.

It took me a short time to find Twist’s teacher, a Pandaren who was… ‘enjoying’ some goblin drinks. I left him with the letter before I found the second person, a young accountant named Screwbolt.

‘Ey, a pen from ol’ Twist! ‘pparently she’s been makin’ friends with the furbolg, from what I ‘eard last month! I’s got her Wonga right here whenever she’s in town, don’cha worry.’

Checking to make sure none of the guards were around, I asked him about the rebels.

‘Ah, the rebels. We get lotsa folks comin’ here to join up these days. I just deal with the money, you’ll wanna talk to Rakk. He’s usually up by the border to the Valley.’

Sure enough, a large troll kept to the shadows just where the dim jazz clubs of the Slums met the troll flowthrough.

‘Ey, not many elves we be gettin’ up here. Ya be too busy with ya civil war. I be hearin’ about de Zandalari attackin’ ya territory tho, so I can understand. Ya be here ta ask about de rebellion?’

Slightly unsure, I nodded, but passed over Twist’s letter first.

‘Ah, Twist… Great kid. Dat whelp’ll go far, got a real knack for de spirits. Ah… It’s good dat she be havin’ fun. Come by tomorro’ an I’ll have sometin for ‘er. Can’t be tellin’ ‘er de truth, like, but tings could be worse. We be organisin, shall we say, passiv’ resistance against de Warchief from de Valley. E’s responded by keepin’ us locked tight. A few be gettin’ out, and dey get supplies in an’ out. Twist was good at dat, but she left before de worst ‘appened. De Echo Isles be under martial law, an’ der be a few groups raidin’ de supply caravans, tryin’ to put a strain on de Warchief. But we be little witout Vol’jin. No guidance, no leadership… De only ting we can hope for is dat de Alliance get da upper hand, or Vanira and Zen’tabra start up communicatin’ wit us. I ain’t gonna pressure ya ta join – ya must be havin’ other commitments. We ain’t be needin’ many mages anyhow – de Darkbriar Lodge got plenty. Tanks for ya time.’

Bowing to him, I wandered back through the Slums, caught up in thought. This rebellion didn’t seem big, but it seemed serious. I would have to let someone know… But who?

Blooddawn: Dysphoria

Less than a week after our arrival in the Hinterlands, I was resting from injuries sustained by (in no particular order): Attempts by slimes to devour me, a dagger wound from trolls, and the concussive effects of being blinded and walking into a tree.

Although there was discontent, little had been said since our arrival. Even in the thick of our time in Silvermoon, I had not physically felt so much plotting as I did now. Perhaps it was Khairan’s training. I was marginally improving, although my technique still needed work. I would have to work on it. He had offered to help establish a cloak for the teleportation link to the Main Library – something that would certainly help. I was already beginning to run out of books. I had read all of them at least once, except the one Khairan had given me a couple of days earlier – it was delicate, a personal copy, and one I was not about to risk by reading it on excursions.

~~~

‘Y’know, your problem is not the problem, but your attitude to the problem.’

Forestfire got up from the seat beside me where I’d been ignoring his presence for the last half-hour and moved in front of me.

‘You acknowledge, therefore, that there is a problem.’ I was not in the mood for more of his insane rambling.

‘Lass, I present to you, your problem.’ He bowed. ‘I may be Undead, however I’ve got the common sense to know when a woman is hurt by the person she sees. In this case, you by me. The least I can do after last night is try to mend some wounds here and there. So take your best shots – get it off your chest.’

I wasn’t sure of his purpose, and I slammed the book shut. ‘What is it that you want me to say?’

‘Whatever it is that you’re wanting to say to me. I’m sure there’s some cauldron of hatred bubbling inside you, waiting to spill on me.’

I wasn’t about to keep it all in. ‘That after all the fuss I made about you sabotaging the Cho’thaki, you did the same thing to an elf… for what?’

He nodded calmly. ‘Let it all out.’

‘Before you got off the boat, you didn’t see Dawnlake rip the beating heart out of another elf. I was there in the Third War. I didn’t go through what you did, but it…. it brought it all back. Seeing our people – our own people – taken apart so systematically, no thought or reason. Just. Following. Orders.’ I paused. ‘And there is also the fact that we’ll all be killed on sight if anyone in Quel’thalas sees Dawnlake.’

‘I’ve no intention to let Dawnlake set foot in Quel’thalas.’

‘You did a great job of keeping her on Kalimdor!’ I was quick to retort. I was still angry that she was here at all.

He shook his head. He looked slightly embarrassed. ‘Lass, I didn’t even know she was leaving. I only got back to hear the screams of the orcs as they set sail. It was then… that I saw the failure that has become Dawnlake.’

I didn’t let up. ‘You can’t control her, just like you couldn’t control the Cho’thaki.’

‘The ones that attacked the officers were meant to fail. Amaran requested it. The stable ones are much more obedient than Dawnlake ever was. It’s the fel – I’ve spoken with Amaran, and he agrees that it needs to be stopped.’

‘No, it’s not that, it’s the fact that Dawnlake was never going to obey your orders. The Cho’thaki, willing or not, were doing it for Garrosh. Lareen, whether she did it for herself or Sorlain, was the one in control. You just made her more powerful and less likely to obey you – and you did not see this coming?!’ I felt my cheeks redden at the sudden outpouring of anger. A part of me, even if just a small one, had thought that this would happen. I did not know how, where, when, or why – but fel could not be taken likely. History should have taught Dawnlake that – but apparently her ego was too large.

‘I never saw the fel coming. Whatever I do, Lass, it never involves Fel. It’s a catalyst that is fuelling her own ego. Had she not taken it, she wouldn’t be like this.’

I didn’t believe that, and snapped back sarcastically. ‘Well, unless you plan on draining her dry, it’s too late now. The fel on her armour is self-sustaining.’

‘You can place the blame on me all you want, but at the end of the day I’m not the one who took Fel and mutated myself into an abomination.’

‘I do blame you! Because you came up with this whole thing, and now Lareen is too dangerous!’

Purple flames suddenly shot out of his hands, flickering at the air and dimming the area around us. Shadowflame. He moved closer. Was he… threatening me?

‘Look me… in the eyes… And tell me… you don’t know that she’s weak to this… tell me.’

I looked into his eyes and bit my lip, drying to avoid showing fear. ‘And how are you going to get this close to an eight-foot tall Spellbreaker?’

‘Spellbreaker? No. Drugged-up warrior – yes. I have enough knowledge to know that as a member of the living… She needs to sleep.’ He seemed to calm down, extinguishing the flames and stepping back again. ‘Lass, I’m as pissed off as you are about her. For once I ask you to take my word for it and not interrupt me. The project is obviously a failure, however it’s a failure with a large gaping hole in her side. With the single wave of a hand, it’ll become just a horrid memory on the face of Azeroth.’

He stopped, waiting for my response.

‘What do you want me to do? Stop being angry because Lareen is suddenly dead? It doesn’t change the fact that you walked into the project willingly, or that if she hadn’t taken fel you would be happy as Larry about her.’

He nodded. ‘I’m not going to stop the emotions that keep us all striving, Lass. There’s little point and it’s cruel to you. Be mad, by all means… Just know that I’m asking for some semblance of forgiveness… And that I do care. Strike back at me for this… But… my interests lie with the Sin’dorei. Perceive that as you will.’ At this, his voice seemed to soften to the point of sadness.

I couldn’t just stop being angry about this, horrified even. I wasn’t sure whether Aleck cared for the same things I did… and I wasn’t even sure that my interests laid with the Sin’dorei anymore.

‘Lareen still lives, and you gave that technology to the Warchief. I can’t change that now, but neither can you-‘

‘Do me a favour and stop jumping to conclusions, will you?’

‘What conclusion?’

‘Do you really think I would give Garrosh the formula to the Cho’thaki? I took that with me. The Cho’thaki are finite. I’m eccentric, not stupid.’

‘You understand that this won’t go away overnight.’

‘This hatred you hold for me? Or Dawnlake? The latter I sorely beg to differ…’

‘I have seen Dawnlake in action. Personally, I think she will be harder to get rid of than you think. But I meant the former.’

He attempted to reassure me. ‘Lass, I don’t intend for all the hatred to just dissipate overnight. I’ve earned my piece with Amaran… And I intend to do so with you. All I’m asking of you right now, is to accept that I want to make amends.’

I had nothing else to say by now. ‘… I can accept that.’

He extended his hand and I extended my own, rather reluctantly shaking hands. He nodded, and I pulled my hand back as soon as possible. Hatred or not, shaking hands with an Undead… does not bear thinking about.

‘Right then. We on less-than-stellar-but-more-than-hellish terms?’ He changed his regalia while he waited.

‘…Yes.’

‘Enjoy your night, Lassie.’ He smiled. It seemed almost pained. Maybe it was hard for Undead to smile.

Afterwards, I still remained unsure. I did not want to forgive anytime soon – but what choice did I have? I had nowhere else to go.

Blooddawn: South

Prior to boarding the ship bound for Revantusk Village, I quickly packed as much as I could into a pocket dimensional bag: A flat-pack Arcane Laboratory, sofa (with cushions) and tent, a large quilt, a small wireless radio that we’d been carrying around since Orgrimmar, ten water-breathing and ten water-walking potions (in case the ship sank), two week’s worth of rations for myself, eighteen second-class mana gems and sixteen mana potions(the only ones I could get in time), two staves, a spare dagger and a wand, a calligraphy kit for runes, an extra set of robes, a change of clothes, a training dummy, four shelves, eighteen books on various magical schools, two books on troll lore and one on forest troll culture, two cookery books and three potted plants. I also included a teleportation link to the Main Library in the Spire complex, though it still needed cloaking, and the mana wyrm pet I’d not been able to take last time.

In essence, it was my entire life in a bag. It was quite cathartic.

The journey to the Hinterlands took us down through the Forbidding Sea without stopping, as most of the coast was hostile. It was early morning when we arrived, and as the others began to try and glean information from the local trolls, I moved to a relatively unoccupied part of the village to set up my own home away from home.

Although more comfortable than our lodgings on the boat or in the village, the quickly-packed furniture was more of a message. We had now been exiled twice from Silvermoon, both times from serving what we believed were its interests. But this time, we did not have the Horde to fall back on. There was a changing current within the splintering factions that even the Archons had to have picked up on. The Darkspear were being highly repressed, and rumour had it that despite Vol’jin’s death, they would not tolerate it for much longer. The Alliance was fighting back across all of Azeroth. It was becoming clear that Garrosh had overextended himself – and if Sorlain decided to set us up in Orgrimmar I had no doubt that there would be open rebellion.

I kept dwelling on the conversation I and Khairan had had on the last day we spent in Eversong. In the end, neither of us had decided to desert, and we had mostly reconciled our differences. But the decision of what to do weighed heavy. In my haste to set up the furniture I pricked my finger on the golden insignia that I had stowed on my person in Orgrimmar.

I had entirely forgotten that I was carrying it, and I quickly shoved it into the pocket dimension. How idiotic. What had that thing heard? The evaporating blood hissed, floating above me in the same bursting sun logo. In that moment, I recognised it as the same sun that the Crimson Hand’s insignia gripped around. Curious.

I stopped thinking about it. The day had worn on quickly. By the time that I had extracted most of the necessities from the bag, it was approaching early evening, and I got the feeling that there would be an expedition.

I was proven right by the crackle of Sorlain’s voice over the communicator. We gathered around the village’s central bonfire, where I had begun to attach shelving via magic.

‘We have been called here for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there was a Zandalari presence here several days ago, and the Warchief wants to know of their plans and obtain any and all relics that they are carrying. I hope that our researchers will be sufficiently prepared.’ He eyed myself and Khairan. ‘There is also the likelihood that they have contacted the Revantusk, and we are to discover what the opinion of the locals is – and whether there is any risk of their defecting to-‘

‘Greetings and salutations.’ An odd, yet familiar baritone voice sounded from right behind me, and I jumped several feet forward, the shelves clattering to the floor as all the new enchantments broke.

Lareen.

Sorlain eyed her up and down. ‘Well, Forestfire has outdone himself.’

‘Indeed. He has truly outdone himself.’

My mind boggled as I looked over Lareen, who took off her helmet. Her hair was cut brutally short, with no visible reminder of the long, pallid locks she’d had before. Her skin was a pale red and bulged in places – muscle or mutation, I was not sure. Two horns sprouted from her forehead, curling to almost a foot in length. Her voice was much deeper than once upon a time, and she easily outsized any elf, the same size as a draenei now – perhaps taller. There was no evidence of the wounds she had once possessed – the skin alone seemed impenetrable.

I snarled instinctively, and Khairan stepped back in surprise. I quickly threw the shelves aside.

‘You don’t even need weapons, do you?’ Sorlain remarked with the hint of a chuckle in his monotone.

‘I do not.’ I felt myself go pale, and I saw the same draining of blood occurring on Khairan’s face.

‘Well then, this shall serve as your field test.’

‘Ah, that reminds me, Sir. I promised you a gift.’ I zoned out of the chatter about armour and the excursion, looking at Khairan and talking over the communicators to him.

‘The… fel?’

I swayed. ‘I think I’m going to be sick.’

Before we could blink, Dawnlake finished the conversation and sprinted off towards the dock like some sort of primordial raptor. Sorlain had a brief interlude to finalise our operations – a scouting trip up the coast, where we had seen the Zandalari boat crash – before Lareen ran back up, tossing what looked like a corpse ten feet into the air, skidding to a halt merely inches before where it landed with a horrendous crunch.

‘You asked for her dead. I thought it more appropriate to torture her.’

This was not helping my sudden nausea. The… woman? was bloodied and battered. Her face had swollen up from bruising, and she was missing an arm and a leg. She looked utterly unrecognisable.

‘The… fel?’ I spluttered out. Was this what Dawnlake could do? I suddenly felt extremely vulnerable.

‘Who is that?’ Khairan asked.

‘A mercenary.’ came the curt response. A moment of silence fell as everyone… stared, before Sorlain perked up. ‘Charming work. Perhaps you could try your hand at Nala’phiir should he come visit again.’ Even Sorlain seemed slightly disturbed by this… treatment. Sorlain’s Housecarl yelped as Lareen picked up the woman on command.

‘Anyone of note?’ I looked at Khairan again, who continued to ask questions. I was no longer sure what to feel about anything. The brutality of Silvermoon suddenly seemed like a tea party.

‘Just a mercenary.’

I found my voice again. ‘What issue do we have with just a mercenary that requires the loss of limbs?’ Dawnlake grinned, still holding the mangled body.

‘Sorlain requested her dead – my pardons, Archon Amaran. I follow my orders.’

‘No you didn’t. She doesn’t appear to be dead.’ Sathreyn, our tactician, piped up from the section of wall he’d been sat on, watching.

‘I wonder too. Especially a Sin’dorei…’ Khairan muttered along in response to my question.

‘Sathreyn has a point. Get her awake, will you?’

‘What provoked such a response?’ Khairan turned on Sorlain, angrily.

‘Want her dead?’ Lareen grinned again. Her treatment of the woman was abhorrent, almost perverse, by this point.

‘Looking at her, you don’t have to do much, let me find her a gem so she can actually talk.’ I began digging through my bag until interrupted.

‘No need, Dawndancer. I don’t need her to talk.’ I stopped, still anxious to help, but I realised that there was nothing I could do. There was no saving her even if Sorlain wanted her alive – given the state she was in, I would be surprised if even Thelnarion succeeded in saving her. Lareen patted the woman on the cheek with a murmured ‘wake up.’

What mercenary were we looking at? It was clearly not Nala’phiir, as it was a woman. The hair was the wrong colour for his own plaything – Lash, I think she’d been called.

‘What does she have to do with the Convocation?’ Khairan inquired.

There had been one in Ashenvale. One who’d rather brusquely demanded that Sorlain employ her, though I had not been paying attention at the time, my thoughts focused on the upcoming battle against the Kaldorei.

Even then, this action seemed far disproportionate for such an offense.

Sorlain’s housecarl coughed. She seemed to have turned rather ill due to these events. I felt ill too, and I knew that things were not going to improve. The woman came to, coughing blood up. Her eyes were glazed over. She was already dying. Sorlain moved closer to her.

‘What do you think of my Spellbreaker, girl? Charming thing, isn’t she? Though it might just be my overactive imagination talking…’ I felt repulsed. Sorlain seemed to be enjoying this disgusting treatment just as much as Lareen. Suddenly I wanted to be very far away – but I could not look away… ‘Know that while you’ve accomplished nothing for yourself, I am more merciful than Dawnlake, and in death you will serve as an example.’

‘What is going on?’ Khairan demanded.

Sorlain looked at Lareen. ‘Dispose of her. And burn her – no, throw her into the sea.’

The woman looked up at Sorlain, beginning to plead, when suddenly a hand shot through her chest. Her eyes rolled back, and she fell limp onto Dawnlake, whose hand had just cut her arteries.

I did not see the corpse dragged off and eventually sent back to the woman’s employers, as I was too busy vomiting behind a wall.

I had only ever seen such barbarism before. During the Third War, when the Scourge attacked, when desperation rivalled bloodthistle as the most-used drug.

‘If Dawnlake is tainted enough, we may be able to bind her.’ Khairan helpfully offered through the communicator.

‘Maybe… ask Kim’belore…’ I retched some more before trying to clean myself up and stumbling back to the bonfire.

‘Are you going to explain what this is about?’ Although Khairan’s face was masked by the light and his headgear, the slight anger in his voice made the air around him tremble.

‘Merely a loose end from Ashenvale. It needed tying up.’

‘What the fel do you mean?’

‘She was sending information to various parties. She was trying to implicate me of one transgression or another in order to benefit from it.’

I nearly spoke back about the transgression that had just occurred, but my nausea meant I was biting my tongue. Literally.

‘I do not suppose that you have disposed of her employers?’

The burgeoning argument was interrupted by the curse-filled arrival of Forestfire, who had followed Lareen all the way from Kalimdor.

‘Ah, Forestfire. I’ll spare you the long briefing. Suffice it to say that we’re heading off to dispose of some trolls.’

As we began moving, Forestfire scolded Lareen for the arrival as well as simultaneously tried to exonerate himself. Apparently, Dawnlake was not done yet.

‘And you went ahead and ingested fel!’

‘So she is a fel elf?!’ I snapped.

‘You’re damned right she is!’ Forestfire retorted. I could not tell whether he was angry or happy. He seemed to be both.

‘I do not have wings, do I?’ Lareen pointed to the back of her armour with her thumb.

‘No, you do not.’ Sorlain ended the discussion.

‘Stay away from the fel, and we’ll see.’ Aleck seemed to have lost control of his little project. This was small mercy.

The next day, our first mission over, I would learn that crucially, Dawnlake was vulnerable to fire, when Forestfire held it up to her and melted her skin partially.

I had hoped to avoid having to deal with either Forestfire or Dawnlake until I gained strength. And there was little opportunity in the Hinterlands for magical empowerment.