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.
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.
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.