"Only the sounds of lost hope seem to increase,
I threw away everything to be here now.
Like an eternally-blooming flower’s beauty,
The persistent feelings continued to blossom in my heart.
The dying love, the cruel dream,
I embraced tightly the neverending remorse."
-Kosaka Riyu, Danzai no Hana
Lisa paced around her living room, as she had been doing for hours. "Lass, have a seat. Worrying a hole in the floor isn't going to do any good for your daughter." The speaker was a young Dwarven woman with blond braids. "Guthrum Thunderfist himself has flown out north to the Elven lands to find out what malady affects the elves here. He'll find out what's making your daughter sick more quickly than anyone else possibly could."
Lisa sighed and sat down on one of the large leather chairs. "Thanks, Nioma. Nonetheless, I still worry."
"It's only natural for a mother to worry when her child is ill. At least your human nature has left you untouched by whatever illness struck the Elves, and since your daughter is only half-Elven, she does not seem to be suffering as badly as the others."
"She still will not wake, Nioma. That is cause enough for worry." The two sat silent for a few minutes, but the silence was broken by the sound of a crash outside. "In the name of the Eye, what in Azeroth was that?" They rushed outside to find a large bronze drake dead in the garden. "What is one of the Bronze Flight doing flying over my house?" Lisa asked no one in particular.
"Lass, come quick!" Nioma called out. "Someone's hurt over here!"
Lisa rushed over to find the dwarf kneeling over a young woman covered in blood. At least, Lisa thought she was young. The woman had hair as white as the snow that covered the ground all around the mountains held by the Dwarves of Ironforge. At least, the hair that wasn't caked with blood was white. The girl was covered with what appeared to be wounds from giant claws. With her finger, Lisa checked the girl's pulse. "It's weak. She won't last long like this. We need to get her inside and deal with these wounds. Help me carry her."
Lisa worked for hours to clean and stitch the woman's wound, and even used an intravenous healing potion to help replace some of the lost blood. Afterwards, Lisa changed from her bloodied clothes and went to the kitchen to wash up.
"How is the girl?" Nioma asked.
"It's too early to be certain, but I think she'll live. It was touch and go for a bit there."
"I've seen people in much better condition die," Nioma said. "You never told me you were a surgeon."
"I was, a long time ago. Almost in another life. When 'Isa's father died, I gave up on my medical studies." She smiled wryly. "In truth, I had only taken up studying medicine so I could be near him. He was a soldier in Silvermoon's army, and I figured that if I could be a field surgeon, I could be near him."
"But you're a mage...why not fight at his side?"
"Killing was never in my nature, I guess. And, unfortunately, healing magic wasn't something I had a talent for, so if I wanted to help out, I needed to find another way. Thankfully, I had a gift for medicine."
"I see." A loud rushing sound, like that of a heavy gust of wind, came from the bedroom where the injured girl was resting. "What was that?"
"Whomever was chasing her might have found her. We have to check on her!" The two women rushed to the bedroom and flung open the door. They were not really prepared for what they saw.
The young human woman was sitting up in bed, shaking her head as if just groggy from a nap. All the blood was gone and nothing seemed out of place except for the fact that the woman's eyes were glowing pale blue. "Hi there," the woman said. "I suppose I should thank you for stitching me up. Thought I was a goner there."
The dwarf looked at her in bewilderment. "Are you some kind of healer?"
"Heavens no," the girl said. "I'm more of an anti-healer, as it were. I make wounds worse, not better."
"Then how are you healed?"
"Simple trick, actually. I just saturated my body with magical energy and allowed my body to use it to increase my natural healing."
Lisa's jaw dropped. "You saturated your body with magic?! That's unbelievably dangerous."
"For most people, you'd be right," the girl said. "I, however, am not most people." The woman's stomach growled audibly. She blushed. "There are, however, some side effects."
In spite of her other worries, Lisa laughed. "Come then, let's go fix you something to eat."
The young woman wolfed down the plate of leftover venison and potatoes that Lisa served her, making a horrible mess in the process. Lisa was reminded of her daughter, Nagisa, who always told her that "a lady should be more elegant" whenever Lisa failed to use proper table manners. She would have laughed at the thought, but thinking of her sick daughter just made her worry more.
"So, stranger, what should we call you?" the dwarf asked the young woman who was draining a third glass of cider.
"That's an excellent question, but not one I can answer. At least, I can't answer it truthfully."
"This has something to do with the Keeper outside, doesn't it?" Lisa asked.
"So you know about the Bronze Flight? I take it you're the mage that erected that invisibility barrier surrounding this place, then?"
"Yes," Lisa said with a nod. "I'm a former denizen of Dalaran. Now I live out here with my daughter."
The woman looked at the dwarf skeptically. "I'm sorry, I just don't see the resemblance." She thought about it for a moment. "In fact, now that I think about it, I've met this dwarf's parents, so you obviously can't mean her."
"You've met my parents?"
"Yep. Years ago...no, I mean, years from now. Dammit. I don't know why I put myself through this. It gets so confusing when things you've already done haven't happened yet."
"So I take it you're a time traveler, then?" Lisa asked.
"Indeed. Since you're from Dalaran, I take it you know that means I can't tell you a whole lot." The woman sighed. "In fact, I should really get going. If those bastards followed me all the way from Silvermoon, I don't want them to find me here. It would mean trouble for you."
"Wait! You came from Silvermoon?!"
"My daughter's ill. She collapsed earlier today. The whole Elven village collapsed as well. We sent someone up to Silvermoon to find out if they knew of a malady only affecting elves, but he hasn't returned yet."
"Wait, your daughter is an elf?"
"Half elven, actually."
"And this all happened earlier today?" Lisa nodded. "Take me to her. I think I know what's wrong." Upon reaching the room, the woman looked at Nagisa for a few moments, though her eyes lingered on the girl's red hair. She sighed.
"What is it?"
"My hair is supposed to be that color," the woman said. "It got bleached by some horrible magic I got mixed up in. Time to fix it." Within a moment, the woman's hair matched Nagisa's in color. "Much better."
"I wasn't asking about your hair. I want to know if you know what's wrong with my daughter."
"Oh, that. It's just as I suspected. She's experiencing magic withdrawal. She'll be fine in a day or two, though she'll be incredibly weak without a source of magic to feed on."
"I don't understand. My daughter can't even use magic yet. How can she be addicted?"
The woman sighed. "Well, I guess it can't hurt to tell you. The Sunwell was attacked today and is no longer feeding the Quel'dorei with the magic they've come to rely on. Without it, they're all very ill. Being half elven, your daughter is getting off pretty lucky, actually. Others may not survive this."
"What happened to the Sunwell? Were you injured while protecting it?"
"Not exactly. It's a lot more complicated than that. I can't tell you. In fact, I've probably told you too much already. Sometimes, though, I have to wonder if what I'm doing is actually the right thing to do." She sighed. "Oh well, let's see about helping your daughter." The woman rooted around her backpack. "There it is!" she exclaimed, pulling a red gem from the pack.
"That's a Cardinal Ruby!" Lisa exclaimed. "Those are extremely rare and expensive!"
"I got this one at a discount," the woman said. She pulled a small pack of tools from her bag and went to work cutting the gem. A minute or so later, she had finished. "I've modified a common cut of this gem so that instead of boosting magical power it will take in magic from the air around her and feed it to her in a small but steady stream. It needs to be on her wrist at all times to work. The flow of life energy through her body will carry the magic where it needs to go. You can bandage it on there for now, but eventually you'll want to get it set into a bracelet."
"Thank you so much." A thought occurred to her. "What should I do about the villagers?"
"They're full elves. This won't work for them. They'll need a much stronger source of magic. Kael'thas Sunstrider will work to find one for them in time. I've probably already said too much. I really must get going."
And without a sound, both she and the corpse in the garden were gone.
** * **
"We cannot sit on this any further, Rhonin. The girl must be brought in. Every second we delay leads us that much closer to ruin!"
"Ansirem, we can't just go making accusations of that seriousness," Modera said. "We don't know what the dream means. Even if it is a prophecy, who is to say it's a vision of things that will happen and not of things that may happen?"
"I'm tired of your constant idiotic support of this woman, Modera. What did she do to sway you? You used to be one of the most steadfast supporters of bringing her to justice, and now you defend her? What was the price of your honor?"
"I will not sit here and listen to you call my honor into question. I have stated my reasons for my change of heart before."
"And surely it has nothing to do with the anonymous donation you received to help you start that school of yours..."
Rhonin, leader of the Kirin Tor, could take no more bickering. "That is enough. Both of you will hold your tongues." He turned to their visitor. "What do you have to say on the matter, Jaina? You've known the girl in question for some time, so your input may be valuable."
"I'm not sure, to be honest. We have been able to get no response from the Wyrmrest Temple regarding the matter, nor have we been able to locate the girl to speak with her. Without any input from her or the dragons, we may be forced to act on incomplete information, which is further complicated by Silvermoon's threat to cut ties with Dalaran after they uncovered evidence that she may have not only been involved in the attack on Silvermoon, but may have played a direct role in the defilement of the Sunwell itself."
"That's ludicrous!" Modera interjected. "Records of the time in question clearly place her as a young apprentice here in Dalaran!"
Rhonin thought for a moment. "That is true. But she has displayed an affinity for temporal magics and may have traveled back in time. Unfortunately, requests to the Bronze Flight to look into the matter have fallen on deaf ears. We may be forced to act on the assumption that she may have actually been involved."
"Silvermoon certainly won't make it easy for you to sit on this until you get some answers," Jaina Proudmoore added. "If they sever ties, the Horde will do the same. Dalaran will likely lose its neutrality and be drawn into the apparently inevitable coming war between the Alliance and the Horde. That, of course, assumes that Varian doesn't cut ties as well, since he's not taking reports of Poldaran's apparent betrayal of the living well."
Modera's shoulders drooped, defeated. "Do whatever you want," she said. "I wash my hands of this."
Rhonin considered everything again. He just could not see another way out. "So be it. Contact our allies and tell them that Poldaran the Lichborn has been declared an Enemy of the Living by Dalaran. She is to be apprehended at all costs. Alive if possible, but dead if necessary. May the Light forgive us if we're wrong."
** * **
Colonel Keynes was not happy about his current assignment. An entire regiment to sent to find a single woman? It was ludicrous. And worse, they weren't the only ones searching. Both the Alliance and the Horde were dedicating forces to finding this single mage. But more than that, Dalaran and the Argent Crusade and Ebon Blade folks were sending some of their most highly trained specialists on the hunt. Rumor had it that Alexandrine the Merciful and Azmaria the Shadow Blade were leading a team searching in Kalimdor, Sharlot the Life Warder and Envinyata the Dark Priestess were hunting for the girl in the Eastern Kingdoms, and Yoxutre the Righteous was overseeing the search in Northrend. Formidable people indeed just to hunt down one suspected traitor. Not only that, but his contact in SI: 7 had told him that the king had personally ordered the Warlocks of Stormwind to send their members as well, since hunting mages was their specialty.
All of this lent credence to the rumors that the unnamed mage they were hunting was indeed the Lichborn. This terrified Keynes more than he could say because he had heard of her exploits. If she had indeed turned to the Scourge, it was a crippling blow to the Alliance's efforts in Northrend. He had seen what that girl could do first hand, and if she had turned, it would be a major blow to Keynes' confidence as well.
As he walked through the library, Keynes spotted a girl he did not recognize from his time stationed in this town. She had blond hair, which did not fit the description he had been given, but since he was looking for a mage, he suspected that minor appearance details could be altered, so he figured he should at least give her more than a quick glance.
The girl noticed him looking. "Is there something I can help you with?" she asked sweetly.
"I'm sorry for disturbing you, miss. We're looking for someone and I had to be sure you didn't match her description." Keynes decided that this girl looked no more than seventeen, and thus couldn't be the person he was looking for.
A look of concern crossed her face. "Is the woman you're searching for a dangerous fugitive? A suspected Cultist or the like?"
Keynes decided not to alarm the girl. "No, nothing like that. We just believe that she might have some information regarding a case we're investigating."
"Thank goodness," the girl said with relief. "Mother told me that this place would be dangerous and I was afraid that she might be right."
"Valiance Keep is one of our frontline fortifications against the Scourge," Keynes responded. "What brings you out here, miss?"
"Dearie me," she said. "Where are my manners? I forgot to introduce myself. My name's Amanda. I had heard that any books found out in the ruins in Northrend were being brought here," she said. "I work for the Royal Library in Stormwind and I wanted to come check them out first hand to see what we could use before letting any of those Explorer's League goons get their hands on them."
Keynes laughed. It was good to see that life was continuing despite the war. When he finished chuckling, he noticed something. "Miss, you don't look well. Is everything alright?"
She smiled wanly. "I just haven't been feeling well for a few days. I think the soup on the boat ride over tasted funny and I've been having trouble holding down anything the last few days. Between that and the lack of sleep it has caused, I must look a sight. A few of the others on the boat got sick as well, but it didn't last as long for them. I'll be fine, though I thank you for your concern. I just wish the headaches would go away."
A voice shouted from behind them. "Colonel, get away from that woman! She's the one we're looking for!"
The girl sighed. "You should do as he says." She turned and saw that the man who had spoken was wearing silver Titansteel full plate armor emblazoned with the crest of the Argent Crusade and a pair of red goggles. "Truesight goggles? Really?" She sighed again and released the spell that held her in her younger form, becoming instead a young woman with fiery red hair in a blue satin robe emblazoned with a burning phoenix.
Keynes jumped back. It was her! Poldaran the Lichborn was indeed the fugitive they sought! He looked at the man who had spoken. Now that the goggles had been removed, Lord Yoxutre's gaze was steeled with resolve. "Poldaran, you're under arrest for treason to the living. Do not resist and make this harder on yourself."
"You know these charges are false."
"I don't know anything. There's evidence of your involvement in the attack on Silvermoon City. Dozens of reputable mages report seeing visions of you pledging your fealty to the Scourge. And I myself saw you summon the Val'kyr, which answer only to the Lich King. What am I supposed to think?"
"You of all people should know that things aren't always what they seem. You were there when we protected Medivh as he unleashed the Horde upon us. You were there when we freed Thrall. You were there when we protected Arthas as he cut the life from the citizens of Stratholme!"
"So you claim your presence at Silvermoon was on the behalf of the Bronze Flight? What of the vision, and the Val'kyr?"
"The vision is but one possible future," she said. She looked at the ground, somewhat ashamed. "The Val'kyr...I can't tell you. The truth is worse than what you believe, but you have to trust me, I am not working with the Scourge! I'm trying to find a way to avert a prophecy and keep myself from that exact fate!"
"What reason have we to trust you? You've betrayed us all! How long have you been a pawn of the Scourge? Did Nihlus die just to satisfy your lust for power?!"
Poldaran's gaze snapped towards him. Her eyes were filled with pain and anger. "I didn't deserve that," she said coldly, and then she was gone.
** * **
Of all the places he could be spending his afternoon, this was the last place Yadier expected to be. "Greeting, Modera. Might I ask why you've called me here?" he asked, indicating the large auditorium they were observing from balcony seating on one wall.
"Must my motives be suspect when I invite a colleague to attend the school's Culture Festival?" Archmage Modera, founder and headmistress of the Dalaran Magical Academy asked innocently.
"I don't have time for one of your fundraising attempts. If you don't give me a reason to stay here, I'm leaving."
Modera placed her hand over her mouth and whispered, barely audible to Yadier. "Not yet. Someone is listening in. Make small talk for a few moments while my security deals with it."
That intrigued Yadier. "So, what's this Culture Festival thing about, anyway?"
"This is a chance for our students to show off their artistic talents...painting, sculpture, music, theater, that kind of thing."
"I thought this was a school of magic. Why would you need to have some kind of exhibition like this?"
"In truth, much of the purpose of this event is to help raise funds for the school. However, we feel that just teaching the children about magic would be too spartan. We want our young men and women to learn and thrive with a balanced education. Many of these young people are the sons and daughters of noble houses, and as such these skills, as well as etiquette, math and history classes, may serve them more than their magic training."
"An interesting approach. Are they still getting enough magical training?"
"In most cases, we think so. The academy was founded to solve the issue of too few apprentice masters being available, but that still means each child is not getting quite the one-on-one training the old system offered. However, we've eliminated the busy work that most masters used to give their apprentices and have replaced it with more useful classes, so we feel it balances out that much at least."
"In most cases? You mean there are times it isn't enough?"
"There are some children whom I believe would benefit from a greater amount of training. Most are simply having trouble grasping concepts, though there is one special case where the child is brilliant but somehow just cannot conjure up the simplest spell."
"You're sure to test them for magical aptitude, right?"
"Of course. We're not idiots. No, this girl I'm talking about has been tested and rates as having nearly off the chart magical aptitude, but she just can't seem to cast spells." Modera looked down at the auditorium. "In fact, that's her walking onto the stage right now."
Yadier looked out and saw a girl of approximately fourteen on the stage. She was walking slowly and with a decorum he was not used to seeing on children. Neither the skirt nor collar of her uniform fluttered with the movement. Her red hair was drawn back in a ponytail and he could see her short pointed ears. "A half elf?" he asked.
"Indeed. We think that might be the problem with her gift not manifesting itself. Little is known about half elves. Until recently, even their existence was frowned upon and shunned by the masses, but thanks to Rhonin's marriage to Vereesa Windrunner, such things are much more accepted here in Dalaran. No, Nagisa rarely has problems with other students because of her lineage, but that's not to say the other students are kind to her. She is, after all, the only student here at the Academy that cannot conjure a single spell, despite having the highest marks in her magical theory classes."
"Why would being half-elven affect her ability to conjure magic?"
"Half elves mature more slowly than elves or humans do, so we suspect that her gift just hasn't actually surfaced yet." On the stage, the girl began to sing. It was an enchanting aria. Modera looked at Yadier. "I just got the signal. It's safe for us to talk."
"So, what is this really about?"
"I need to talk to you about Poldaran."
"I might have known. What is it?"
"Do you actually believe that she could be as horrible as they're claiming."
Yadier thought about it for a moment. "No, I think we're misinterpreting something here."
"You might be right, but it's hard to mistake what's happening in that dream a lot of us had."
He nodded. "That's true, but I don't think that's the full dream, unless the reports I'm hearing are missing the ending."
Modera's curiosity was piqued. "Missing the ending?"
"Poldaran told me about this dream. Apparently she's been having it for months. She said that it had always felt unfinished, until she managed to see the entire thing the morning Nihlus died, just a few hours before."
"What was the ending?"
"You're not going to like it." He took a deep breath. "She pledges her loyalty to the Scourge and then strikes, knocking Frostmourne from the Lich King's hand. She then uses it to slay him. But something goes wrong and she becomes infused with the Lich King's spirit, making her into a worse monster than Arthas ever was. Then the world becomes covered in death."
Modera gasped. "That's horrible! Maybe they are right to try to stop her."
"I'm not so sure of that. We've had reports of her being spotted at numerous libraries throughout Azeroth. She seems to be looking up prophecies, perhaps trying to avert this one. If we interfere, we may just doom her, and us, to the fate we're trying to avoid."
"I hadn't thought of that before."
"Most people haven't. So let me ask you a question."
"Why have you suddenly decided to support her? You used to be one of the most ardent supporters of the effort to imprison or execute Poldaran."
"In truth, she was never really my target. I was directing my hatred and frustration for letting Kel'thuzad escape towards his daughter, who had not committed any actual crimes. When she brought him down, I realized how foolish I was being and grew up a little."
"I see," Yadier replied. The two sat in silence for a moment, listening to the beautiful song the red haired elven maiden was singing.
"And even though sometimes the clouds hang low and the sun's light grows dim, I will walk with my head held high for I know that behind those dark clouds lays the blue sky," Nagisa sang, finishing the song.
The auditorium filled with applause and Yadier found himself wiping away a single tear. "A beautiful sentiment," he said. He hoped that wherever they were, his friends all walked with their heads held high, despite the coming storm.
Edited, Aug 6th 2010 1:46pm by Poldaran Lock Thread: It's my **** thread, dammit.
Edited, Aug 18th 2010 3:25am by Poldaran