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The Lore of Poldaran: Chapter 9: The Sorceress' ApprenticeFollow

#1 Nov 23 2010 at 3:40 AM Rating: Good
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Prologue: The Price of Evil
Sindara could not believe that she was awake. Not only was it four in the morning, but it was raining. The combination of the two left her feeling quite agitated at being awoken. "He better have a good reason for waking me," she grumbled to no one, since the alley she was waiting in was empty.

That's why she was extremely surprised when someone replied. "I'm sure Yadier wouldn't have called us out here if there wasn't a good reason," Azmaria said from the low roof of the house Sindara was standing next to.

Sindara was surprised to find Azmaria in Dalaran. Something was definitely afoot. "Az," she asked. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be off with Yoxutre's unit fighting Deathwing's forces or something?"

The Death Knight jumped from the roof, her metal greaves clanking on the hard stones as she landed. "Yoxutre thinks I have a problem with following orders. Tell one Highlord of the Argent Crusade to shove his orders up his *** and suddenly everyone thinks you're not a good soldier." She made a face for a moment, clearly considering something. "I guess charging that dragon mid-strategy discussion didn't help matters much either, now that I think about it," she said with a relaxed smile and a shrug.

Sindara laughed in spite of herself. As intense as the girl was during combat, Azmaria always seemed pretty carefree when not fighting. The effect seemed infectious, as Sindara always found herself relaxing when chatting with her half sister. She found herself smiling in spite of the dreary conditions they were standing in. "So why Dalaran?" she asked. "Wouldn't you be having more fun if you were off adventuring with Alex or something?"

The death knight shrugged again. "Maybe," she said. "But the truth is that I think Alex needs some alone time to work out some things."

Sindara nodded. "There's definitely truth to that. But you still haven't told me the reason why you're in Dalaran."

"She's here because I hired her," a voice said behind Sindara. The warlock turned to see Wizard Yadier of the Kirin Tor standing there, his violet robe untouched by the rain. "Come now, don't be so surprised. We had a job that I think suits Azmaria perfectly. Your sister is now an instructor at the Academy."

Sindara was confused by this. Her sister, the Death Knight, would be teaching at Dalaran's Mage Academy? Sindara could not fathom how that would work, since there was no way that the citizens of Dalaran would tolerate the teaching of Necromancy within the city. Not after the last war with the Scourge.

Azmaria seemed to pick up on what Sindara was thinking. "I'm going to be training them in swordplay."

Now Sindara was really confused. "Swordplay, at the magical academy? That doesn't make much sense."

"It's quite simple, really," Yadier said. "Many of the students at the academy are more than just mages. They're also the sons and daughters of noble houses. Archmage Modera decided when she founded the academy that it would be more than simply a replacement for an overtaxed apprenticeship system, but also a place where the future leaders of Dalaran can learn skills that would benefit them. In truth, many of the students there will probably find more use for their etiquette classes than the magic they learn. Swordplay is an important part of noble society."

"I see," Sindara replied, still unsure. She decided to change the subject. "So, why did you bring us out here anyway?"

Yadier's expression became serious. "One of our intelligence teams sent a report to Rhonin indicating that there would be an attack today by a group of black drakes. It outlined their attack plans and the size of their force, roughly two dozen drakes."

"That sounds fairly routine," Sindara replied. "I can't imagine you would really need us for something like this."

Yadier nodded grimly. "If that was the full extent of it, you'd be correct. The force shouldn't be too large for our defense teams to handle."

"Then why?"

"At some point between when the team sealed the letter and Rhonin broke the seal to open it, someone managed to write a note on the report. She drew a smiling caricature of herself along with the words 'Don't worry about this. I'll deal with Malyse and her group of flunkies.'"

"She?" Sindara thought for a moment. It suddenly hit her. "Poldaran?! But that's not possible. She was forced to wear a power limiter, not to mention how much her fight with the Lich King would have weakened her. There's no way that she can deal with that many dragons."

"That's what Rhonin believes, as well. I suspect, however, that she has something up her sleeve, even if it's nothing more than a bluff. That's why you two are here. I need your help in case she gets herself in trouble. The two of you should easily be able to hold off the attackers long enough for my people to pull her out of any situation she gets into."

Sindara understood the situation now, and was completely on board. She cast a quick summoning spell and could feel a presence beside her. "Mirwena," she said. "Stick close to me and keep an eye out for danger. Remain out of sight, as we likely will want to remain hidden until Poldaran needs us." She looked again at Yadier. "Alright, I'm ready. Where do we go?"

"I suspect Poldaran will meet the enemy where we expect the heaviest assault, so let's go to Krasus' Landing, where the shielding is lightest. Az, you in?"

"Naturally," the Death Knight responded, pulling on her helmet and causing her eyes to begin glowing. "Though I fear that stealth is not my strong suit."

"Just stay with us behind the bushes until I tell you to attack, and we'll be fine."

"I can probably do that," she replied. "Well, maybe."

Sindara laughed and Yadier looked worried. "Well, let's get going. Don't want to arrive late," the mage said.

They hurried to the plaza at Krasus' Landing and quickly hid behind a large patch of bushes to their right. They barely managed to get into place before winged black silhouettes became visible against the flashing lightning in the sky.

A hooded figure walked past them as it headed towards the center of the plaza. As it passed, they heard a familiar voice whisper softly. "You may watch, but do not interfere. I have this under control." She took her position in the plaza and set a small case at her feet.

The first of the dragons reached the edge of the Landing and stopped to assess the lone figure standing defiantly before them. "What's this? One of the defenders of the Kirin Tor has come to challenge us?" The dragon laughed, a hideous sound. The others joined in. "Come now, surely you do not think that a lone wizard can stand against two dozen of the Black Dragonflight's finest warriors?"

The hooded figure spoke. "To be fair, Malyse, I'm more of a sorceress than a wizard. I find the effort of inscribing runes and performing rituals for everything I have to do quite tiresome." The dragon had been visibly startled by the sound of the voice, but when the woman pulled back her hood, the dragon's eyes burned with fear, illuminated by the convenient bolt of lightning that had coincided with the Sorceress' action. Sindara suspected that it had been less of a coincidence and more of a planned effect. "But to answer your question, yes, I believe I can take you all on by myself."

The dragon hesitated for a moment, but finally worked up the courage to respond. "I think you're bluffing. We all know what happened to you in your fight with the Lich King. To expose your bluff, I give you a chance to show us just what you intend to do about our attack."

Poldaran laughed. "Your funeral, I suppose. I'll show you that I am not as weak as you think." She pulled on a light mithril chain glove and then suddenly disappeared. A second later, she reappeared on the back of one of the flying drakes. With a swift motion, she hit the back of the drake's neck with her hand. No more than a light slap, but enough to get the drake's attention. She then disappeared and repeated the attack for each of the drakes save the lead before returning to her position in the center of the square.

It was almost as if she had done each attack to indicate to the dragons that she could have hurt them if she had so chosen, but was giving them a chance to retreat. Sindara thought that it seemed almost as if she had been counting coup, a tradition practiced by some Tauren clans in which warriors would prove their bravery by simply touching an enemy without doing harm and then escaping. In doing so, they sent a clear message to the enemy that they were a powerful and dangerous foe.

At least, that's what Sindara would have assumed had Azmaria not whispered to her. "She's going to use the lightning," the Death Knight said.

"That's nearly impossible," Yadier responded. "Pulling down lightning takes a tremendous amount of energy. If she were at full strength, it might be possible, but not at her current strength."

Azmaria seemed confident, so Sindara had to think on the matter. "What if she's not pulling it down? What if she were to just suggest to the lightning where to go, provide it with a place it wanted to strike?"

"Like a gnomish lightning rod? The ones they use to generate power for some of their more outlandish creations?" The warlock nodded. "Well, it could be possible, definitely more efficient. But even then, I doubt she'd be able to use it more than once or twice under current circumstances. Definitely not enough to scare off the dragons."

They did not have time for further debate, as more was going on between Poldaran and the dragon. "What? Was that it?" Malyse asked. "A slap to the neck is supposed to scare us off?"

"That was the hope," Poldaran said. "It was my last shot at stopping you without killing all your drakes there. Guess I'll have to do something a bit more serious, then."

"Well please, by all means. Show us that you're more than just smoke and mirrors." At first, Sindara had trouble understanding why the dragons would hold back and give Poldaran a chance to attack, but she realized quickly the purpose. It was simple, really. Malyse was too self assured of her victory and just could not pass up a chance to gloat. Poldaran seemed to be handing her that opportunity on a silver platter.

"Of course. Wouldn't want to waste your precious time," Poldaran said. A quick wave of her hand opened the case at her feet. The object within flew into her hands. By the light of another flash of lightning, Sindara could see that Poldaran held a violin.

Malyse seemed as perplexed as Sindara felt. "What is the meaning of this? Plan to entertain us with a concert before begging for your life?"

Poldaran was not fazed by the sneering tone of the questions. "Not at all, Malyse. In fact, I will be happy to explain to you what I'm doing." She cleared her throat. "Has anyone ever told you about the Season Fairies?"

The question seemed to annoy the dragon. "The what?"

"Season Fairies. Tiny mystical creatures that control the weather with the power of music."

"Now you're being nonsensical. Everyone knows that the weather is controlled by the elementals."

"Not true. Few can see the Season Fairies, so no one really knows of their existence, but I can vouch for their presence all around us. I've met a few." She motioned toward the violin in her hand. "In fact, I hold one of their instruments here, a gift given to me as thanks for my warm feelings and friendship. I had to use magic to grow it large enough for me to use, but I'm sure it still works just fine. Come, let us see together."

Poldaran raised the instrument into position and lightly drew the bow across it, producing a clear and piercing note. The sky rumbled in response and lit up. One of the dragons was struck by a bolt and dropped from the sky, burning as it fell.

She followed the first note with another, and then another, until the song she was playing filled the air, as did the roar of thunder and the scent of burning dragons. By the time Poldaran had finished the song, Malyse was the only black dragon within ten miles of Dalaran. Poldaran lowered the instrument. "So, Malyse, do you believe in Season Fairies now?"

The dragon roared in frustration. "I don't know what you did, but this isn't over."

Poldaran sighed. "It is for today, Malyse. Now scurry off and let your master know that this place is under my protection. He would be wise to keep his minions away lest I be forced to kill them all." Hatred burned in the dragon's eyes, but she turned and flew off. A moment later, Poldaran called out to her observers. "Hey, guys...a little help?"

Sindara could suddenly see exhaustion in Poldaran's face. Before she could even stand, she saw Azmaria beside Poldaran, catching the collapsing mage. "I've got you," Azmaria said softly.

"Thanks," Poldaran replied. "I was afraid I'd damage the violin when I collapsed. **** thing was expensive."

Yadier, who had been lost in thought, suddenly stood. "Eureka!" he shouted.

Poldaran laughed in spite of her exhaustion. "I take it you've figured out the trick?"

"When you slapped them, you were positioning mana gems on their backs, beacons for the lightning, which allowed you to use small amounts of magic to gradually charge the gems, possibly weeks in advance. You just activated them while you were playing."

"Bingo," Poldaran said as her sister picked her up, supporting her with both arms.

Azmaria looked disappointed. "Does that mean that there is no such thing as Season Fairies?"

Poldaran giggled and hugged her sister. "Don't ever change, Bethany," she said as the Death Knight blushed, quite a feat for someone who was among the unliving.

** * **

Nagisa awoke to one of the most wonderful smells one could ever awaken to, the smell of pumpkin waffles. As wonderful as her nice warm bed was, she found that she wanted a waffle much more.

The teenage half elf sat up in bed and stretched. She glanced over to the mirror. Her long red hair was a mess. Hopefully her mother could help her with it before she went to school. She pulled on her house slippers, which matched her heavy pink pajamas, and hurried to the dining room.

"Finally awake, I see," her mother said in greeting. Nagisa was always amazed by her mother's beauty. She was fair skinned, much like Nagisa, but she was much taller and had silken blond hair and hazel eyes. She also was not quite as lanky as her daughter. Lisa had assured her daughter that she would eventually grow into her figure, but Nagisa was not so sure, since elves tended toward being thinner of figure than humans, and Nagisa was not sure whether she would favor her mother or her father's heritage. Not only that, but her growth spurt over the summer had left her a little on the thin side for a human, though right about average for an elf her height, so she worried that she would in fact favor her elven heritage.

Nagisa had a seat at the small but elegant hardwood kitchen table. Lisa set two plates in front of her, a large one with a waffle topped in whipped cream and another with several pieces of cut fruit and a hard boiled egg. "Thanks, Mom," Nagisa said, before digging in.

"I figured you could use a good breakfast. You were up half the night studying." Lisa folded her own waffle in half and held it up like a puppet. "That's not good for you, you know!" she said in a high pitched voice, moving the waffle like a mouth, whipped cream oozing everywhere.

Nagisa nearly choked on a piece of snow plum. "Mom!" she said, coughing. "A lady really should be more elegant."

Lisa shrugged and took a bite of her waffle, eating it like a sandwich. "Oh dear," she said, noticing that some whipped cream had spilled on her clothing. She frowned slightly as she regarded her frilly pink apron, but sighed in relief when she realized she hadn't gotten any on her light blue dress. She set down the waffle and wiped her hands on a napkin. A quick snap of her fingers and the apron was in a hamper, replaced by another, a frilly green one this time.

Nagisa just shook her head and finished her breakfast.

After she finished eating, Nagisa washed her hands and face and then returned to her room to change into her school uniform. Since it was warm out, she decided to opt for the lighter outfit, consisting of a short black skirt, a long sleeved white shirt topped by a black vest, black shoes and thigh high black and red striped socks. The red on the socks designated that she was a first year student at the academy, as did the thin red scarf she wore under the collar of her shirt. When she advanced to the next year, she would be allowed to wear green, then blue for the year beyond that and finally violet for the final year of school.

Young men at the school wore similar uniforms, but replaced the skirt with pants and the scarf with a tie. Alternatively, both genders had the option to wear a long robe instead of the vest, which some people felt more appropriate for academic dress, but Nagisa always wore the vest when she could because it reminded her of characters from some of the manga she read.

Reading was one of Nagisa's favorite activities. She would often read through more than ten books a week, more if she went with shorter works like manga, a specific type of comic book that had recently become popular in Dalaran since a gnomish mage by the name of Grindle Fizzlewidget had invented a machine capable of mass reproducing drawings through a combination of magical enchantment and gnomish engineering. The machines were quite reliable, only likely to blow up once every few months, which was certainly an acceptable failure rate for gnomish technology.

She wasn't sure who had approved the uniforms, but she was thankful. She enjoyed cosplay more than she probably should. It was likely she had gotten that from her mother, who changed clothes every time she did something different. She glanced at herself in the mirror, satisfied that everything was in order. Even the mystic silver bracelet on her left wrist shined in the morning sunlight despite being covered by the shirtsleeve. All that remained was her hair.

She entered the dining room once again, where her mother was still seated at the table, sipping a glass of honeymint tea. "Mom, can I get you to help me with my hair? Seems to have tangled."

"Of course, dear. Want your usual ponytail?"

"Please," Nagisa replied. Lisa conjured a brush and went to work. A few minutes later, Nagisa's hair was in order. "Thanks, mom." A quick hug later, Nagisa grabbed her book bag. "Hey, shouldn't you be getting ready too?"

"I don't think so...wait, what day is it?" Lisa's brow wrinkled as she thought about it.

"Mom, you're gonna give yourself wrinkles. A lady really should be more elegant."

Lisa laughed. "You worry far too much. As to your original question, if I'm right and today is Tuesday, then yes, I guess I do have to get going." A snap of her fingers and Lisa had once again changed clothes. Now she was wearing a set of green pants and a green tunic with a strange white coat. Strangest of all was the pair of spectacles her mother always wore as part of the outfit, despite not needing them. In fact, Nagisa was pretty sure that the lenses within weren't lenses at all, but just a prop.

Nagisa was sure it was a reference to something, but had never bothered to ask what. She just knew that these were the clothes her mother wore when she was going in to the clinic. "It is Tuesday," Nagisa confirmed. "The new Poldaran manga comes out today." This last bit she added with excitement.

"I really wish you wouldn't read those. It's not good to idolize that madwoman."

"It's not like that at all."

"Please tell me you don't have a crush on her!" Lisa exclaimed, suddenly realizing that possibility.

"What? No, that isn't it either. It's just that she gets to do so much to help people with her magic. I kinda admire that."

Lisa breathed a sigh of relief and then hugged her daughter. "Your magic will manifest itself soon enough, 'isa. Don't be in too much of a hurry."

"I know, mom. It would just be nice to not be the only one at school who can't cast a single spell."

Lisa hugged her daughter again. "It will be alright. We don't know a whole lot about how fast half elves mature, but even then I have a feeling that in less than a year, you'll be casting spells way beyond what anyone in that school is capable of. Just keep studying your magic theory and you'll be ready when your gift awakens."

"Thanks, mom."

"Anytime, 'isa." Lisa's face became serious. "So, since you're running late already, should I make you a piece of toast so you can run down to school with it hanging from your mouth in hopes that you'll crash into some cute boy who will eventually fall madly in love with you? I mean, it'd be clichéd, but I can if you want."

Nagisa giggled in spite of herself. "Mom, a lady should never do something like that. It's not elegant."

** * **
Dalaran was one of the most beautiful cities in the world, generally untouched by the ravages of the recent cataclysm. Some refugees had made it into the city and had taken residence in the city's sewers, but for the most part, the city was beautiful and unspoiled by the blemishes present in other cities in the war torn world of Azeroth.

The shield that surrounded the city, however, was a constant reminder that just beyond, danger lurked everywhere. There were even rumors that the Black Flight had tried to attack the city a few days earlier. One of Nagisa's classmates even claimed that she had seen a fully armored Death Knight carrying a wounded mage through the streets in the rain that night.

All around the city were signs that the wizards of Dalaran just wanted to forget about the conflicts raging all across the world. Shops catering to all kinds of tastes had sprung up throughout the town, offering distractions for any who could pay. Space had become something of a premium, as the floating city had a natural limit to its space, so no more buildings could be built, unless the three parks were removed, and that was not going to happen if the citizenry had anything to say about it.

So instead, a magical solution to the problem of space had been found. A couple wizards had found a way to create what they called a compressed space, allowing multiple buildings worth of space to fit within a single one. In truth it was nothing more than a modified version of common pocket dimensions similar to those used to carry high quantities of items in small sacks, but the use caught on quickly. Buildings were gutted and the insides had been replaced by these larger pocket dimensions, allowing single stores to become entire shopping complexes, and also allowing the building's owner to rent out space to other shopkeepers, thus supplementing his own income. There were numerous instances of these around town.

This development had proven a lucky break for a certain Archmage of the Kirin Tor, as her decision to open an academy where numerous students could learn magic from a smaller number of masters instead of relying on the old apprentice system required more space than Dalaran could really offer. As such, she had finally been able to see her dream come to fruition in a lot that had once been a small bank.

Nagisa reached the gates to that academy a few moments after she probably should have. She was going to be late if she didn't find a way to cut some time off of her run to class. Fortunately, she was well studied on the way that these instances worked, and she knew that a few feet of movement on the outside would save her a hundred times that on the inside. All she had to do was find a way over the wall in the right spot.

A quick look around the front revealed nothing that would offer her a way over the wall, save asking a nearby guard for a lift over on his hippogryph. Since she had a feeling that sneaking over the wall would be frowned upon, she had to find an alternative route.

A glance around the left wall revealed a short road down to a dead end with a large fruit tree of some kind growing next to the wall and a shop across the street from the school. This likely would lack elegance, so Nagisa was glad that there would be few witnesses. Even better, this would put her pretty close to the school near a windowless section of the building, so there would also be few witnesses on the inside as well.

Unfortunately for Nagisa, the guard she had noticed had spotted her heading down the alley, and with everyone on high alert due to the cultist plots to infiltrate major cities, he found her actions suspicious enough to warrant following her. But she didn't notice him until she had already begun her running start at the wall.

"Hey! Stop!" he shouted, but Nagisa was already going full speed and couldn't stop. A quick hop and then a kick and she had launched herself off the wall at the tree's trunk. Another kick and she launched off the trunk and onto one of the lower branches.

"Sorry!" she called out. "Can't chat. I'm going to be late for class!" Another jump using the tree's branch to launch her and she was on a higher branch. Finally she ran along the branch and hopped right over the wall.

Nagisa landed in the shadow of the wall near enough to the south wing of the main academic building that surrounded the central tower. She knew she only had a few moments before the man had reached his hippogryph, and followed after her, but she knew that he also would likely enter down the wall, giving her more time to get into the building.

She had chosen this side of the wall to enter the instance because it was the side where students in her year had their classes. Well, that and the well placed tree. Unfortunately, all the doors were on the inside courtyard, and she did not think she had time to reach one. Her only hope was that she could reach one of the windowed classrooms on this side of the building and get someone to open the window for her, so she began running the nearly hundred yards from the wall to the building, heading westward, away from the direction she expected the guard to be coming from.

Once again luck was with her. A window was open on an otherwise empty classroom on the first floor, so she dove into it and quickly shut the window behind her before hiding in a shadowed corner, out of sight of the window. Moments later, she heard the beating of wings outside as the hippogryph mounted guard searched the area. Unable to find anything, he flew off after a short search. Nagisa breathed a sigh of relief and hurried into the busy hallway.

** * **
Classes that morning were fairly run of the mill. Nagisa managed to just make it to class on time, which made the risks that morning worthwhile. It was quite a peaceful morning, as well, since that was when she had all of her general studies and fine arts classes, which she excelled at. Today's classes were music, etiquette and dance, which were her favorites, as well as swordplay, which bored her.

Today's swordplay class had been a bit different, as the instructor had announced that he would be stepping down as a teacher to go join the fight for Mount Hyjal. He assured them that a new teacher had already been hired, so they would not lack for an instructor on Thursday's class. After that, he promptly left and the students found themselves alone.

As is wont to happen with unattended students, the class split up into its small cliques and random conversation ensued, spread all around the massive gymnasium where the class was held. Nagisa sat down near a wall to work on some stretches to help her flexibility for dance class. After a few moments, she heard a voice beside her. "Hey, Nagisa, guess who skipped her first class to stop by the bookstore."

Nagisa's head turned quickly and she regarded her friend with disbelief. "Diane Moore," she said, using her friend's full name out of shock, "you didn't!"

The raven haired girl smiled mischievously as she pulled a book out from behind her back. "I totally did!" Fangs in the Forest was written upon the front cover, along with an image of a young woman in a hooded cloak hiding behind a tree as a Worgen stalked the woods near her.

Nagisa couldn't contain her excitement. "Let me see it!" she squealed in delight as she took the book from her friend's hand.

"Turn it to page seventy-two," Diane said. "You aren't going to believe what Poldaran did."

Diane was right about that. Nagisa was completely unprepared for what she saw when she turned the page. Specific anatomy was covered up by strategically placed blankets, but there was no doubt about it, Poldaran was naked in bed with some man. "What?!" Nagisa exclaimed. "She slept with some guy in this book? That's not Lord Nihlus!" Another detail caught her eye. "Wait, she looks younger in this one," she said, looking at her friend.

"It's a prequel to some of the other ones we've already read. It happens during the time Lord Nihlus had gone to Outland with Prince Kael'thas' expedition."

"Who's the guy?"

"It's Poldaran's fellow agent in Dalaran's special service. She's on a mission for them to investigate Archmage Arugal. Wizard Yadier appears in the story as well, working as the head of the team she's on."

"But who is he, exactly? He looks kinda familiar."

Diane's brow furled in thought. "I can't remember his name. Marcus something or other."

The name also seemed familiar. After a moment, Nagisa was able to remember what had been just out of reach. "His name isn't Marcus Kirin, is it?"

"That's it!" Diane said. "Why, is it important?"

"Of course it's important!" Nagisa said, shocked by her friend's ignorance of something so important. "Marcus Kirin was one of the greatest hunters of rogue wizards that Dalaran has ever had. He's famous, the star of his own book series. There's a statue of him in Dalaran's Violet Guard headquarters. And this story is saying that Poldaran slept with him!"

Nagisa and Diane had been so engrossed in their conversation that they had not noticed that their shouting had turned some heads. Most of their classmates had just been casually listening, but one had focused intently on the conversation.

"Take that back!" screamed Samantha, a blond haired second year student. "He never would have slept with that tramp!"

Nagisa didn't quite catch what she had said, so she turned to look at the girl, dumbfounded. "Wait, what?"

"Take back what you said about Marcus!" the other girl commanded.

"But I'm not the one saying it. It's in the book," Nagisa said, still confused. She ducked suddenly, narrowly avoiding being hit by the fireball the other girl had thrown at her.

"I SAID TO TAKE IT BACK!" the other girl screamed, rage contorting her face. She threw another fireball Nagisa's way. The half elf dove into a somersault, rolling back onto her feet several yards away from where she had been standing, which was now a smoking crater in the hardwood floor.

"I don't know why you're so upset, but please stop with the fireballs so we can talk about this!" Nagisa pleaded, dodging yet another fireball. After several more near misses, Nagisa realized that there could be no reasoning with the girl, and since no one seemed to be trying to help her, Nagisa knew she had to escape the room. She made a dash for the door.

Just as her hand touched the doorknob, the other girl spoke again. "Always knew you were a coward, Nagisa No-Spells."

Nagisa froze in her tracks. That nickname was a bit of a sore spot for her. For someone so obviously not in control of themselves, so inelegant, to call her that... Well, it was simply not something she could allow to go unanswered. The time for avoiding the confrontation had passed.

"What did you call me?" Nagisa asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

The other girl apparently heard her. "I said that you're a coward, Nagisa No-Spells."

Nagisa turned slowly, deliberately and glared at the girl. "That's what I thought you said." With those simple words, Nagisa sprinted towards the other girl. Samantha, startled by Nagisa's sudden action, threw a bolt of frost at her in a panicked attempt to ward off of the charging girl.

Nagisa didn't bother to sidestep the bolt; she simply tilted her head to the right. She felt a sudden warmth on her cheek as the sharp edge of the ice sliced her face, causing blood to ooze from the wound. She continued running, ignoring the wound, until she crossed the remaining distance between her and her foe. She leaped into the air and delivered a powerful kick to the side of Samantha's head, sending the older girl flying.

Unfortunately, a teacher passing by had picked that moment to look into the room. "What is the meaning of this?!" the red haired Alchemy instructor shouted.

"Oh dear!" Nagisa exclaimed, in involuntary imitation of one of her mother's favorite phrases. "Well, Miss Summers, it's, um..." She sighed. "It's exactly what it looks like," Nagisa admitted, ashamed.

Miss Summers shook her head. She was only a few years older than the students, so she understood what it was like to be their age, but she was still surprised it had happened. "Nagisa, I had expected better from you," she said, her voice filled with disappointment. She grabbed a bottle from the pack she was carrying. "Here, drink this before that wound sets in. Wouldn't want you to get a scar on your face."

Nagisa took the health potion from her teacher and drank it quickly. A quick inspection with her finger told her that the draught had worked and the wound had closed up, though there was still blood on her cheek. She pulled out her handkerchief and quickly began dealing with that.

Meanwhile, the instructor knelt down to aid the other girl. A quick check revealed that nothing was broken and the girl had suffered no serious injury. She offered her hand to the girl, who promptly slapped it away. "Get away from me, you filthy commoner," Samantha said with a sneer. "You probably side with that other commoner over there instead of with me, I bet, despite the filthy slander she was spouting."

Miss Summers shook her head in disgust. Between the spell damage to the room and this girl's attitude, she had a feeling she could guess at what happened. "First of all, good daughter of a minor landless noble house, I am no commoner. I am the eldest daughter of Duke Summers of Stormwind, but I can understand how you can make that mistake since I don't wield my title as a bludgeon. More importantly, I am also a teacher at this academy, and you will show me the respect that position commands from the students here." She pulled a small sheet of paper from her pack and wrote a quick note on it before handing the folded note to Nagisa. "You are to go directly to the Headmistress' office and give her this note. Fighting will not be tolerated here. She will decide your punishment." Nagisa nodded. She turned her attention to the other girl.

"Tread carefully, instructor," Samantha said haughtily. "Your family may be noble, but my father is a member of the Kirin Tor. He'll have your job for punishing me."

Miss Summers was clearly a bit annoyed. "Your father catalogues wands," she said, grabbing the girl by the ear. "You'll come with me. Misuse of your magic is an even more serious offense. I'm taking you before the school's disciplinary committee myself." She began dragging the student from the room. "Oh, and everyone else, gather your things and head to the dining hall. Class is about over and lunch will start in a few moments."

** * **
"It cannot be allowed!" Yadier roared. "I've put up with so much from that girl, but this is where I draw the line."

"Calm down, Yadier," Headmistress Modera, Archmage of the Kirin Tor, said to the Director of Dalaran Security. "We may be misinterpreting what she meant. It would not do for us to get worked up over something innocent."

"Innocent?" Yadier was incredulous. "How could it be innocent? She knows she's forbidden from taking an apprentice, yet she declares to my face that it's her entire reason for being in Dalaran?"

"Come now, I really think you're overreacting."

"Modera, her last apprentice exploded. I hardly think it's overreacting to ask that the Kirin Tor enforce this particular law."

Modera sighed. "Come now, Yadier. Surely you know that there are exceptions that even we can't break. If I'm right and her meaning was different than what you have assumed, we're wasting our time for nothing."

Yadier frowned, still unsure of what she could mean. "Elaborate on some of these possibilities."

"Well, for one, the girl is a highly skilled jewelcrafter. If she decided to take on an apprentice in that field to alleviate boredom, there would be no harm in it and it would not be within the scope of the ban on her taking an apprentice."

He thought about it for a moment. "While true, that doesn't seem likely."

"Another possibility is that she has decided to take on a master level wizard as a student in Necromancy. While that has a separate ban all its own, it hardly fits under the current one. Unless she's training one of the Death Knights of Acherus, which is allowed under current law."

"Perhaps more training for Azmaria, then?"

"The thought had crossed my mind," she said, glad that her angry guest had calmed down. "Then, of course, there's another possibility entirely. The ban does not apply to family. Sindara's in town, so she may have agreed to train her on some aspects of arcane magic, since the girl's studies have entirely involved darker magic, leaving her vulnerable to more conventional spells."

"Perhaps you are correct," Yadier admitted. "I will investigate the matter further. If I find that she is indeed breaking this law, we'll revisit this conversation. I've been a party to too much of her mischief, but I draw the line here."

"That's fine," she said. "Now please let me get back to my work, I still have to get payment to the person I commissioned to decorate the school's grand hall." There was a light knock upon the door to her office. "Come in," she said.

A young woman Yadier thought he recognized entered the room. "I am sorry to bother you, Headmistress, but your secretary wasn't there and I was told to report to you immediately."

"That's fine, Nagisa," Modera said to the girl. "What do you have there?" The young half elf handed the woman a small sheet of paper. "Oh heavens. Fighting?" She read on. "You kicked a girl in the head?!" Yadier let out a low whistle. "Nagisa, I never expected this of you. What do you have to say for yourself?"

The girl could not make eye contact. "I really have nothing to say in my defense. While she started it, I could have left. I still don't understand why she was so angry, as we were only talking about the new Poldaran manga, but it really doesn't matter. I've made my mistake, and I accept whatever punishment is necessary."

"This started over the Poldaran manga? The one that was released today?" The girl nodded. Modera opened her top desk drawer and pulled out a copy of the book in question.

Yadier read the title and realization hit him. "What was the name of the girl you fought?"

"Samantha," Nagisa answered.

"Please tell me that they didn't actually include reference to what I think they did."

Modera was flipping through the book and suddenly stopped. "This?" she asked, holding open the book for Yadier, showing the image of Poldaran and Marcus lying in bed.

Yadier swore. "Of course," he groaned. "I suspected she had, but that it would make it into the story, that's too much."

Nagisa was confused. "Please, I don't understand. What's the problem here? And how do you know so much about Lady Poldaran?"

Yadier laughed at the girl's earnestness. "I'm sorry, where are my manners?" He stood and bowed with a flourish. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Yadier. You may recognize my name."

Nagisa's eyes went wide with the shock of recognition. "Wizard Yadier!" she said with a curtsy. "I am Nagisa. Pleased to meet you."

Modera interrupted them. "As entertaining as it is to watch Nagisa fan girl out at meeting someone who knows Poldaran, you seemed to know the cause of the fight, Yadier?"

"Ah, yes. Well, you see, I've met the young woman you fought, and it is completely in keeping with what I know of her that she would get that upset upon hearing someone suggesting that Poldaran slept with Marcus. You see, Marcus had a younger sister and she blames Poldaran for Marcus' death. For her to learn that the two had... well, it would have been a great shock."

"Oh dear," Nagisa said. "I didn't realize. I have to apologize to her."

"Leave it for today, Nagisa," Modera said. "I don't think you'll accomplish much. As for your punishment, you will have detention for a week. Starting tomorrow after school, report to the groundskeeper. If you have the energy to fight, you have the energy to help pull weeds. Additionally, consider yourself signed up to sing for our next fundraiser."

Nagisa nodded. It was a strict punishment, harsher than normally given under similar circumstances, but it was fair. "As you wish, Headmistress," she said.

"Oh, and before you go, one more thing. Yadier came here originally to tell me that a Dalaran Security agent spotted a young woman with red hair hopping over the wall of the school. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"

"I do not, Headmistress," Nagisa lied. "But I'll let you know if I hear anything."

"Good. I wouldn't want you to have broken two rules in a day. Especially such serious ones. All our rules are in place for a reason."

"Of course, Headmistress. If there will be nothing further, I should go eat lunch."

"That's fine, Nagisa," Modera said with a smile.

Nagisa curtsied again. "Thank you, Headmistress, and it was a pleasure meeting you, Wizard Yadier," she said before departing.

After the girl had left, Yadier addressed Modera. "You know she was lying, right?"

"About jumping the wall? Of course she was. But we really have no proof as to who it was, so it's not like I can punish her for it. Besides, it's a minor infraction and she generally is a good kid, so we can leave it at a veiled threat of punishment."

"Just to be safe, I'll post a few more guards around the school. Never know when it could be someone other than a student."

"That's probably for the best."

** * **
Nagisa managed to get back just after her alchemy class had started. Miss Summers wasn't there, however. An older draenei man was at the front of the class instead. The girl recognized him as a literature teacher at the academy, probably watching the class as Miss Summers attended to the disciplinary committee meeting regarding the fight. She explained to him her reason for tardiness and hurried to her seat.

"Greetings, students," the draenei said. "As you may have noticed, I am not your usual alchemy instructor. In fact, if I must confess, I am no alchemy instructor at all. I am simply the first teacher to have no students this afternoon that your regular instructor was able to contact to fill in for her."

While he talked, Diane handed Nagisa a note under the table where they were seated. Nagisa hid the note until she was sure that the instructor was not looking her way before reading it. You aren't going to believe it! the note said. Some girls I was talking to after your fight told me that they had heard that Lady Poldaran is in Dalaran. One even claimed to have seen a woman that looked like her being carried away from Krasus' Landing by some death knight!

Nagisa scrawled a quick response and handed the note back. She would have to get a full account from Diane after class.

"Now, since I have no alchemical training," the draenei continued, "I cannot in good conscience continue on with your scheduled lesson for today. As such, I think we should find a way to pass the time. Perhaps I could tell you a popular folk story of my people?" Based on the looks of everyone around her, Nagisa realized she was probably the only one interested at all in the story, but the draenei did not seem to notice. "It all begins almost three thousand years ago in the Twisting Nether. Two small clans of demons were at war. It had been millennia since both clans had been absorbed into the Burning Legion, but nonetheless, hold hatreds remained. They usually kept things from erupting into full scale combat out of fear of Sargeras' wrath at infighting within the Legion.

"Now, in tales of this nature regarding non-demonic races, it would happen that one day a young man from one clan would meet a young woman from the other and the two would fall in love and defy their families to be together. But you have to understand that demons far and wide do not fall in love as those of the other races do. There are a few exceptions, such as members of the Sayaad species, but these two were not members of that species, but instead a clan of Nathrezim and a clan of Shivarra. Because of this, it was even more exceptional when events transpired that two young people from the clans met one morning and fell madly in love with one another.

"They kept their union secret from their clans for a time, but eventually their secret was discovered and led to an armed conflict between the clans. During one battle, the young man broke away from his jailors and made all haste to the village of his beloved's people, where he spirited her away. The two fled deep into the Nether, finally stopping to make a home for themselves when they felt that they were beyond the reach of their clans. For a time, they lived in peace. However, around the time she bore him a child, hunters from their clans stumbled upon them. The infant was slain, an abomination in the eyes of both clans. The two once again fled, grieving for the loss of their young one.

"They continued running for over a century, constantly hounded by their pursuers, until one day they managed to stumble upon the world of Draenor. Exhausted, they cautiously approached a settlement, hoping that they would not be turned away.

"They were greeted by none other than the prophet, Velen, leader of my people. He had seen their coming in a vision, and knew of their plight. He offered them shelter for the night, but his vision had also warned that harboring them for longer would doom whatever settlement they resided in. So in the morning, he counseled them to seek out another of our kind, a talented smith that had been banished from our people for dabbling in forbidden demonic magic. The vision had also told him that the smith would have a way to allow the two to remain together forever, safe from their clans.

"Velen knew only what direction into the Nether the smith had traveled, not where he was, but he gave them what information he could, along with supplies and sent them on their way. Filled for the first time in a hundred years with hope, the two continued their journey.

"The details of where the smith had settled are unknown, but when they finally found him, he was living among strange peoples on a verdant world. The people he lived among were wary of the demons, but after he spoke with them, they allowed the two to take residence with the smith. All was not well, however, as not all of the people trusted them. Eventually, they banded together to drive away the demons.

"All but one of them, that is. A young man, son of a local lord, stood between the mob and the demons, his twin blades drawn, protecting the two from those that would harm them. He was a fierce combatant, but he was outnumbered by enough that he had no hope to stand against the mob. Nonetheless, he stood bravely, willing to sacrifice his own life to try to protect those he thought were innocents.

"Thankfully, the fight never happened, as he was also well loved by his people. Upon seeing the earnest determination upon his face, the people agreed to stand down, but asked that the demons leave peacefully before departing to return to their homes.

"This left the young man, the smith and the lovers in a quandary. It was clear that the two could not remain, but forcing them to leave would have forced them to continue being hunted for the rest of their lives. The young man would not hear of it, so they pondered for a while before the smith finally proposed a solution borne out of his twin gifts of smithing and demonic magic. The two demons agreed that it was certainly better than continuing to be hunted, and would allow them to remain together forever. He would need help to realize his plan, so the young man called upon the aid of a group of the world's greatest wizards.

"The smith spent a fortnight lovingly crafting a pair of blades, slender short swords decorated with beautiful engravings and several gems. One of the gems on each was special. It was a soul gem, capable of absorbing a soul and holding it for eternity.

"With the aid of the wizards, the smith channeled the souls of the demons into the swords, imbuing them with the feelings of the two lovers. With the ritual complete, their bodies crumpled to the floor, lifeless. The wizards tried to examine the weapons to ascertain their properties, but the blades would not respond to them, looking like nothing more than simple steel. They were given to the young man for safekeeping.

"Upon touching the hilts of both weapons, the young man was filled with a surge of energy and flames burned upon the steel of the blades. The wizards studied the magic and found it to be incredibly powerful. Rigorous study of the weapons showed that they were bound to the young man and would respond to no other hands. He also described a song of two notes that played in his mind when he wielded the blades.

"It is said also that eventually hunters from the lovers' clans came looking for them, and the young man slew them with the blades and now the two lovers could remain together forever, bound by the gift of the smith and protected by the bravery of the young man and his descendants."

"Interesting story," a voice said from outside the classroom door. The door opened and a raven haired beauty entered the classroom. "That sounded like the story of Disillusion and Aspiration, the Lovers, but the demons tell it differently. They speak of a naive pair of fools tricked by one of the draenei and imprisoned within blades, forced to serve some strange masters."

"An interesting interpretation, Miss..." the draenei said, unsure of the woman's identity.

"Sindara Wintermoon," the woman replied. Nagisa's suspicions were confirmed and the entire class suddenly paid attention to what was happening at the front of the room. Nagisa wondered what the Oathbreaker, one of the strongest warlocks in the world, was doing in her alchemy class. The woman answered her question without her even having to ask it. "My old...colleague...asked me to come teach her class for her this afternoon while she attended to something. She did not wish for the class to miss out on their lecture today, so she contacted me, since we had studied alchemy together."

"Ah, splendid," the draenei responded. "In that case, I will leave them in your capable hands, Miss Wintermoon. Try not to blow up the classroom," he said in jest.

"Do not worry," she replied. "I'm no gnome. There is little worry that I will get overly excited and cause a catastrophe; especially since all we're studying today is healing potions."

The draenei departed and Nagisa was left to wonder. What did that pause Lady Sindara had made when she called Miss Summers her colleague mean? Could her teacher really be Poldaran in disguise? Now that Nagisa thought of it, Miss Summers' appearance was quite similar to the drawings of Poldaran in the manga. Could it really be her?

** * **

Edited, Jul 22nd 2011 12:27am by Poldaran
#2 Feb 15 2011 at 4:18 AM Rating: Good
29,424 posts
After school, Nagisa met up with Diane by the statue of the hooded sorceress near the front of the school's central tower. "Let's go by the bookstore on the way home," she told her friend.

"Sounds good," Diane replied. "So, you want to hear more about what I heard about Poldaran?"

"Of course!" Nagisa said. "Any idea why she was here?"

Diane nodded. "Some other students were saying that the Kirin Tor is hiding evidence of an attack on Dalaran last night by black dragons. A few even claimed to see the smoke rising from the forest below, where they were burning the corpses."

"That's troubling," Nagisa said, furrowing her brow. She considered telling Diane what she suspected about Miss Summers, but decided to wait until she had some evidence. Instead, she decided to ask a question down a different line. "But how would she have been able to stand up to them? She's been weakened, and the Kirin Tor even sentenced her to twenty years of wearing a power limiter."

"This is Lady Poldaran we're talking about, Nagisa. We both know that she'll ignore laws when she feels it's necessary."

"No one can take off a power limiter, not from themselves, anyway."

Diane just shrugged. "She'd find a way around it. You never know what she's capable of."

The two walked on, continuing their conversation for several minutes before reaching Nagisa's favorite bookstore. The owner, an elderly tauren of rather immense height, greeted them jovially as they entered. "I've been expecting you," he told Nagisa, pulling a few books from under the shop's counter. On the top was a copy of Fangs in the Forest. "Then again, you're here three or four times a week, so I guess that would be as inevitable as expecting the sun to rise." He laughed, a rich full sound that roared through the room.

"Thank you," Nagisa said. "But what are these other books?"

"Your mother's special orders. I've already added them to your account."

"Awesome," Nagisa replied. "Thank you."

Diane seemed confused. "Account? Does Nagisa really come here that often?"

The tauren roared with laughter again. "If it wasn't for this girl and her mother, I would likely have to go out of business," he said with a smile.


"I'm amazed that the amount of reading I do is considered to be a lot," Nagisa said. "I often feel like I don't have nearly enough time to read everything I want to. I wish I could read as fast as mom does, then I could really get through my weekly reading."

"I'm kinda afraid to ask, but how many books do you read a week?" Diane asked.

"Maybe fifteen or twenty, about half of those are manga."

"And you don't think that you read enough?!"

Nagisa shrugged. "Let's head over to my place. I've got to start reading this Poldaran story as soon as I can."

They decided to cut through a park to get to Nagisa's home, despite Diana's concerns about rumors that cultists and other deviants using the wooded areas of parks as sites for their nefarious activities. Her fears were allayed quickly by the presence of a number of patrolling Violet Guard, always around since this park was the closest one to the Violet Citadel and was often used by members of Kirin Tor and their families.

As they neared a large building, they began to hear what sounded like singing coming from one of the open windows. Nagisa motioned for Diana to stop. "What's wrong?" her friend asked.

Nagisa didn't respond but instead just frowned slightly as she listened to the sad words of the song being sung. After it finished, she finally spoke. "She's remembering Dad," Nagisa said. "Must be having a bad day. Let's give her a minute before heading up."

"Was that your mom?"

"Yes. She always sings that song when she's feeling a bit down."

"So, if you don't mind me asking, what happened to your father?"

Nagisa had never told anyone about it before, so she was unsure of how to respond. "He died before I was born," was all she said.

"I'm sorry," Diane replied, afraid of having offended her friend.

"Don't be. You didn't say anything wrong. It's just that I have no idea how he died. Mom won't tell me. All I know about him is that he was some kind of great soldier, guard to one of Silvermoon's diplomats in Dalaran. She says it's some kind of prestigious position."

"It is," Diane replied. "Silvermoon's diplomatic guards are considered some of the finest warriors in all of Quel'thalas. The only position a soldier can hope for more prestige is as a personal guard to a member of the royal family."

"You seem to know an awful lot about the High Elves," Nagisa commented.

"My dad was an ambassador back before I was born,” Diane said. "He taught me everything he knew about the other nations."

Nagisa nodded her understanding. "Let's go ahead and head up."

They entered the huge lobby for the building, walking past several armed guards who greeted Nagisa warmly, and took the stairs up several floors until they reached the top, where Nagisa lived. "Hey, I don't see any other doors on this floor," Diane said.

"Oh, there's one on the other end of the hallway for the other apartment," Nagisa replied.

"There are only two residences on this floor?" Diane asked, shocked.

Nagisa nodded. "The whole building's like that," she responded. "You act like that's a strange thing."

"It is," Diane said. "These residences must be huge. And we're so close to the Violet Citadel. I'd bet you could look out your bedroom window and see right into the tower."

Nagisa shook her head. "No, I think you can get a view from mom's studio, but our bedrooms look out over the park." She opened the front door by touching her hand to an enchanted stone. "Mom, I'm home!" she called out as the girls walked into the large sitting room that lay beyond the front door.

"Welcome home, 'isa," a voice called out. A few moments later, Lisa entered the room. She seemed startled by Diane's presence. "Oh dear, what's this? You brought a friend home?"

"This is Diane. I've told you about her," Nagisa replied.

"It's nice to meet you, Diane," the woman said with a smile. "This is the first time Nagisa's brought a friend home since we moved to Dalaran. I think we should celebrate. I insist you stay for dinner."

"I would be delighted, Lady Windbloom," Diane said.

"Excellent!" Lisa exclaimed. "I need to have a few words with my daughter about her school day," she said. "Why don't you go on into the dining room and serve yourself some of the cookies and tea I've set on the table and we’ll be along in a moment. It's through that door, first door on the right."

Nagisa followed her mom to her studio. Inside, the curtains were closed and the room was dark save for a few sconces glowing with the light of a type of magical fungus. A sheet covered a large canvas resting against the far wall, and the door into the closet was closed as always. Nagisa could make out a few shapes in the painting under the sheet. It didn't appear to be something she recognized. "Painting something new? Can I see it?"

"It's not finished yet," Lisa replied. "And we have more serious matters to discuss." She walked over to her daughter and plucked a single hair from the girl's head. "Let's just see how serious this fight of yours was."

The woman poured some water into a basin on her desk and then drew runes around it with a glowing blue ink. As she began chanting the spell, Lisa released the strand of hair into the water, which also began to glow. She then placed a finger from each hand in the bowl, pulled the water out into the air and began shaping it into a sheet floating in the center of the room. As the spell was finished, the water froze solid and began showing the events that had caused Nagisa to get in trouble at school.

After the images faded, Lisa shook her head in disappointment. She snapped her fingers, unfreezing the water and returning it to the basin, before addressing her daughter. "Would you like to explain why you ran back into the room after you had already escaped?"

"She called me a coward," Nagisa said. "And the other thing."

"So you would rather be a fool than a coward, is that it? You could have been seriously hurt, or even killed. I thought you had better judgment than that." The last part stung Nagisa deeply and tears began streaming down her cheeks. "Alright, then. I did not ever want to have to use this punishment, but I need you to understand that there are consequences for your actions." Lisa took one of her unused paintbrushes from her desk and cast a quick spell, enlarging it to the size of a small mop. She then took more of the glowing blue ink and drew a circle on the hardwood floor of the studio. "Hand me your book bag and step into the circle," she told her daughter.

Nagisa did as she was told. Her mother then pulled out the copy of Fangs in the Forest from the bag, as well as several other Poldaran manga Nagisa had tucked away in there. She drew several more circles around the large one Nagisa was in and placed one of the books in each. She then began drawing a complex rune series around each circle. When that was complete, she began chanting the spell, causing the glowing runes to burn more brightly. Nagisa felt her head start swimming and the room became a bit out of focus as the magic worked on her.

After a few moments, the spell was over and the magic ink dissipated. "Go ahead and put away your books," Lisa told her daughter.

Nagisa picked up the first book, but it looked different. "Wait, this is blank." She quickly picked up the next, and then the next. "They're all blank!" she said in horror.

"No, they're not. I've simply cast an adaptive illusion spell on your eyes. It will prevent you from being able to see the contents of any of these books for the next two weeks. Don't try to get around it by purchasing other copies. The spell is on you, so you won't be able to read the other copies either."

"But, Mom..."

"No argument, young lady. As I said, you have to learn that your actions have consequences." Lisa suddenly remembered something. "Speaking of consequences, for jumping over the wall and evading that guard this morning, you won't be going to the Cranius concert next week. The rules are in place for a reason and I will not have you breaking them."

"But I didn't..."

Lisa held up her hand, motioning for Nagisa to stop talking. "I can pluck another hair and verify if you'd like, though if you make me do so and I find that you're lying, I will have to increase your punishment further. Is that something you want?"

Nagisa shook her head, unsure of her ability to speak.

"I thought as much," Lisa said. She hugged her daughter. "I'm sorry for all this, 'isa, but sometimes I have to be strict. Please don't hate me." She wiped a tear from Nagisa's eye. "I'm going to go start dinner. I'll have your friend help me. Take a few moments to regain your composure and then come join us."

After her mother had left, Nagisa thought hard about everything. A part of her really wanted to rage about the punishment, to scream about the unfairness of it all. Ultimately, however, she really wasn't that kind of girl and had to admit that perhaps it had been fair. Not only that, but she wasn't above trying to bargain for the concert and that kind of fit throwing would only cost her later when she tried. She would have to take things in stride for now.

A few deep breaths and she had regained her composure. Indeed, her elegance, if she had anything to say about it. Before she could leave the room, she noticed something on her mother's desk, a sheet of paper bearing her school's crest. Maybe this was how her mother knew of her incidents today? Overcome with curiosity, Nagisa began reading the document.

She was surprised at what she read. It wasn't about her. It was a commission by the Headmistress for a painting by her mother! The letter included a date, place and time of an event that Headmistress Modera wanted painted. With that information, it would be nothing for her mother to scry the event and paint the image.

"Maybe that's what's under the sheet!" Nagisa whispered to herself.

Unable to stop herself, the girl pulled back the sheet. Everything was simply a light penciling in of what would become a full oil painting, but it was clear what it was to be. It was a painting of a young woman playing a violin on Krasus' Landing while lightning struck dragons that surrounded her. Several figures could be seen watching the events from the bushes, but Nagisa was unsure who they were as the penciling was quite rough on that section.

"This couldn't be the event that is rumored to have happened last night, could it?" Nagisa asked herself. She ran back to the desk and double checked the document. Sure enough, it had listed Krasus' Landing as the place, and late last night as the time. "Poldaran was in town last night!" she exclaimed quietly. "I'll have to tell Diane about this later."

Her punishment pushed to the back of her mind by the discovery, Nagisa hurried into the kitchen, only to find the kitchen covered in flour and both her mother and Diane hiding behind a counter. "Quick! Hide!" Lisa said to her daughter.

"What on earth is going on?" Nagisa asked. No sooner had she spoken than a glob of something flew at her from across the kitchen. She dodged quickly and the projectile splattered across the wall behind her. With a quick dive, she was behind the counter with her mother and her friend.

"So, Diane had what seemed like a great idea at the time," Lisa said, beginning the explanation. "She suggested that if we used a water elemental instead of a bowl of water, we'd have to do fewer dishes after dinner."

"As you can see, that hasn't worked out very well," Diane said.

"Yes, as you can see, mixing a water elemental with cake ingredients doesn't yield a floating cake batter and fewer dishes. It apparently instead yields an angry cake elemental!" Lisa pulled a towel around her head to protect her hair from the flying batter. "Cover me, I'm going in!" she ordered. She stood and teleported past the counter to where the elemental was making its stand.

Nagisa threw some nearby kitchen knives to the other side of the elemental, to distract it from her mom's approach. Diane launched a water bolt hoping to dilute the creature. Both attacks served well to distract the creature and Lisa took her opportunity to dive at it. She quickly spoke the words to a spell and the elemental was struck with a powerful fireblast.

Nagisa dove behind the counter again and Diane reacted quickly, creating a shield for herself, blocking the explosion of batter and flour that shot through the room. Lisa, however, was too close. When the flour cleared and the room was once again visible, Nagisa stood to see her mother, covered from head to toe in batter and flour. Lisa licked some of the batter from her finger. "Well, at least it's tasty," she said.

Nagisa laughed in spite of herself. "Mom, a lady should really be more elegant," she said while giggling.
** * **

Yadier was just swamped with paperwork from the investigation into the recent black dragon attack. It had been two days since Poldaran had repelled that attack, but Yadier still had a headache from it. The first cause was the news that she was searching for an apprentice. The second was more subtle.

Poldaran had an annoying habit of hiding information in the most random things she said, which meant that Yadier had spent the last two days losing sleep trying to puzzle out the meaning of what she had said about "season fairies". It could be nothing more than nonsense, but until he had some kind of meaning for it, he could not just ignore it, for fear that it could turn out to be important.

He had read every tome he could find with information about magical creatures. While he did find a few pieces of information about fairies, there was nothing about them controlling the weather. It was maddening.

A sudden urgent knock at his office door pulled Yadier away from his studies. "Come in," he said.

Yadier's assistant, a bookish sort of man of about twenty, entered the room, looking thoroughly disheveled. He rushed across the room and handed Yadier a scroll. "Wizard Yadier, the Arcane Vault has been burglarized."

"What?!" Yadier was completely taken aback. This was unthinkably close to impossible. The Arcane Vault was located within the Violet Tower itself, and protected by the most powerful wards in the world. Entry into it required at least three registered members of the Kirin Tor, two if one was a member of the Six. "Have any investigative teams arrived on the scene yet?"

"Yes, Wizard Yadier. That scroll contains a preliminary report of what was taken, as well as a suggested means of entry."

As Yadier read the list, he began to become irritated. "This is just a list of random curiosities and a few assorted valuable reagents. 'Raptor Fossils, Pyrium-Laced Crystalline Vial, Highborne Soul Mirror', none of these are worth the effort...oh." The last item on the list brought him to a halt. "Spellbook of Necromancer-Sorceress Poldaran the Lichborn." He sat silently for a moment, taking it all in. "Do we have any evidence of how this break in was committed?"

"As the preliminary report suggests, it appears someone used the Curator's Override to bypass all of the wards. They then destroyed the override crystals to remove any record of their entrance. Our investigator suggests that someone bribed one of the current curators. He's already requested that they be brought in for questioning, pending your approval since they're members of the Kirin Tor."

"Do it. Have the investigator come brief me when he's ready to question them so I can sit in on the interrogation."

"At once, Wizard Yadier." The assistant turned to leave, then suddenly stopped. "Oh, and regarding the other matter you've had me looking into. I've been unable to find anything at all regarding any type of weather controlling fairies. I think it might be a wild goose chase."

"I'm not so sure. There has to be a hidden meaning there. Now I'm sure of it. Just what that meaning is, however, is beyond me."

"As you say, Wizard Yadier. I shall go attend to my duties."

** * **

Nagisa awoke to the smell of waffles once again. She did not smell pumpkin, so likely her mother had used the blueberries from the pantry instead. The girl decided not to worry too much about where her mother had gotten more flour after the previous night's mess. Waffles were waffles, and it was better not to worry about the small stuff.

After a quick breakfast with her mother, she got dressed and fixed her hair before heading for the door. As usual, her mother was waiting by the door with a piece of buttered toast, letting Nagisa know that she was running late again.

Considering her recent punishments, the girl decided to just accept being late. She hurried, but did not rush, carefully avoiding getting sweaty. Better to be late and elegant than on time and not, to the girl's mind.

It turned out not to be a concern, as her first teacher for the day was also late, so Nagisa beat her there by several minutes. The instructor looked disheveled and kept muttering something about flying squirrels before leaving the room and declaring a free period. Nagisa took that time to talk to Diane about what she had discovered. The other girl became excited by the news and the two spent the rest of the day discussing Poldaran in every spare minute they had during shared classes.

When school ended, Diane had to stay for her poetry club, so Nagisa headed to the book store alone, since she had to find something else to read after being grounded from the Poldaran stories.

She was surprised to see a familiar face at the store. He looked completely lost in a search. "Wizard Yadier?" she asked.

"Oh, hello. Nagisa Windbloom, isn't it?"

Nagisa nodded. "Looking for anything in particular?"

"Sort of," he said. "You see, I have a friend who likes to hide messages in things she says. I've been searching for the meaning of something she said last time I saw her, but I just can't find any references to what she was talking about."

"Maybe I could help?"

He thought about it for a moment. "I really shouldn't. No, you know what? Forget that. I'll take any help you can give."

"Alright then," Nagisa said. "What did your friend say? And is there any context I can use to help narrow it down?"

"She had just pulled out a violin and said that it was given to her by some kind of, what did she call them? Season fairies, that's it. She said that they control the weather with their music and gave her the violin in exchange for her warm feelings and friendship."

"That sounds really familiar," Nagisa said. "Oh!" she gasped before walking purposefully down one of the aisles towards a familiar section of the store.

"Wait, manga?" Yadier asked. He slapped his head in sudden realization. "Of course it would be! I already knew she reads these things. I should have put the pieces together sooner."

"This is the only one I know of that's about season fairies," Nagisa said, handing Yadier one of the books. "It's one of my favorites, so I should be able to answer any questions about it you have."

He thumbed through it for a moment. "Yeah, this is definitely not my kind of thing. What's the motivation of this main character here?"

"The main character? Not interested in what's motivating the fairies?"

"I think the main character is where we should start. My friend sees herself as the main character in some kind of story, so I think she'd be more likely to have left a message that relates to the story's main character."

"Well, she's a girl, maybe about my age, who is working hard to save up enough money to buy back her dead mother's piano. She eventually becomes befriended by these fairies, since she's one of a very few who can see them and helps them find what it is they're looking for through her friendship and warm feelings."

"So she's trying to get back something that should belong to her?" Nagisa nodded. Yadier swore. "Of course! She was telling me outright that she'd be robbing that vault." He swore again.

"Who robbed what vault?"

"Wait, did I say that out loud? Um, don't worry about it. In fact, I'd like to ask that you keep this a secret. Knowledge of the event hasn't been made public yet and I'd rather keep a lid on it for now."

Nagisa shrugged. "Okay then, since I don't have the faintest clue of what you're talking about."

"I need to get going," he said. "Apparently I have work to do. Thanks for the help." With that, he rushed from the store, book still in hand.

"Go ahead and put his book on our tab," Nagisa told the shopkeeper. "He seems to be having a rough day. You can take it off there when he remembers he has it and comes in to pay for it later."

The shopkeeper nodded. "Any idea what you'll be getting today?"

"There's a series I've been meaning to read. Mind if I sit up on the roof for a bit and read after I find the first couple volumes?"

"Not at all. The chair is there as usual, just be sure to check for spiders before you sit down."

"Believe me, I'll be checking. Don't want a repeat of last time. You think that guy I hit with the book will ever be able to see straight again?"

The tauren shrugged and Nagisa grabbed a few books before heading up to the roof. Once there, she did a thorough check of the chair for more spiders and reminded herself to tell the owner about the squeaky board next to the door. Satisfied, she opened one of the books and began reading.

She had not been there long when she heard a door open up on a nearby roof and two people talking. "Look, it's not that I don't care about you," a woman said. "I just don't think we're right for each other. You come from a prestigious family and have a duty to continue on your line, and I just can't..." The woman trailed off.

"I don't care about that, Az," a man responded. Based on the sound of his voice, Nagisa suspected he was a blood elf. "To **** with my family. I just want to be with you."

"Please don't make this harder than it has to be, Viridiel," the woman responded. "I have to do what is right, and as much as it hurts, what's right is to walk away now, before it becomes even more difficult."

The pain in their voices was too much for Nagisa. Tears began to stream down her cheeks and her body began to shake. She was able to keep from sobbing, but the shaking knocked one of her books from her lap. It landed with a loud thud.

"Who goes there?!" the man called out. Nagisa stilled her shaking and silently stood from the chair, trying to sneak to the door and hurry inside undetected. Unfortunately, the squeaky board had other ideas and let out a loud creak as Nagisa walked over it. "Found you!" the man shouted before leaping from the building he was on to the slightly lower roof where Nagisa was trying to make her escape. "I'll teach you to listen in on private conversations!"

In a flash, a pair of blades was in his hands. Nagisa couldn't believe what was happening. "Wait a minute, I wasn't intentionally..."

"Shut up, you little brat!" he shouted as he swung at her. Nagisa dodged with a roll past him that took her to the edge of the roof, right next to the short wall that prevented anyone from falling off the roof accidentally. Her ears told her that he was quickly approaching from behind, so she prayed that she was at a spot near one of the building's awnings and jumped from the roof of the four story building.

She wasn't in luck. She was going to miss the nearest awning by several feet. Acting quickly, she grabbed for the first window sill she passed and used it to push herself towards the awning.

She hit awkwardly and bounced to the ground below, managing to execute a roll to prevent injury. "You won't get away that easily!" the man called out from above her before leaping over the edge towards another awning.

Nagisa knew that this street, located behind the building she had been in, wasn’t busy enough and her only hope lay in making it to the front. Since the man would be falling nearer to the cross street than her, she had to chance the nearby alley. With a burst of speed, she took off running down the alley.

As she neared the end of the alley, she heard a loud crash behind her. She turned to see an extremely dangerous looking woman in full plate armor standing a few feet behind her. "Wait!" the woman called out, but Nagisa had already continued her dash for safety.

The street was so crowded that she ran into a woman, sending both of them crashing to the ground. "'isa?" the woman asked.

Nagisa was shocked to see her mother was the woman she had just crashed into. "Mom?"

"What's wrong, dear? You're white as a ghost." Nagisa did not have to answer as the terrifying looking woman and the blade wielding man emerged from the alley at a jog, still chasing the girl. "I see." Lisa's face became serious and her brow furled in anger. "I'll handle this, 'isa. Go home, I'll be there shortly."

"But I didn't even tell you..."

"It doesn't matter, 'isa. Just do as I say and go home. We'll talk later and you can tell me all about it."

** * **

Yadier could not believe he had rushed from the store with that book still in hand. Sure, it had been a revelation, but it wasn't like he hadn't expected it. And more than that, it seemed too simple. Poldaran might have hidden that meaning, but he suspected it was more likely there was something deeper hidden there, something the girl had skimmed over in her summary.

There was no helping it. He was going to have to actually read the story. This meant that rather than returning the book, he was going to have to purchase it, and probably every book in the series. "Dammit, Poldaran," he muttered under his breath.

About a block away from his destination, he saw that girl he had spoken to earlier dash out of an alleyway and barrel into some blond woman. They seemed to know each other and after a brief exchange the girl ran off.

The appearance of Azmaria and Viridiel Suntreader from the alleyway took him by surprise. Viridiel's face was contorted with rage and Azmaria was in full armor. What was scarier was that Viridiel had his blades in hand. Something was afoot. Had the girl done something to antagonize them?

A crowd was beginning to form as the blond woman placed herself between the two and the fleeing girl. Yadier could not quite make out what she said to them, but it was clear that whatever it was had stopped them cold. He had to know what was going on, especially when it was something that looked so prone to inciting violence. If it came to that, he would have to act quickly. He tapped a gem on his belt, signaling for all members of the city's security forces within a three block radius to converge on his location.

He followed that up by activating another spell within a gem, allowing him to focus his hearing upon any targets within his line of sight. Viridiel was speaking. "...eavesdropping? You would do well to teach some manners to that ill-bred daughter of yours."

The woman responded with a laugh. "Ill-bred? You amuse me." She walked around Azmaria, sizing up the armored woman. "So this is what a hero looks like? And these are the actions of a hero? Terrorizing some poor girl because she accidentally hears? I would have expected better."

Azmaria's head drooped in shame. The woman's words had clearly struck true. Yadier found himself impressed. The woman regarded Viridiel for a moment.

"And you. Well, I can't say I'm surprised. One does not tend to expect rationality and civility from a man who had a hand in his own brother's murder."

Yadier choked on his own saliva from the shock of hearing that. He could not believe she would have suggested that. Everyone knew that Viridiel's younger brother, along with the man's betrothed and several of their friends, had been the victim of bandits that had stolen into Dalaran. That event, nearly sixteen years prior, had been the catalyst of a serious increase in Dalaran's security, including the creation of the office Yadier now held, funded in part by a large grant from the betrothed's grieving father.

Through a fit of coughing, he could see rage contorting the face of the elf. "You go too far," Viridiel said, his knuckles turning white as he gripped his swords with rage.

"Do I?" the woman said, egging the man on. She leaned in close and whispered to him. Yadier was certain only he and Viridiel heard what she said. "Yes, strike at me," she said. "Show them your temper, the temper that would lead a man to kill his own brother. The best part is that your blow will never land. We're surrounded by a dozen members of the city's guard. More than that, it would be folly to strike at a Knight of Dalaran in such a fashion. You would only invoke the wrath of she who watches over us."

Viridiel's face betrayed surprise at that statement. Yadier was unsure of what she meant by that. Apparently there was more going on than he knew. This would bear further investigation, as he needed to know as much about the goings on of the city as he could in order to protect the citizens.

Viridiel seemed unable to reply. The woman calmly turned and began to walk away, but suddenly stopped and looked back over her shoulder. "It seems you only have one option remaining. I'll await the arrival of your second."

** * **

Edited, Jul 22nd 2011 12:34am by Poldaran
#3 Mar 29 2011 at 2:40 AM Rating: Good
29,424 posts
Lisa was pretty proud of herself. Sure that was not quite how she had intended to approach him, but she had managed to set up a meeting with Viridiel Suntreader with his family none the wiser to her intentions.

Her patron would be proud of her, and she would be proud of her too. Lisa would do well by her. Aside from taking care of Nagisa, that was Lisa's top priority right now.

Lisa's thoughts turned to her daughter. The poor girl would likely be feeling a bit shaken. Perhaps a treat was in order to take the girl's mind off her encounter with the blade wielding demon hunter. She was just down the street from her favorite fish monger, so perhaps some tasty fresh fish would be the best choice, especially since most of Nagisa's favorite meals included fish.

"Ooh! And ice cream!" Lisa said to no one. She was even closer to the ice cream parlor than the fish market, so she decided to stop there first. A little magic would keep the treat frozen until she got home.

Upon entering the shop, she saw a familiar face. Nagisa's young friend, Diane, was sitting in a corner with a large sundae in front of her and only a single bite taken from it. "Can I help you?" the shopkeeper asked as Lisa entered the store.

"Oh, I'll have a small tub of strawberry and another of snow plum." That covered her and Nagisa's favorites.

"I'll have that out in a few moments."

"Take your time." Lisa approached the girl in the corner. "That's an awful lot of ice cream for one girl. And only a single bite from it?" Diane looked up at her. Her eyes were red, as if she had been crying. "Oh dear," Lisa said. "What's wrong?"

"It's my parents," Diane said.

"Had a fight with them?" The girl nodded. "May I sit down?" The girl nodded again. Lisa took a seat. "Now please, tell me what happened."

"They heard that my older brother had joined up to fight against the forces of Deathwing in Mount Hyjal, so they decided to go join him. I wanted to go with them, but they said that I was too young."

"I can't say I disagree with them. You are a bit young for fighting out on the front lines. So are you going to be staying with family?"

The girl shook her head. "No, they left me by myself."

"Well, I can't say I approve of that. A young woman like yourself should definitely not be left to stay alone. This world isn't particularly safe right now." Lisa thought for a moment. "Well, that settles it. You'll come to stay with Nagisa and me until they get back."

Diane's eyes brightened. "Really?"

"Of course. These types of battles only seem to last a few weeks anyway, so they'll be home before you know it. Come now, let's have the owner flash freeze and box up your ice cream and get out of here. You can finish it off after dinner."

** * **
Nagisa found herself pacing around her living room, still shaking from when the adrenaline had worn off and she had been forced to deal with the fear that she had experienced during her escape. "Why isn't mom home yet?" she asked herself. "I knew I shouldn't have left her. She probably got attacked by that crazy man with the swords. What the **** was his problem, anyway? Sure, I accidentally overheard something private, but it wasn't like I was spying intentionally."

That look on her mother's face had shocked the girl. She had never seen such a grim look of determination from the woman who had always been all smiles. It was almost as if she had been expecting that meeting, or one very similar. Nagisa could not help but wonder if there was more than she realized going on.

With the chime of a bell, the front door opened and there stood her mother, carrying several paper sacks. "Hi there, 'isa!" the woman said, her smile returned. "I brought ice cream!"

Nagisa was unsure how to respond to that statement. The sudden change of mood made her feel like someone had turned a page in a book before she was quite finished with the last one. "Welcome home, mom," she said softly. "Did everything turn out all right?"

"Well of course! I got the best deal on some fresh fish. I did run across a stray and she followed me home. Can we keep her?"

Now Nagisa was really confused. "A stray?"

Diane walked in the door. "Good evening, Nagisa,"


Lisa smiled at her daughter. "Your friend here is going to be staying with us for a few weeks while her parents are out of town. We didn't stop by her place to get any clothes, so you two will have to do that after school. You can wear some of my house clothes for the evening, Diane. I don't think Nagisa's will fit you, since you're a fair bit taller than she is."

"Thank you, Lady Windbloom," Diane said.

Lisa shook her head. "No, that just won't do. You're going to be staying with us for a while and that's just too formal. And don't think about trying to call me Miss Windbloom either. I'm not some kind of school teacher."

"Well, I cannot call you solely by your first name. Perhaps I could call you Aunt Lisa?"

The woman made a disgusted face. "No, that's even worse. Makes me feel old, somehow." She thought about it for a moment. "I know! Call me Big Sis."

For some reason the girl blushed. "Big Sis? I- I guess I can call you that."

"Well, that's settled. Why don't you girls take these bags to the kitchen while I go change, then I'll whip up some dinner."

Just as the girls reached the kitchen, there was a knock at the door. Nagisa hurried and opened it. A young elven man, not much older than Nagisa, stood before her, garbed in the livery of a page and carrying a highly ornamented scroll case. "Greetings, Miss Nagisa Windbloom. Is your mother home?"

"She's changing and should be here in a moment."

"Thank you," he said.

"How did you know my name?"

He smiled, a disarming sight. "It is the duty of all members of the page staff employed by the Suntreader household to know the names of all persons of noble birth our patrons have dealings with, so we may fittingly greet them.'

"I see," Nagisa said. She really didn't, but it would be impolite to inquire further. The part about 'noble birth' piqued her curiosity.

"My, my!" her mother's voice said behind her. "Viridiel must have sent you."

The page nodded. "Yes, Lady Windbloom. Lord Viridiel Suntreader did indeed send me to deliver these documents." He opened the scroll case and unfurled the scroll. "The formal duel challenge has been filled out by Lord Suntreader and signed in approval by an executive member of Dalaran Security, who will appoint a battle mage to oversee the affair. If the time and place are agreeable to you, then I just need your signature so I can go finish filing the final registration with Wizard Yadier's office. Afterward, I will deliver to you the final approved certificate."

Lisa read it over. "This all seems to be in order and I'm fine with the chosen time and place." With a flick of her wrist, an inked quill appeared in her hand. She signed the document. "Please tell your master that I'm looking forward to the fight."

"I shall, Lady Windbloom," he said with a bow. "I thank you for your cooperation and shall leave the final document with your building's office so as not to bother you further tonight."

After the door had shut, Nagisa just stared at her mother, dumbfounded. "A duel? That's how you settled things with that madman?"

"Come now, 'isa. It's no big deal."

"Of course it is, mom! People die in duels!"

Lisa pulled her daughter into an embrace. "Don't worry about it. These things have become highly formalized. It's considered extremely bad form to kill your opponent in a duel, and we'll have a member of the Dalaran Security present to make sure things get out of hand."

"But he's insane. He tried to kill me over nothing! And here you are, putting yourself in harm's way, when we should just be filing a complaint with Dalaran Security!"

"'isa, it's not as bad as you're thinking. Your mother can cast an offensive spell or two. Not only that, but I really have no intention of actually fighting him. Our two families have a history, and after I talk to him, he'll be reluctant to fight at all. But I couldn't say anything out in public like that."

Nagisa whispered, to prevent Diane from hearing in the next room. "So this is more of that business with why you can't tell me more about my father, why I don't even know his name?"

"I'm sorry for that, 'isa. I promise you, soon this will all be over and the dangers our pasts pose to you will be gone. On the day that happens, I swear I'll tell you everything. But for now, please just accept it and live your life as a normal young woman. There'll be time enough for family politics when you're older."

"Okay, mom. I will. Just promise you'll tell me soon."

"I promise, dear. Now let's go help Diane get dinner ready. This time I think we'll skip any unorthodox uses of water elementals."

** * **

Nagisa was unable to sleep much that night, and it took its toll on her the next day. She felt exhausted and more than a bit listless in all of her classes. More than that, she was irritable and had to control herself to prevent unladylike outbursts several times during the day.

At no time was this harder than her swordsmanship class. The new teacher was late arriving, so for the first ten minutes they were unsupervised. Of course, this meant that Nagisa once again played the role of favorite target to some of the upperclassmen.

"So, Nagisa No-Spells," one of the girls, a friend of the girl Nagisa had fought with the other day, said. "I hear that you had an interesting day yesterday. Tell me, which was more exciting, showing your lack of class by spying on your betters or finding out that your mother is cleaning up your mess for you?"

"Drop it, Alanna. I'm not in the mood," Nagisa responded.

"That's upperclassman Alanna to you. Know your place."

"I'll call you that when you demonstrate some class, Alanna."

The entire class gasped at Nagisa's statement. Even the girl she had been arguing with seemed taken aback. "You'll regret saying that to me."

"My, my! It seems my class has a lot of energy today," came a voice from the now open door. "This is good news. I was afraid you all might be too tired to begin my training regimen." The speaker stepped through the door and Nagisa was shocked to recognize the face. It was the woman from yesterday! "Now, let me first introduce myself. My name is Azmaria. As you might be able to tell from the lovely shade of pallor I'm sporting, I'm a death knight."

"They've hired a necromancer to teach us? What is the administration thinking?" Alanna complained.

"Come now," one of the boys in the class responded. "This is one of the heroes of the battle of the Argent Tournament, and she's been hired to teach us swordplay. We can learn a lot here." Several of the others agreed.

"Now, now," Azmaria said. "There's no need for argument. We have no choice but to work together, so it's best we all get along." She suddenly noticed Nagisa. "You look familiar," the death knight said.

Nagisa looked away. "We, um, met yesterday."

Realization dawned upon Azmaria. "Ah, I remember now! The girl who jumped off the roof!" Nagisa nodded, still not meeting the death knight's gaze. "Sorry about Viridiel. He's a bit excitable. However, with what I saw yesterday, I expect great things from you in this class."

Alanna snorted derisively. "Expected to be disappointed. Nagisa is easily the worst in this class at swordplay. It's a wonder she manages to even grab the right end of her sword."

"That's okay," Azmaria said. "We'll just tie some colored string to the handle. Now everyone, to be a good swordsman you must be in shape. So twenty laps around the training room. Last one to finish has to do additional laps."

The entire class groaned, but the running began.

** * **
After school, Nagisa found herself waiting at school for Diane to get out of poetry club. She had been invited to wait inside the classroom where the club was being held, but she had done that before and did not think that she could sit through another ten minute poem discussing the "transcendence of rainbows" or whatever it was this week's topic was to be, so she instead found herself waiting out by the statue of the hooded mage in the main courtyard.

Having finished the book she had brought to read during lunch, Nagisa decided instead to inspect the statue. It was clearly a statue of a woman, though the face was obscured. She considered that it might be Poldaran, but it lacked any of the emblems Poldaran usually wore on her robes. More than that, there were several emblems she did not recognize on what appeared to have been pins on the woman's hood, as well as on the staff she wielded.

In fact, the staff had three symbols etched upon it. The first was the same as the one on the pins on the girl's hood, but she could not quite place the other two, though she was certain she had seen them before. "Why is there not a plaque to describe all of this?" she lamented.

"The statue tells you much already," a voice behind her spoke. Nagisa jumped in surprise. When she turned, she recognized the speaker as Archmage Galford, the academy's librarian. "Sorry to startle you," he said to the girl.

"It's fine, Archmage. But what did you mean when you said it tells us much already?"

"The upper symbol on the staff, the one that's also on the base of the girl's hood tells us that this is a member of the Dawnweaver family, one of the most prominent families here in Dalaran, or at least they were until Dalar's death during the siege of Dalaran."

Nagisa knew about Dalar Dawnweaver. He was one of the Archmages who died supporting the spell that had been cast to protect the city during the Scourge invasion. He had later risen to become one of the Forsaken. "But who is the girl, exactly?"

"I can't say for certain, since her face is obscured by the hood, but I suspect that this is a statue of Dalar's daughter, who was killed when a group of bandits snuck into Dalaran fifteen or so years ago. It was incredibly tragic, as her mother died of grief shortly afterward, leaving Dalar all alone. More than that, she wasn't the only one to die that night. Five others were killed as well, in most horrific ways. It seems that they were on a night out, three couples. All young people, not much older than you are now."

"That's awful!" Nagisa said. "Were the bandits ever caught?"

"They were. The father of one of the other girls acted the next morning, as soon as the town watch alerted him to his daughter's death, and formed a mob that hunted down and killed the bandits that were responsible, though it has been suggested by some that they might have killed the wrong men."

This intrigued the girl. "What do you mean by that? Were there other bandits that it could have been?"

"If only that were the case. No, it might have been something worse than bandits. Bandits at least have understandable motivations. Greed, hunger and the like. I hesitate to tell you more."

"Why is that? Because I'm too young to hear of it?"

"No, that might be the case as well, but I hesitate to elaborate for other reasons. Specifically, I'm afraid that it might hit a little too close to home for you." Nagisa's expression must have conveyed her confusion because Galford continued. "Let me start from the beginning. I've already told you that it was three couples, out on a group date. A picnic of some kind, as I recall. The three girls, all daughters of members of the Kirin Tor, were journeymen level mages, friends since their early days as apprentices. Quite a fearsome bunch, those girls, as I understand it, suspected of a number of pranks by elder mages.

"The men were a bit more diverse. One was a master rank mage and another was a member of the Violet Guard. The third was special." He pointed at the statue. "He was this girl's betrothed. He was also an elf. That's where some believe the trouble originates."

"So she was a human and he was elven? Why would that cause problems?" Nagisa was genuinely confused.

The older man seemed surprised by her question. "You've never faced ostracism for your lineage? Have attitudes really changed so much in the years?" He shook his head. "It is of no matter, but let me explain more about why this was significant, then. You see, before you were born, many people of both races saw children of human and elf pairings as abominations, perversions of the natural order, or by the elves as proof of the weakening of elven blood."

"That's awful!" Nagisa said. "But I've never had anyone say anything about it to me."

Librarian Galford considered it for a moment. "I would bet that Dalaran is likely one of the few places in this world where those views would fade quickly. It has always been a city of both elves and humans. Perhaps here, we've thrown aside such views more quickly than I had expected, especially in light of Rhonin's own marriage to a prominent elven woman. But it seems I have strayed from our topic. You see, he was a member of a powerful elven family, Sunwhisper, Sunlooker, I forget the actual name."

A thought occurred to Nagisa. "Suntreader?"

"That's the one! Anyway, he was in Dalaran as a member of Silvermoon's Diplomatic Guard when he met and fell for the daughter of the Dawnweaver family."

"The Diplomatic Guard?!" Nagisa asked, her mind racing.

"Exactly. Now tell me, just how likely is it that a group of bandits could kill a master wizard, an officer in the Violet Guard and one of Silvermoon's most elite soldiers? That was what made many question the official story."

"Are there any other suspects?"

"Several, young Miss Windbloom. Several noted mages were against any human and elven pairings, though some suspect the answer lies closer to home."

"Closer to home?"

"Yes, some suggest that one of the families may have been involved in the murders. Now, I knew Dalar back then. He doted on his daughter and would have done anything for her, so I do not believe he would have stood in her way if being with that young man was what she wanted. I do not, however, know the family of the young man, so I cannot vouch for them. Do not make judgments too quickly as there is sadly little evidence to go on and this may be nothing more than a red herring."

The story filled Nagisa's mind with questions, ones she dared not ask this man before her. The fact that her mother was planning to duel a member of this very same elven family was at the top of that list. She did not want to end the conversation on that note, nor let on too much with her stunned silence, so she thought of another subject. "What about those other two symbols?" she asked, bringing the conversation back to the statue.

"I'm not certain," he replied. "However, those two symbols show up on the weapons depicted on every one of the statues here at the academy, if you look."

"Other statues?" Nagisa asked.

"Yes, much smaller ones. Only about regular size for a person. There are twelve in all. Well, at least that I've seen. They're scattered all over the academy."

"I see," Nagisa said. She would have to look for these other statues some time. She spotted Diane walking out of the nearby building. "Thank you for telling me the story, but my friend's poetry club appears to be over."

"Anytime," he replied. "It's always nice to have someone who actually listens to my stories." As Nagisa began to walk away, he made a contemplative sound. Nagisa stopped and turned back to him. "Funny, I've never noticed it before, but doesn't that second symbol kind of look like one of the symbols you always see on the forces of the Naaru wearing?"

Nagisa looked closer. He was right. There were differences, but the resemblance was there.

It was yet another mystery, but one that would have to wait for another day.

** * **
The birds were chirping, but the sun had not yet risen when Nagisa awoke the next morning. She had tossed and turned through much of the night, unable to quite process the thought that whatever her mother was involved in had something to do with the story she had heard the previous evening. If her mother was involved in something that dangerous, then she had to find a way to assist.

As much as she might want to, she knew that she could not do so on her own. She would have to request aid from someone in a position to do something, but she only knew one person who she might speak to on the matter and she wasn't sure she should speak to him about it.

In the end, she decided that she had no choice. "Well, I guess that settles it, I have to visit him today. Hopefully he'll listen to me." She hopped out of bed and dressed herself before going to the kitchen to grab a small bit of breakfast out of the pantry.

As luck would have it, her mother was already awake, squashing any hope that she would be able to sneak out undetected. "You're up early," Lisa said to her daughter.

Nagisa quickly came up with a lie. "I wanted to research something, so I'm going to go in early and spend some time in the academy's library."

"Ooh! A project! You haven't focused on anything like this in a while. Not since the time you read my entire shelf of medical texts. Something interesting?"

Nagisa fumbled for a response. She hadn't thought that far. "Something to do with what you were talking to the librarian about?" Diane said behind her. Nagisa turned to see the other girl still in her bedclothes, woken by the sound of others walking around the home.

"Ah, yes, exactly," Nagisa said. That would work. Interesting enough to be plausible, but not so interesting as to draw more attention. "I'm just trying to find out more about those statues that Archmage Galford was telling me about. He said that there were twelve of them, but I've only seen the one. I hoped that there might be a text in the library that has a list of where they are so I can go look at them."

"I see," her mother said. Nagisa thought she sensed nervousness in her mother's tone, but it was veiled enough that the girl was not able to be absolutely sure if she had heard it. "Oh dear! I had to go in to the clinic early today. I've prepared breakfast for you girls already. It's on the counter. I'll see you this afternoon." With that, the woman rushed out.

"So, what was it that you were really planning to go do?" Diane asked as the girls sat down to eat a breakfast of ham and toast. Her tone was teasing, as if she suspected Nagisa of rushing to meet a boy.

"Actually, it really does have something to do with what I was talking to the librarian about yesterday, but not the part about the statues."

"You discussed something else?"

"It was related to the statues, but not about them, exactly. I need to follow up on it to see what I can find out," Nagisa said.

"You seem worried," Diane said, reading Nagisa's mood.

"I am, but I really can't talk about it. Will you forgive me for keeping this secret?"

"Of course, though it will cost you," Diane said, a sly grin creeping across her face. "We can discuss payment later."

Diane's tone worried Nagisa, but she did not have time to discuss it. "Thank you. Now I really must hurry as well. If I don't get where I need to be early enough, I'm going to be late for class." She finished off her last bite of ham and grabbed her bag before hurrying out the door.

Nagisa had never been to the Violet Citadel before, even though she had lived near it since her arrival to Dalaran. The tower was imposing and made Nagisa feel small and insignificant. She asked one of the members of the Violet Guard for directions to the office of the Dalaran Security and then hurried there, up several flights of stairs and past the section of the tower that housed the headquarters of the Guard itself. She tarried a few moments to get a look at the statue of Marcus Kirin, which reminded her that she still had to apologize to Samantha, before continuing on.

The office complex was only the central administration facility for the city's watch. The guards themselves reported to the commanders at the larger branch offices throughout the city. The staff here only managed a few specific duties as well as setting policy for the branch offices. As such, there were only a few offices here, along with a central desk manned by a receptionist at all hours. The young man at the desk greeted Nagisa.

"Excuse me for bothering you, but I was wondering if it would be possible to set up an appointment with Wizard Yadier for this afternoon?"

"Of course," the young man said. "Though I do not believe he left his office last night, so he may still be here. I can ask if he has time now."

"That would be amazing," Nagisa replied.

"I will go check with him. If he asks, who should I say is calling?"

"Nagisa Windbloom."

The young man disappeared through the largest door and returned shortly. "He says to send you in, Miss Windbloom." Nagisa thanked the young man and headed through the doors. This was working out better than she had hoped.

Yadier's office was massive, and he sat behind a giant desk made from the wood of one of the trees from the Crystalsong Forest below Dalaran, which gave off a light violet glow. "Well, good morning, Miss Windbloom," he said. "What brings you to my office this morning?"

"Your office is in charge of duels, right?"

"Yes," he replied. "Planning on challenging someone to a duel? I should warn you that at your age you'd need parental consent."

"No, it's not that at all. Actually, I was hoping there might be a way to put a stop to a duel."

"Not without the consent of both participants. Once the paperwork is signed, it's official. Agreeing to a duel and then backing out carries a fairly hefty fine, unless one can prove that they were drunk when they agreed."

"Then it's hopeless," Nagisa said.

"It's admirable that you're concerned about someone, but it's bad form to interfere in duels. Besides, we do our best to ensure that these things never end with death or permanent dismemberment."

"I'm afraid that it's more than just a standard duel that my mom has gotten involved in, though. I suspect that there's a whole lot more to it."

"Wait, your mom?" He rooted through his files. "Oh, Lisa Windbloom. I remember that incident. She pretty well left Viridiel Suntreader no options other than a duel. It was a huge incident."

"And it's entirely my fault," Nagisa said. "She did it to protect me after he tried to attack me. There has to be something I can do to help her."

"Parents do that all the time. I really would not worry about that. However, what did you mean when you said that you thought it was more than just a standard duel?"

"Will you promise me that what I say will go no further? That you will never repeat this to anyone?"

"Of course."

"Okay. Even since I was young, my mother has never told me much about who my father was. I'm not even sure that Windbloom is our real family name. I have a few clues, but nothing concrete. When I ask her why she won't tell me more, she claims that our family has a number of enemies in Dalaran and revealing who we are would cause us danger. Further, after I found out about this duel, she told me that it would not actually happen, as our family had a friendly history with the Suntreader family and Lord Viridiel would call off the duel when he found out who she was."

"Well, that sounds like a good thing."

"I thought so as well. However, yesterday, I was told about the incident that ended with the deaths of Viridiel Suntreader's brother and the daughter of Dalar Dawnweaver. I suspect that this may be related, somehow."

Yadier let out a low whistle. "That is serious, if true. That incident was rather huge." He thought about it for a moment. "I cannot revoke the approval for the duel. However, I will post someone out of sight at the scene of the duel to make sure things don't get out of hand."

"Thank you," Nagisa said. "At least that should offer some greater degree of safety." She noticed the notes on his desk and recognized some of the symbols drawn on them. "Researching the statues at the academy?" she asked.

"Actually, I am. Ansirem Runeweaver barged into my office yesterday demanding that I have my guards tear down those statues, as they contained subversive elements."

"Subversive elements?"

"That's what I said. When he wouldn't elaborate, I said that I'd look into it, but have yet to find anything substantial. About the only thing I know for sure is that they each bear a family crest. The meaning of the other two recurring symbols eludes me. Since you recognized them, any insight into what they are?"

"Not really, I was just talking to Archmage Galford about them yesterday after school. However, he did mention that one of them looked kinda like a Naaru symbol."

"Huh, I hadn't noticed that. I'll contact some people I know over in Shattrath and see if I can get some insight into it. Now, I really need to ask you to leave, as my first appointment of the day should be arriving momentarily."

Nagisa nodded. "Thank you, again."

"Any time. You probably saved me hours of research, so consider us even. You know, you have the most useful random knowledge. Perhaps I should put you on the payroll."

The girl laughed. "I'm not sure my mother would approve of me going into law enforcement." With that, she headed out the door, not paying attention to where she was going and crashing into the receptionist, who was about to inform Yadier about the arrival of his appointment, sending the two tumbling to the floor. "I am so sorry!" Nagisa said, jumping to her feet and attempting to help up the young man.

"Don't worry about it," the man said. "It happens a lot. Last time, crashing into Lady Azmaria sent me flying across the room."

A guttural chuckling came from across the room. Nagisa looked over to see one of the Forsaken, a walking corpse frozen in a state of perpetual half decay, standing at the desk. The Forsaken was wearing tattered purple robes and a pointed hat. At seeing Nagisa's confused expression, he laughed again and approached the girl.

"You must be Nagisa," he said. "I trust that you aren't here because you've gotten into trouble."

"No," Nagisa replied, unsure of herself. "I'm in no trouble. But how do you know who I am?"

The man laughed again. "My dear, you simply look too much like your mother did at your age to be anyone else." He smiled, an almost horrifying sight with the state of the flesh of his face. "Please, give your mother my regards, and tell her to feed you more. You should be taller by now."

"I- I will," Nagisa said, still unsure. She stepped aside and allowed him to pass into the office.

"Good morning, Dalar," Nagisa heard Yadier said to the man as the door was shutting. "Thank you for coming all this way. I trust that the trip wasn't-" Nagisa could no longer hear what was being said when the door finally closed. She thanked the receptionist and hurried off.

When she arrived at school, quite early, her day got weirder. Samantha was waiting for her by the statue of the Dawnweaver girl. Nagisa could feel the hair on the back of her neck stand up at the sight of the blond girl with the green striped socks. No one was around to break up a fight if it happened. All of Nagisa's muscles began to tense up.

"Relax," Samantha said calmly. "While I did hope to find you alone, I did not wake up so early today to fight you. After a long discussion with Miss Summers, my father has insisted that I apologize to you, so that is what I have come to do." The girl paused, obviously struggling. "More than that, after much thought on the matter, I think you deserve an explanation for my behavior."

Nagisa shook her head. "It's not necessary. I understand now that I was talking about your older brother. I'm certainly not without fault in this and am willing to forget the whole thing if you are."

Samantha laughed. "Spoken like a true daughter of a noble house." Nagisa must have had a perplexed look on her face, because Samantha laughed again. "I've heard about your mother's upcoming duel. Were you not aware that only nobles can be approved for a duel? The fees alone would prohibit any but the richest of commoners from even seeking approval, but even those that pay cannot get authorization if they don't have at least a bit of noble blood in their lineage."

"I didn't know that," Nagisa replied.

"It's a strange custom, but it originated because it's preferable to the old way of doing things. You see, when a commoner has a disagreement with another commoner, they tend to brawl and be done with it. Worst case scenario, one kills the other and is jailed. They do not tend to have the resources to take it farther."

"And what about merchants with the resources to do so?"

"Their own guilds prevent it from going that far. Nobles, however, have the means to turn a simple disagreement or insult into open war in the streets of a city. Between the money to hire mercenaries to the various family ties between certain noble families, a mere insult between nobles has the potential to lead to a high level bloodshed, possibly spilling into the lives of many uninvolved. This is even more true here in Dalaran, where our noble families all have powerful wizardry within their bloodlines. As such, the custom of formal regulated duels came into practice to prevent this open violence by giving a safe outlet for our more powerful families to deal with our disagreements. What's more is that families rarely duel outside their own level of station. For the head of Silvermoon's Suntreader family to approve his son's request to duel your mother tells me that your family is indeed a very noble one, though I admit that I've never heard of the Windbloom family."

"So are you just apologizing because you found out I'm from a noble family?"

Samantha did not seem to understand the question. "It would do no good for there to be bad blood between noble families. My anger at Poldaran for causing my brother's death should not mar relations between our two houses simply because I lashed out at you in a silly outburst. Truth be told, I thought I had forgiven her for it years ago, but it all came welling back up when I heard you talking about them being intimate."

"I don't think you understand what I meant," Nagisa began to say, but was cut off as Samantha continued.

"I wish to give you a peace offering. I was going to speak with you yesterday, but you were talking to Librarian Galford, so I did not get my chance. I did, however, overhear what you were talking about, and thought perhaps if I shed a bit of light on the subject you would accept my apology." She pointed to the statue behind her. "The third symbol there, the one that does not look Naaru in origin nor denotes the family, that is the symbol of the Knights of Dalaran."

Nagisa found her curiosity overwhelming her suspicion. "Knights of Dalaran? Who are they?"

"What do you know about the Council of Tirisfal?"

"My mom's told me stories about the Guardian of Tirisfal, but I don't know much about the Council."

"That's more than most, then. The Council was founded over three thousand years ago with the express purpose of preventing the return of the Legion to Azeroth. To that end, they created the Guardian. This much you likely know. What you don't know is that they have maintained a number of additional projects in order to further fight the Legion's advances. One of these projects was the founding of the Knights of Dalaran, wizard families entrusted with the sacred charge to defend against the Legion wherever the Guardian could not. In order to aid them in their mission, each family, save the first, was gifted with a weapon forged from the soul of a demon by a smith of amazing skill. These are the weapons you see represented in each statue." She indicated the statue of the Dawnweaver girl. "For instance, that staff there is called Rapture, though it is far from the most famous of the weapons."

"Which is the most famous?"

"I mentioned that the first Knight did not receive a weapon. That is, in truth, because he held two. Disillusion and Aspiration are the names of those two blades, and I think that there may be no more famous weapons in the folk lore of the demon races."

Nagisa knew those names! Could it be that the smith that was mentioned was the draenei outcast from the story? "Who wields those?"

"No one at present. Their last wielder died recently. Since he had no children and his sister has no children, the blades have not bonded with a new wielder yet." Samantha's smile became a sly grin. "I think that since you're a fan of Poldaran's that you might recognize the name of their former wielder. He was called the Black Swordsman, Nihlus."

Nagisa suppressed her surprise at this and decided to focus on the biggest new question this revealed. "Bonded? Can not anyone take up the mantle of the Knights?"

The other girl shook her head. "No. The weapons choose their own masters from the offspring of their current wielders or their siblings and each new wielder is identified at birth by the weapon, which allows the current Knight to train his or her successor. You could no more wield the power of a Knight's weapon than you could pluck the moon from the sky unless you were its chosen."

"Who oversees the Knights? Do they have a leader?"

"Not as such. A member of the Council has always been appointed to watch over them, but since the last Guardian slew most of the members, no one has been placed in formal command. The Wisdom, Lady Poldaran, has taken it upon herself to watch over the training of the new generation since most of the previous generation of Knights died during the Third War and those who survived have mostly died since then. She makes sure that each member of the new generation is taken care of and given the training they will need. I suspect that this is half the reason this academy exists, to ensure that those who will most need the varied training receive it. Why else would there be statues of every member of the last generation across the campus?"

"Why, indeed?" Nagisa responded. "How do you know all of this?"

"That, unfortunately, will have to remain my secret, and I hope that this conversation will remain our little secret as well. Will you accept my offering of peace?"

Nagisa nodded. "I will, and thank you for the story. I have a lot to think about."

After Nagisa left to prepare for class, Samantha turned to the invisible person who had been observing the entire conversation. "So, was that more or less what you wanted?"

The air shimmered as the invisibility spell ended, revealing the figure hidden within. "You played your part perfectly," Poldaran said. "Especially considering you had less than fifteen minutes to prepare for it."

"So, tell me, just why did she need to be told all that? And why could you not do it yourself?"

"She needed to hear it because Yadier needed to hear it. He's getting awfully close to figuring out what I'm doing and he needs to be distracted for a bit. I was listening in on his office this morning and overheard him talking with that girl about the statues. I figured that researching the Knights will eat up enough of his attention span for me to slip what I'm doing past him."

"That doesn't explain why you would have me feed her that information."

"It's all about being subtle. If Yadier suspects that I'm behind the information he's received, then he'll wonder why I'm giving it to him. Can't risk it. You had enough of a motive for making peace with the girl that it gave you a reason for sharing that information. When he follows up on it and finds that your family's crest is on one of these statues, he'll know that you also had a reasonable opportunity to have learned that knowledge without me."

Samantha contemplated it. "I guess that makes sense."

"Besides, helping me with my new distraction is the least that girl can do after she spoiled my last one by figuring out and telling him what I had been referencing with my carefully crafted throwaway line. From what the shopkeeper was telling me, Yadier would still be in that bookstore right now if it hadn't been for her. But now that this is settled, I will speak to your father about your current punishment for that fight of yours. Perhaps he will be persuaded to opt for a more training heavy punishment than what he has currently decreed. I'm going to need you and the others in top shape when Malyse strikes again."

"Thank you."

"About that fight, I hear that it was because you found out about what happened between your brother and I during that last mission. Are you alright?"

"It's nothing. It just came as a shock and some old emotions came welling back. I realized long ago that his death was not your fault. You were little more than a journeyman at the time. There was nothing you could have done. I will not let me anger get the better of me again."

"Good to hear," Poldaran said as she drew up her hood. "I have one more task for you. Contact the other journeyman level Knights. Let them know that when Malyse attacks next, I don't want any of you trying to fight on your own unless it becomes a life or death situation. Flee first, group up if possible and make protecting the apprentice level Knights your first priority after surviving. If it comes to it, two of you working as a team may be able to take on one of the lesser drakes, but do not engage Malyse. Survive and wait 'til I come for you."

"Understood, I will pass along the word to the other three. Shall I also relay appropriately adjusted but similar instructions to the apprentices?"

"Yes, that will be fine. Thank you for your assistance."

** * **

Edited, Jul 22nd 2011 12:45am by Poldaran

Edited, Jul 22nd 2011 1:17am by Poldaran

Edited, Jul 22nd 2011 1:19am by Poldaran
#4 May 07 2011 at 2:42 AM Rating: Good
29,424 posts
Nagisa and Diane returned home to find a letter from Lisa for them, explaining that she was unlikely to return until late that evening due to the duel preparations. "Well, that's no good," Nagisa said to Diane after reading the note. "I was hoping to have her look at my shoulder."

"Any idea what made Lady Azmaria attack you like that?" Diane asked.

"I suspect that she thinks that I'm hiding some kind of talent with swords and that if she can just catch me off guard, I'll reveal my true talent or something."

"Well, are you?"

"Don't be silly. Why would you think that?"

"It's just that you're so incredibly agile and graceful. You seem like the kind of person who would have incredible skill with a blade,” Diane replied. "Not to mention how you fearlessly charged at Samantha."

"Oh, that. When we were living in the woods, we would go to a nearby elven village a few times a week to check on the arrival of our new books. I was the only child my age in the area, so I would play with some of the adults and older children. Tumbling and tree climbing were some of the favorite games of the elven children, and I had to learn fast to keep up, so I did. And of course, being children, there were always fights, so I learned a little of that too."

"I guess that makes sense," Diane said, satisfied at the explanation. "So, since your mom isn't home, should I make you a cold compress for your shoulder?"

'That should at least help with the pain a bit," Nagisa responded.

"Okay then. I'll go get a towel and conjure up a bit of ice while you take off your shirt."

"Take off my shirt?!" Nagisa said, her eyes going wide.

"Wouldn't want to get your shirt wet, would we? Besides, we should at least see if you're going to bruise."

"Oh, okay," Nagisa said as Diane headed into the kitchen. Nagisa began unbuttoning her shirt, feeling a bit self-conscious. After removing it, she had a seat on the ottoman in front of her mother's favorite chair, since it would be the best place for Diane to sit while applying the compress.

She didn't notice Diane enter the room. "Well, well," Diane said admiringly. "Your half elven lineage may have slowed the growth of your magic, but it seems like other things are developing quite nicely."

"DIANE?!" Nagisa said, mortified, while covering her chest with her arms.

"I'm just teasing," her friend replied as she sat down behind Nagisa. "This is going to be a bit cold," she said as she placed the towel on Nagisa's left shoulder. Nagisa shivered at the touch. "Also, it looks like you're going to have a rather large bruise. May want to skip next week's swimming lessons if it isn't healed by then. I'm sure all the boys in our class will be heartbroken if you do, though."

"Well, they'll just have to be heartbroken," Nagisa said. "I'm not sure I wanted to prance around in swim clothes in front of them anyway."

"You know, I don't think I've ever seen that bracelet before," Diane said, thankfully changing the subject.

"I tend to hide it by covering it with long sleeves," Nagisa said. "It's a reminder of things I don't like to think about."

"Then why wear it?"

"I have to," Nagisa said. She sighed, realizing she would have to share the story. "I got really sick when the Sunwell was defiled. Mom says that I almost died."

"So what does the bracelet have to do with that?"

"It's a medical device,” Nagisa said. "That red gem takes in the magic around me and feeds it into my body in a low but steady dose, supplying my body with the magic it desperately craves and preventing me from becoming Wretched."

"But the Sunwell has been rekindled. Shouldn't the bracelet be unnecessary now?"

"You would think so, but it turns out I've become addicted to the particular form of magic this thing produces. Removing it would make me sick as well. Mom's had several other gems added to it to help wean me off the magic, but I still have years of wearing it ahead of me."

"There are over a dozen gems on that thing. You don't think it has other abilities, do you?"

"I think my mom would have told me if it did," Nagisa said abruptly. "Anyway, my shoulder's pain has stopped, so I'm going to put my shirt back on."

"Aww," Diane said. "But here I was thinking it would be more fun if I just took mine off as well."

Nagisa was relieved to change the subject. "Well you'll just have to deal with it. Now let's go see what mom left us for dinner."

** * **
If anyone had told Yadier this morning that his evening would be spent hiding in a bush, covered in cold mud and twigs and leaves, he would have called them crazy. Nevertheless, that is precisely where he found himself.

After the note had arrived from the Windbloom girl with that information about the statues she had managed to dig up for him, he felt that he had no choice but to watch this duel himself, rather than send someone else to do so for him.

It all kept coming back to these so called Knights of Dalaran. The statues, Poldaran's return to Dalaran, even this duel had links to these Knights, somehow. Lisa Windbloom had called herself a Knight, which meant that she and Samantha Kirin were his best leads for more information about this organization. Poldaran was also a potential lead, but he knew he would not get much information from her.

Especially after his discussion with Dalar Dawnweaver that morning. He had originally called in Dalar to discuss just how Poldaran had gotten ahold of his Curator Override sequence for the Arcane Vault. He had been shocked, to say the least, when the man flat out admitted he had given it to her because she had asked. He then went on to explain that he'd felt there was no danger in her having it since he had retired as curator over fifteen years ago and his sequence had been deactivated, meaning there was no way that she could have used it to get into the Vault.

Yadier suspected that she had perhaps used another means of entry and had somehow used the override from inside the Vault to escape. He had his assistant looking into that possibility.

That had not been the only reason he had called in Dalar that morning. Dalar was also the man who had developed the power limiter spell and gems that were used to seal Poldaran's magic. If anyone would know how she could break out of them, he would. Yadier wanted to know what she would attempt.

The man had assured him that there was little chance of breaking free from the limiter. From the outside, only one of those who had sealed her powers could remove the lock. And while the design could be overwhelmed by the one who had been bound, it would take far more magical power than any one human mage could muster.

When Yadier asked if the use of any artifacts would allow for the needed burst, Dalar had said pretty emphatically that it would require something that would be able to resonate in sync with the flow of a person's natural magic and he had only known of one type of artifact that could do that.

The weapons of the Knights of Dalaran might be capable of doing so, but it would take one that had bonded to her. Not only that, but it could not be done by forging a similar weapon, like had been done for Azmaria. The weapon had to be bonded to her family for generations before it would reach the required levels of synchronization required to be viable in helping to break the chains of the power limiter.

This meant that Yadier needed more information, both on these Knights of Dalaran and on Poldaran’s role with them. If she had ties to them beyond her role as their protector, he needed to find out what it was.

And thus, he found himself cold and covered in mud, hiding in a bush about forty yards away from the site of the duel between a self proclaimed Knight and a member of one of Silvermoon's noble houses.

The choice of mud over illusion magic was not a choice he would have liked to have made, but he really didn't feel he had any options. With Azmaria listed as the second for one of the duelists, he could not risk that she would be able to see the magic of his illusion and blow his cover. The idea was to avoid detection completely, so he arrived more than an hour early, levitated into position to avoid leaving any tracks and suffered through the cold.

His early arrival paid off. One of the duelists, Lady Windbloom, arrived about ten minutes after he did. She went around and wrote in a number of spellforms in a perimeter around the duel site, bolstering them with incantations. Yadier could only catch part of the incantation when she was closest to him, roughly fifteen yards away, but he thought it sounded like some sort of illusion spell.

She finished and left around fifteen minutes before the duel, all trace of her work hidden from view. Yadier did not dare leave his hiding place to go inspect the spellforms, as the Dalaran Security officer he'd designated to officiate the duel would be arriving any moment.

The official arrived first, followed shortly by Viridiel Suntreader and Azmaria. After the time of the duel passed, Lady Windbloom was nowhere in sight. "Just as I thought. She chickened out. This was a waste of time."

Yadier noticed the glyph nearest to him flare to life briefly and the air near it shimmered for a moment before the effect faded. No one else seemed to notice it. He picked up a pebble and, with as little motion as possible, threw it over the glyph. The pebble disappeared, suggesting to him that the glyphs had covered the entire area with a giant illusion. Those within could not see past it, and no one outside would be able to see them.

So, despite the fact that they were less than a mile from Dalaran near the Crystalsong Forest, no one from the city would be able to see them. To Yadier's mind, this did not bode well. What was even worse was that Azmaria did not seem to notice the effect, which meant she could not see the magic. This suggested that the spell was of the adaptive illusion variety, a type of spell suggested capable of fooling even those who could see magic. As far as Yadier knew, however, no one had been successful in actually casting one, though there were rumors that one apprentice had been close fifteen years ago. To see one on this scale was impressive.

With a flash, the two figures appeared in the field. "I apologize for my tardiness," Lady Windbloom said. "But my second decided that he had better things to do, so I had to arrange for another." She indicated the nearly eight foot tall figure beside her. His entire form was obscured by a black hooded cloak. "His Highness has agreed to stand beside me for this."

His highness? Yadier could not think of a single prince one might be able to convince to come to something as simple as a duel, especially not one like this. "Let's get this over with," Viridiel said with a sneer.

"Come now," Lady Windbloom replied. "Surely we can be civilized about this. I will gladly apologize for what I've said if you would only agree to talk with me."

"The time for talking is over!" Viridiel snapped.

"That's where you're wrong," Lady Windbloom said with a sigh. "However, it appears that you're too blind to see that the time for talking has just begun." She turned to her second. "Your highness, if you'd be so kind as to facilitate discussion?"

"Of course, my dear." He reached his bandage covered arm out and snapped his fingers. Yadier immediately recognized both the look and the voice. Lady Windbloom's second was Nexus-Prince Haramad!

Reaction was instantaneous. Seemingly from nowhere, dozens of ethereals began appearing around the clearing. They struck quickly, and even Azmaria had no time to react before one struck her with some kind of rod, sending lightning coursing through her body and knocking her unconscious. The Dalaran Security officer officiating the event was knocked out in a similar fashion.

Viridiel was hit with a lesser blast before several of the ethereals restrained and disarmed him. "Make the restraints as uncomfortable as you can. This man will suffer a bit for the scare he gave my daughter."

"So this is the honor of a Knight of Dalaran," Viridiel said. He spat in anger. "Was this trap your plan from the beginning?"

"Oh hush," Lisa replied. "I'm only restraining you because you made it necessary. I taunted you into a duel to get you somewhere more or less private so someone could have a talk with you. If you had behaved yourself and let me talk to you for a moment, this unpleasantness could have been avoided."

"It seems I have no choice. So talk."

Lisa shook her head. "I am only here to arrange the meeting. The one who wishes to speak with you will be here momentarily."

A portal opened and a figure stepped through it. Yadier gasped when he recognized the man's face. "So you do mean to kill me!" Viridiel said. "I know well your hatred for my family, how you blame us for your daughter's death!"

Dalar Dawnweaver turned to Lisa. "You did not explain to him what was going on?"

"He irritated me."

Dalar laughed. "Release him from the chains. I wish only to talk and the distrust they foster is counterproductive." The ethereals unbound Viridiel. He leapt to his feet. "Calm yourself, young master Suntreader. I wish only to show you the truth of what happened the night your brother and my daughter died. Will you agree to watch?"

"How is it that you came upon your supposed truth?"

"All will be made clear after you watch."

An image appeared before them, created with illusion magic. It appeared to be from the perspective of a young woman out with an elven man and four of their friends. Yadier watched as a dozen men surrounded the six young people. Most of the men appeared to be human bandits, though three of them had a more refined look to them. They were elven, and dressed as was customary of nobility. There was no sound to accompany the illusion, so Yadier could not tell what they had said, but it was clear by the brutal events that transpired that none had been meant to survive the encounter.

Two of the young men died in the initial assault, and one of the girls was severely wounded. The remaining man, an elf that looked a lot like Viridiel, though his hair was red, unlike Viridiel's blond stood in opposition to the attackers, trying to protect the women. Suddenly sound erupted from the illusion. "I do not care what Father says. You will not harm my betrothed!" The elven man attacked, striking at his foes with his short sword. He managed to slay four of the bandits before one of the other elves stabbed him from behind with his spear. He crumpled to the ground and a woman wailed in anguish.

"A pity," the elven murderer said. "Lord Suntreader said we might have to kill him if he resisted. But such is the price we have to pay to preserve the honor of House Suntreader. We will not allow this mongrel to be born." He turned to the bandits. "You may take the other girl and do with her as you please. We will deal with the young harlot that seeks to bring shame upon our lord's house."

The other woman screamed in terror as the bandits dragged her off. Yadier did not wish to think about what they would do to her. The elves surrounded the woman whose perspective told the tale. Within a moment, several blades were thrust forth and she collapsed to the ground.

"She will not last. Let us leave here before someone sees us," the leading elf said. In a flash, they teleported away.

The woman lay upon the ground, life draining away from her. She noticed that the other woman who had been stabbed was also still alive and seemed to make the choice to act. Weakly she drew runes upon the ground and spoke the words to a communication spell. "Alison," she said. "Help..."

The image faded. "I do not understand," Viridiel said. "Those men used to serve my father. How did you come upon this information?"

"These images were shown by my daughter to someone close to her. The girl, Alison, that she called for, managed to arrive in time to hold my daughter in her arms before she died. It was Alison who showed them to me."

"Can she be trusted?"

Dalar nodded. "More than perhaps anyone else in this world. And the story was corroborated by the girl who survived."

"Someone survived?"

"Yes. She was placed in hiding for fear that your father's men would return. I asked her to testify against the men who attacked them, but her parents would not allow it. As such, when I brought my case before the Kirin Tor, it was dismissed without a full hearing."

Viridiel's head seemed to be spinning. "I don't understand. Why show this to me?"

"I have decided to finally make my move against those who slew my daughter and your brother, but it seems that those three men have gone into hiding. I was hoping that if you knew the truth that you would consent to aid me in finding them."

"I do not know the extent of my father's involvement, but their role is pretty clear. They slew my brother. You will have my aid."

"Excellent. As soon as I have the location of all three men, we will strike. Will your men be ready, your highness?" The last was addressed to Nexus-Prince Haramad.

"You have certainly paid us enough to be ready. Will you contact us through the usual channels?"

"Lisa or Poldaran will bring you my letters as usual."

"Poldaran is involved as well?" Viridiel said, sounding as shocked as Yadier felt.

"Yes. Her involvement is the only reason I feel confident that we can find justice for my daughter. On that note, when you come across more information, do not attempt to contact me directly. Pass the information through Poldaran. We do not want anyone to know that we've been speaking. Further, avoid contacting Lisa. After your duel, too much contact may be noticed. Contacting Poldaran, however, would not be unusual, since you are courting her sister."

"I understand."

"Good, now I will take my leave. Lisa will attend to the matter of those who are currently unconscious and answer any further questions you might have." With that, Dalar teleported away.

"How did you become involved in this?" Viridiel asked Lisa.

She shrugged. "I have my reasons, and I am sorry that I cannot share them with you at this time."

"I can respect that. How do you plan to deal with those two over there?" He indicated the unconscious Dalaran Security officer and death knight.

"I am going to change the officer’s memories. He will recall that we dueled and I had a spell go wide, knocking him unconscious. At that point, I conceded the duel and sent my second for aid while we discussed our differences and came to an amicable resolution. For the record, you were winning the duel but I was holding my own, in case he asks."

"That's fine. What about Azmaria?"

"I'll leave dealing with her up to you. When we wake her, I will need you to convince her to play along for the officer. I will be altering her memory slightly, though. A part of his Highness' agreement to aid us comes with the stipulation that we hide the involvement of the Consortium in this affair, so she'll recall only my second being late, nothing more than that."

"What about me? Do I need to swear to keep his involvement a secret?"

"No, unfortunately I need to change your memory as well. Your recollection will only be changed to remove memory of him and his men. You will know that I've changed it, and that I'm hiding the identity of people who aided me, but you will not recall who they are." She placed her hand on his shoulder, a gesture of reassurance.

"I understand. When will you knock me out?"

Lisa smiled. "I already have." Viridiel collapsed and was caught by one of the ethereals. "Prepare the spellforms for the memory charms. I have another matter to attend to."

"What is this?" Nexus-Prince Haramad asked. She whispered something to him that Yadier could not make out. "That is impossible. My men have done a thorough sweep of the area. If someone is there, we would know it."

"Yet I still sense a presence." Lisa replied. Yadier's mind raced. Had he been discovered? He braced himself and prepared to teleport away, but decided that it could be nothing more than a hunch. He decided to stay still until he was certain he had been found.

Lisa pulled out a small dagger and ran it across the palm of her left hand. She then began drawing the bloodied dagger across the dirt, inscribing runes upon the ground. Yadier could not believe it. Use of one's own blood as a spell reagent was extremely dangerous. Even warlocks used it only in well documented and practiced spells because of the dangers involved. Yet the girl seemed to be using it in a freeform spell, some magic of her own concoction that Yadier did not recognize. Even Poldaran was not so reckless.

She began to chant a spell. The runes began to glow softly and more of her blood began to float through the air in tiny streams. Her voice was soft, so Yadier struggled to hear it. He had to know what she was chanting in order to know whether it was time to escape.

While her words weren't discernible, the rhythm was. It seemed so familiar to Yadier, yet he could not quite place where he had heard that rhythm before. He struggled to listen harder, knowing he was only a single syllable away from recognizing the spell.

Too late did he realize the danger. Only as his body began to stand on its own did he recognize the effects of the hypnosis spell. The blood was only meant to alarm, not an actual component in the spell. By struggling to listen in, believing he could counter it if only he knew what it was, he had given it power over him. This form of strange near-mind control preyed most powerfully on the experienced, those who preferred to understand before acting, and it had ensnared another victim. He stood fully and took a step closer to the glowing light.

Lisa was upon him in an instant. "Found you!" she said, striking him with a powerful stun spell. He collapsed to the floor. She drew back the leaves obscuring his face and suddenly began laughing.

"What is it?" Nexus-Prince Haramad asked.

"So this is the aid my daughter has enlisted because she was worried about my duel." As Yadier began to lose consciousness, he heard her continue. "Prepare another spellform. Since he has decided to meddle, he will aid in reassuring Nagisa that everything is fine."

And then everything went black.

** * **

Nagisa hurried out the door, early once again. Since the duel had been last night, she wanted to find out from Wizard Yadier what had happened, since the story her mother told seemed too convenient.

When she arrived at his office, the receptionist greeted her with a smile. "Go on in. He suspected that you might stop by this morning."

Nagisa entered the office and greeted the wizard. "So, I take it that you're curious about the outcome of the duel?" he said.

"Mom told me that she lost due to an accident, but it just seems too convenient to me."

"Truly. Here, read this." He handed her a stack of papers. "This is the official report by my officer."

"This matches pretty well with what she told me. That they fought and she was holding her own, but then one of her stun spells went wide and hit the officer officiating the duel, at which point she forfeited and sent her second for aid. I take it that this isn't the whole truth?"

"The only part in this that is true is that my officer was knocked out. Everything else is a lie."

"That's disappointing. I was hoping that mom truly was a good fighter and had been holding her own in a duel with an experienced demon hunter."

"The truth may be more impressive than fiction." She gave him a curious look. "After reading your note on the Knights yesterday, I became even more curious about the matter. As your mother had mentioned to Lord Suntreader that she was a Knight when she was baiting him for a duel, I decided that I would watch the match personally, rather than sending another officer as I had promised. As such, I was hidden nearby when they met."

"So, what happened?"

"When she and her second arrived, your mother asked Viridiel to talk with her before the match, but he was still too angry to hear it. So she and her second struck. In the blink of an eye, she had knocked out Azmaria and bound Viridiel with chains of ice while her second had knocked out my officer."

"She knocked out Lady Azmaria?!" Nagisa was definitely startled by that news. That woman had devilishly fast reflexes, and was incredibly strong. If Nagisa's mom had been able to bring her down, it was more than simply amazing to the girl.

Yadier nodded. "Azmaria didn't have any time to react. It was all done in a single motion. Most amazing thing I've seen in a while. Then they went and shocked me even further. Turns out her second was Dalar Dawnweaver." Nagisa was visibly startled by this. "Exactly. I got the feeling that this entire thing was his idea in the first place, and that your mother was only helping set up the meeting."

Realization dawned on Nagisa. "But if that's true, then this may have something to do with Dalar's daughter."

"I suspected as much, as well. The continuation of the meeting seemed to confirm it. He showed Viridiel images recorded on a crystal. Claimed they were his daughter's last memories. He displayed them large enough that I could see them. They were suitably horrible."

"Did they confirm the rumors? Did Lord Suntreader's family murder his brother and Archwizard Dawnweaver's daughter?"

"Viridiel's reaction seemed to indicate that they had. I was unable to hear further conversation once they began to whisper. After speaking, your mother and Dalar implanted false memories in my officer, thus creating the official story, then woke Azmaria and then the officer. I got the sense that your mother's part in this was done, so I don't think you have to worry further."

"That's good, but it only leaves me with further questions. Most pressingly, how did my mother get involved with helping Archwizard Dawnweaver?"

Yadier seemed to be considering something. "I suspect that there is a connection there. You remember everything we've been researching about the Knights of Dalaran?" Nagisa nodded. "I've managed to confirm that Dalar is, or perhaps was, a Knight of Dalaran. If your mother is indeed a Knight as well, then perhaps he turned to her because he felt he could trust a fellow Knight."

"I guess that makes sense."

"Of course it does. A little too likely, in my opinion. I do have other suspicions, but I don't want to bring them up until I have had more time to look into and confirm them."

"Then I shall ask you about them another time. Thank you for your help, Wizard Yadier."

"No problem," he replied. "It's the least I can do as repayment for all your help." Nagisa curtsied and began to leave. "Wait. I have one more question. The name Alison doesn't mean anything to you, does it?"

"I can't say that it does. Why do you ask?"

"It's nothing, don't worry about it."

** * **

The following week had been trying for Nagisa. Lady Azmaria had been relentless. Her surprise attacks were fierce as always, but now she was even trying them outside of class. Most of the other students viewed the attacks with mirth, but it seemed that Samantha was more intrigued than amused.

And that worried Nagisa more than anything. Samantha still seemed aloof, but Nagisa was certain that the girl's eyes were on her whenever she was not looking. Something, or perhaps someone, had inspired her to share all of that information. Whatever it was also seemed to leave the girl intrigued further.

Diane became withdrawn, almost melancholy, as the week went on. It was clear that she missed her family, and Nagisa's mother had tried to cheer her up, but the effort brought only marginal success. Nagisa had tried to brighten Diane's mood but it did not budge, even for talk of the upcoming school festival in a few weeks. Mention of the several date requests for the festival they had each gotten only seemed to upset Diane further.

And then there was the visit she had with Wizard Yadier. On Friday, she received a note asking her to stop by his office. She found time after school and stopped by, unsure of the reason for the summons. He seemed stressed out to a level she was not expecting. Apparently a prominent elven businessman in Dalaran had disappeared in the night, taken from his bed without even waking his wife, who had been sleeping beside him.

While troubling, Nagisa could not see the reason this had anything to do with her. Yadier had explained that the missing man had been in the employ of the Suntreader family during the Dawnweaver incident, hinting at a possible connection to the conspiracy Lisa Windbloom was involved in. Further supporting that connection was the fact that several other former retainers for the family had been murdered that same night, despite being spread out across the world, in several different cities. Each corpse was found with a message written in blood. "A time comes for each man when he must pay his evil's price."

Yadier had asked Nagisa to keep an eye on her mother, to prevent her from further involving herself in this vendetta. If evidence was found linking Lisa Windbloom to the crimes, he would not be able to help her, though he did promise to keep what he had seen to himself as a favor to Nagisa, since she had helped him on other investigations.

So it was that on that Sunday evening, Nagisa was quite glad for the impending end to the week. Only a few hours before bedtime, she found herself playing some card games with her mother and Diane.

"You've activated my trap card!" Lisa shouted in an overly melodramatic voice. "Commence the popcorn rain!" Suddenly, she began flinging popcorn at both the girls.

"Mom!" Nagisa said, trying not to laugh. "A lady should be more elegant!"

"Oh, in that case..." Lisa snapped her fingers and was now in an elaborate lavender colored ball gown. "Better?" She then continued flinging popcorn around the room.

Nagisa could not contain her laughter any longer. "Mom!" Even Diane had begun to laugh.

"What? You would have preferred that I turn the popcorn to diamonds?" Another snap of her fingers and she was once again in her more comfortable clothing. "So, Diane, have I ever told you the story of how Nagisa got her name?"

"OH heavens, no!" Nagisa protested. "Anything but that."

"I could pull out the portraits of you from when you were a baby."

"On second thought, go with the story."

Lisa smiled beatifically. "I knew you'd see it my way, 'isa. So, Diane, interested in hearing that story?"

"Sure," Diane said, her mood visibly brightened.

"Alright, well you have to first understand that 'isa's father died when I was pregnant. So I was forced to hire someone to take care of me during the later stages. This became especially important as I was bedridden for almost six weeks before she was born."

"Wow, that must have been really boring," Diane said.

"You have no idea," Lisa replied. "As I understand it, I became a bit insufferable after a week or two. So the woman I hired decided that I needed something to relieve my boredom. She contacted a bookstore in Dalaran and had them deliver a number of books to me. I'm told it took six deliverymen two trips to carry the boxes over."

"That's a lot of books," Diane commented.

"I know, right? Well, anyway, since my nurse did not know what kind of books I would enjoy, she had them send a varied assortment. There were all kinds of books, from histories to fables, biographies to trashy romance novels. I read through most of those fairly quickly, but the last box contained a surprise, something I had never seen before."

She snapped her fingers again and a book appeared in her hand. Diane recognized what it was immediately. "A manga?"

"Yes, precisely. In those days, they were nearly impossible to reproduce without manual magical duplication. As such, they were very rare and quite expensive. For what this volume cost back then, I could have purchased four novels. But I started reading it, and immediately I was hooked. I had my nurse order several complete series from the bookstore and they sent them right away."

"That must have cost a fortune."

"It probably did," Lisa said with a laugh. "I wasn't too worried about the cost back then, however. Anyway, I was reading this particular series when 'isa was born," she said, handing the book to Diane. "As you can see, the main character is a red haired girl named Nagisa, so when 'isa was born and seemed to be a redhead, I named her after the character." She mused for a moment. "Probably for the best. If she had been born blond, there's a good chance I would have named her Buttercup."

Nagisa had never heard that part before. She was mortified. "Mom!"

"Oh come now, 'isa. It wouldn't have been that bad. After all, I could have named you after your great great grandmother Lilywillow."

"Mom, you have to be making that up."

"Hand to the Light," Lisa said. She seemed about to say something more, but stopped and stared at Diane. Nagisa turned to look and saw Diane with the book held open, her face burning bright red. "Oh dear," Lisa said, suddenly realizing.

"Are those two girls...?" Diane said, trailing off.

Lisa walked over and peered over Diane's shoulder. "Why yes, it seems they are. Sorry about that. I completely forgot that this happened in this volume."

"I'll take the whole set!" Diane said, still blushing profusely.

"I'm not so sure I should -," Lisa said, a sudden knock at the door interrupting her. "I wonder who it could be at this hour." She walked over to the door and opened it. A beautiful night elven woman stood before them. "Can I help you?"

"Doctor Windbloom?" the woman asked. She seemed upset. Lisa nodded. "Good. My name is Xelsia. I've come here on behalf of the Cenarion Circle. We're in desperate need of some surgeons to tend to an emergency on Mount Hyjal."

"Surgeons?" Lisa asked. "The Cenarion Circle is the largest organization of healers in all of Azeroth. What need could you have for surgeons? Unless...please tell me that you don't mean what I think you do."

Xelsia nodded. "It seems that the Twilight Cult has secured a supply of saronite grenades. The saronite shrapnel has made it impossible for us to use healing magic to deal with the wounds. We need surgeons to remove the shrapnel without killing our comrades so we can heal them properly."

"Why recruit private surgeons? Would not the Alliance and the Horde be able to supply what you need?"

"Our emissaries have already received tentative pledges of aid from the Silvermoon and Stormwind, but our need is more urgent than what they can provide. We only learned that the Twilight Cult had these weapons when a group of them managed to infiltrate our base and lob a few into groups of our people. Those who did not die immediately have been put into a state of deep hibernation to prolong their chances until surgeons can arrive, but we suspect that they will die before the Alliance and Horde aid arrives."

"So what you need is immediate, but temporary assistance? A type of stopgap measure until your permanent solution arrives?"

"Yes. A few surgeons could save the lives of those already wounded and prevent as many deaths as possible until our pledged aid arrives. It would only be for a few days. A week at most."

Lisa walked over to a nearby table and touched a small red gem. The image of a draenei appeared before her. "Onnis, are you still at the clinic?"

"I am, Lisa. What's wrong?"

"It seems I'm going to be going on a little trip. I need you to pack two bags of surgical supplies for me. Bandages will likely be less necessary than other supplies, so don't waste too much room in the bags on those. I will explain further when I get there."

"It shall be prepared for you," the draenei responded. The image disappeared.

"Nagisa, Diane, you two are going to be here by yourselves for a few days. While I'm gone, I want you two to come home before dark. There are enough groceries to last four more days. If it looks like I will be gone longer, I will contact the local market and have them deliver more to you. Do not go out alone if you can help it. Walk to and from school together. If you have any problems, you can contact me using the red gem here on the table. I'll ask Tiffany Cartier, the woman who lives down the hall, to check in on you two from time to time. Any questions?"

Nagisa only had one. "Is it going to be safe where you're going?"

"Well, I assume that they've stepped up patrols to ensure that there is not a repeat of the recent incident," Lisa said, looking at the druid. Xelsia nodded. "Then, while there will be some danger, it will be minimal. I won't be going anywhere near the front lines, so exhaustion will likely be my only real worry." She disappeared down the hallway and returned a moment later in traveling clothes. "So, does that satisfy you?"

Nagisa nodded. "I think so. Please be careful."

Lisa hugged her daughter, then hugged Diane as well. "You girls be safe and I'll see you in a few days." Then she and the druid disappeared down the hall.

Nagisa and Diane sat in silence for a bit before Diane finally broke the silence. "Hey, Nagisa, what did that druid say her name was again?"

"I think she said it was Xelsia..." Nagisa trailed off as realization hit. "You don't think that was THE Xelsia, do you?"

"It might have been. One of Lady Poldaran's companions may have just been in your home and neither of us realized it until she was gone."

"Do you think mom would be too upset if I contacted her just to ask her to get an autograph for me?"

"I'd bet she's already thought of that and will want to surprise you."

"You're probably right," Nagisa said. "We wouldn't want to spoil that surprise, I suppose."

"Indeed," Diane agreed. She then held up the book that was still in her hand from earlier. "You wouldn't happen to know where your mom keeps the rest of the volumes of this series, would you?" she asked, blushing again.

Nagisa laughed in spite of herself. "Sure. Let's go get them for you."

** * **

Edited, Jul 22nd 2011 12:53am by Poldaran
#5 Jun 10 2011 at 2:11 AM Rating: Good
29,424 posts
Yadier knocked lightly upon the door to the rather large house. He had been dreading this visit ever since he had decided to make the trip yesterday. Not a wink of sleep was had that night as he tossed and turned, unsure of how this day would turn out, but fearing it would get ugly before things were over.

After they had found that body, there was no doubt that Poldaran was involved in the recent murders and kidnapping. The wounds were certainly caused by those worms she used when she wanted someone to die painfully. More than that, there was evidence that the head had been reanimated, possibly in order to obtain information from it that could not be pried out of the living man. Since that was an option, it was apparent that the torture had simply been for torture's sake. Someone had wanted the man to suffer.

A gentleman who appeared to be in his mid sixties answered the door. "Can I help you?" the man asked.

"My name is Yadier. I'm investigating a recent string of murders and I believe that they may be related to what happened to your daughter fifteen years ago."

"I knew those bandits they killed could not have been the culprits. Please, come in." Yadier followed the man into a parlor and took the seat he was offered. "The name is Gregory. So, tell me, are you on the trail of the men who hurt my daughter? She hasn't spoken a single word since that day and has nightmares so terrifying that often she wets the bed."

This was the part Yadier had been dreading. "Actually, I believe that the men who died recently may have been those responsible for what happened to your daughter. I suspect that it might have been revenge killings."

"Then miracles do exist. I fail to see a problem with this. Those who hurt my Maia deserve what they get."

"I don't disagree with you," Yadier said. "At least, not in principle. However, I cannot allow vigilantes to run around taking the law into their own hands. To do so would invite anarchy. It would be better if I could find any remaining culprits and bring them to proper justice instead of allowing vigilantes to kill them."

The man sighed. "Perhaps you're correct. What do you need from me?"

"Any information you have would be helpful. So many records were destroyed during the Siege of Dalaran that I can't even find out whether there were other persons of interest I can talk to about the case. If you know the name of the man who organized the mob that strung up the original bandits, or any others who might have information, that would at least give me somewhere to look."

"I wish I knew. Unfortunately, I didn't get involved in that mess. I just wanted to stay with my daughter and take care of her."

Yadier could see that the man had nothing for him, but he could not leave without asking one final question. "Would the name 'Alison' mean anything to you?"

"Now there's a name I haven't heard in some time. Give me a moment." The man disappeared down a hallway and returned shortly afterward with a rather large painting. He propped it up in a chair so Yadier could look at it.

Yadier took in the image of four girls standing in a meadow during autumn. He recognized the two leftmost girls from the vision he'd seen while spying on the duel. The one on the left had been killed early on, and the one next to her dragged away by the bandits, likely this man's daughter. He suspected that the third, a girl with blond hair holding a familiar looking staff, was the daughter of Dalar Dawnweaver. There was something familiar about her, but he could not place his finger on it.

The fourth was a woman with raven colored hair. She was older than the others, by at least a couple years, but that wasn't what most captured Yadier's attention. She wore the robes of the novitiate of the Church of Light. She had to have been training to be a priestess, he realized. "This girl on the right, that's Alison, isn't it?"

The other man nodded. "Yes. She was like an older sister to the other girls. Where the other three were young and impulsive, she always stood steady, tempering their rash natures and gently guiding them. I almost think she had more influence on the people they would have grown to be than any of us parents did."

"She sounds like a good person," Yadier commented.

The man nodded again. "After the incident, she used to come visit my daughter every week. She'd bring snacks and they'd sit together for hours, sometimes in a serene sort of silence, as if nothing else mattered in the world. Other times they'd sit close together and Alison would read a book to Maia. Maia would often fall asleep while she read, and it was the only time my daughter's dreams were not plagued by the horrible nightmares."

"Do you think it would be possible for me to locate and speak to her? Perhaps she would know more about what happened?"

"I'm afraid it would be impossible. Both she and her husband died during the Siege of Dalaran."

"Husband? I thought she was a priestess?"

"No, she left the order a few years before the attack on the girls and got married. Because of that, she wasn't able to go out with the girls as much as she used to. I know that upset the girls, but they still visited her from time to time, so that satisfied them."

"How did her death affect your daughter?"

"Maia took it pretty hard. Her depression worsened. All that she has left that brings her any joy is this painting Lisa gave her for her fourteenth birthday."

"Wait, Lisa?" Yadier was startled by the name. Surely, he felt, this could be no coincidence.

"Lisa Dawnweaver," he said, indicating the blond girl in the painting. "Quite an artist, that one. She would use illusion spells to give her a model to work with when she painted, which is how she got herself into this one. Her master used to chide her for such use of her magic, but I think he was only doing so out of a sense of duty."

"Who was her master?"

"I'm sorry, I don't recall his name. You might find a record of her apprenticeship in the Kirin Tor's archives, however."

"That's a good idea." Yadier knew he had learned all that the man could tell him without more focused questions. "Thank you for your time," he said. "Would it be alright if I stored a copy of this painting? It may have more secrets to reveal than I'm seeing now."

"Please be my guest. Just promise me that if you find any more of the bastards that hurt those girls that you'll bring them to justice."

"I'll do everything in my power," Yadier said as he pulled a gem from his pocket and scanned in an image of the painting with some modified illusion magic. "Thank you again. You've been a great help."
** * **

Nagisa awoke once again without the smell of waffles to greet her. Not having her mother at home was really starting to upset and worry her. Sure, her mother had only been gone a few days, but this was by far the longest they had been apart.

Diane was not helping things either. She seemed to be some strange combination of nervous and melancholy, shifting from one extreme to the other but often both at the same time.

She wasn't the only one who had picked up on Diane's change in mood. Samantha had taken an interest in Diane as well; curious about what was going on with her. That left Nagisa with yet another thing to worry about.

A knock on her bedroom door roused her from her thoughts. "You awake, Nagisa?" Diane asked through the closed door.

"I am."

"Can I come in?"

"Sure," Nagisa said, sitting up. Diane walked in the door, nervousness apparently having taken over again. "What's up?"

"Well, I was just thinking that you didn't look well last night, so maybe you should stay home from class today."

"I feel fine," Nagisa replied. "If anything, I may have looked a little out of it because I was worried about mom. Staying home would just give me more time to fret."

"Oh, well, if you need something to take your mind off your worry, why not spend the day at the bookstore instead? Several of your favorite manga series release new issues today."

"Oh! I had forgotten all about that! We'll have to stop by there on the way home. But I can't skip classes today. Mom wouldn't like that."

"I guess she wouldn't." Diane appeared to be swinging towards her melancholy mood.

"Come on, Diane, what's the real reason you don't want me to go to the Academy today? I know Samantha's been picking on you. Planning to get into a fight?"

"No, it's not... never mind, it's nothing. I guess we better hurry and get ready if we don't want to be late. I went ahead and served you a muffin and some fruit when I got some for myself, so I guess breakfast is ready."

"Thanks, Diane. You're a good friend." Diane suddenly walked out of the room. Nagisa wondered if it was just her imagination, but it looked as if the other girl was on the verge of tears.
** * **

Azmaria clutched at her side, desperately attempting to keep her vital organs from slipping out of the gaping wound. "Of all the days to lock my sword in my office," she said to no one. Of course, she was certain she had not locked her office, so she suspected that it was no coincidence that the door was locked with the magical seals engaged just when she would need to get in there most.

Chaos surrounded her. Everywhere she looked, teachers and some of the more experienced students were trying to fight off the cultists that were invading the school. Even worse, outside they were stuck trying to fight several black dragons that seemed to be leading the invasion, which would be no easy feat. A surprise attack by one of them was what had injured Azmaria.

She had only one goal. She had to get to her next class. The students there could be protected, if she could only reach them, but it was slow going and every step was agonizing. On the upside, when she finally reached the hallway that led to the gym where her class was held, there were no signs of battle, which she hoped meant that the fighting had not made it this far yet.

A head peaked out of the classroom tentatively, trying to assess the situation. Upon seeing Azmaria hobbling down the hallway, it disappeared back into the classroom. Moments later, several of the boys in class rushed out and helped Azmaria into the room.

Upon seeing Azmaria covered in blood, Samantha rushed over to her. "sh*t," the girl said. Azmaria would have chided the girl for her swear, but felt it was too appropriate to correct this time. It seemed that the girl had taken charge. Everyone was hard at work preparing for the arrival of the enemy. "Quickly, barricade the door now that our teacher's here. Is anyone here comfortable using healing magic?" No one answered in the affirmative. "I was afraid of that. Lady Azmaria, I think we're going to have to cauterize the wound to stop the bleeding, unless you have another option to suggest."

"No, that's probably for the best."

"Alright then. Any students here ranked at least Class Two on their fire spells?" Several students raised their hands. "Good. Find a piece of metal and superheat it until it glows. Then press it firmly against her wound. The rest of you, continue working on finishing that barricade wall around the supply closet entrance."

After her wound had been cauterized, an experience Azmaria would just as soon never repeat, she beckoned over Samantha. "So, what do you have planned?"

"We've barricaded the door and are setting up a number of explosive rune traps behind it. Any enemies who make it past there will have to attack us at the barricade position we've set up on the far side of the room. We'll use our spells and the bows and arrows we found in the supply closet to bring down as many of them as we can. Once we've expended all of our mana and arrows, or once it looks like we're sure to be overrun, we'll fall back into the supply closet and lock ourselves in. Once it comes to that, we'll just have to hope that we've bought enough time that we can hold out until rescue arrives."

"A sound plan," Azmaria said approvingly. "What of the other classes nearby?"

"This wing is mostly deserted during this class hour. We did send out a small group once the fighting started and they brought back all the students from the nearby music class. Their teacher had not arrived to class yet either."

Azmaria nodded her approval. "Help me over to the barricade and prop me against the wall by the closet door. I may not be able to fight in my condition, especially not without my sword, but once the enemy arrives, I should be able to hold up an anti magic zone around us to protect everyone in the barricade from their offensive spells."

"Alright, you heard the lady. Help her over there. If she has any suggestions, listen to them, do not waste time coming to me to confirm them."

As one of the young men helped her over to her position, Azmaria had to admit that she was impressed by the way the girl had taken charge of the classroom. She imagined that Poldaran must have been the same way when helping Alexandrine and Sindara escape the family estate during the Siege of Dalaran. This girl would be one to watch in the years to come.

Others were not handling the stress so well. A few of the students were hiding in the closet or just behind the barricade, terrified out of their minds by the impending danger. One of the faces of those in such a condition surprised her, however. The girl she suspected to be hiding some great gifts, Nagisa, was seated next to the wall on the opposite side of the closet door from where they sat Azmaria. Her hands were wrapped around her legs and she appeared to be shaking uncontrollably.

"Everything will be just fine, Miss Windbloom," Azmaria said. "Help will come shortly. They may not even make it past the first door before the Violet Guard and Dalaran Security are upon them."

Nagisa shook her head but did not respond further. She began mumbling something Azmaria could not understand. There was a rhythm to what she was saying, but Azmaria could not make out the words.

The room shook as the barricaded doors shuddered from a blow. Whomever was outside struck again several times before finally destroying the obstacle. "Make ready!" Samantha shouted as everyone took up positions. Azmaria focused her will and erected an Anti Magic Zone that extended just past the barricades. If anyone wanted to knock down the barricade, they were going to have to come close enough to be brought down in return.

Dozens of cultists, an assortment of spellcasters and weapon wielders, streamed into the room. They took up positions across from the barricade, but made no attempt to overcome the defensive position.

A voice Azmaria recognized sounded from out in the hallway. "Well, now this is interesting. The death knight lives and the Kirin girl has taken charge of the classroom. It seems that even when she is not here, Poldaran's touch meddles in my plans." A beautiful raven haired woman walked into the room. "So, Azmaria, not already out here slaughtering my people? What’s wrong, forget your sword somewhere?"

"It seems the door to my office was locked this morning, with my sword inside, Malyse. So I guess it won't be today when I cut off your head."

The dragon in human form laughed the laugh of a noblewoman. "Yes, I suppose that today is not that day. I will have to thank my agent for her foresight in separating you from your weapon. She was supposed to simply stab you in the back, but I think I will relish killing you."

"Not one step closer!" Samantha ordered, a magic wand in her hand aimed at the approaching woman.

Malyse laughed again. "Come now, child. I do not wish to hurt any of you. You are all merely to be hostages to ensure the cooperation of your parents. If they do as we ask, no harm will come to any of you. That is assuming you surrender."

"Don't listen to her!" Samantha commanded. "The Twilight Cult always corrupts what they do not kill. They'll torture you, or infect you with vile magic that will tear your will from you, until you are nothing more than a prisoner in your own bodies, forced to watch as you commit atrocity after vile atrocity."

The two continued to argue, but Azmaria was not paying attention. She was instead focused on someone closer to her. Nagisa's shaking was slowing and her words were beginning to become more and more clear. Within a moment, it was obvious that the girl had been praying. "Light watch over us all. Guide our hands and minds to the chosen path. Light strengthen our resolve so that we can do as we must. Light steady my hands. Light grant swiftness to my feet. Light grant that death not find any of us today." The girl, now completely steady, stood slowly. "And should the worst come to pass, Light please grant me forgiveness."

"Miss Windbloom?" Azmaria asked, unable to further voice a question.

"Relax, Lady Azmaria. It turns out that you were right. I have been hiding something. I'll buy us as much time as I can until rescue, so don't worry."

The argument ceased as Nagisa calmly strode past the barricade and the edge of the Anti Magic Zone. "Nagisa! What are you doing?" Samantha shouted.

"It should be obvious," Malyse said. "Our informant told us that the girl was smart. You should all follow her example and surrender now."

"Sorry," Nagisa said, "but while surrender is the reason I came out here, I did not come to discuss my surrender, but yours."

The sheer audacity of the girl stunned Malyse into silence for a moment. After blinking a few times she began to laugh. "Why do you think I would surrender to you? What do you think you and your fellow students could do against me?"

"My fellow students will not be getting involved. If you fail to surrender or retreat from this place, I will end you myself."

"It would take an army to slay a dragon like myself."

Nagisa considered her response. "That's where you're wrong. An army would fail to slay a dragon. It is the place of a lone warrior, or maybe a small band, to slay beasts such as yourself."

The dragon seemed irritated by the comments, but quickly regained her composure. "Such bravado. It's exactly what one would expect from the daughter of one of Silvermoon's Diplomatic Guard."

From her vantage point, Azmaria saw Nagisa's attention snap towards someone standing behind the barricade, a snarl on the girl's face. She followed the line to where Nagisa's friend Diane stood. The other girl's eyes became downcast and she walked away from the barricade, tears streaming down her cheeks. Could she have been the one Malyse recruited? Was that information something Nagisa had only told Diane?

Nagisa regained her composure and turned back to the dragon. "So, tell me, what else did this traitor tell you about me?"

"A few things. Apparently you're fearless, have quick reflexes, an amazing sense of balance. You're also an amazing dancer, an excellent student, have a beautiful singing voice and apparently you talk in your sleep."

"So this was all she told you? Then it seems I was wise to keep other things from her, but perhaps it is time you know those as well."

"Oh, this I have to hear," the dragon said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"She told you that I dance. What she did not tell you was that I began to learn dance to supplement my training with both blade and bow that I began when I was five years old. She did not tell you that I've been taught to hunt, to track and kill. She did not tell you that I lived in a cabin next to a lake infested by murlocs and that by age four I had beaten their leader in what was apparently a duel and made into their chieftain.

"I bet that she also did not tell you that when I was twelve, I once got really bored and read all of my mother's anatomy books. Nor did she tell you that those books were on every possible species my mother might need to perform surgery on and were unbelievably thorough and even had tips on how to bring down members of different species. Nor did she tell you that I have a near perfect memory when I read."

"I fail to see what this has to do with anything."

"Black dragon. Female. Matron stage." Nagisa said. "Fourth scale inward from left front leg has a weakness along the vertical axis. Vertically oriented strike from a sword, spear or arrow upon this scale will follow the slight inward curvature and diffuse all force upon this weak spot. After the scale is broken, all that stands between the heart and the outside of the body is approximately nine inches of muscle."

"So you know a single weak spot, it doesn't mean..."

"Upon the back of the neck, there is a place just right of the spine about a third of the way up the neck where protective scales fail to overlap properly, providing no protection against a piercing strike. A single blow from a piercing weapon can immediately cause paralysis or even death."

"But that doesn't mean..."

Nagisa raised her voice to a near-shout. "Right side of the body, approximately fourteen inches from the back leg. A slashing blow will easily remove loose scales in this area, allowing a strike at nearby soft vital organs. Aim forward and inward to strike the liver, back and straight to strike a massive patch of arteries. If striking the latter, expect exsanguination to kill the dragon within three to four minutes, faster if the dragon exerts itself during that duration."

Malyse clapped slowly. "So, you do know as much as you have claimed. But yet you did nothing while we attacked. Nothing while we've taken your classmates and killed your teachers. Tell me, little girl, had you acted earlier, how many could you have saved? How many died while you stayed here and cowered? How many of those could have been saved?"

Nagisa took a few deep breaths. "You may be right about that. Perhaps I should have acted sooner. How many could I have saved?" She thought for a moment. "You know, it doesn't matter. What's done is done. I cannot change what has already been, so I guess the number I could have saved is immaterial, irrelevant. The only number that matters now is zero."


Fire crept into Nagisa's voice once again. "Exactly. Zero. None. Not one more! That is precisely how many more of my fellow students you will kill or kidnap today. You have done all the damage you will do today. Now I suggest that you walk away now or you too shall die this day."

"A bold statement for a lone girl to make against me and my cultists, especially when you're not even armed."

"Well, I guess that's just one more thing she failed to tell you." Just as Azmaria was beginning to come to terms with the shock of Nagisa's words and actions, the girl once again surprised her. It was something she would never have expected and a world of information was held in that single word. "Materialize."

** * **

Yadier just knew that all of this was going to give him an aneurysm. "Just one day, 'pop', and everything will go black," he said to his empty office. He needed to get out of the office for a few minutes, so he strode out of his door and told his assistant to have his hippogryph readied.

Once out in the skies above Dalaran, his tension eased and he was finally able to think clearly. He had the feeling that all of his major projects were leading to a single conclusion, but he just could not quite find the perspective he needed to see the bigger picture.

Poldaran would not respond to his attempts to contact her through normal channels. He wasn't even sure she was in Dalaran. Sharlot and Envinyata reported running across her on Mount Hyjal. Their message was strange, something to do with a frozen turtle, but he could not quite make out the rest of what they had written.

Perhaps if he brought in the Windbloom girl and told her everything he had uncovered, her shared interests with Poldaran might give her the frame of reference she needed to see what he could not? No, he could not risk it. While the girl seemed to think like Poldaran, her mother might be involved in this mess and he could not risk Lisa Windbloom finding out what he knew.

"Wizard Yadier," a voice said in his ear. He thought he recognized the voice, but it was coming through the gem based communication network meant to be used only by Dalaran Security, and it was not one of his officers.

"Who is this? How did you access this secure network?"

"Transmitting visual information to you now." The gem on his wrist glowed and an image appeared before him of a blond haired woman wearing what appeared to be some kind of surgical mask. "This is Lisa Windbloom. How I've accessed your network is unimportant as there are urgent matters to discuss. Also, I'm finishing up a surgery and do not have time to chat."

"That's fine. We'll discuss the rest later. What's so urgent?"

"I believe that there is an incident occurring at the academy. Nagisa has activated an artifact she carries that allows her access to a weapon she takes with her everywhere. I do not believe that she would do so unless the circumstances were incredibly dire."

"A weapon?" Realization hit him. "Your daughter's a Knight of Dalaran, isn't she?"

Lisa sighed. "Yes, she is, though she does not exactly know it yet. Time is of the essence, please send in your watchmen, and contact the Violet Guard. I suspect that this is an attack by the Twilight Cult. Whoever it is was smart enough to put up a shield of some kind, which is preventing me from contacting Nagisa directly. I cannot leave here to come investigate, so please deal with it."

"I will do my best to ensure the safety of those students," he promised. "I already have a few agents in the academy disguised as instructors. They will do what they can to protect the children until we can break through the defenses."

"Thank you. Incidentally, I have already contacted an infiltration specialist who will do what she can to bring down the shield for you."

"An infiltration specialist? Why would we need the help of an outsider-" He would have continued, but the link had already been severed.

"Wizard Yadier!" one of his guards called out over the link. "We have a problem. An unscheduled portal just opened in the gate room and a streak of light shot out of it. Whatever it is appears to be making a beeline for the academy.'

Yadier swore. "Do not engage. I think I know what that is. Please contact our liaison with the Violet Guard and let them know to switch to our channel within the gem network." The guard answered in the affirmative and Yadier began flying towards the academy at full speed. Once it was in view, he tapped the gem on his wrist, opening a channel to everyone on the network. "This is Yadier. Someone has attacked Modera's academy. A shield is currently in place around the grounds. I need all available men and women to make full haste. We're going to bring down that shield and rescue those children from whomever is inside. Yadier out."

His suspicions about the light proved correct. Standing near the academy's wall was a figure in a black robe and pointed black hat. Despite the scarf covering her face, he knew immediately who it was. "Hey there, Yad," Poldaran called out without turning as he approached.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm gonna get in there and bring down that shield for you. I figured you were told about that part already." She tapped her foot on one of the stones on the ground. Yadier suspected that she was looking for something.

"Yes, but why you?"

"I'm the only one with a back way in that can get me past that shield."

"You have a back way in? Let me get a team of my best men together and we'll go in with you."

"Sorry, it only works for me, and it's a single use kind of deal."

Realization hit Yadier. "Teleport beacon?" Poldaran nodded and further realization struck. "That's how you got into the Vault! You hid a beacon in your spellbook and used the old Curator's Override to get out from the inside because they never bother to remove the old authorizations for the inner access stone!"

"Bingo," Poldaran said. "A ha! There it is." She tapped a stone three times and glowing words appeared on the wall. Yadier was surprised to note that they were in Thalassian.

"'Speak friend and enter.' Why the **** does that sound familiar?"

"Because you're a learned man and you read. Not everything I wish you would, but still many good things. You'll get the reference soon enough. Now, I have to warn you that I may not be able to bring the shield down for long before they compensate and bring it back up, so have your people prepared." She pulled off one of her gloves and revealed a metal bracelet. "I intend to do fairly permanent things to the first shield casters I see, but I can't guarantee that they don't have others that will take their places." She put the glove back on and nodded to Yadier. "Mellon," she said. Then she was gone.

** * **

This just could not be happening. Spencer just could not believe it. At one moment, he was just sitting in class with his friends. In the next, a dozen Twilight Cultists had burst into the room and wrangled all the students into a meadow near the building, where massive cages of stone had been erected.

Everywhere there were signs of fighting. The teachers at the academy had been mostly overwhelmed by the initial assault, but there were pockets of resistance everywhere. It was rumored that the headmistress was holed up in the administration building with almost a hundred students, holding a choke point and preventing anyone from coming near them, but Spencer did not hold much hope that they would receive aid from that route.

Outside aid was also not likely. Near the cages, a number of cultist spellcasters were channeling a massive shield over the entire school. These casters were protected by another, smaller group of casters holding up a shield, protecting both the other casters and themselves. There was little hope of the students being able to break through in time to acquire aid.

At first, they had told the students that they had no intention of harming them, but it became clear that they had no intention of honoring that once they reached the cages. They had even gone so far as to drag several of the girls from a cage and had begun telling them, in detail, just what they would do to them when they reached their destination, all the while touching the young women in ways that could only be described as inappropriate to reinforce their message.

After they tired of toying with those women, their captors returned them to their cage and pulled another girl, a draenei by the name of Iressa. Spencer's heart quaked for fear of what would happen to the girl, his feelings for her driving his despair.

She was dragged before the man who appeared to be in charge. He grinned in a way that chilled Spencer's blood. "You," he said, stroking the girl's cheek with his filthy hand, "will be given special treatment. That defiance in your eyes, such magnificent hatred. I look forward to breaking you. Oh, the things I'm going to do to you will send chills down the spines every student as they watch."

"Oh, please elaborate," a voice said from a couple dozen yards behind him. Spencer looked to where the voice had come from. The speaker stood on a small hill, her head cocked slightly to one side. At least Spencer was pretty sure it was a woman, since her black robe was so tight as to leave little to the imagination despite covering her completely from her neck to her wrists to her ankles. Her hands and feet were covered by soft black leather gloves and boots and her face and head were covered by a white scarf and a pointed black hat.

There was no doubt in Spencer's mind, especially when he saw her red hair blowing in the breeze. This could be none other than the Witch of the Plaguelands! But what could she be doing here in Dalaran?

"Looks like we missed capturing another fine piece of ***, boys," the cultist leader said. "Don't worry, little girl. You'll get your turn soon enough."

The witch pulled down her scarf. "Perhaps you didn't understand what I was saying, so I'll give you another chance. I might even speak slowly so you can wrap your tiny mind around it. You're going to tell me what you are planning to do to these girls, in detail, so that I can punish you for your sins. If you don't, then I will be forced to imagine what it was you were going to say and punish you for that. Do yourself a favor and tell me yourself. I have a very filthy mind and you'll suffer the worse for leaving it to my imagination."

"Hear that, boys? This wench says she's going to punish us! Disabuse her of that notion, will ya?" On his order, the men opened fire with crossbows and spells intent on killing the woman before she could react.

The witch responded by shaking her head and holding out her left hand. The attacks passed through her and fell harmlessly to the ground behind her. Spencer was unsure, but he thought that he saw the momentary flicker of a portal opening in front of her right as the enemy attacks should have hit. If it had, then she was a master of portal magic, able to do it so quickly and precisely as to open a portal from just in front of her to just behind her for a mere instant to avoid the attack.

She sighed and shook her head. "I guess you want to do this the hard way, then. So be it." She tossed her hat aside, allowing her hair to flow fully in the breeze. She then removed her gloves and tossed them aside as well. Spencer saw a glint of metal on each of her wrists. Those bracelets began to glow and melt, the molten metal coating her hands and then hardening into sharp metal gauntlets that looked almost like talons. The color drained from her hair, leaving it an unnatural white. Then her eyes began to change as well, the whites darkening and becoming blacker than her robe and the colored portions turning from hazel to red. "To be honest," she said with a wicked smile, "I was kinda hoping you'd choose to do this the hard way."

Spencer was not prepared for what happened next. The woman was on her foes with lightning speed, tearing out organs, ripping out spines and, in one case, literally tearing one man's face from his skull. The speed at which she was moving and the power with which she was striking suggested that this woman was using forbidden magic, using the flow of arcane magic to move her limbs instead of her muscles. With the addictive nature of arcane magic, this was one of the first things they were taught not to do here at the academy. Some mages still considered it a last resort to use as an escape since it used so little magical energy, but others said that even then it was better to die than become addicted.

While that realization set him on edge, what really bothered him was the vulgar way that she was moaning as she struck each foe. They tried to fight back, but they were far too terrified to be effective. Some tried to run, but she let none escape.

It was over in a matter of moments. The woman, covered nearly head to toe in gore, then walked over to Iressa, who had been knocked to the ground in the fighting, and offered her a hand. Iressa screamed in terror and tried to back away.

"Oh, but I must look a sight," the woman said, her voice suddenly warm. Flames appeared in her hands and spread across her body, engulfing her. Seconds later, they dissipated and she was completely clean. She then shook her head and her hair turned back to red and her eyes returned to normal. Seeing that Iressa was still terrified of her, she instead approached the cages. Her sharp gauntlets easily sliced through the locks.

"What, after that show you put on, you're not going to lick the blood from your gauntlets?" Spencer accused, still a bit nauseous from what he had seen.

The woman looked at him, confused. "Why would I do a thing like that? There's no telling whether the blood of these cultists has been tainted by Deathwing, so I can't risk it. I still remember what happened to poor Vaelastrasz." After finally getting a good look at her face, Spencer was hit with recognition. This wasn't the Witch of the Plaguelands. This was Poldaran, Archmage and Necromancer, formerly of the Kirin Tor. Her gauntlets once again became bracelets and she pulled the scarf back over her nose and mouth. "Now, I'm going to need a few volunteers to help me bring down this big shield. Anyone here have experience with basic spellforms?" A few students raised their hands. "Then follow me. Incidentally, have any of you heard the story of how my apprentice blew himself up?"

Spencer stopped paying attention and rushed to Iressa's side. The draenei girl threw her arms around his neck, sobbing. It was apparent from closer inspection that the girl had been so terrified that she had soiled herself. "Everything's okay," he reassured her. "Once that shield comes down, I'm sure the Violet Guard will be here to help us." She pulled back and shook her head. "That's not what you're afraid of? Then what?"

"Man'ari," she whispered.

"Man'ari? The Draenei Soul Sickness?" She nodded. "Well, I'm sure those people were bad, but you really think they had that?" She shook her head. "No? Then who?"

She pointed at Poldaran. "Her."

** * **

It had really come to this. No other options left on the table, Nagisa knew that she had to do it. "Materialize!" she commanded.

One of the gems on her wrist began to glow softly. A voice spoke within her mind, one that sounded much like a female gnome. "Aesir/Vanir Advanced Logistics and Operations Node online. Warning. New user detected. Activating temporal pulse to facilitate interface synchronization. Temporal pulse will not be available for combat use until recharge.

Everything in the room froze, Nagisa herself included. Her mind continued moving at normal speed, however, and she was terrified by it all. "What is going on?!" she asked within her mind.

"Synchronizing AVALON system with user mind. One moment please." Nagisa suddenly felt strange waves wash over her mind, almost as if someone or something was probing her thoughts. "Synchronization complete. Interface now operating on user Nagisa Windbloom's mental wavelength."

"Avalon? Is that your name?"

"It is my designation. Temporal pulse will not last much longer, accessing Logistics Interface. Warning. User is not rated for heavy armor. Using transmutation interface to adapt current clothing into maximum protection possible without adding additional weight. Imbuing with basic wards." Nagisa felt a wave of energy wash over her body. "Warning: Detecting Level Seven Spirit Conduit Seals. User does not have authorization to remove Seals. Warning. User is only rated for a single weapon in Logistics ******** Accessing Witch Hunter now." The same pulse of energy washed over Nagisa's hand. She thought she could now feel something solid in her right hand, but could see nothing there.

"I don't understand what's going on."

"Ten seconds until temporal pulse fades. Enemy assessment complete. Fifteen spell casters of moderate potential detected. Eighteen weapons users of moderate potential detected. Warning. Black Dragon, Matron Stage detected. Psychological profile accessed. Black dragon likely to not engage in combat until her allies are defeated or until engaged. Will likely find slaughter of her own minions amusing. Focus efforts on enemy spell casters first. Warning. Upload of situation report to allied command blocked by magical interference. Activating Entanglement Beacon. Temporal pulse fading, AVALON going into standby mode."

All at once, a bright flash of light washed over Nagisa as time started moving again. When it faded, her school uniform had turned white and taken on a light metallic sheen. It was also adorned with spell circles that she recognized as minor magical wards. More than that, she felt a weight in her right hand. Upon looking, she saw that she now held a slender longsword inscribed with numerous runes along the blade and several depictions of Naaru upon the hilt. What really surprised her about it was that it was inscribed with two familiar symbols, the ones she saw upon all of the weapons on the statues.

She had known that using that command would manifest a weapon for her, a magical sword that was something of a family heirloom, but she had no idea that it would also activate whatever this Avalon thing was, nor did she expect that her clothing would be transmuted into what she assumed was mythical silksteel, a fabric ten times as strong as ironweave and lighter still.

"Cool," she said softly to herself. She knew that there was no more chance that talking would work, so she immediately struck at the nearest cultist to her. The first two fell before they could react. After those two fell, however, resistance mounted. Nagisa found herself spending more time dodging and parrying enemy attacks than she did actually attacking. As such, the fight dragged on, a battle of attrition as she whittled away at their numbers while they tried to tire her out.

She wasn't sure exactly how long it took, but eventually every one of the cultists had fallen. She had a few close calls with attacks from the casters, but the anti-magic wards held. Despite being white, her silksteel clothing shed the blood with no stains remaining. She managed to avoid getting any of it on her face as well, though droplets of enemy blood covered her arms.

As Avalon had suggested, the dragon had not made any effort to aid her minions. Malyse, as Lady Azmaria had called her, simply clapped when the fight was over. "My, my," she said. "That was a splendid performance. I knew that this school would hold many delicious surprises, but this was truly unexpected. I've seen greater skill in my times serving Nihlus, but to think I would see talent of this caliber among the student body of this silly school. I did not dream it possible." Her body began to shudder and warp as she changed into her true form. "Come then, let us see who is truly stronger!" she roared.

Nagisa charged the massive black dragon. She easily managed to dodge the claw swipes by diving and rolling. Unfortunately, her first strike, intended to hit the weak scale on the front, did not ring true, the dragon shifted and Nagisa's strike hit a scale several left of her aim. The blade still cut through the scale, but much of the impact of the blow was absorbed and her thrust only pierced a half inch of flesh.

It was still painful, however, and the dragon roared. Nagisa quickly rolled to dodge another claw swipe, only to be struck by a great wind caused by the flapping of the dragon's massive wings. The wing buffet sent her flying across the large room, where she slammed into a wall.

Dazed, she climbed to her feet just in time to see the dragon inhale a deep breath. Her legs like lead, she was unable to run. She held out her hands in a feeble attempt to ward off the coming flame. She felt a bit of heat, but was surprised to find herself alive after the attack.

"Idiot!" Samantha shouted at Nagisa. Nagisa opened her eyes to see the blond girl between her and the dragon, holding up a small violet barrier. "When a dragon breathes fire at you, you're supposed to dodge, not stand around like a moron and wait to die!"

"S-sorry," Nagisa stammered.

"This is no time to lose your nerve. Come on, I'll act as your shield, you take down the dragon."

"Right!" Nagisa agreed, finding her courage once again.

"Touching," the dragon said. "Unfortunately, I have no more time to toy with you right now. I've wasted more time than I should have watching you kill my minions." She roared again, this time releasing a powerful magic spell. The dead cultists began to shamble to their feet, their skin sloughing off, leaving nothing but walking skeletons, all armed. "We end this quickly. You'll find that we're more than a match for the two of you."

A clank of metal greaves upon the hard flooring drew Nagisa's attention. "Then face me, Malyse," Azmaria said, her sword in hand and her body covered by her armor. "That should even up the odds considerably."

"What treachery is this?!" Malyse roared. "How can this be?"

"Sup?" a voice called from beside the barricade. Nagisa looked over to see a red haired woman waving at the dragon. Lady Poldaran? No, it was Miss Summers! Unless, of course, she actually was Lady Poldaran as Nagisa had earlier suspected. "Funny how easy it is to get by a distracted dragon when you're invisible. Incidentally, I'll be keeping a shield up to protect these students, so don't get any funny ideas."

With the dragon's attention held by the death knight, Nagisa and Samantha began working on defeating the skeletons. "She's bluffing," Samantha whispered to Nagisa as they stood back to back, preparing for another onslaught of skeletons.

"What?" Nagisa whispered back.

"Lady Azmaria is too wounded to properly bring down the dragon. She's just buying us time to take out the skeletons. If you see an opening, attack the dragon. I'll root the skeletons with a frost nova and make a break for the barricade when you do that."

"Got it."

Nagisa did not have to wait long. Moments later, a rumble shook the building as a massive explosion roared outside. The dragon's attention snapped towards one of the room's high windows. Azmaria charged and now had Malyse's full attention. Nagisa ran straight for the monster's tail, glancing back only once to see Samantha fleeing to the barricade.

She ran straight up Malyse's tail, her light footsteps not attracting the dragon's attention until she was more than halfway across its back. Upon seeing her running on its back, the dragon snapped at her, but Nagisa dove into a roll and came to her feet right next to the great beast's neck. The dragon shook its body, trying to shake the girl from its back, while also slashing with its claws to keep the death knight at bay.

Nagisa hung on for dear life to a sharp scale, desperately trying to avoid being cut. While flailing around, her blade struck one of the massive black scales, somehow finding a weak point and cutting through it as though the hard scale were tissue paper. A piece of the cut scale fell off, leaving a perfect weak point to strike at.

She flipped the blade over, grasping it in an underhand grip. As she struggled to aim it while still holding on for dear life, she felt like a moment such as this should be accompanied by some words. She could not find her own to say, so she quoted a manga she had read. "Oh pitiful shadow lost in darkness, bringing torment and pain to others. Oh poor damned soul, wallowing in your sin... Perhaps... it is time to die."

At last, she managed a single downward thrust, burying the blade into the dragon's neck. Malyse roared as Nagisa twisted the blade, severing numerous vital arteries. She struck the dragon's spine with force as she was swung around by the thrashing beast, finally bringing it down. With the dragon dead, the spell sustaining the skeletons ceased and they collapsed to the ground, lifeless once more.

Upon freeing the blade, Nagisa tumbled to the ground. She noted that her hands had dangerous black dragon blood upon them, so she grabbed a piece of clothing that had once adorned a cultist and cleaned them off. She then wiped the blood from her blade.

As Nagisa rounded the dragon's lifeless body, the entire class began to cheer at the sight of her. She had done it. The dragon was slain by her hand, and her classmates were safe. Lady Azmaria limped over to her. "I think you and I need to talk later," she said. After that, the last of Azmaria's resolve faded and she collapsed, unconscious but alive, more or less.

Miss Summers attended to the wounded death knight, trying to find the perfect potion to heal Azmaria's wounds. Samantha also rushed to Nagisa's side. "There is no time for celebration," the girl said. "We don't know how long it will be before aid arrives. The door needs to be guarded until a member of Dalaran Security or the Violet Guard arrives. With Miss Summers busy, you're the best bet we have at holding that door. I'll send two of our strongest offensive spellcasters with you."

Nagisa and two of the boys in class had no sooner reached the door than a red haired woman in black robes with a scarf over her face appeared in the hallway. "Stay back!" Nagisa ordered her, blade held firm. "No more cultists will enter this room!"

The woman laughed. "My my, what do we have here? A little knight guards the classroom?"

"I'm warning you, come no closer!"

"You need not fear me, little knight. I mean you no harm. The way this situation appears, however, suggests that my little sister is gravely injured. I merely wish to tend to her."

Sister? Could this be another black dragon? No, Nagisa knew now that she could not let this monster get into the training room where it would have room to grow to full size. "Stand back, I warn you!"

"So we have an impasse? Perhaps if I had one of your fellow students vouch for me?" Nagisa knew that her face flashed a look of rage at the remembrance of Diane's betrayal. "I'll take that as a no," the woman said with a laugh. "How about one of your teachers? I take it that a wayward alchemy instructor is in there?"

"Miss Summers? Yes, she's here."

"Good," the woman replied. "She'll certainly be able to vouch for me. Hey, Pasiran!" the woman shouted.

Nagisa wasn't certain she heard that correctly. Pasiran? Wasn't that the name of one of Lady Poldaran's companions? She didn't have time to think about it as Miss Summers spoke from behind. "Hey there, Pold," she said. "Long time, no see."

"Would you tell the little knight here who I am?"

"Based on the shade of white her face has gone, I suspect she has it figured out."

"Good. Then will you let me pass, little knight?" the woman asked Nagisa. The girl, unsure of her ability to speak, simply nodded. "You three don't need to worry about watching the door. There are no more cultists left in this building. I saw to that." Nagisa followed Poldaran into the room, a bit star struck. "My my, this is a lot of corpses. Pas, how many did you get?"

"None. This was entirely the work of Miss Windbloom there, with a bit of aid from Miss Kirin and Azmaria."

"Well, that is impressive." She walked over to Azmaria and examined her. "The necromantic magic remains strong with her. She'll recover just fine, though she should still see a healer. I'm sure that there are a few things I can do now to ease the pain, though. Why don't you go let Yadier know of the situation?" Pasiran nodded and left the room.

As Lady Poldaran tended to her sister's wounds, Nagisa caught a glimpse of Diane, who had come out after hearing about the necromancer's arrival. Rage began to fill Nagisa once more. "YOU!" she shouted, pointing at her former friend. "This is all your fau-"

She was stopped by a hand softly clapping over her mouth. "Things are not always as they appear, little knight," Poldaran whispered into her ear. "You should find out the entire story before you say something you could regret later."

"But she...oh, Lady Poldaran," Nagisa wailed as the final remaining adrenaline burned out and all the fear she had been suppressing finally surfaced. She turned and buried her face in the woman's chest. Poldaran's arms embraced her gently as she began to cry uncontrollably.

"There, there, little knight. It has been a stressful day. Let it all out." After a momentary pause, she spoke softly again. "Samantha, have you been practicing your violin?"

"I have, Lady Poldaran."

"Good," the necromancer replied. She conjured up a violin and put it in Samantha's hands. "She could use a soothing song. Perhaps you could play a lullaby?"

"Of course, Lady Poldaran." Samantha began to play a soft, soothing melody and Nagisa felt the weariness begin to overtake her.

As she drifted off into the soothing blackness, she stole one last look around the room and saw that she was not the only one succumbing to sleep. The last thing she remembered was hearing Poldaran say, "Don't worry, little knight. I'll take care of everything."

** * **

Edited, Jul 22nd 2011 1:02am by Poldaran

Edited, Jul 22nd 2011 1:18am by Poldaran
#6 Jul 05 2011 at 1:34 AM Rating: Good
29,424 posts
Nagisa awoke in her own bed. The lantern light outside told her that it was after nightfall. "How long have I been asleep?" she asked herself.

"Almost seven hours," Diane replied from the darkness. Nagisa reached over to her magical lantern and touched it to turn it on, revealing Diane sitting in a chair across the room. It appeared that she had been crying. "Nagisa, I..." Diane seemed to be unable to finish saying whatever she had begun.

For some reason, Nagisa could not find her rage again. "Lady Poldaran mentioned that there might be more to the story than I knew. Tell me, Diane. Tell me why you helped them."

"I- I would like to say that I had no choice, but now I know that to be a lie. Even when I didn't like my choices, that doesn't mean I didn't have any. The truth is that they have my parents." Nagisa gasped. "They told me that they'd kill my parents if I didn't tell them everything I could about my classmates and perform a specific task on the day they attacked."

"What about your brother?"

"He's one of them now," Diane replied softly. "I'm so sorry for what I did. Please understand that I never wanted you to get caught up in this." She once again began crying.

Nagisa sighed. "Listen, Diane, you made mistakes, but I can't really say that I would have done anything different had I been in your situation. I can hardly blame you for making mistakes because you were afraid. Friends?"

Diane threw herself into Nagisa's open arms and continued crying until she managed to drift into sleep. Nagisa tucked her friend into bed walked into the kitchen. She was surprised to see Miss Summers there. "Miss Summers, what are you doing here?"

"Hello, Nagisa. Poldaran asked me to watch over the two of you until she returned."

"Lady Poldaran's going to be coming here?"

"Yes. She said she was going to see what she could do about rescuing your friend's parents."

"Thank the Light," Nagisa said. She suddenly realized something. "You know, with how I acted towards Diane after Lady Poldaran arrived, I think everyone will know what she did. What will happen to her?"

"I wouldn't worry about it. Poldaran said she altered the memories of most of the witnesses. They won't even remember that part. Don't worry; they'll remember you fighting the dragon, though their recollection will likely be different than yours."

"What do you mean?"

"As I understand it, certain details will be different. They'll think you took a sword from one of the cultists, for one. For another, they'll remember you slaying the dragon, but it won't be quite as spectacular as it really was. Pold called it an 'Unbelievable Details' memory spell. It suggests to the person that things could not have been quite as amazing as they remember them and suggests to the mind a more plausible alternative. It doesn't work on someone when they have previous knowledge of what you're trying to hide, but it costs little magic to cast, so it's often used on large groups."

"I guess that makes sense. Mom's always been adamant that I hide certain things, so I guess this is part of that."

"Sounds right. Anyway, I was thinking of making some mushroom soup. Want some?"

Nagisa shook her head. "No thanks. I think I'm just gonna go sit on the balcony and think for a while."

The night sky was clear and the moon was nearly full, lighting up the magical city. The view was breathtaking from the balcony and Nagisa often came out here to think. The beauty and solitude made it easy to drift deep into thought, paying no heed to the surrounding world.

It was in this state that Nagisa found herself when she suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. Not having heard the balcony door open, she was thoroughly startled and nearly jumped out of her own skin.

"Calm yourself, little knight. I mean you no harm."

Nagisa recognized that voice. "Lady Poldaran!" she whispered. "What are you doing here?"

Nagisa's hero walked over to the railing and looked out over the city. "I just returned from Mount Hyjal. We managed to locate your friend's parents. I'm afraid that it's not entirely good news."

"What happened?"

"Well, I did manage to get them away from their captors, but much of the damage had been done to the mother. Her mind was nearly shattered by what they had done to her. She could take months to fully recover, even with regular treatments, both alchemical and magical."

"What about Diane's father?"

"We were lucky with him. It seems that they only tortured him and had not begun to attempt to turn him magically. I believe he'll be fine, given a bit of time."

"Thank goodness."

Nagisa couldn't see Poldaran's face because of the scarf, but it was apparent by the worry in her brow that the woman was troubled. "Listen, I'm sorry for today," Poldaran said. "I should never have taken a trip out of town, for any reason. I thought I could do some good in the fight against the cultists and I left all of you Knights unguarded. My foolishness put you all in danger and you were forced to pick up the slack. For that, I'm so, so very sorry." Nagisa could see that the woman was fighting back tears.

"You couldn't have known," Nagisa said.

"That's no excuse," Poldaran replied. "Just thinking about what might have happened... I don't think I could live with myself if you had been hurt. That's why I have this for you." She drew a small gem out of her pocket and affixed it to a silver chain before handing it to Nagisa.

Nagisa inspected the gem closely. It was almost as if the gem were clear glass filled with two liquids, one inky black and the other a milky white. It even seemed to glow softly in the moonlight. "What is this?"

"It's a very special necklace. In addition to the adaptive illusion spell that will hide its true nature from everyone but you and me, the chain is ensorcelled to prevent anyone but you from being able to remove it. So once you put it on, no one will be able to take it off of you. More than that, the gem is special. No matter where it is, I will always be able to locate it. And more than that, when things look their darkest, you can use it to speak to me. You'll only need to speak the magic words and I'll be able to hear you."

"What are the magic words?"

"That is not dead which can eternal lie," Poldaran replied. "Just say those words and I will hear you. Now, I must be off. Soon, Yadier will arrive to escort you and Diane to your mother's clinic, where her parents and your mother await."

Poldaran disappeared over the edge of the balcony while Nagisa put on the pendant. The girl glanced over the edge, but nothing was there, so she had to assume that a portal just below the balcony's edge had been the woman's escape route. She shook her head and went to wake Diane.

As predicted by Poldaran, Yadier arrived a few minutes later and escorted them to Lisa's clinic. They were greeted by a dwarven woman Yadier introduced as Envinyata. Once again today Nagisa found herself in the presence of a person she had read much about. If it wasn't for the exhaustion of the day's events, Nagisa had a feeling she would be acting like a star struck fangirl. As it was, she was pretty numb to everything.

"Oh, you're finally here!" Lisa said, peeking out from the other room. "Give me just a few moments to clean up and then you all can come on back."

When they were called back, Nagisa saw Diane's father covered in fresh stitches and her mother resting on a bed beside him while a night elf woman tended to her with druidic magic. She suspected that the presence of Lady Envinyata meant that this woman was Lady Sharlot. She was starting to suspect that her life had turned into some form of Poldaran story, but she had to dismiss that, since it only meant that things would likely get worse.

Nagisa wanted nothing more than to rush into her mother's arms and be protected from the world around her, but Lisa was covered in blood from operating most of the day. Instead, she followed her mother into the clinic's back office, hoping to talk.

"Busy day, huh?" Lisa asked once the two were alone. "How are you holding up?"

Nagisa shook her head. "I don't know. It hasn't really sunk in yet. I mean, I know I killed all those people, but it doesn't feel real."

"Try not to think of it like that. Sure, you killed people, but more importantly, you saved people." The woman sighed. "This is why I don't like those Poldaran manga you're always reading. They tell you all about the glory of the fighting but never mention the other side, which you're experiencing now."

"Have you ever had to kill anyone?"

Lisa nodded. "It’s not something I like to talk about. That's why I took up surgery. I can help those I care about without being forced to kill." A light knock sounded on the door. "Come in," Lisa called out.

The druid Xelsia walked in. She looked at Nagisa, then at Lisa, then back to Nagisa, her eyes growing wide. "Um, Lady Windbloom," she said. "I was told to - um, well, the Cenarion Circle wants to thank you for your efforts these last few days. A great number of people would have died had it not been for your aid."

"It was the least I could do," Lisa replied. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Um, n-n-no. That'll be all. I should really get going." Xelsia fled the room.

Lisa laughed softly. "What was that about?" Nagisa asked. "She seemed terrified."

"She's been like that ever since she went with Poldaran to go rescue Diane's parents. I understand that things got a little out of hand." Lisa shrugged. "Now come on. Let me get changed and let's get out of here. There's nothing more I can do here and I'd bet we're both exhausted. I better get to sleep if I'm going to wake up early enough to make waffles for breakfast. After all, if I wake up too late, we'll have to eat them for lunch, and waffles really are more of a breakfast food."

Her mother's sudden relaxed attitude startled Nagisa, but she found herself comforted by the promise of things returning to normal that came from that simple shift in tone of voice.

Besides, there were soon to be waffles to be had. She really couldn't continue being upset considering that.

** * **

"Just explain to me what you were thinking! What in the name of the Light possessed you to carry on like that in front of those kids? I have here complaint letters from a couple dozen sets of parents furious about what you subjected their children to." Yadier was angrier than he had been in a long time and he certainly showed it. "And what the **** is up with that **** scarf?!"

Poldaran, the target of his anger, laughed. "It's simply, Yad. I'm trying to start a trend. Soon, everyone will be wearing them. It'll be the 'in' thing this fall."

"I'm glad you think this is funny," Yadier said. "I'm through helping you. If they decided to bring you up on charges, I won't intervene."

Modera cleared her throat. The other two looked at the headmistress where she was seated behind her desk. "Poldaran, listen, I know that killing those men was necessary. We get that. But the way you did it... well, I can't blame those parents for being upset."

"It wasn't that bad," Poldaran replied.

"I saw the pile of spines," Yadier said flatly.

"Okay, so maybe it was that bad. But you have to understand, I had no choice. After what those men did, they had to die horribly. And you know what, if I traumatized those kids, then fine. If that means that they'll wait until they're older to consider joining in this war, then all the better. If it means that even one kid that might have joined the Twilight Cult decides against it because they've seen what I'll do to them if they do, then it was worth traumatizing that many kids. Even ten times that many would be worth the price."

"Look, Pold, I know you're upset about having to kill that boy, that Colin Moore. But you can't justify what you did by that."

"I don't need to justify anything," Poldaran said. "I stand by what I did and I tell you now that I'd do it again. After hearing what those men said to that girl, I'd kill them in the same way, or even a more brutal fashion, if I ran across the same situation. To **** with the consequences."

"Wait, what do you mean by 'what those men said to that girl'? That wasn't in any of the letters or reports."

Poldaran glared at him. "Funny how someone threatening to rape a teenage girl is a bit of a problem for me."

Yadier paused a moment. It was indeed an issue for Poldaran, and had he known that to be the reason, this conversation likely would have gone completely differently. She wasn't the only one with issues relating to that particular incident in her past. "Look, Pold, I'm sorry. Perhaps we should have gotten all the facts."

She sighed. "I know I overreacted," she said. "But dammit, even if I bring my own issues with me to the battlefield, I still think I was justified in this."

"After hearing more of the story, I can't say that I disagree with you. But you need to be a bit more mindful of your audience. Your public approval walks on a razor's edge. An incident like this could threaten to return us to the recent manhunt. Right now people view you as a monster, but you're our monster. Don't jeopardize that."

Modera nodded in agreement. "I understand your motivation, but that won't stick with these angry parents. If I don't do something, they're threatening to pull their kids from the academy. I can't risk that, so I'm hereby banning you from this campus barring states of emergency."

"I can live with that. Go ahead and put it in writing, make it official," Poldaran said. "Anything else before I leave?"

"There is one thing," Yadier said. "About that body I found the other day, the man who looked like he'd been partially eaten by those horrible carrion worms you conjure. I know his death was related to the murder of the Dawnweaver girl and her friends, but I can't figure out why exactly you've gotten involved. Care to comment?"

"Once you've figured out all the major players in that, my involvement will make complete sense to you. Don't take too long, or you'll miss the endgame."

With a single word, she invoked a teleportation stone and was gone.

** * **

The academy was shut down for several days while the mess was cleaned up, but by the next week, classes were back in session, even if the reduced number of instructors meant that classrooms had to be consolidated. Even the Violet Guard personnel stationed in the school to act as security were pitching in and taking on a class here or there.

Nagisa had spent much of her short vacation helping out at her mother's clinic. While she couldn't perform any medical duties, she could staff the clinic's desk and free up the nurse who usually did so to help out with the increased number of patients caused by most of the city's healers tiring themselves out working on victims of the academy attack.

While she tried to spend the rest of her days off reading and generally relaxing, she was not given that option. Samantha had stopped by her home to tutor her on more advanced magical subjects, curriculum that she said all Knights of Dalaran had to study.

It seemed that Samantha remembered events exactly as they occurred. Nagisa suspected that she had some of that prior knowledge Lady Pasiran had mentioned, meaning that the memory charm would not have worked on her. Either that or Lady Poldaran simply had not bothered to cast it on her.

Despite the steps taken to hide the exact truth of Nagisa's fight with the black dragon from everyone, the girl returned to school a hero. It seemed that everyone knew how she had fought to save them, even if they didn't know the full story. Instead of generally ignoring her when not outright glaring at her, students greeted her with smiles. Those who had been there even stopped her to thank her. She couldn't help but feel self conscious all the while and wished things would go back to normal, more or less.

Normal would also have meant the return of Diane, who had chosen to take a bit more time off to help out her father while he recovered from his wounds. He had been tortured with implements made of blackened shadowsteel, a vile metal that had left his wounds unable to be healed through magical means. That meant he would have to make the long, painful recovery over months instead of minutes. He would also have scars once the recovery was over.

Not everyone was happy with Nagisa, however. One woman in particular seemed quite angry when the girl entered her class. "Why would you hide your training from me for so long?" Azmaria demanded, speaking to Nagisa privately in her office. "What was there to gain by hiding it instead of training it? What could possess you to do that?"

"My entire time at this school," Nagisa began, "I've had one friend. Only one. I'm someone who can't cast even the simplest of spells among a student body of hundreds who can weave magic of varying natures. I've been called 'No-Spells' my entire time here, and that's one of the better ones. It's obvious that most people don't think I belong here. Until today, I don't think a single girl beyond Diane has ever been kind to me. Sure, I guess Samantha as well, though I think she doe so out of a sense of duty."

"I don't see what this has to do with my question."

"I'll get there in a moment. I also have talents as a dancer, a singer and some minor skill as a musician. Half the reason Headmistress Modera keeps me around is because I can use these to showcase the school's non-magical studies programs for her donation drives. If I were viewed by my fellow students as anything other than an outcast, these talents would likely be viewed as good, things to be lauded. Instead, the girls in school only see me receiving attention that I don't deserve."

"I'm still not seeing where this is going."

Nagisa ignored her. "The boys, on the other hand, seem to have taken a liking to me because of these talents. Not a day goes by that I don't find a random love letter in my locker. My lack of magical talent adds to this, because they also see me as helpless, in need of protecting. For some reason this speaks to them. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't like that kind of attention. But at least when they're fawning over me, they don’t hate me. So I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize that."

"I think I understand. You were afraid that showing strength might make more of your fellow students hate you?"

"More or less."

"While I disagree with your conclusion, I can't really fault your reasons. But now, the cat's out of the bag. I trust you'll be participating in my class from now on?" Nagisa nodded. "Good. My sister also suggested that I train you and some of the other You-Know-Whats privately after school. Are you interested?"

"I am," Nagisa replied. "It could even be fun."

** * **

Yadier was completely exasperated by it all. He just could not figure out how Poldaran intended to bypass the ban on her getting an apprentice, what exactly her role was with the recent killings and what exactly she meant to tell him through that damnable manga. He thought he'd had it, but now he had a feeling he had been wrong. It needed to all tie together somehow, and it just was not doing so.

And how did Lisa Windbloom and her daughter fit into all of this? He knew that there had to be a connection, but he just could not find it. Pasiran's report confirmed the link, but did nothing to explain it.

It was like someone was weaving a tapestry, but all he could see were the individual threads. There was no way to step back and see how they were all coming together.

To make things worse, it seemed that Samantha Kirin was getting involved as well. Considering that Marcus Kirin's death was considered by Poldaran as one of her greatest failures, Samantha's role in this made little sense to him. It was maddening.

Unless he managed to stumble upon another clue, there was little he could do. He had tried interrogating several acquaintances of Poldaran's in order to see what she had revealed to them, but none of them knew anything, though Xelsia certainly seemed to be hiding something.

He had the druid tailed in hopes of finding out something, put a watch on the apprentice registration office and had everyone keep an especially close eye on Dalar Dawnweaver and Viridiel Suntreader, just to be safe.

At least he wasn't the only one Poldaran had ****** off. The previous day, he had received a visit from a certain dragon in gnome form he was acquainted with. She had demanded that he contact Poldaran, but he was just as unsure how to get her to respond as she was. Apparently Poldaran was up to something that even the Keepers weren't exactly happy with, and they had been unable to reach her. Thinking back on that meeting made him laugh.

"***** it," Yadier said. "I'm going to invite some friends over, go to the cheese shop and enjoy an evening for once." He grabbed his hat and began heading out of the office. "Contact me only if something big happens," he told his assistant. "At this point, I'd rather not be disturbed."

"Of course, Wizard Yadier. Have a good evening."

** * **
The ice cream shop was uncrowded, unusual for an evening when school was in session. Nagisa figured that it was because not every student had returned to class and that those who had were required to return straight home when classes ended. The generally bustling streets were definitely lighter on traffic than usual.

"I can't believe how much skill you've gained," Samantha said to Nagisa. "In the three sessions we've had, you've gone from just barely keeping up with Lady Azmaria to holding your own. I didn't think anyone could do that. At least not that quickly."

"It's more of a relearning what I'd been taught," Nagisa said. "I haven't practiced that hard since coming to Dalaran, so I had become rusty. I think all these sparring sessions are shaking all of that rust off."

"It's too bad that you both have to use practice swords. I think it would be amazing to see you two fight with your real weapons."

Nagisa shook her head. "You know I can't summon it unless I'm in extreme danger."

"That's too bad, really. I'd have an easier time identifying which weapon that is if I could see it up close and study it a bit more."

Nagisa had asked Samantha if the weapon would give them clues as to her true identity. "Have you at least been able to narrow it down?"

Samantha nodded. "Lady Poldaran wouldn't tell me anything, so I was forced to go through my father's old notes from his days as a knight. He knew a lot more than the Council of Tirisfal likely wanted him to know. We have four weapons unaccounted for. Well, five if you count the pair Disillusion and Aspiration, but this is definitely not that one. We can eliminate one further as it is an axe, not a sword. That leaves us with three main possibilities and a potential rumor to consider."

"Which weapons are those?"

"First is Chrysaor, a blade wielded by the family Artegal. The last wielder died during the Siege of Dalaran, though it is possible his sister, who went missing during that battle, survived."

"For some reason, that doesn't sound right."

"I thought so as well. There's also the sword Durandal, wielded by the Roland family. That family's last heir went missing over a century ago, believed to be due to friction with a rival family. His statue is missing the image of the weapon, so no way to look at it and compare it to yours."

"That sounds like a possibility."

"Definitely more likely than the other. However, I suspect that the third weapon is our best candidate. Wizard Yadier seems to think so as well."

"You spoke with Wizard Yadier?"

"Not precisely. I managed to convince his assistant to let me into his office, and sadly, all it took was a little flirting. Anyway, while I was in there, I read over his notes regarding you and your mother. It seems he thinks that there's a good possibility that you're both Dawnweavers."

"Wait, Dawnweaver? Isn't their weapon a staff?"

"It is, but it's a special one. The first Dawnweaver was a master of dozens of weapon types, so his weapon was given the ability to change into any weapon he required. So it's possible that's what you're wielding."

"You know, being a Dawnweaver would certainly explain a few things I haven't been able to figure out, like how Dalar Dawnweaver knew me."

Samantha nodded. "I remember seeing mention of that in the notes. And more than that, it fits considering what we know about Lisa Dawnweaver."

"Wait, LISA Dawnweaver?"

"I know, right? She was an exceptional artist. She was also very talented at illusion magic, so much so that during her apprenticeship she revolutionized that particular craft, creating a new type of illusion spell that is still a very closely guarded secret, known only to a few mages."

Nagisa had heard of such a spell. "Adaptive illusions?"

"That's the one. And finally, when she was a journeyman, she injured an opponent in a practice duel. She was so upset by that event that she swore off fighting. However, she wanted to be able to remain near her beloved when he had to fight, so she hired a famous surgeon to train her so she could at least be as close as the medical tent."

Nagisa couldn't believe it. It was too close of a match. Everything was so incredibly spot on. "But then, how did she survive? I thought she died fifteen years ago."

"Wizard Yadier's notes suggest that he suspects the possibility that the pregnant Lisa Dawnweaver was able to get aid from a priestess she knew. With this woman's aid, she may have lived, allowing her to fake her own death using her great skill at illusion magic. Now, I agree that this is definitely sounding like the most likely answer, but I would be remiss if I didn't inform you that my research turned up one other possibility."

"What's that?" Nagisa asked as she finished the last of her sundae.

"There's a rumor that the smith created one final weapon, not on the record. He feared what might happen if his weapons managed to take control of their wielders, since each weapon has at its core the soul of a demon. Because of that, he forged that final weapon in secret with the aid of the Wisdom of the Tirisfal. Once completed, he imbued it with his own soul so that should any of the other blades revolt, at least the side of Light might have this one weapon on their side."

"What happened to it?"

"The Wisdom took the blade and secretly gave it to one he deemed worthy of its burden. The Knight and his family were charged with keeping the blade secret so that no forces of darkness could ever have the first strike against them. Only the Wisdom and the family ever knew the identity of the thirteenth Knight."

Nagisa laughed, in spite of herself. "Now I'm not sure which I’d rather it be. I mean, the Dawnweaver thing is kinda cool and it would be nice knowing more about my family's history, but this thirteenth Knight business is incredibly awesome sounding."

"You're right about that. I don't know which I'd rather have either, were I in your-" She suddenly went silent, then leaned in and whispered, "I think we're being watched."

"What do you mean?" Nagisa whispered back.

"I just realized that the man standing across the street has been there since we came in, and the cake vendor isn't the woman normally there. I've seen the same man walk by the window three times, as if he's just walking around the block over and over. Plus, I think the man at the table over in the corner might be listening to us. Crap, we've been whispering for far too long. Sorry about this, just play along." Samantha leaned in closer and kissed Nagisa deeply, startling the other girl.

The combination of the danger and suddenness of the kiss made Nagisa's heart skip a beat. She felt her face get warm and realized she was likely blushing deeply, though she could see nothing as her eyes had closed. The other girl's lips were soft and Nagisa found herself returning the kiss. A moment later, Samantha backed away.

"Sorry about that, sweetie," Samantha said at a normal tone of voice. "I know we don't do that kind of thing in public, but I just couldn't help myself." She leaned in again and whispered softly into Nagisa's ear, "Get up and storm out of here like you're mad at me for kissing you in public. I'll follow you apologizing. If we're being followed then, I'll tell you to run. If that happens, you head straight for Trias' Cheese Shop near the Sunreaver's Sanctuary. It's a front for Stormwind Intelligence. Tell the proprietor that Sir Roland sent you to ask about gouda. It's a signal he'll recognize and will help you until someone we can trust can come for you. I'll go a different direction so we can divide the pursuit. Now go."

"Your words won't work on me anymore!" Nagisa said, perhaps a little too loud. "You know what'll happen if my mom finds out! I told you that if you did that again that we were through!" She got up and stormed out of the ice cream parlor. Samantha got up and followed after her. As she stomped past the shop's window, Nagisa glanced inside and noticed that the man in the corner had gotten up as well.

"Walk faster," Samantha whispered. The guy across the street is on the move as well." The girls quickened their pace. "And there's the vendor. Time to run. Go right, I'll go left. Good luck."

Nagisa bolted down an alley to her right. Someone was waiting for her and tried to grab her, but she retaliated with a swift kick to the man's knee. She heard a sickening crunch but didn't stick around to verify that the man's knee had been shattered.

Once out of the alley, she turned down the road towards the cheese shop. A quick glance behind told her that all three men that were initially chasing the girls had followed Nagisa. She was fine with that, since she knew that meant Samantha would have an easier time escaping and getting help.

The men were fast, but Nagisa was faster. A combination of fear and determination drove her on, even when she thought her legs would give out from exhaustion, she sprinted on.

As luck would have it, the cheese shop was still open. She thanked the Light for small miracles and dashed inside, startling the young woman working the counter. "Can I help you?" the woman asked.

" speak with Mister Trias," Nagisa gasped. "Sir Roland...gouda..."

The woman's eyes went wide and she called out for the shop's owner. He came scrambling down the stairs. "Young Miss Windbloom? What brings you here?"

Nagisa did not have time to wonder how he knew who she was. The door opened and several small orbs flew through it. The proprietor tackled her away from them, but it was too late. She heard several loud bangs and then everything went black.

** * **

Viridiel Suntreader knocked lightly upon the door to his father's study. "Come in," said the voice on the other end. He opened the door to see his father seated at a large desk, an incredibly large book in front of him. The man seemed surprised to see him. "Viridiel, what are you doing here?"

Viridiel tried to hide his anger, though was mostly unsuccessful. "I've come to ask you about the death of my brother."

"What are you talking about, Viridiel. You already know what happened to him."

Another figure emerged from the door behind Viridiel. "You're right, he does," the hooded woman with the scarf over her face said softly.

"Guards!" Lord Suntreader called out, instantly realizing who the woman was.

"You'll find that they've all decided to take a little nap," Poldaran said. There's no one here to aid you. Now answer your son. He already knows what happened. You just need to explain why."

"Look Viridiel, I don't know what she's told you, but she's lying. I had nothing to do with what happened."

"Cut the crap, father. I was there when she reanimated Zander's head. She ordered him to answer my questions and spoke no other words during the interrogation. The time for lies is over. Now tell me the truth or I will be forced to ask her to repeat the procedure on you."

The man attempted to stand, but Poldaran bound him to the chair with a burst of gravitational magic learned from Kael'thas Sunstrider. "The truth is that this was your brother's own **** fault. He brought his death down on his own head. If he had simply done as I ordered and given the girl the herbs to make her miscarry before breaking it off with her, they would both be alive today. But he had to be a fool. He had to insist that they continue their course. She would have given birth to a monster, a perversion of our pure Suntreader bloodline."

"And so you killed him? You killed my brother, the woman who would have been my sister and my unborn niece, your own granddaughter? You killed three others to hide your crime? Surprised? Yes, three. One of the girls lived. I'm told that to this day the poor woman still has nightmares of what your men did to her? All because of some fool headed notion that our bloodline must remain pure? What do you think Vys would think of this if she found out?"

"Viridiel, you must never tell your sister of this. She can never know!"

Poldaran held out a gem and the image of Dalar Dawnweaver appeared. "Why is that, Suntreader?" Dalar asked. "Why can your daughter never know what you did to my daughter? Why can she not know that her father chose his pride over her brother's happiness, yes, over even allowing her brother to live? My daughter knew your evil. She witnessed it firsthand. My wife knew it as well. She died out of grief at what your evil did to my daughter. So tell me, why should your daughter be left out of the loop?"

The man at the desk attempted to stammer out a response, but Viridiel cut him off. "I tire of this. Let it be ended. Each breath this pitiful wretch takes is an affront to my brother's memory."

"Yes," Dalar agreed. "We have drawn this out long enough. Poldaran, end it."

The woman shook her head. "I am not done with him yet. Your vengeance will have to wait a moment longer." She approached the desk and drew a small dagger. With a flick of the wrist, she drew it across her left hand. The trickle of blood began to float and whirl in numerous patterns before the captured man as Poldaran hummed softly. The man was entranced by the cadence of her song and the movement of the blood. He seemed to be resisting whatever it was she was doing to him, so she released another stream of blood that played through the air with the first and began to sing aloud. "The sun that blooms in ****, darkness that's fallen in paradise...when you're faced with hope and despair, tell me, which one runs deeper?"

The man's shoulder's slumped, his will broken. "What are you doing?" Viridiel asked softly.

Poldaran hushed him with a gesture. "Lord Suntreader. Please take a pen and parchment from your desk and write what I say." The man pulled out the implements and dipped the pen in ink. "'Too long have I lived with my sins. Too long have I suffered with the knowledge that it was my fault that my son lies dead. I chose pride over my own family and in so doing have hurt so many others. I can no longer live with what I have done. It was I that ended the lives of my former servants and it is by my hand that I end my own. Once again I act as a coward as I attempt to pay the price of my evil. I hope only that my family can one day forgive me and that the families of those that I harmed will one day know peace.'" Poldaran looked over the note. "Good, now sign it." The man, compelled, did as she asked.

She drew a vial of some substance from her robe and began coating a second dagger with it. "What's that?" Viridiel asked.

"It's a salve used to cauterize vicious wounds by field surgeons. It's enchanted to burn extremely hot upon contact with blood. One blow of this dagger to the heart and it'll be over in an instant."

"What?" Dalar asked, outraged. "We agreed that he would suffer for his crimes. This death will be over too quickly. He has to suffer like Lisa did!"

"No," Poldaran said.

"Don't you dare defy me! If you do this, you'll never get what you wanted from me. Break our deal now and I'll break my end as well!"

"I thought you might," Poldaran replied. "That's why I took it from you before coming out here, as a precaution. The one in your vault is a replica."

"No! Don't do this!" he begged. "Alison would have wanted him to suffer for what he did to Lisa."

"How little you knew her, then," Poldaran replied. "She would not have wanted vengeance, nor more suffering. Simply justice. And she shall have it. This man will die and everyone will know his crimes. So shall he pay evil's price. Now be silent or I will sever the link and you will miss the end." She handed the anointed dagger to the elven man under her control. "Now drive this into your heart. It will all be over in an instant."

Lord Suntreader seemed to struggle for a moment, so Poldaran helped him bury the dagger within his chest. With a flash, it was over. Very little blood trickled from the now cauterized wound as he slumped within his seat.

"It is done," Poldaran said, severing the link and causing the image of Dalar Dawnweaver to disappear. She then cast a spell of illusion to make herself appear as an elven woman before removing her hood and scarf. "Come now, Viridiel, let us leave this place," she said.

"What's with the disguise?"

"Portal and teleportation spells leave traces that can be detected, so we're going to need to walk to a busier section of Silvermoon with no connection to your father before escaping. Now let's leave quickly, before any of those guards wake up."

As they walked from the mansion, he asked, "What do we do when the guards remember you putting them to sleep?"

"They won't. They'll remember it being done by your father. I'm much more thorough than you give me credit for. Let's head through this park. We'll look like nothing more than a couple on a stroll, and it's fairly dark in there, so less chance someone will recognize you." As they left the bright light of the streetlamps behind, lower pathway lighting became the only source of illumination. "So, anything else you'd like to ask, oh asker of questions?"

"Well, there's one thing that's been bugging me ever since I found out you were helping find out the truth of this. Why did you decide to help? I mean, at first I thought it was because Knights of Dalaran were involved, but after your argument with Dalar, I'm not so sure."

Poldaran sighed softly, as though she had known this question was coming. "Have I ever told you that I met your brother once?"

That question startled him. "What? When?"

"I was young and it was a short time before he was killed. He was very kind to me and seemed to make Big Sis happy."

"Big Sis?"

"Lisa Dawnweaver," Poldaran whispered. "She and my mother were very close. She used to visit all the time. My mom didn't want me calling her by her first name and suggested that I call her 'Aunt Lisa', but Big Sis thought that made her sound old, so that's when she decided I call her 'Big Sis' instead. Anyway, I met your brother when they came to tell my mother that they were engaged... and expecting a child." She was tearing up just remembering it.

Several things clicked at once for Viridiel and he had a flash of realization. "Poldaran, just who is Lisa Windbloom?"

"That's a bit more complicated than I... hold on just a second." She pulled a gem from her robe and pressed it lightly to her ear. "Wait, Samantha, you're going to have to slow down. What do you mean they got her? Her who? Start from the beginning. Okay, so you and Nagisa were having some ice cream and you realized you were being watched. Then men chased you? Nagisa made it to the cheese shop but was taken from there? How about you, are you safe? With Azmaria? Good. Stay there. They won't dare attack Azmaria's place. I'll be back in Dalaran momentarily and will go after Nagisa. No, trust me. I'll be able to find her. Just stay put. I'll come for you after I've gotten her. Just stay with my sister and you'll be okay." She put away the gem.

Viridiel could see fire in her eyes. "What's wrong?"

Poldaran's voice dripped with rage. "Someone's about to have a very bad day. You'll need to find someone else to get you back to Dalaran, as I'm going to need to take a slightly indirect route to avoid tipping off whomever did this to my return. We'll speak again later." And then she was gone.

** * **

Nagisa awoke to the sound of a man's voice. "Time to get up, little girl," he said. "I'm impatient to get my hands on that special treasure you carry." His voice was sinister and just the way he said it terrified Nagisa. She pretended to remain asleep in order to attempt to assess her situation.

Through a barely open eye, she could see that the room was well lit; its walls painted some dull off white color. As far as she could tell without moving her head, there was only the one man in the room with her, but she was bound, so attacking him with surprise would not likely be a choice until she could loosen her bindings.

The man began talking to himself. "To think that Rapture was hidden with this girl. Dalar Dawnweaver, you've made a grave mistake giving it to your granddaughter when she's unable to command her magic. It was ripe for the taking. We'll finally have it once she wakes up."

Nagisa heard a sickening crunch and heard another voice speak. "You're wrong," a woman whispered, her voice muffled as though her mouth was covered. "She's not Dalar's granddaughter and she doesn't carry Rapture. But more importantly, you'll never get the weapon she's carrying because you're dying. Oh, come now, don't give me that look. I've simply severed your cervical spine. I even coated the blade with an anesthetic, so you likely barely even felt that. Oh, sure, I know, you're asphyxiating as we speak. I'm sure that's all kinds of unpleasant. Well, let that be a lesson to you. No one kidnaps my apprentice. Hear me? No one." Nagisa then heard the sound of someone collapsing to the ground. "Come now, little knight, you can open your eyes. The bad man won't bother you any more."

Nagisa opened her eyes to see a familiar figure clad in a black robe and white scarf. "Lady Poldaran?"

"The one and only," Poldaran replied. "Are you okay?"

"Still a little groggy from whatever they used to knock me out, but I think I'm none the worse for wear." With a little magic, Poldaran removed her bonds. "How did you find me?"

"I told you that as long as you wear that pendant, I will always be able to find you. Now, can you stand?" Nagisa nodded. "Good, then we should get moving as quickly as possible. They'll likely come check on him."

"Okay," Nagisa said, standing. She found herself a bit wobbly and would have fallen over had Poldaran not caught her. "What you said, about me being your apprentice, is it true?" she asked, unsure of herself.

"Of course," Poldaran said. "That's been the plan since before you were born."

"But how can I be your apprentice if I can't even cast a single spell?"

"Oh, right, that." She leaned Nagisa against a wall and took the girl's arm. "Avalon, accessing command override," she said, her tone commanding.

Nagisa heard a voice in her mind. "Acknowledged. Authorization verified. What can I do for you, commander?"

"I hereby authorize removal of Seventh Level Spirit Conduit Seal, slow release."

"Acknowledged," the voice said in Nagisa's mind. "Level seven seal to slowly unbind, complete removal estimated at approximately two hours. Levels one through six will remain intact."

"Good. Return to standby mode."

Nagisa felt a sudden rush, almost like a fog was lifting from her mind. "What's going on?"

"Due to extreme circumstances, your gift is incredibly volatile. It was deemed necessary to completely seal it off until the time was right for me to begin your training. Removing the uppermost seal leaves you with the level of magic of a rank apprentice. In time, I will remove others."

"I don't understand, Lady Poldaran."

"Now isn't the time for a full explanation. Now let's hurry out of here. Incidentally, should something happen and you get caught again, do not draw your blade until two hours have passed. Without your magic, you will be unable to fight off any of these foes and it's your sword they're after."

The two began quietly walking through a hall. "Who are these people?" Nagisa whispered.

"Servants of the Legion. They believe that since the weapons of the Knights hold demons at their cores, the blades can be made to serve the Legion."

"Is it true?"

"I do not believe so, at least not in your case."

"In my case?"

"The weapon you carry doesn't have a demon at its core. It's powered by something else." Not powered by a demon? But that only left one possibility that Nagisa knew of. It had to be the weapon bearing the smith's soul, which made her the thirteenth Knight!

She had to admit that she was somewhat disappointed by the fact that this meant that she likely wasn't a Dawnweaver, which meant that she still didn't know the truth about her mother.

They came to a large room filled with crates. It appeared that they were within some kind of warehouse. Since all of those were shielded against teleportation magic, that explained why they had to sneak out of the building. "Alright," Poldaran said. "There’s a large open area in the center of the warehouse. We're going to need to pass by it to get to the other side. Be ready to run when we reach there, as it's the place we're most likely to be spotted."

They reached the clearing and Poldaran gave the signal to run, but they didn't make it far. Out of the darkness behind them came a flash. Poldaran turned to see what it was just in time to be impaled by a huge flying spear. It tore through her chest and pinned her to large stack of crates. She looked in disbelief and her body went limp. Nagisa screamed in horror.

"That's what you get," a voice said from the shadowed hallway they had come from. "To think that you could kill one such as me with a simple knife wound." As he entered the light, Nagisa saw that this man was no man, but a dread Nathrezim! "We are immortal." Nagisa attempted to make a break for it. "Grab the girl."

Several figures appeared from the shadows, demons of numerous types. One, a succubus, struck Nagisa's leg with a whip, sending the girl tumbling to the ground. Tears filled the girl's eyes, for she could not believe the horror that had unfolded.

"To think that not only have I captured one of the fabled Knights, but have killed the mighty Poldaran! Today we shall know great rewards from our master!" The other demons cheered.

Nagisa crawled into a corner and cowered. There had to be a way out of this, but she could not see it. She tried to think, but she could only remember the moment Lady Poldaran had given her the pendant. She had said that when things looked their darkest, she could use the pendant to speak to her. What were the magic words again? "That is not dead which can eternal lie," Nagisa whispered in desperation, clutching the pendant tightly.

"Look at the mighty Knight cowering!" the demon said. "Try what you might. No one will come to your aid. You might as well just turn your sword over to us now and save yourself the torture."

Nagisa's hands began to shake. "That is not dead which can eternal lie. That is not dead which can eternal lie." The whispers became louder until she was almost shouting. "That is not dead which can eternal lie!" The gem in her hand began to glow brightly as the inky black and milky white liquids began to swirl violently. Then she suddenly heard a gasp for air. She looked over and saw the spear holding Lady Poldaran rust away to nothingness.

Blue fire burned in the eyes of sorceress as she glared at the demon. "And with strange aeons, even death may die." Her skin had taken on the pallor of death and her hair had lost its sheen. She walked slowly towards the unbelieving demon, each step leaving ethereal blue flame behind.

"This is impossible!" the Nathrezim said.

"Oh, it's quite possible," Poldaran replied. "You've been a bad little demon, and it's high time you got a spanking.'

"No! Stay back!"

Poldaran pulled off the scarf and tossed it aside, allowing her evil smile to be seen by all. She then held out her right hand. "Rapture, materialize. Scythe form."

** * **

Upon making a list of all his friends so he could decide who to invite over, Yadier realized he did not have many friends that were men. He found it somewhat strange that so many were ladies. Not that he was complaining, but he figured he should find more guys to hang out with.

He ended up inviting over a few of the women he knew. Since all were trained magic users with years of study, he looked forward to some excellent intellectual conversation.

When he went to set the wine in his sitting room, he found a massive mess awaiting him. "Oh, that's right, the elemental," he said, shaking his head. With no time to clean up, they would just have to hang out in his study, which was usually fairly clean. The sound of the door chimes caught his attention. "On my way," he called out.

When he opened the door, Modera greeted him, a rather large covered platter in hand. "I whipped up some finger foods," she explained.

"They smell delicious," Yadier replied. "Since it turns out my sitting room is uninhabitable at the moment, follow me to my study."

When they walked into the study, a rather large projection of the portrait Yadier had been studying occupied the majority of their initial field of view. "Any luck figuring out who that last girl is?" Modera asked, already somewhat familiar with Yadier's research.

"Nah," he replied. "I think I'm about ready to wash my hands of this mess. I don't think I care about whatever it is Poldaran has planned anymore."

Modera laughed. "I can't say that I blame you. I'm tired of carrying this thing around, myself." She pulled a small bell from one of her robe pockets and placed it on his large crystalsong wood desk.

"What's that?"

"That's Poldaran's watch bell. Every mage given a power limiter has a bell tuned to their gift. When they remove their limiter, the bell rings and glows, alerting us to the event. We figured that she would find a way to remove the earrings by disabling the spell pretty quickly, but would only actually do so if she was faced with a dire need to have as much power as she could access, so we'd have a warning when something big went down. That's the main reason I suggested she be limited in the first place."

Yadier raised his eyebrows in surprise. "I'm amazed at your motivation, though I do have to question the potential results."

"Why's that?"

"Well, unless he was lying, and he very well could be, Dalar tells me that the only way to remove the limiter without the authorization of a member of the Six is to overload them from within. He estimates that she'd have to be at least twenty percent more powerful than her maximum strength to do so."

"Since she'd need the power to come from within, then it's impossible?"

"Not entirely. Dalar suggested that if she could find a way to form a complete bond with one of the weapons used by the Knights, then it would give her the boost she'd need, though she would also need to be at full strength to begin with, which all accounts suggest will take at least ten years for all the damage to her soul to heal."

"Since those weapons only bond to members of the family line they've chosen, that makes it pretty well impossible."

"Yeah, pretty much." He looked around the room and realized there wouldn't be enough seating. "I'll be right back. I'm gonna go get some chairs from my sitting room. There should be a couple that weren't destroyed." As he approached the sitting room, the door chimes rang again, so he detoured to the front door.

"Hello, Yadi," Sindara greeted him. "Pasiran said to tell you that she was going to stop by Bythia and Jeriix's places and bring them on by as well."

"Oh, excellent," he said, glad that there would be a couple more guests. "Then I really need to get more chairs. You remember where my study is?"

"I do," she replied, "though I'm gonna stop by your kitchen for a few more glasses. Can't go drinking this out of wine glasses," she said, producing a very expensive bottle of scotch.

He levitated three chairs from the sitting room to the study, figuring he could go back for more if he needed them. He set them in with the others already in the room, forming a fairly large circle. He then woke up his arcane construct and sent it to the kitchen for some plates.

He pulled off the cover to Modera's platter and grabbed what looked to be a mini quiche and tossed it in his mouth. From the doorway, he heard a gasp. "By the Light, Yadi, where did you get that?!" Sindara asked.

Mouth still full, Yadier looked over at the warlock and followed her gaze, which was firmly fixed on the projection of the portrait. Upon that glance, he noticed something he hadn't before. He looked back at the warlock again and suddenly began to choke. It just wasn't possible. How had he not noticed it before?

The woman, Alison, looked exactly like Sindara, down to the raven hair. He managed to swallow the food and stop the coughing fit. "Sin, tell me, who is that woman?"

"That's my mom," she said. "And the woman next to her is Aunt Lisa. It's amazing how much Poldaran looks like her."

She was right. Save for the color of their hair, this woman could be Poldaran's twin. "This is important. When you say 'Aunt', what do you mean?"

"She's mom's younger sister."

Gears began turning in Yadier's mind. It was all beginning to make sense. She had said that when he figured out all the major players, he'd understand her involvement. She hadn't been kidding. It was all coming together. He knew why she was involved and how she would get the extra power to remove the limiter, though not how she intended to heal the damage to her soul. But seeing this, he knew there had to be a way. "Modera, tell me, what will happen if she manages to overpower and destroy the limiter?"

"It's never happened before, so we can't say for certain, though I suspect the ringing would be much louder than normal."

"We'll find out soon enough, I suspect." The door chime rang again, multiple times, then the door opened and Yadier's assistant rushed in. "I'm sorry to barge in," the young man said, "but you told me to alert you immediately if Poldaran of Wintermoon managed to get an apprentice contract approved." He handed Yadier an envelope. "You're going to want to read this."

Yadier quickly skimmed to the portion that explained the reason for the exemption. Upon reading it, he dropped the file and began laughing. That was the final piece of the puzzle. He finally understood. He walked over to his desk and drew out the issue of the manga he'd been lead to. "The girl had the answer all the time," he said, still laughing. "But I missed the obvious. The main story is about the girl and the fairy, not the piano. I should have instead asked her if she enjoys waffles!"

The others exchanged worried glances as Yadier continued to laugh. Suddenly the bell on the desk exploded, sending fragments of porcelain everywhere. Yadier howled with more laughter and through the closed windows all could hear the sound of every bell in Dalaran ringing.

** * **

Edited, Jul 22nd 2011 1:10am by Poldaran
#7 Jul 22 2011 at 1:15 AM Rating: Good
29,424 posts
"Rapture, materialize. Scythe form." Nagisa watched in horror as streams of blood flowed from the wound in Lady Poldaran's chest to her hand, where they came together and hardened, forming a wicked looking scythe bearing the three symbols marking it as Rapture, the weapon of the Dawnweaver family.

As the blood flow stopped, the wound healed, as did the tear in the robe, somehow. Nagisa just could not wrap her mind around how this was possible. The woman was dead just moments ago, but now she walked, talked and breathed as though nothing had happened. She looked down at the pendant still clasped tightly in her hand and realization dawned upon her. Perhaps this was Lady Poldaran's phylactery? Would that mean that Nagisa's hero was in fact a lich, even if only some of the time?

Poldaran's steps had placed her between the cowering girl and the demons. With almost all of the woman's skin covered by the robe and her back to Nagisa, the girl could not see the color return to the woman's flesh. She could, however, see the gem stop glowing and the life returning to the woman's hair.

"The time has come to break these chains that bind me," Poldaran said. Every light in the room began to extinguish and Nagisa could feel a growing pressure throughout the room, as though the woman's presence was bearing down on everyone trapped with her.

Through the black robes, Nagisa could make out dozens of glowing white runes that had begun to shine on the woman's skin. New runes continued to form, radiating out from a central point, covering first the woman and scythe, then the floor, then the walls and finally the ceiling, until the entire room was bathed in their ethereal light.

The pressure in the room had grown and now Nagisa felt as if it might suffocate her, until at last she heard the sound of two gems shattering and could see a pair of earrings fall from Poldaran's ears.

The pressure immediately faded and the runes disappeared. The only light that remained came from a blue flame burning on the edge of the scythe's blade. "The time has come for your end, demon."

"Not even you can take on this many of us," the Nathrezim replied.

"One of you? I find that I'm quite up to the task," Poldaran replied, snapping her fingers. All light returned to the room, revealing that every other demon in the room had been slaughtered in the most horrifying ways imaginable. "I believe that you'll find yourself quite alone, demon."

The demon was visibly shaken, but he tried to hide it. "So, you killed my minions. That proves nothing. I have nothing to fear from a fool who chooses as pitiful a weapon as a scythe."

Poldaran shrugged. "You are right, of course. A scythe is a poor weapon, mostly because it's not a weapon. It's a tool. One would never use something like this to fight a serious opponent. One would only want to wield something like this when doing chores, like reaping weeds and lesser monsters so far beneath themselves as to functionally be weeds."

The contempt in Poldaran's voice startled Nagisa, but she could sense that the woman was being serious. She really felt that the monster was so beneath her as to not be a threat.

Nagisa wasn't the only one startled by the woman's words. The demon began to shake visibly as Poldaran slowly began approaching it. "No!" it cried out. "Stay back. This shouldn't be. I killed you!"

The woman stopped her advance and suddenly began to laugh. Its rich sound filled the room. "You killed me? You? Killed me?" She laughed again. Suddenly the laughter stopped and she became serious. "I, who have fought in countless battles? I, the woman whose very first fight ended with the death of a powerful member of your kind when I was no older than this girl here? Don't make me laugh, Nathrezim. I have survived perils you could not imagine. I have fought wars throughout time itself. I have driven my hand through the heart of an elemental lord. I have bested demons of all types, slaughtered countless cults that worshiped the Burning Legion, slain wizards half a decade my senior. I fought the Qiraji. I have made war on not one but two Dragonflights.

"I have killed a god. I have brought the heaven's fury down upon an entire army. I have slain a mighty gronn and his ogre legions. I stood against the armies of both the Naga and Kael'thas Sunstrider's elves. I stormed the Black Temple and freed Outland. I walked into Naxxramas and when I left, nothing remained within. I stood alone against the Lich King on two occasions and both times I was victorious, though the last fight took me over fifteen years to recover from. My name is said by the greatest of monsters to scare themselves around campfires.

"I have been swallowed by an old god, stabbed with the mighty blade Frostmourne and even bathed in the flames of the Dragon Queen herself, yet here I stand. Despite all of this, you thought that a simple spear through my chest would be enough to kill me? Who the **** do you think I am?!"

As the woman ranted, Nagisa finally got a clear look at her face. The demon may not have realized just who he was dealing with, but Nagisa certainly knew who this woman was. It wasn't possible. This just could not be. She told herself that her eyes must be lying, but in her heart she knew the truth. She had always known.

Poldaran must have sensed Nagisa's shock, because she turned to the girl. "Oh dear, it seems that in my excitement I removed the scarf. By the look on your face, I guess the cat is out of the bag. Guess that's what I get for being lazy and using a scarf instead of changing the illusion spell when necessary."

Nagisa could think of no response.

"Oh come now, 'isa. Pick your jaw up off the floor. After all, a lady really should be more elegant, right?"

** * **

Epilogue: The Woman with Two Souls

From his seat at the desk in his study, Yadier laughed. "I would have killed to have been in that room when Ansirem and that Violet Guard unit stormed in to arrest you, only to find that you had slain a good half dozen demons."

"Certainly shined a different light on my 'broke out of power limiter' infraction, to say the least," Poldaran said, also laughing. "The best part was when he found out that someone had snuck a clause into the wording of the power limiter law that protects mages who remove them in order to protect an apprentice."

"I still can't believe you've taken in another apprentice, Pold. I still have some misgivings about the whole thing."

The woman nodded. "Of course you do. It's to be expected. However, I assure you that what happened with Gabriel will not be a concern with 'isa. The circumstances are completely different. I wasn't ready for the apprentice they forced on me, nor did I even give him the attention an apprentice requires. I'm still not certain how he hatched that harebrained scheme, nor have I managed to figure out why he thought to incorporate Surian Theory and Tyrean spellforms into the spell, but I seriously doubt Nagisa will need a love potion to get my attention. I'm sure she's in more danger as my daughter than she is from being my apprentice."

"I guess you're right. So, how's she doing?"

"I still don't think she's come to terms with who I am yet. She still walks around our home in a bit of a daze. I figure she'll be fine soon, but for now she definitely seems to be in shock."

"I can't say I blame her. To find out that your mother is not only one of the most famous mages in Azeroth, but is also the woman you've idolized for years, well, that would shock just about anyone."

"True enough." Poldaran took a sip of her snow plum wine. "Speaking of apprentices, how's Samantha doing?"

"I'm glad I let you talk me into taking her as my apprentice. The girl is incredibly focused, serious about her studies and fairly level headed most of the time. All in all, I don't think I could ask for a better apprentice."

"Good to hear. So, any plans now that you've resigned as head of Dalaran Security?"

"Well, I'm still technically in charge for another month, but after that's over, I think my apprentice and I will go seek out my brother's command and see if Yox could use another wizard or two."

"Sounds like a decent plan. Since you'll be here for a month, think I could get you to make sure Jeriix, Bythia and Tokeru get settled with their new apprentices?"

"Sure thing. Have you talked with Pasiran about Diane yet?"

"Of course. The two have gotten settled in nicely, and since Pasiran's keeping an eye on Diane's parents anyway, she thinks taking the girl as an apprentice is a wonderful idea. She'll also be able to make sure the girl gets a good foundation in the study of healing herbs, so it's almost a dual apprenticeship."

"You know, now that you mention medicine, something's been bugging me."

"Okay," Poldaran said, taking another drink. "What is it?"

"Oh, it's just that I can't quite figure out why you took up surgery. Was it simply as a hobby?"

"Not at all," Poldaran said. "I needed to be as alike to Big Sis as I could be in case someone got curious about my identity. That way, if they pried, they would think I was her, which would explain why I was hiding my identity and deflect suspicion away from the truth. That's also why I took up the violin and painting. She did them so I had to as well. If anyone found out who I really was before I passed the point where I went back in time, it could have caused a catastrophic chain of events leading to the potential unraveling of time itself. If they suspected only that Big Sis had survived, well, then things wouldn't have gotten out of hand."

"I guess that makes sense, but you took a terrible risk in time traveling to begin with."

"Hey, it wasn't my idea. Okay, maybe it was, but older me forced it on younger me. Or something like that. Look, either way, the Keepers aren't upset with me about it, since I was just fulfilling a stable time loop. Only thing they seemed ticked about was that I was unavailable recently to help in a battle against the Infinite Dragonflight. They'll calm down about the whole thing soon enough. In fact, I'm sure that by the time I return from my trip to Stormwind, everything will be forgotten."

Yadier was alarmed by that. "Stormwind? Why are you going to Stormwind?"

"I want to take Bethany and Sindara with us when Nagisa and I head for the front lines against the Twilight Cult, but Sindara can't safely leave Dalaran, so I thought I would go have a chat with the head of the warlocks in Stormwind. You know, see if I can get him to call off the others."

"Poldaran, please tell me that you don't intend to yell at the leader of Stormwind's warlocks."

"Yell? Of course not. I intend to be completely pleasant and cordial. After I set a few things on fire first to make sure he understands the situation."

Yadier could feel the coming of a major headache, so he decided to change the subject. "There's something I've been meaning to ask you," he said.

"What's that?"

"I didn't want to ask this in front of Modera, so I didn't mention it when we talked to you after the events at the school, but one of the students told me something about you that worries me. She said that you were 'Man'ari'. That your soul was sick and become tainted by darkness. Any truth to this?"

"It's true, of course. Well, half true. As in, half of my soul is completely blackened, always has been, ever since I was born, I suspect."

"That makes no sense."

"Sure it does," Poldaran replied. "I did a little time traveling and confirmed that at least as early as age three, my soul was like this. I'm uncertain of the cause. On a good note, the other half is completely pure, untainted by darkness. That's why I'm unaffected by the corrupting nature of both arcane and fel magic."

"I'm not sure I understand what you're saying."

"Yeah, I had to go bug someone more qualified on the subject to explain it to me as well. I'm not sure how much Velen appreciated me teleporting in and interrupting his meditations, but he took the time to explain to me what he could. Well, think of it this way. Everyone has some darkness within their souls, so if you imagine the soul as a circle, then the entire circle is gray for most people. It shifts between differing shades of gray as their decisions cleanse or darken the soul."

"Okay, I think I follow you so far."

"Good. Now, some people can, in moments of selflessness and heroism, harness the pureness of their soul and temporarily turn the soul completely white. Paladins in particular learn to harness this ability, though few not of the Draenei know what it is they're doing, precisely. On the other hand, corrupting influences can also darken the soul, but they don't often affect the entire soul at once. The seep across the edges of the soul, slowly blackening ever increasing pieces of it until the soul has become completely taken over by darkness."

"And arcane magic is one of those influences?"

"Exactly. If the magic is allowed to course through the soul itself, it corrupts it. Combine that with the addicting nature of arcane magic and you can quickly understand why sorcery is so frowned upon."

"So how does that apply to you and the fact that you seem to get away with channeling loads of arcane energy through your body?"

"You can't corrupt a pure soul. Since half of my soul is pure, that part can't be corrupted. And you can't corrupt an already completely corrupted soul, so the other half is safe. So there's that."

"Is this why you were called the Woman with Two Souls in that prophecy?" Poldaran nodded. "So what's it like living like that?"

"I've never known any other way, so I don't have a baseline to compare it to, but it's almost like having two personalities that are almost identical in what they want, but occasionally diverge on how they want to get it. Only when one side is strengthened by my emotions does one take charge and set the course without a compromise. You've seen that happen a number of times."

"And that leads to your blackouts?"

"I actually suspect that the other part of my soul seals away my memories of what I've done to protect me from the despair that might cause. At least it used to. Now that I've accepted myself as I am, it doesn't block the memories anymore."

"That sounds rough."

"It can be, but there are benefits. For instance, Yogg-Saron couldn't use my fears or desires to destroy my sanity because he was trying to destroy two minds at once but didn't realize it. Didn't hurt that one of those minds was already insane at the time."

"And how about Nagisa? Does she share your, for lack of a better word, gift, or is she normal?"

"Normal isn't quite the right word for Nagisa's soul, but it's not like mine. Hers is different because it was altered by a little adventure her pregnant mother had traveling through a nether mana stream. My soul protected hers from the corrupting influence, but there was still the danger of it being extinguished altogether by the raw power of the stream. So, in response, it grew massive. This correlates to a major increase in her magical potential. In fact, had I not sealed most of her powers, she would likely be able to destroy this city without much effort."

"So if she got her full powers and used them incorrectly, she could quickly blacken her entire soul?"

Poldaran nodded again. "Let's just hope that never happens."
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