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."
"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."
"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