Sitting in a cold, dank room near the Royal Quarter of the Undercity, a young elven woman sighed and pulled her cloak tighter around her. In one of the beds across the room, her companion, an elven priest, snored softly. Distracted by him, she rose, tucked the blanket a little tighter around him, and then returned to the desk. The candle’s soft light was the only illumination in the room. She idly twirled a quill in one hand while regarding the blank pages of a journal.
“So much to say,” she sighed to herself. Her low contralto voice seemed loud in the stillness of the room. Glancing back over her shoulder guiltily, she prayed she had not woken her companion. Satisfied that he was still oblivious, she tugged a hand through her short honey-colored hair and shook her head to clear it. “I’ll just start at the beginning,” she whispered to herself, bending over the desk and dipping the quill in the inkpot, “and go from there.”
With no further argument, she set the quill to the parchment and let the words flow.
From the personal journal of Alayne Dawnrunner, a blood elf warlock
The air of Eversong Woods is clear now. The sun shines down through the vibrant green leaves of living trees. I see no sign of the devastation wrought by the Scourge invasion, save for the Dead Scar that cuts through from Deatholme to the remnants of the Sunwell.
Or, at least, that is what I tell myself as I look around my former homeland. But it is a lie. The signs are all around me — even within me. How well I recall the preternatural silence that hung thick in the air as our armies advanced to meet the Scourge. Glancing around, I can see my father…
“Are you well?” one of my fellow recruits asked, shaking me from my reverie.
“I will be,” I replied with a sigh, “it’s just…”
“I understand,” he said. “Take all the time you need.” With that, he departed, striding on ahead to the spire. I remained in the shadows cast by the trees, remembering the shades of my past.
“Miris, for the love of all that is holy, take her and leave!” my father urged my mother in a hushed whisper. From the other room, I listened in on their conversation. Papa had just returned from the war – a distasteful thing I hated because it took my father away from me – the night before. I was hoping to see him; to show him how far I’d advanced in my studies. I’d been eager to go to the sunlit groves outside the city gates and swim with them both watching on from the beaches of the Elrendar. When I tried to convince them to let us go for a picnic at breakfast, Papa smiled and sent me into the other room, saying he needed to talk about it with Mama. Since they were talking about my idea, I felt no guilt at eavesdropping on them. But why was Papa telling Mama to take me and leave? Did he not like us anymore? A sob escaped my throat before I could swallow it, betraying me to them.
“Come in here, Alayne,” Mama said, giving my father a tired look. “What’s the matter?” she asked me, her expression telling me that she knew the answer.
“Why do you want us to go away, Papa?” I asked with a wail. “Don’t you want us to stay with you? I’ll be good if you’ll let me stay! I’m sorry!” the words came out in a torrent of tears and sobs. I felt strong hands lift me up from the ground and strong arms grasp me close in a hug as I cried my fear and misery out on my father’s chest.
“There, there, Alayne,” he said softly in a soothing tone, “I’m not mad at you. I don’t want you to leave me; I want you to leave here for a little while to go someplace safer.”
I lifted my head to look him in the eye. Still snuffling and hiccupping, I tried to understand this new twist about leaving home to go someplace safe. “Is home not safe?” I asked, confused. Then, seeing the flicker in his eyes, I knew. “The war’s coming here, isn’t it, Papa?”
His eyes flickered with sadness and sighing, he nodded. “But, Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner will be calling out the entire army of Quel’Thalas,” he reassured me. “You know Lady Sylvanas, the great Alleria Windrunner’s sister, don’t you, Alayne?”
“Lady Sylvanas will be fighting in the war?” I said, awed and afraid at the same time. “Those Urges will never beat Sylvanas! She’s the greatest fighter ever! I told her I wanted to be just like her when I grow up. She came and talked at my school last month,” I babbled. I’d always admired Sylvanas and Alleria. They were my heroes.
“Exactly,” Papa said, smiling, after my praises trailed off. “But, Sylvanas needs everyone who’s not in the army to go somewhere else for a while. She doesn’t want there to be any chance that you or anyone else will get hurt. So, she asked us to tell you to leave when we got the chance to come back here and visit,” he said, shooting a meaningful glance at my mother. “Our friends, who have traveled to Menethil Harbor, said we could stay with them for a little while.”
“Will you be coming too, Papa?”
“Not right away, sweetheart. I have to stay here and help Sylvanas fight those nasty ‘Urges,’” he grinned, his eyes shining strangely. “Once we’re done, I’ll come to you and Mama and we’ll come back here. I promise. Now, why don’t you go out and play a little bit? This afternoon, I’ll take you and Mama on a picnic before you have to leave.”
“Thanks, Papa!” I squealed with delight. After squeezing his neck in a happy hug, I squirmed out of his arms and raced outside to play in the yard. As I ran down the hallway, I glanced back over my shoulder. Papa stood in the doorway, a sad smile on his face and the shininess from his eyes – unshed tears – falling gently. Looking back, it seems as if he knew that this would be the last time he’d see home and family…
It was raining the day that word came of my father’s ultimate fate. Mama and I had suspected for years that he would not be joining us but hope shone eternal…until…
News of the destruction of Quel’Thalas reached us weeks after we felt what must have been the destruction of the Sunwell. As a child, no older than seven, I did not understand the tearing sensation that seemed to rip through my soul. All I knew was that I hungered for something that I never realized was there until it was gone forever. It was as if the sun had been forever dimmed by thick clouds. The world around me grew darker, colder, and harsher as my hunger sharpened, seeking sustenance. My mother said that the cravings would pass; that we would find a way to control them.
Her predictions have come true. Albeit in a horrifying manner…
Yet more weeks passed, bringing us tales of the battle where Sylvanas had fallen to the traitorous prince Arthas, the leader of the Scourge. Had fallen and then been brought back, enslaved in an unnatural unlife as a banshee. My mother paled when she heard this news and I screamed at the soldier that he was wrong; he was lying. Lady Sylvanas would never lose to the Scourge! For weeks afterwards, I wept and prayed that someone would come and tell us that the returning soldiers were wrong. I turned my eyes to the heavens and begged the stars to let Sylvanas herself come with my papa to Menethil and prove these humans wrong. But, if my prayers were heard, they went unanswered.
Unanswered. For ten long years…
As I said, it was raining the day that word came of my father’s ultimate fate. The rain came down with a steady staccato punctuated by the occasional burst of angry thunder. I felt faintly nauseated from a headache I’d been ignoring – an occupational hazard of cleaning tables in the town’s tavern. The day had begun badly and grown worse. First an argument – a long-running one – between Mama and I over my job. With Dalaran gone and little hope of returning to Quel’Thalas, I had decided to settle for life among humans and wished to earn enough money to travel further south to Stormwind. Mama wished for me to spend all of my time studying arcane magic in hopes that some un-named benefactor would take me under wing as soon as Quel’Thalas was restored.
But, I digress. In short: Mother wished me to remain home or to do work deemed acceptable for a young woman of means – painting, sewing, or acting as a scribe. Working in a tavern was not even at the bottom of her list of acceptable trades.
My mother and I were preparing supper in strained silence when we heard a knock at the door. Dusting the flour off her hands, and shooting me a look that promised punishment if this was yet another human suitor who’d tracked me down from work, Mama went to answer it. When she didn’t return immediately, I put down the potatoes I’d been cutting and walked into the main room to see who it was. A strange man – yet faintly familiar, in some way – stood in the doorway. He had a soldier’s bearing and his tabard proclaimed him a member of the Silvermoon Army. The stripes on his raised collar told his rank – captain. He glanced back at me, a look of surprised bafflement on his face. Before I could ask a question, his gaze returned to my mother and a look of unsurpassed sympathy shone across his stern soldier’s features. My mother stood rocking slightly, her mouth hung, eyes blank, and arms wrapped around her chest clutching her shoulders. She keened silently, chewing her thumb knuckle – just as I do when I’m upset – and stared at the floor. The captain lifted a hand, letting it hover a little bit over her shoulder. “Surely you must have guessed, Miris,” he whispered softly. Mama seemed oblivious to him. With a sigh, he turned to regard me again. “Little Alayne,” he said sadly. “You’ve grown up.”
“Mama?” I asked, moving to stand in front of her and shaking her gently. Nothing I did broke her terrible trance. Casting a confused and frightened look at the captain, I began feeling the beginnings of panic rising within me. My hands shook and my mouth felt as dry as a desert. “Mama? What happened? Who is this man?”
“He’s dead!” she screamed, still staring sightlessly into the distance. “He’s not coming for us!” With that, she collapsed to the floor, tearing at her face and sobbing. Terrified and despairing, I stared at the captain for answers.
“I am so sorry,” he said, kneeling down to pick my mother up from the floor. Sobs shook her body and her high-pitched wails made my ears ring and head pound. Over the pounding of my head and the thundering of my heart, it was a miracle I heard the captain’s explanation at all. “Sergeant Tal’ar fell to the Scourge while defending the Sunwell. From the handful of survivors who managed to flee, he fought bravely to the end, taking many of the enemy with him. Prince Kael’thas has vowed to honor him – along with many others who gave their lives in defense of our homeland – when he returns.”
I nodded, bewildered. One simple sentence had destroyed the dreams of a decade. The captain carried my mother to her room and then left. Through it all, I stood like a statue, numb, remembering that he had promised to return to us…
The next morning, the captain – Remar – returned to our house. Mama was still pale and shaken from the night before. Her cries had kept me awake throughout the night. Even the potion I’d gotten from the local alchemist, Master Armonis, had not helped her. Through the long watches of the stormy night, I had sat by her bedside, holding her hand and wishing I knew how to comfort her…or that she would comfort me…
In the harsh light of day, she sat in the stuffed chair near the fire, shivering and staring blindly.
“Is there anything I can do for either of you?” the captain asked. “Do you have any other family? Or friends I could contact? Would you like me to send word to anyone in Quel’Thalas? I travel there next before I journey west to…”
“What is there left for us?” my mother spat, venom in her blank voice.
“Our homeland,” he said. “Prince Kael’thas has sent orders for all loyal to the cause to do what they can to rebuild our homeland. The Scourge menace is largely gone – your husband’s sacrifice has not been in vain – and the few who remain are confined by our forces and unable to wreak further havoc. I know that you and Alayne have been waiting here for Tal’ar, Miris, but there’s no reason for you to remain here just because he’s gone. Your home is waiting for you. Your people need you and you need them.”
“Home,” Mama mumbled. “We are home.”
Captain Remar stood silent a moment longer and then bowed politely to my mother. Without further argument, he turned on his heel and left. I sat down on the floor next to her, taking her hands in my own. “Mama,” I said, pleading for her to hear me.
“We’re not going back, Alayne,” she snapped, focusing her eyes and glaring at me. “We will stay here in Menethil.” Her eyes lost their focus again. “We told him we’d be here. He’ll come for us. Any day now…”
My mother died a few weeks later. She had never had much strength and what little will she had left vanished with confirmation of my father’s death. I rarely left her side during those long days, doing everything I could…but it was not enough…
Her body lies sleeping beneath the ground in Menethil Harbor. She never lost faith that my father would return for us. I guess, in a way, he did. Her funeral was short and sparsely attended. We did not have many friends among our neighbors in Menethil – my mother had alienated the humans around us, never forgetting or forgiving them for the rumors of what General Garithos had done or for Arthas Menethil himself. The few mourners who came to the burial departed shortly after, leaving me alone in our home with my thoughts. Tears of grief and anger trickled down my cheeks. I had known, deep in my soul, that my father was dead these many years. My grief was for him. My mother had abandoned me here amongst these humans, these people who could never understand our losses. She had done her best to keep us separate, to build a wall around us I had no idea how to tear down, and then, when things grew difficult, she had run from life into death as fast as she could, leaving me here to deal with it all on my own. My anger was for her.
Weeks passed and the seasons began to change once more. My anger faded into a mournful melancholy. I made desultory attempts to return to my studies of the arcane, to fulfill my mother’s dream of becoming a mage. Still, the magic would not work for me as it once had when I was a child. The deep and seemingly infinite spring from which my soul had channeled its power had long been destroyed and, as yet, nothing had replaced it. Each time, before I began to try to rediscover what was missing, I prayed desperately to the Light to help me be the person I had been born to be. As ever, my prayers went unanswered.
One evening, little over three months after my mother’s passing, a soft tapping on the door drew me from my studies. Wiping my bitter tears of frustration away, I hurried to the door to deal with whoever it was while praying it was not about Mother’s debts, taxes, or a request that I come work additional hours at the tavern. Pulling the door open, I was shocked at what I saw. I was accustomed to having to look down to humans, but for this visitor, I was forced to raise my gaze to meet his eyes. He was one of my own people, vaguely familiar though I did not recognize him. Clothed in blood-red robes with a small, ceremonial dagger belted at his waist, there was something fel or fey, though compelling, about this strange man.
“Who are you, sir?” I asked, a tremor in my voice.
My visitor blinked, the briefest flash of disappointment flickering across his face. Before I could ask him another question, he nodded to himself and smiled. “I am Jez’ral Cloudslasher. I have been travelling through these lands, gathering in recruits to return to Quel’Thalas. I understand that Captain Remar has been here before, bringing word of your father’s death. He reported to me that your mother needed further convincing,” the man said in a brisk, but not unkind tone.
“My mother has been died shortly after Captain Remar left,” I said evenly, refusing to let myself show any weakness to this strange man.
Jez’ral stood for a moment in silence. I thought I saw pity and sorrow in his eyes before he blinked and looked away for a moment. He sighed and drew his shoulders back as if bracing for a blow. “I am sorry to hear that. How did she die?”
“The apothecary said the cause was grief. He said her mind couldn’t handle the news. She just…withdrew and stopped eating.” I replied calmly, forcing my emotions down though I wanted to fling my arms around this stranger and cry like a scared child.
“Again, I am sorry for your loss,” he said softly. “I had come here hoping to convince you and your mother to return to Quel’Thalas. However, I would not want to intrude on your grief,” he said gently, turning to leave.
“No. Please, come in,” I said, gesturing for him to enter. I took his ornate travelling cloak and hung it by the fire. Motioning for him to be seated, I quickly began gathering up my spell books, hastily arranging them out of sight. I did not want this stranger to request a performance only to see how lackluster my abilities had grown.
“What are you studying?” he asked politely, taking one of the tomes from my hands before I could hide it away from him. “Ah, the arcane arts. You are a mage like your mother, then, I presume?”
“I was once a promising apprentice,” I admitted reluctantly. “But then the Sunwell…,” I gestured helplessly. “I have tried but I can no longer cast spells that were simple to me as a child.”
“I see. And, in all these years, you’ve found nothing to replace it?”
“No, sir. I have not,” I said, bringing a pause of several moments to the conversation.
“Have you considered returning to Quel’Thalas yourself? You could resume your studies there; perhaps lend your energies to helping us completely eradicate the remaining Scourge pests polluting our lands? Prince Kael’thas will remember those who serve our people well and faithfully. Of that, I can assure you.”
“I…I had not given the matter much thought,” I replied. “I would like to but I am not highly skilled in magic or in warfare. My mother did teach me what she knew but…I have no way to earn my keep unless there’s a tavern that needs another server or stables that need cleaning out.”
“Room and board would be provided for you, of course,” he said quickly, “as well as access to further your education and proper supervision.” His nose wrinkled at the last and he added, “You are quite young to be left to fend for yourself among strange people. As for working in a tavern…” his eyes opened wide and he shook his head, just as horrified as my mother had been when I first took the job. “That is quite out of the question. I will take you on as my personal apprentice and oversee your training. In return, you will work with those I assign you to work with until I declare you competent. And, after that, I will help see that you are able to support yourself by one means or another. We must rebuild our nation,” he added, seeing that I was about to object, “and we must all see that our people are brought back to their homeland so that our glory can shine forth once again.”
“I would like nothing better than to return with you; to help to cleanse our homeland and rebuild it in all its glory. But since the destruction of the Sunwell, my magic…” I protested. I did not want this man to think I was capable of more than I truly was.
Jez’ral smiled at me. “We’ve found sources other than the Sunwell.”
And so, that was how I came to find myself on Sunstrider Isle. My past was dead and buried with my parents. Attired in the robes of a novice warlock, I shut my mind to the whisperings of the past and strode headlong into the future.