Raeventus

Sins of a Patriot: Act 1: Rise of the Shattered Son

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Kirital looked up at the shattered sky.  A flock of kaliri swoop by and land on the fence of an Arakkoan hut high in a tree top.  He had only read about the Outland campaign, or heard snippets of rumor and hearsay when traveling with his brother.  He was always so much better at this than Kirital is; handling attraction beyond just a one night stand. "What am I doing, getting all flustered?"  Kirital asked to himself. "It's Vathelan. He's probably completely oblivious to how much of a flirt he can be..." After a string of calming breaths, he turned back in through the door then closes it gently behind him.  Seeing the continuation of the coffee lesson, he smirked. "Adorable goof." He muttered.

 

“Something to give it a bit more flavor; spices—mint can add a whole new dynamic, actually. One of my favorites.” His hands continued to guide her motions, gentle above the rising temperature of her skin. Her body heat had rising significantly in a short time. “But for now, we shall keep this simple. Miss Cat… are you feeling well?” The door opened again, the half-elf caught out of the corner of his eye, drawing his attention. “Ah, Kirital, welcome back. Your cup should be done brewing. Do you like it black? If not… then give me a moment and I shall give you the funds needed to run and get some milk. I tend not to keep such anymore—spoils before I get the chance to fully enjoy it.”

 

"...I'm fine," she squeaked. Cat cleared her throat and listened for Kirital to came back. She was too distracted by the magister's hands to look back at the half-elf, and half-listened to the milk conversation. Her cheeks had gone red during their time alone.

 

"Its, uh, fine."  He looked decidedly less feverish as he approached his mug of coffee.  "Got any sugar?"

 

“I… should?” Vathelan sounded dubious in this regard, his form leaning slightly away from the woman he was instructing as he looked at his cabinets. His hands removed themselves from her next as he departed to try to find such for Kirital, his eyes turning to Cat for just a moment as he gave her an instruction. “Keep going.”

 

Cat nodded quickly, clearly receptive to taking orders. "Yes sir." She kept grinding the beans, her hands slightly less shaky on their own. After a while, they were ground into a nice grainy powder with a few chunks left here and there. Cat's breathing was surprisingly shaky as well.

 

When Kirital moved up to Vathelan, he took a moment to help the man look around for the misplaced sugar. "How often are you out of here?"  Kirital noted the low amount of perishables. There's likewise not much in the way of ingredients as well. Thinking back, much of the time he spent with Vath, they've always eaten out somewhere.  In his thought he bumped into the magister when turning around. It was rough enough to off balance the smaller man. Kirital would be quick to grab if that were the case.

 

“Since my House Visca assignment?”  He asked as he tried to calculate a proper answer. “It varies. Before the Legion—” The man stumbled backwards, thanks to the sheer muscular bulk of the half elf compared to the fit, yet still lithe Magister as gravity does his trick. The movement to catch him was impressive. “…Careful.” Vathelan responded somewhat meekly.

 

Cat glanced back to see Kirital holding Vath. She grinned to herself and continued grinding the beans. "How's this, sir?"

 

Kirital smiled in apology and let Vath steady himself.  He rest a hand on his waist and looked over the magister to see if he was fine or if he dropped anything.  "Sorry about that. Go on?"

 

“I’m fine.” His smile matched the meekness in his voice; he rested there a moment before he collected his thoughts. The realization of his compromised position struck him, his more professional persona took charge once more as in a blink of an eye—he was gone from Kirital’s arms and next to the living death knight. He looked over the grounds of the beans and nodded. “It seems you are ready for the next step.”

 

Cat put down the mortar and pestle to stand at attention. "What's the next step, sir?"

 

“This could have been started sooner, but I didn’t wish to rush you.” The Magister took the pot and conjured the estimated amount of water required with ease. “We have to boil the water, as a well versed student of the magical arts, I can merely summon it. For someone who does not, you will have to measure the amount required—I suggest your cup and a half to two depending how much room you want for additives, to compensate for both the loss due to steam and the filtration system.”

 

Kirital stared as he blindly dumped way too much sugar into his coffee.  The extent if Vathelan's knowledge of the brew, as well as the existence of such intricacy for a simple drink, baffles him.

 

Cat nodded slowly, processing the instructions.  "Cup and a half. Got it."

 

“The next variable is the heat source you are using.” He set the pot onto one of the circular rings on his stove. “Various kitchens will have different methods, you could even make coffee in a camp via a fire—but I have something a bit more sophisticated.” He motioned at the stove before grabbing the metallic wand, moving back to his former position behind her as he set the rod in her hand, before maneuvering her as he had done before. “This wand will summon a flame; you simply must will it to do so. Go on, try.”

 

Cat took the wand carefully. "Never was too good at magic stuff.." she said to herself, swallowing as he moved behind her again and put his rod in her hand. "...u-um... do I just... wiggle it?"

 

“That is fine; this device is designed with that in mind.” He ensured her fingers are on the bottom portion, a safe distance from the tip. “It’s simpler than that, just focus your thoughts on the implement, and desire the flame. Mentally tell it that is what you want…”.

 

Cat's eyes widened with his description. Seriously?! She thought to herself, her hand slightly shaky under his. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and stroked the wand slowly, willing the tip to deliver its bounty.

 

“Easy, there is nothing to be afraid of.” The Magister’s voice was gentle as he spoke to her, he could feel the poor woman’s hands shake. To help accentuate his point, one of his hands gently squeezed on grip on the device. His other, if Kirital was paying attention was behind his back, prepping a countermeasure of frost should this get out of hand. He watched with a raised brow, unsure as to why she was stroking the wand—an odd motion, but if it helped her focus… who was he to judge? The wand would warm in the woman’s hand as she focused. Vathelan moved her hand gently away from the tip before the sparks started to form. “Focus… we’re almost there… remember, we need a gentle flame, like one would expect from candlelight.” Not that it was designed for much more.

 

Cat cleared her throat and nodded, watching his hand, her hand, the wand suddenly, without warning, released tiny sparks that burst forth from the tip; just enough to light its target. "Oh! Hey! I did it!" She said happily, legitimately surprised with herself. "Not bad, huh sir?"

 

Kirital was looking out of a window and sips his coffee.  Clearly aware of the events, he concluded it best to keep a level head, despite the furious rush of blood to his face.

 

“Yes, well done.” His voice spoke of gentle encouragement as the sparks eventually gave way to a small and singular flame. “Now we carefully set the flame to the circle like this…” His touch guided her to touch the tip of the wand towards the circle underneath the pot. As the gentle fire licked at the surface of the stove, it consumed the inside of the circle that seemed to both feed and control it. “Very good.”

 

"Neat!" She seemed a lot more comfortable now that they were actually getting somewhere. "Now the water? How do you know when it's hot enough?"

 

“We want to catch the water before it truly boils, as that level of temperature will burn your beans.” He gently removes the rod from the Knight’s hands to ensure the lack of a fire-hazard. “You want it above poaching level, where the first bubbles form, but before it starts to get at a roaring boil where you would cook noodles in. If you get to that point, remove the pot and let it cool for a minute or so before using the water.”

 

"This is pretty complicated for one drink.." she watched the water carefully.

 

“Cooking is an art, Miss Cat. One I am admittedly… not great at aside a few choice recipes, and this is one of them.” He gives a small shrug as he guides her hands towards the filter and cone used for the actual seeping required. “There are devices, from what I understand, that help make this quicker—but you lose the art of it from such. To me, this isn’t simply about a means to an end. The process itself helps reduce stress while still being productive.”

 

Cat looked at Vathelan carefully. "You seem like the type to need some stress relief, " she said not unkindly, allowing him to guide her hands.

 

“I suppose you would be right.” Any markings of offense were wholly absent upon his face. “I’ve never said I’m perfect, far from it. To get where I am has been… an ordeal, I’ve made enemies. Too many. But it has led me to be in a place where I could actually make a difference. To do finally do Good in the world, even if it rejects me.”

 

"Sir," Cat said with a mirthful smile. "You know I'm a death knight, right? You don't need to explain that sort of thing to me. Being hated comes with the territory. Maybe that's why you and I get along."

 

“Sometimes I forget, with how lively you have become.” His smile, while smaller, seemed to rise to follow her own. “It’s hard to remember… I have friends, for the first time in my life.”

 

"You sure do." She nodded toward Kirital. "And I'm pretty sure that we'd both take a bullet for you, even if it weren't his job to."

 

"I hope... it never comes to that."

 

Cat laughed and elbowed the magister playfully. "Well me too. They're no fun to pull out, even with the death knight stuff. I just mean you don't need to feel so lonely all the time. 'You're only as strong as the men next to you.’ While this sounds like a slogan for togetherness it's actually a reminder that your faults can hinder the man next to you. If your companions are focused on you they can't focus on the enemy.”

 

“…Yes, I suppose not." He forced the smile to continue. "How is the water looking?"

 

"Just about there, I think." The water was bubbling, but only at the bottom.

 

Vathelan gave a small nod. “Good. First, let’s place the filter on the cup… like this.” He moved her to make the motions. “And then we just have to pour the hot water through the filter and let it do its job.”

 

Cat added the filter to her cup and added the ground beans, then carefully picked up the boiling water by the handle. She poured the water in slowly, her eyes fixated on the task until it was full and she put the boiling water back on the stove. "Now we wait?"

 

"Now we wait. Congratulations on making your first artisan coffee."

 

Cat giggled, clearly pleased with herself. "Won't Kreyen be happy I can do more than burn eggs.. thank you, sir. You'll definitely be invited to the wedding."

 

The Magister stepped away as he let her enjoy her work, taking his own cup of coffee. "I'm not sure I will be welcomed..." He began to sip his own hard work.

 

Cat raised an eyebrow. "You're my friend. It's my wedding. Why wouldn't you be welcome? Kreyen isn't mad at you. Not anymore, anyway. He's not the type to hold a grudge. Besides, if it weren't for you, we wouldn't be getting married anyway. You kinda gave me another chance, and after what happened at Light's Hope.. I really needed it."

 

“…I am not fond of having guns in my face, when risking my job to help them.” He looked back at Kirital, as he tried not to show aggression. “He also threatened the Accords, because he could not figure out the coded messages I was trying to give him. And he’s an Arath’dorei. Conflict with him isn’t in my best interests.”

 

Cat pushed her tongue into her cheek. "I mean... I'm going to be an Arath'dorei, too. Eventually. So if anything, you'd have less a conflict with him, and more a friendship with me. Right?"

 

“Assuming he can keep from a gun being placed in my face again, I suppose.” He looked back at the Knight. “If I am to die for the cause… so be it, but that particular scenario is a waste and a hindrance to our mission.”

 

The handle on Kirital's mug broke off.  The half elf sat it down hard atop the windowsill at Vathelan's resolve towards death.  The mug itself stays on the short ledge, but coffee leaked from the cracks. Kirital played it off as an accident and it's convincing.  He laughed a little with sounds apologetic. "Towel?" The mug and handle are set somewhere out of the way.

 

“Oh dear…” The Magister frowned at the leaking of the mug, quickly grabbing at towel, the cast a Blink spell to quickly move,  kneeling as he started to clean. “You are not hurt, are you Kirital? I hadn’t realized the container’s structural integrity had been compromised!” He got up and fussed over the half elf, looking for burns or cuts. Cat watched Vathelan fuss over Kirital, smiling to herself at the sight.

 

"Vathelan," Kirital states, "I'm fine."  He didn't hinder the inspection and instead looked over at Cat.  There's a desire to speak his mind about Vathelan's priorities, but he knew Cat worked for him and doesn't want to undermine the man in front of someone who respects him.  He'd have to plan to bring it up later, though that carried its own complications, as too much time will have likely passed. There had to be some way to distract Cat so he could talk to Vathelan in private and save face for everyone.  Smiling at Vathelan, Kirital decided to go back on his earlier thought. He firmly gripped Vathelan's shoulders to cease his check and smirked at Cat. This idea has a good chance to work. "Wanna practice making another cup like how Vathelan showed you?"  He asked her.

 

"Uh..." Cat wasn't one for subtlety, but she knew a guy trying to get in someone's pants when she saw it. "Sure!" She said brightly. "If that's alright with you, sir? I'll be careful, I promise not to burn the place down."

 

“Oh good… I would hate to think I caused you undue harm due to my negligence.” He breathed a sigh of relief. His brow raised at the contact, but he allowed it. As she asked for his permission, he nodded. “…Practice does make perfect, Miss Cat. If there is a problem, please inform me immediately. I can counteract the fire if caught quick enough.”

 

"Aye aye, sir," Cat said with a salute, winking at Kirital before turning her back to them both and starting on a new cup from scratch.

 

Kirital smirked back at her before looking to Vathelan.  "You mind if we step out for a minute?" He lowered his hands.  It's clear Kirital wantsed to bring something up, but the nature of what is up in the air.

 

“Are you sure that is wise? I have other rooms…” He looked down the hall.

 

Cat grinned to herself, as she ground the coffee beans. "Maybe you should show him more of your collection, sir."

 

Kirital shrugged.  "You know the place better than I do."  

 

The Magister gave a brief nod before motioning the Half-elf to follow. As they entered the hall, which required a sharp turn that made them wholly invisible in this weird Draeneic architecture, they would already find themselves alone—in a depth of the apartment no one other than Vathelan had ever tread since he had owned the lease. The scenery upon the wall seemed to shift just as suddenly. Rather than the hopeful overtones of the righteousness of duty in propaganda came newspaper clips of the harsh realities of war that was only accentuated by the lack of lighting. Articles from the Violet Eye detailed and attempted to track the mysterious General Quel’thalas. Recruitment posters for a colonization project, articles detailing the casualties in both the Civil War and the Northrend Campaign, details on both the Theramore Incident and the Dalaran Massacre—and then they came to his bedroom door. He paused here, realizing that no one had ever been in here besides him.

 

Kirital remained silent with his hands in his jacket pockets.  "Are you all right?" The question was meant in full and not as some passing comment.

 

“Yes… I... I just tend to be a very private individual.” He looksed back at the Half-elf with a nervous smile. “You have been one of the few that have ever visited me, and the first… here.”

 

Kirital leaned on a barren part of the wall.  A soft green glow emanates from his eyes as he listened; a quality only visible in the dimmer light of the hall.  In a way, he can empathize. He and his brother were secluded from others as they grew up together. The luxury of having someone else doesn't escape him.  "Thank you for allowing me to be here, Vathelan."

 

“I know, it’s silly.” He tried to reassure himself with a smile. “I’m not… particularly sentimental. I don’t even know who—nevermind. I just. I know it’s foolish of me.” He waved himself off before taking a deep breath, slowly exhaling it as he disarmed the wards before taking a key to unlock this particular room. This room hardly any light at all, the majority of it coming from underneath a sheet in the corner of the room before he stepped in, his hand rested on the lighting controls as he tried to brace himself for the revelation to another soul of how far his obsession went…

 

Kirital stepped inside and looked about the room.  He wasn't planning to plunder Vathelan's darkest secrets or anything, so he rolled with it.  Really he just wanted to get a better idea of the man, given his duties of protection. The covered object has him curious while he tries to not trip on anything.  "Vathelan, if this is too much for you, we can go back into the hallway." His tone was soft and caring like a gentle river's current. "I don't want you to feel pressured."  Turning to Vathelan, he rested his hands at his side and relaxed his posture. With his size, he knew he can be imposing to a degree, and seeming as passive as possible is the only way around it.

 

“I appreciate the willingness to respect my privacy.” He closed his eyes, the corner of his mouth twitching as his fingers gently activated the energy source to give the room light. “…But given the nature of what may be required of me to save our world… my room is safer than outside.” And with that he held his breath momentarily as he awaited the reaction of his half-elf companion. In the corner of the room that Kirital focused primarily on, he may notice that the glass casing wasn’t entirely covered by the sheet. Just above the risen wooden platform, one could make out some sort of binding rune that contained a twin set of charred metal, warped by something or another.

 

Should his gaze wander from there, he would find a series of shelves behind more glass casing with various objects on them. Models of Dalaran, a Manaforge on an island, snow globes of both Dalaran and Quel’Danas, a jar with an embalmed finger, a black jewelry box with runes upon it, some sort of operative’s knife, various models of golems—each seemingly more complex than the last. Within the opposing corner of the Armor, upon the same wall, would be a bed one saw in Sin’dorei inns, larger than a single person required, with a veil for further privacy; odd for a man with no friends to speak of until recently.

 

Kirital paced around the room as he looks over the assorted items.  Given the variety, he wondered if it's a collection of some sorts. The finger caught his attention and he gave it a look of wonder.  "I'm not sure how you can sleep in here with all of these fascinating trinkets to look at."

 

“I… don’t usually; work tends to keep me away from home.” As Kirital continuesd to look about the room, he would find the wall next to the bed to be full of a collection of shields that would be too large for the man. All of them had obviously seen use in battle, but their condition varied from shattered to merely scuffed. Most of them portrayed the Blood Knight symbol, though a couple would stick out as majorly different: A titanium should that bared the symbol of the Kirin Tor and two Tower Shields, one of spikes, another that of a Spellbreaker. Under this collection was another display case, it was hard to determine what lay within from this angle. Upon the opposing wall, was… artwork? Concept art and plans of some sort of Colony built around a Manaforge. Vathelan spotted a large pillow on the bed and quickly moved to teleport it away into the closet. “...So, Kirital, what did you want to speak about?”

 

Kirital turned to regard Vathelan with a sobering eye.  Returning his hands to his pockets, he thought on how to approach the issue without being too blunt.  What angle should he take? The persona of 'bodyguard' assigned to him or as the new friend given a view into Vathelan's most private of spaces?  The situation was complicated, that much he is aware of. He stalked a little closer to Vathelan. A smile spread the dense stubble around his mouth. "I wanted to speak to you about... us."

 

The Magister took a step backwards, his skin gaining a slight red hue. "...U-us?"

 

There is something the Magister is nervous about, and Kirital felt he could narrow it down.  His smile turned subtle in a way Vathelan may not pick up. With the effort Vathelan endured, allowing him a glimpse at something so private, Kirital gently maneuvered the thinner Magister toward the door.  Quietly, it shut, and with a simple click of the lock to follow Kirital rest his hand on the knob. They were close now; the difference in height and size apparent. Intimidation was at the forefront of Kirital's mind as he walked the fine edge between it and unsettling Vathelan further.  He needed his words to be felt as much as heard if they were to continue with this, though at the same time, he does not want to make an ultimatum. "Vathelan, I worry about you." Kirital began. He tucked a long strand of his fiery hair behind an ear. There's a concern within his pleasant baritone and genuine apprehension behind his softly glowing eyes.  "If I am to be your bodyguard, assistant, friend," a slight pause intervenes in his list as if to suggest another category before he continued, "What-have-you, I need to be clear on this: I want you to rethink some of your devotion. It's admirable, truly, but it ... pains me to hear how easily you've accepted your life as expendable." He swallowed and took in a breath to calm himself.  "Even for the Greater Good, you are not expendable. It's fine to continue as you are. It's something I respect you for, but just that one thing, please give it thought?"

 

“My friend…” The Magister tried to give the Half-Elf more space, the corner of his lips twitched for a moment as he tried to center his breathing. “…I fear you misunderstand. I do not wish to die, I merely find it probable. We are in a war for Azeroth’s very soul, and I am no hero of renown. I’m not some grizzled war veteran, an Archmage, or a practitioner of some divine being. There will be casualties. Both from the Legion and elsewhere. And I have made plenty of enemies already, and I am on a path to make many more—just to do what is right.” The Magister’s voice was gentle, his face solemn. “I… will admit. I didn’t think I would live past twenty. But I kept beating the odds, as I play this game horrendously stacked against me.” The Magister closed the distance between them that he had caused in his earlier movements. “…Perhaps I shall keep doing so. But even I can only outwit the world so many times; I can only push my luck so far… But I will keep fighting the good fight into the next day, until there isn’t one.” He set his hand upon the Half-elf’s that rested upon the door handle. “I trust that you’ll help me to do so, I know you’ll try your best… But when my luck runs out, I don’t want you to blame yourself. Okay?”

 

'Blame yourself'.  The words ran through Kirital like a river.  His mind swam, jostling and rocking when Vathelan set a hand upon his.  The light at his back hides the darkening of his cheeks and the nervous sweat at his brow.  Guilt is not him. Doubt is not him. Hesitation is not him. Those are all traits of his brother.  Mistakes, however, are still within his realm to make. This time, he hopes, isn't one. His hand moved on its own.  Vathelan's jaw tips up and their lips meet for but a moment. "I'll be your good luck charm, then."

 

As his jaw was moved, the Magister’s brow raised, he opened his mouth to speak—to be silenced as the other man’s lips touched his own. The action sent shockwaves through his form. First came the paralysis, the shock of the act. What was a man to do? Next came the full body blush that spread from the tips of his ears ever onward like wildfire. The man was attractive, strong, and just expressed a conspicuous interest. Something he had never experienced, it melted the entirety of his frosted defenses. And then the contact was broken. His first kiss was over. And it set a maelstrom of emotion through him, his hand quickly moving to hide his expression—he was far too exposed. His eyes averted the man as his other hand forced the door handle to turn. “…Let’s hope that is true. We’ll need as much luck as we can get in the coming months.”

 

"Yeah."  Kirital sighed with a relaxed contentment.  Such a reaction after their exchange is a farce, however.  It's all he can do to restrain himself and respect Vathelan's need for space.  No resistance was felt. Only surprise and ... potential. He slipped his hands into his jacket pockets; tugging the thick garment down and wishing he had zipped it.  As before, his shadowed features reveal just enough of a smile somewhere between apologetic and happy. "We should probably get back to Cat." His nerves began to ebb, though their influence lingers on his words to add a subtle shake.  "And uh, thank you for trusting me with all this." The smile given earlier turns into one of boyish gratitude.

 

"Y-yes. Let's not neglect my other guest." Vathelan practically glowed a pleasant scarlet. He gently opened the door to allow the half-elf to pass him, needing a moment to regain his composure. "And you're... um... welcome?"

 

As Kirital walks the hall, the newspapers and clippings help take his mind off the past minute.  He calms himself and dispeled the inconvenient blood flow to his face. It was a gamble and his heart still thud steadily against his chest.  Vathelan's reaction, that subtle shock, the intake of breath, the slight bend in the man's back, and the lingering excitement on his tongue all were good signs of potential. Still though, he needs to be careful, but it doesn't make his smile any less wide.

 

Cat was busy with coffee making and didn't notice as Kirital and Vathelan left the bedroom until they were within earshot. Beaming at the half-elf, the death knight handed him a fresh cup of steaming coffee. "How'd your little talk go? You guys okay?"

 

Kirital kept his smile and rested his hands in his jacket pockets.  A humor comes over him. "Yeah. We just hammered a few things out, you know.  Set a few things straight." Looking to the coffee, he swapped to that. "How'd it go?  No fire, so that's a good sign."


 

Cat grinned at Kirital's description. "No stove on fire. Not yet, anyway." She glanced at Vathelan again, then back at Kirital. "Though is it just me or is it a little warm in here?"

 

Kirital would be the first to arrive, as Vathelan held back for a moment to catch his breath—he needn’t let his other guest see him so flustered, it was simply unprofessional. After a moment, all he could spare before being noticed absent he was sure, he looked back to the sheet covered object mouthing a ‘Sorry’ before he closed the door to catch up.

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The mission had proven a success: Lord Cilarare Belarneau and his forces had been eliminated, a major blow of Elisandre. This allowed the Ebonfeathers to enact the second objective of the mission, the acquisition of both valuable intel and more importantly, the contents of his cellar of Arcwine. Of the six casks, five were sent to donation for the people via Vanthir. The sixth was used to maintain their operations: each of the Nightborne were allowed a cup to drink, another round used in terms of payment, a bottle for payment for their new recruit’s armor and two more for supplies. When rations were passed around, and the Nightborne of the Ebonfeathers were satisfied, they were dismissed. Leaving the Danteurs to have a much needed private conversation.

 

“Care to tell me what the fuck that was about?” Kal’une finally spoke, his illusion had dissipated this far from the city proper. Even without eyes his expression was obvious, if the tone had not given it away. He was pissed.

 

“You will have to be more specific.” Draco responded as he pulled out a chair, helping himself to a seat before offering the other to his ‘brother’.

 

“You know exactly what I speak of: The girl.” He refused. “She’s far too young, has no combat experience, far too trusting of outsiders, we have to supply her equipment… need I go on?”

 

“She was able to lead us to the intel Belarneau had hidden away, and they would have killed her if they found where we left her, had we not taken her instead.” The Sin’dorei took one of the emptied glasses upon the table. “It is true that we will have to train her, mold her into what we need. Consider her an investment.”

 

“Investment?” The Illidari echoed, his white brow raised. “We don’t have much to invest, Sin-- especially when the end goal is at our doorstep as it is.”

 

“You think far too short term then, Kal.” He smirked at his darker comrade before stretching to begin to fill the glass. “What do you think happens after we Liberate them? Or better yet, after the Legion is out of the picture?”

 

“Doesn’t matter.” The Illidari shook his head. “You think too small.”

 

“Pardon?”

 

“Ultimately, none of us matter in the grand scale of things. We are talking about a cosmic war, one that has been waging before we could even count our ancestors. A person is nothing greater than a speck of dust in the grand sea of the cosmos. A city but a grain of sand, a nation little more than that. We are nothing but what we contribute to this war effort. If we win, then those who survive get the privilege of deciding the fate of the world-- just one of many stones that float endlessly in the great dark. If we lose, it doesn’t matter if you saved one girl from death today, she won’t see tomorrow.”

 

“That is one way of looking at it…” Draco commented as he filled his glass with arcwine. “My problem with your logic is, why bother fighting at all? If we are so minute of concern in the greater scheme of it all, why stand up for us? What is worth the sacrifices an Illidari makes?”

 

“You wouldn’t understand.” Kal huffed his feet felt the need to move, he began to pace like a caged predator.

 

“Try me.” Draco took a sip of the wine, allowing the mana to flow through him once again. The sensation tingled down his throat, before spreading across his form.

 

“It was my mate’s dying wish. To see a world Elune could be proud of, secured for people like our wretched little child. Lord Illidan is our best shot in leading us to victory, if Gul’dan is here in Suramar then we have a lead as to where Lord Illidan is. I care not for this city, it matters little in the grand scheme of the universe.”

 

For a moment Draco was silent, trying to decide as to where to tackle what fallacies he saw in the man’s arguments. He took another sip of the arcwine, allowing its magical properties to flood his senses. “You seem uncertain of our cause, I do understand the hesitation. From my understanding, the Burning Legion has conquered world after world, and yet we have defied them time and time again. Each time we have run this gambit, we have somehow found a path towards victory. Due to this, I must assume the question of… what if we do survive this one as well? What does that mean for my people, those still teetering the edge of extinction? By saving these Shal’dorei, those who face the same trials and tribulations that we, the Sin’dorei, had suffered through-- I have the chance of gaining my people a valuable ally. In order to capitalize on this opportunity, we will need the right people to guide them upon the right path when this war is over. What better chance do we have than one we can devote, we can twist her world view into perfection? We can end the misunderstandings of the Elven peoples, we simply need the right pieces in their proper order to do so.”

 

The Illidari, in spite of himself, could not help but find an odd solace in these words. A promise of a better tomorrow that would likely never come, and yet… was this not what his dear Vaelana would have wanted. Begrudgingly he grunted in acknowledgment of the sentiment, “...We shall see.”

 

“That we will.” The war hardened face of the Shattered Son split into a smile, he raised he glass in a mock toast to the Illidari. “For all our Children, weather it be of the Stars, Night, of Blood or on High!”

 

The Illidari grasped an empty glass, raising his glass to the toast. But before he could speak, a panicked voice of Manuelle echoed through the hideout. “...H-hello? This is Manuelle broadcasting on all Telemancy networks. Something horrible has happened upon the Waning Crescent. They… they launched a full scale attack on us. Please! Help us, you are our only hope.” The two men looked at eachother for a mere moment before activating their illusions, taking their personal beacon to as close as possible to the Waning Crescent. They had to see the horror for themselves, they had to help any way they could.

Edited by Visca

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The closest beacon to the Waning Crescent was the Lunastre Estate, where they had come to accept the mission earlier that day. From here they had a vantage point of the carnage that ran through the city. Loyalist and Demons alike marched upon what was both home to the common folk and the market district, indiscriminately slaughtering anyone who put up a fight. Next to them the orb began to relay the message again.

 

“...H-hello? This is Manuelle broadcasting on all Telemancy networks. Something horrible has happened…”

 

“Kill the signal.” The grim voice of Sin’soiel ordered to his brother. “They will only give us away.”

 

“...Please! Help us, you are--” The voice was cut off as the orb was consumed, the mana absorbed within Kal’une’s fist. For a moment the brothers Danteur were silent, the screams of bloodshed meeting them all the way up here, so above the city.

 

“...We need a way down there, quick but discreet. I could plummet, but we would lose precious time before I came to once more.” He thought a moment longer, “Are your wings strong enough to carry us?”

 

“So you choose two large men flying above the city?” Though under illusion , Sin’soiel could imagine the Illidari’s razored smirk. “I doubt the illusion could counter such a ludacris sight. But in terms of practicality… not enough to search the city, but perhaps land us on one of the buildings unharmed.”

 

“That will have to do. It may not be preferable, but the alternative is no better.” Sin’soiel raised his arms, bracing for whatever the other man had planned in terms of grappling him well enough to send them several feet above the ground in search of an optimal landing location. The trip down to the city below was much less of a ‘Flight’ than a ‘Glide’, the weight of both men proving far too much for any meaningful airborne antics. Short lived as it was, they were able to land upon a building overlooking the damaged teleporter, corpses laid strewn across the courtyard, indicating an attempt at escape. Sin, rolled upon the cloth outstretched from the roof to help catch his fall as his brother was forced to toss him to brace himself for the landing. “Do you see them?”

 

Kal’une’s illusion struggled to compensate his altering of form, he composed himself before walking to the edge for a peer onto the streets below. “No, all I see are demons and lackies of the Legion.”

 

“...I feared as much. They must be deeper within the Crescent. You keep to the roofs, I will look for them on ground level.” Before hearing the Illidari’s rebuttal, the man leapt from the banners above, landing upon the ground below. One of the Legion’s guards spotted the strange elf, the illusion had broken momentarily. With swift movement, Draco moved to counter the blow of the large blade before using the force against him to lift and toss the Wrathguard on his back. Alarmed from the motion, the demon loosened his grip momentarily on his weapon. This was the only advantage the elf needed to wrest the weapon away from his foe, impaling him with his own weapon. After the target was neutralized, he reactivated his illusionary ring and continued his search.

 

“Show off.” Murmured the Illidari above, he kept watch over the Sin’dorei as he sprinted across the courtyard to behind an abandoned carriage. After leaping to the next building he kept watch over his comrade, who knocked out one of the Loyalists before scanning his physiology to take form of. Sin’soiel, now a female guard began her ‘patrol’ down the street. There was a pattern to the strikes, Kal’une noticed as he leapt from building to building, watching his comrade at work. As Sin’soiel moved through the ranks, he would see out an isolated individual, strike, take their form and dispose of their body. Deeper and deeper did the man on the ground delve into enemy territory until he hit the Evermoon Terrace.

 

It was here that the devastation had halted, where both loyalist and demon alike had come to have spent their rage and aggression. The Shal’dorei here had wisely packed themselves away, along with any neighbors whom had the misfortune of being away from their homes. The rest of the Ebonfeathers had to be here, Draco knew it. He kept his ears open for the slightest hint of his comrades. With each methodical step he looked about the empty market, his eyes drawing upward towards his friend above the city. It felt like hours until Kal’une had finally spotted them, motioning towards an empty shop. Draco knocked on the door. Nothing. With a sigh, he set his leg to assault the door, it folding against the strength of a man. That was when he found them, huddled in a corner. Manuelle, Isabaele, and Maurice. They hovered over a limp body, most likely dead, but he could not get a good visual who it was. He was slow to approach.

 

“Stay back!” It was Maurice who dared stand against this unknown intruder. He took no time, in spite of the tears that welled within his eyes at the loss of a friend of his, his bow drawn at the guard who stepped in the light of this abandoned home.

 

“I am not your enemy,” the guard spoke before breaking the illusion, revealing their commanding officer, “Though I admire your courage. We need to get out of here.”

 

“Sin!” Their newest recruit came rushing to embrace the Sin’dorei. “They came out of nowhere! They attacked us, they killed Ollarin! They called him a traitor!”

 

Both Manuelle and Maurice would not look their commanding officer in the eye, the latter finally lowering his weapon. “Ollarin knew what he signed himself up for, he knew what sacrifice he may need to make in order to save his people. And yet he stared death in the face without hesitation. He was a hero, he was one of the best of us-- we will not let his sacrifice be in vain.”

 

“But… how, Sin? We are surrounded by all sides.” Manuelle finally broke his silence. “It’s only a matter of time before they find us as you have. How many more got our message? How long until this entire area is purged? We lost…”

 

“Do you truly think I came alone?” The pale brow raised as he spoke. “On the rooftops stands Kal’une, he will lead you to safety as I provide cover. The Dusk Lillies will learn of what happened here, we will tell Ollarin’s story. We will save this city from damnation.”

 

The three Shal’dorei talked this over with themselves, the mood within the room shifted from utter despair to cautious optimism. They were in danger and their commanding officers had come to save them, this was not but their only hope, it was their best hope. “We won’t allow Ollarin’s sacrifce to be in vain. Lead the way, Lord Sin’soiel Danteur.”

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Captain Draco Visca of the Silvermoon Guard stood at attention while his trusted friend, Voren’thal served as his second for the upcoming duel against Adonis Suncrest. A sizable crowd had come to witness the results of the inevitable escalation between two long time rivals here at the Stillwhisper Pond. He could not remember what had started this millennia long feud, not that it particularly mattered anymore. As his dear friend marched back over he gave a sigh and shake of his head. “He refuses to apologize, or retract his comments. Draco… are you certain you want to do this? Adonis is an ass, there is no shadow of doubt of that, but what do you think your father would say to this? For the heir to the Visca family to be fighting like a schoolboy over petty words?”

 

“What my father thinks is his own business. Suncrest thinks himself immune, I plan on changing that. You heard what he said about my wife.”

 

“And what will she think if Adonis does have some trick up his sleeve and wins?” The pale brow raised as the two men stared at each other for a moment as the words laid within the air.

 

“...He will not.” Draco shook his head before reaching his hand out, “My blade.”

 

Voren’thal sighed as he relented as the voice of reason, handing the single bladed sword to his dear friend. “Sunwell guide your strikes. Try not to kill him if you don’t have to?”

 

The Captain made no indication he heard, much less acknowledged, the request as he marched forward to greet his opponent. The rising son glimmered upon the drawn blades, red as the blood that was soon to flow from the clash of two men that had hated each other longer than either could remember. Draco stretched his blade, “it did not need to come to this, Suncrest.”

 

“Didn’t it?” Adonis smirked as his blade touched his rivals. “I look forward to making you bleed.” They alternated descending numbers, the challenger starting at ten; When Adonis spoke the final number the duel proper began.

 

In terms of strength and size, Draco clearly had the advantage. He pressed his weight into the clashing of blades, forcing Adonis into immediate defense as he struggled to keep the giant of a man at bay. When he could no longer withstand the test of strength, he slid his blade away in a hasty retreat. With every two steps Adonis took backwards, Draco took one to match him and struck. Unable to match his foe’s strength, Adonis was forced to parry it and continue his retreat. Step, strike, parry, step, strike, parry. The pattern went on in five times of succession before Draco finally spoke up. “Come now, Suncrest… are we fighting or running? Stand, fight me like the man you claim to be; not the mere boy as the crowd sees you.”

 

Flustered by the stir of chuckles from the crowd, Adonis hastily made his next move in retort. He came from the right, where he knew his rival usually had his shield-- only to be parried and then struck with the pommel. The force of the unexpected blow made him fall to the ground.

 

“You will have to do better than that to best a Visca, Suncrest.” The tone of the larger elf was that of a knight to his squire on the training fields, further enraging the man on his knees. With blade pointed down at his opponent still, flush and crimson in the rising sun, he offered a chance of surrender. “Yield, apologize for your words to Lady Visca and let us put this past us.”

 

Adonis, it seemed, had other ideas. With a quick enraged strike, he knocked the larger man’s blade away from it’s target before leaping in for the kill. At the last moment, Draco dodged the blow before checking the man in the cheek with his elbow. Suncrest recoiled, giving Draco another opening to knee the man in the chest-- sending the Magister upon his back with the tip of a blade once more in his face.

 

“You have lost, Suncrest. Submit. Let us end this charade.”

 

“Hardly.” Magister Suncrest smirked, igniting the air between the two men. As the fire expanded at an alarming rate, Adonis pushed it beyond his reach to consume his foe. As the area surrounding him erupted he started to chuckle, thinking he at last beat his lifelong opponent. The laugh grew into a full on cackle.

 

The laughter would be short lived, however. For before even so much as a minute had passed-- the oversized boot of Captain Visca shot from the flames, shattering the nose of the Magister that still laid upon the ground. As the man fell back upon the floor, the imposing figure of Draco stepped out of the flames; furious. “I granted you multiple chances to end this with your life in tact.” Began the Spellbreaker as he grabbed the Magister by the collar of his dueling clothes, cloth just as was his rival’s. “I challenged you to honorable combat, man to man, a single sword each. No armor, no magic. And when you lose, what do you do?” The other hand of Visca still gripped his blade, pointing it at the man. “You cheat, like the coward you are. That you always have been. I should have known, I couldn’t hold you to your word. But I can promise you this: I will never make the same mistake again.”
 

“Plea-sh! No!” Shouted the Magister in fear for his life, recoiling in his grip for the blade that would never come.

 

As Draco positioned the blade to run through his rival, to end it once and for all, he would find an overwhelming amount of resistance. When he looked back to see why, a furious face of his father Lord Gladius Visca glared at him with his one remaining eye. “I leave you to your devices and you decide to go about murdering your fellow Quel’dorei? I thought you better than this. She thought you better than this.” Next to his father stood his wife, seven months pregnant with their first child.

 

Before Draco could say anything in his defense, the world around him darkened-- only the face of his disapproving father seemed immune to the fading of the world into oblivion, but even it seemed to morph...

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As the last vestiges of Lord Gladius Visca faded, the familiar face of the Illidari he knew as Kal’une took his place. The emerald fires that burned within his eyeless sockets gave no indication of where his attention was focused as his hands worked a cloth over a bloodied blade. It was not until Draco made his first motions of stirring within whatever strange bed he lay within that the Illidari finally addressed him in his all too usual dry tone. “You prove as indestructible as ever, I see.”

 

The Shattered Son groaned as he tried to gain his bearings, his weight shifted as he forced himself to sit up. His eyes scanned his surroundings, they were certainly not within their usual hideout. The room was far too elegant, though the furnishings hinted that they were indeed still in Suramar. Suramar! The last thing he remembered was escorting his comrades from the Waning Crescent during the massacre spearheaded by demon and loyalist alike. But they were nowhere to be seen, “...What happened?”

 

“You’ll have to be more specific,” The Illidari continued to clean the ebon blade, the crimson staining the cloth. “A lot has happened today.”

 

Draco narrowed his eyes at the Illidari, whom either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Without his eyes it made him difficult to read. Rather than drive a further wedge between the two of them, Draco took a breath before recounting what he could. “Our mission had proved a success, we had a disagreement on our new recruit… we received a distress call from Manuelle, and we were able to locate them… And then…?”

 

“You absorbed Demon Blood and went berserk. I had to intervene.” The Illidari moved as if to inspect the weapon in his hands.

 

“...You tried to assassinate me.” Draco’s flat tone rivaled that of his comrade.

 

“Admittedly it was a gamble on my part. While I have observed you, I couldn’t be entirely sure that your resilience would prove to be as absolute as I hoped.” Kal’une sheathed the dagger at his side, “I slipped the blade between your vertebrae when you threatened to jeopardize our team, and thereby the mission. We have always agreed the mission came first. I expect you to have done the same to me if the Demons within had taken full control.”

 

The Sin’dorei remained sitting on the bed, his eyes staring into the burning sockets of his comrade-- the man who could have killed him, who showed no remorse over this prospect. His gaze was harsh, but the Illidari seemed unaware and unphased by such. Moments passed, and Draco realized the Kaldorei had a point. But something nagged at him. “...Demons?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

 

“Very well.” The Shattered Son loathed the notion of valuable intel was being kept from him, but he knew pushing it would get him nowhere. Kal’une spoke little of his personal life, of his history. Draco was lucky to know of his hated child and dead wife. “Where are we?””

 

“You don’t recognize it? We are located in the guest chambers of the Lunastre Estate, our honored host has been suspiciously silent since our mission and our beacon ran out of mana to allow us a way back to our Headquarters. It felt prudent to go where we were needed-- and the Elven armies are amassing right outside her property.”

 

“And the team?”

 

“Ollarin is dead, you wounded Maurice in your frenzy. While he is shaken, I believe we may be able to retain him for the cause… which leaves Manuelle, in good health, and your new recruit-- someone I assume we have little choice in training now.” The Illidari paused as he mused over this before continuing. “If she is strong enough to endure such, our regimen is designed to weed out the weak. Only the strongest survive, to be prepared for the war to come.”

 

“I have seen the determination in her eyes, she will make it. You are not preparing to make her… one of Yours, are you?”

 

Kal’une laughed, a strange sound from such a harsh and grim man. Even as bitter and wicked as it was. “Elune, no. We haven’t the time even if I was interested in such. But if she is to learn how to fight, how to kill without hesitation, we will need to break her. We will need to ensure that she will be an asset in the conflicts to come, not a liability. She will learn as I have. As you have.” When he was done speaking, the Night Elf began to walk towards the door.

 

Draco was more relieved at the denial than he had expected, but he spoke nothing of it. Instead his brow quirked at the sudden movement of departure from his comrade. “I am sure that the Danteurs will prove invaluable for the invading forces, but where exactly are you going?”

 

“Dalaran. If the girl is to join us, she needs to be properly equipped to carry out her duties. Our Shal’dorei comrades were unable to complete their acquisition of supplies given the events that unfolded-- which leaves it to me, the only one with access to the city of the magi. Figure out our next plan of action, get in contact with the forces amassing outside the city and find out what we can do to end this as quick and cleanly as possible. I will not be long.”

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When his artisan crafted coffee finished brewing, Magister Vathelan Frostwhisper began his usual early morning commute from his apartment in the Lower City region of Shattrath in Outland. With a teleportation spell, he traversed countless miles across the great beyond back to Dalaran that floated above the warzones of the Broken Isles in Azeroth. From the Kirin Tor designated magical transportation zone, it was a quick stride in the sunrise into Sanctuary’s guildhall proper. On the way inside, as per routine, he checked for any physical letters within the mailbox awaiting him before approaching the foyer’s security checkpoint.

 

As per usual, the checkpoint was guarded by two trolls from some tribe that the Warboss knew. This early in the morning, there was no line. The Magister with a cup of coffee in one hand and a stack of letters in the other found himself having the same conversation with the guards he did every morning.

 

“‘Ey Mon, how be da talks goin’?” Ever since they were hired on and told that the Scryers were seeking to provide extra security, they had shown interest in Frostwhisper’s progress in the negotiations.

 

Every day he had the same answer. “I’m hoping to be able to give you a solid answer soon.”

 

“Tha’ be what ju said last time, Mon.” The answer rarely satisfied them.

 

“We are still in negotiations, my apologies.” The Magister gave the same practiced smile, the same tone. The truth was, Vathelan was more frustrated than he could afford to let on. He wanted to help Sanctuary, he wanted to provide aide, but Commander Liene refused to trust him and the organization he represented-- at best. Truth was, those whom had personal grudges against the Scryers and Frostwhisper himself had her ear. He had even been attacked within these halls before, by an orcess who had seemed to make it her life mission to make his life a living hell for no discernable reason. But still, the salvation of Azeroth was not something he took lightly. He would persevere. He had to. He gave a slight bow to the guards, “have a nice day, gentlemen.”

 

After excusing himself from treading more of the all too repetitive conversation he was forced to endure, regardless of which set of guards were scheduled for this shift in their rotation at the checkpoint, he had little more than a simple trek through the housing section before approaching his office. The smallest of all of them, not only of those leading the organization of Sanctuary, but of those Emissaries granted the same accommodations as he. The square footage being little more than that of a supply closet. Another not so subtle snub from the Commander, given the friends she kept. Another insult he endured for the sake of the fate of Azeroth. The Magister set his satchel that draped over his shoulder beside his small desk, that comically almost consumed the entirety of his work-space before setting his mug of coffee down as well.

 

“Another day, another standstill…” The Magister spoke to himself as he gave a brief stretch before he tried to shake off the sense of hopelessness he felt within his office. He sighed as he started to sort through the stack of letters, placing each within a stack depending on a myriad of factors to determine order of priority. Some came from the Kirin Tor, some from the Sunreavers, others from Silvermoon and the Reliquary. However, there was one that forced him to pause: Dora Arath’dorei. He eyed the other stacks, his hand even going so far to pick up the one he hypothesized was the most important of the bunch before pausing again. His eyes were once more drawn to the letter from Her. He sat down, his eyes locked upon the letter before finally convincing himself there was no harm in checking it first. Inside it read:


 

Vathelan,

I'm sorry it took so long to respond to your letter. It's been mission after mission here and we're all struggling to keep our heads above water (because we live in a port, you see!) but I'm hoping to see a change in our favor soon.

It seems like the world is constantly in flux. Do you ever think that? Just when the foundations settle, something changes to throw the world into chaos. I suppose that's a very vague sentiment, but I've learned to appreciate stability where I can find it. I hope I never take what I have for granted. I think about my friends who I lost, and the timeline from which I've been exiled. I think about the new friends I've made here and how their involvement in my life has changed me.

Even if everything changes, I can at least count on the bonds people make with each other, how they can be used as a source of power in troubling times. Late season's blessings. I hope to hear from you again soon.

Dora Arath'dorei


 


When finished reading the letter, the Magister read it again. He tried to absorb every bit of detail he could from the parchment as a small smile formed upon his lips before he tried to formulate a response. He grasped for his pen and paper.


 

My Dearest Dora,

As a scholar for an organization dedicated to the defense and preservation of our species, I can relate to the feeling you described. The battles seem ever reaching: In recent history we have the collapse of our nation, its rebirth, a civil war, the campaign in Northrend, the return of Neltharion, the escalation of conflicts that lead to a rebellion, an attack from an alternate universe and now the return of the Legion in the likes we haven’t seen since the days of legend before the Sundering. The world is always in need of its heroes, especially those who do not forget to smile—to take in the little things that make life worth living. Those beacons of hope prove to be the greatest boons in the darkest of nights.

And you are one of the greatest sources of hope, Lady Arath’dorei. And you never need to go it alone. I may not be one of the world’s champions; a warrior of light, a soldier of justice, a paragon of hope—but I will do everything within my power to aide and watch over your back, all you need to do is ask.

Magister Vathelan Frostwhisper.


 

When he finished his pen hovered over the page, his eyes tracing every curve of every letter as his mind fretted over every sentence. What if he came off too strong? What if he made it sound he didn’t care at all? His mind raced and fretted over every potential implication-- only to be interrupted as the gathered ink that bled to the bladed point of the pen dripped into a single blot aimed directly for the page. He had to act quickly, tossing the pen out of harm’s reach of the letter before using a controlled frostbolt to freeze and knock away the ink from his ernest account of his feelings. His gaze raced to inspect for any damage… before breathing a sigh that no harm came to the parchment. That was enough of a waking call for him to carefully fold it and set it into an envelope with the official markings of position. He would sent it with the first wave of paperwork.

 

Paperwork that would prove taxing on the morale of the young Magister, for while he may not be a physical combatant within the war below Dalaran, he read a great many of their stories and pleas. Death counts, requests both for reinforcements and supplies, accounts of scouting missions… from this small desk in a tiny office in a building belonging to an organization that scorned he and the Scryers on a daily basis, he could not help but question why he remained here? If Commander Liene wished to be petty, if she was willing to pay the deaths of so many down below to feed her arrogance… why was he here? It's been mission after mission here and we're all struggling to keep our heads above water. Hundreds dead, trying to secure strategic positions across the map. People that could use a well placed Assault Class Golem to help even the odds even if in the slightest… but I'm hoping to see a change in our favor soon. Perhaps he was in the wrong place. I can at least count on the bonds people make with each other, if Sanctuary was unable or unwilling to apply Scryer Technology and Resources… how they can be used as a source of power in troubling times. Maybe it was the mercenary organization that was the best path for Azeroth’s salvation? He looked at the envelope in the corner of his desk, a wave of inspiration struck him as he grabbed for his pen once more. He would do whatever it took to save the world, even if it meant disappointing his heroes. All life on Azeroth was at stake, if Sanctuary would not cooperate… it was time for other avenues.



Dear Boss of Borrowed Time:

The war against the Burning Legion is upon us. Over the last five months the Alliance and the Horde, among other less prominent forces, have been running their own costly campaigns in dire hopes of turning the tide against the biggest threat known to Azeroth since before the formation of the Great Sea. This is a threat to all, and we would like to help with the war effort.

I will repeat, for emphasis: This is a threat to all of us. No matter what race, creed or affiliation you have; The Burning Legion seeks to end all life here on Azeroth. This includes the Sin’dorei, of which my organization has founded itself on protecting and preserving. We have both experience in repelling the Legion threat in the past, and the foresight to prepare for their inevitable return. Preparations, we are willing to share with you in order to ensure the salvation of all. While admittedly small in number with the passing years, we have retained some of the most brilliant minds our people have to offer—and we have the research, the technology we have developed  and resources gathered from that benefit.

If such interests you, I have the pleasure to inform you that you have been preselected as a candidate for our outreach program. Simply contact me and I will be more than happy to schedule a meeting to address any of your concerns and/or begin talks of a negation that will give us a much needed edge against the unyielding threat of the Legion. Just remember, with their return, time is the utmost essence.

Magister Vathelan Frostwhisper
Scryer Agent of Asset Protection and Acquisition

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It seemed impossible, how the nights had rapidly filled void of time between the rebel cell of the Ebonfeathers and the tragedy of the Massacre at the Waning Crescent. The blow to morale had been significant, between the deaths of civilians and the murder of one of their own. And yet, it seemed, it had proven a dark boon for the Insurrection as it gained an undeniable amount of traction within the passing week. Word had spread of this, among other atrocities, across the city and beyond. And with that, deserters from Elisande’s loyalists began swelling within the amount of recruits the Dusklilly rebellion pulled from. But this was not all, for outside the city of Suramar the allied forces of the three Elven Armies and the Kirin Tor pooled as they planned their invasion of the Nighthold.

 

These factors had proven enough, at the behest of the Former Arcanist herself, for the Danteurs and the Ebonfeathers at their command to step out of the shadows and take upon a mantle of military authority. After they had introduced themselves to the familiar face of Kadgar, the cell-turned-military settled their own place within the camp. Manuelle opened a portal to allow more recruits passage, Maurice ran drills for their archers. Isabaele was sent on a scouting mission, leaving the Danteur brothers to organize the rest of their resources and personnel-- including the Withered that had been sent as infantrymen. A task that would quickly be left to Kal’une, as his brother found himself entertaining a guest upon their grounds.

 

As they set up camp, Sin’soiel found himself hailed by one of the great Generals of this upcoming joint-military invasion. That of the Silvermoon Military specifically, “Lady Laidrin, you honor us as you grace us with your presence.”

 

“I’m curious to see what Thalyssra has managed, I meant every word of concern I expressed at our meeting.” The Blood Knight spoke as they began their traverse of the Ebonfeather camp.

 

“Your concern is both noted and heeded, My Lady.” Sin’soiel reassured her. “I heartens me to see all of our Bloodlines working for a common cause, could you imagine what we would be capable if this alliance of yours were to remain solidified after this conflict?”

 

“If only the Light were so merciful.” Laidrin spoke, her voice cool. “Your isolation has left you unaware of the events for millennia, I don’t think a single joint military operation would be enough to undo the transgressions of each represented here. Nor do they seek out an understanding, Vereesa being the worst offender.”

 

“A shame then, that we could not prove the catalyst for such an understanding then.” Sin’s blue face scrunched into a frown before shaking his head, presenting the first of their forces. “Many of our latest recruits are deserters after all the sins Elisande has committed against her own, the gentleman leading them is Maurice. A sharpshooter whom has been under our employ when we were performing much more covert operations. Not only is his aim impeccable, his knowledge of the ins and outs of this city should provide us quite the boon if things go awry.”

 

“What your Grand Magistrix has done is horrible, we are no strangers to the pain of such betrayal from one’s leader.”

 

“Is that so?” The white brow raised as he gave a nod to Maurice, whom called for the attention of the archers for a demonstration. With a quiver of ten arrows, he started at one end of the training field, and began his shooting each target one after another. When the one before him was finished, he would sidestep to the next. Not taking a break for careful aim.

 

“Our own Prince sought to sell out the world to the Legion for some unknown purpose… likely Madness. It is our duty to help your people through this, there is no reason to make you suffer alone in your struggles against tyranny and the Burning Legion.” They watched as Maurice shot bullseye after bullseye. “He is quite talented.”

 

“We are quite proud of him.” Sin’soiel smiled before ushering her to the next place of note when the demonstration was over. The archers behind them seemed just as impressed. “This is our Telemancy Specialist, while he has a lot to learn before he can rival the Chief Telemancer, he has shown a great deal of promise-- allowing our strike team to transport, hit our target, and get out before we are even noticed. With the influx of recruits, the deserters I had mentioned previously, our personnel have been swelling in regular intervals. It is thanks to ‘M’ here, that we are able to prepare for the assault in such a rapid fashion.” Manuelle was too busy with his task at hand, he did not spare the moments required for formalities for the Blood Knight Matriarch. “...He seems too busy in his duties to entertain us, however, shall we continue?”

 

At the Blood Knight’s bid, as per marked by her nod, they continued towards where their Withered troops were stationed. She blinked, her attention remaining upon them. “...How did you manage to enlist their aide?”

 

“The First Arcanist is a clever woman.” Sin’soiel seemed to comment little on as to the process. “She assures us that they are ready for our oncoming battle, though when I was running strategic strikes on key targets, we did so with more mindful personnel.”

 

“The Ebonfeather Assassinations? Where you would stick a blade in your intended targets… I believe the last one was a Lord Belarneau?” The Paladin looked up at the man with a raised brow, before smirking. “Oh come, Lord Danteur… did you not think we had our own scouts within the city? We were never planning on charging in blind. Though, your tactics remind me of someone I once knew…”

 

“Truely? Was this person successful in their pursuits?” It took a measure of control to not show his unease at the potential discovery.

 

“For a time. He warned us about our Prince Sunstrider’s betrayal, we did not believe him until we saw it with our own eyes…” She frowned as she looked back at the Withered. “He too would have liked to have seen this alliance form, before his passing.”

 

With his arms behind his back, Sin’soiel Danteur crossed his fingers for his brother to see. She was getting too close for his comfort on this subject matter. “Perhaps this man saw things we cannot. Or perhaps he was a fool, a shame that this man you speak of is not with us on this occasion then.”

 

“At times, you even sound like him.” She commented, the Nightborne continued to try to keep his cool. “Be careful not to lose sight of your vision for your people, Lord Danteur.” She spoke before marching off back to her own camp, leaving the disguised Shattered Son to guess how much she truly knew from their conversation. It left him far too uncomfortable to have an unknown variable such as this within the camp, but he would have to endure and tread carefully in the passing days.

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Another day, another cup of coffee.

 

Magister Vathelan Frostwhisper treaded the same commute, the same path. He had the same conversation with the guards of Sanctuary’s Guildhall, placating them with the same empty promises while he awaited the same abuse from the management that was passed down from the Commander herself. It filled him with endless frustration, knowing what was going on upon the Isles below and beyond. He sorted through the same paperwork sent to him, dreading the death toll and injury reports he would have to read as he eagerly awaited a response from his last set of letters-- a chance to do some real good, a chance to reduce the casualty rate. He ached for an advantage to exploit to help turn the tides.

 

To his initial disappointment, he found only one of the two letters he eagerly awaited. That from Lady Dora Arath’dorei, not that from the leader of Borrowed Time. He frowned, yet he eagerly opened his consolation prize.


 

To Vathelan

Hope runs in short supply, but it exists. What you say is very true; we all face different threats of increasing magnitude with the passing years. Not a day goes by where I'm not reminded of the effects of the Legion or how it's opened doors for those of similar talents to reach out to each other despite race or faction. But right now my focus is on my people; that is, the people that comprise my company.

We're looking into the mouth of a beast like I've never seen before. Every available hand is either digging a trench, delivering supplies, or making plans for an encounter scheduled to happen in five days time. We're woefully shorthand over here. If you have anyone you would recommend who knows anything about commanding an airfleet, direct them to me at your soonest convenience.

Stay safe, my friend. I hope my next letter contains happier contents.

Dora Arath'dorei, acting leader of Borrowed Time

 

To those interested parties:

The request comes at an unexpectedly difficult time for our company. We take the matter of your concerns with equaled concern. The threat of the Legion extends to every corner of Azeroth and beyond; as beings capable to fight against that power, we bear the responsibility of doing whatever measures required to defeat it. That said, we face a danger that requires our attention. Upon our success, we will revisit the request to join in your organization's efforts.

With warm regards,
Dora Arath'dorei, acting leader of Borrowed Time


 

To say its contents were not quite what Magister Frostwhisper was expecting was an understatement, for it felt as if his blood would freeze within his veins in any given moment. His eyes raced across the page as he tried to process all the details within. His first and dearest friend was in a dire situation; she was the key. She was requesting aid; this was his opening. He had to help; this would give him quite the bargaining chip. His mind raced as he considered this gambit, his day’s priorities shifted as he abandoned the other stack of documentations of the ongoings down below.

 

Vathelan’s fingers jumped upon the satchel he carried with him everywhere, rummaging through it. This window of opportunity was time sensitive, he only had five days to exploit it. He pulled out the pane of enchanted glass, it was about the size of the cover of a tome. After setting it upon his desk, his fingers grasped at one of his cuff-links. He removed what looked to be a golden coin with a twin headed phoenix upon it, leaving the cufflink bare of its usual iconography. He placed the quarter-sized emblem upon the bottom right corner of the pane of glass. The ‘Glass Scroll’ came alive with a brilliant light within the tiny room. He grabbed a writing instrument designed for the peculiar Scryer device and drew the command rune to search the Scryer Archives that his security clearance allowed him.

 

Search: Scryer Agent Personnel. The Glass Scroll began to compile a list of all the Scryer Agents. He drew the Command Rune once again. Search: Air Command. The list rapidly shortened as per the new parameters. But Vathelan wasn’t finished, he drew the Command Rune a third time. Search: Unassigned.

 

One result remained. He tapped upon the name: Raphael Vanderzee; Retired. The Magister’s eyes ran through the man’s bio and career history: Half-elf. Former Pirate. Infiltrated Alliance Military; Served as a Mechanic and Pilot on an Alliance Gunship. Lead Gyrocopter teams during the Panderia campaign. Retired after Lord-General Visca died.

 

He seemed promising. Frostwhisper looked up his last known location, the Scryers were likely to keep an eye on someone so decorated in their service. He seemed to frequent the Underbelly bar here in Dalaran. Vathelan paused as he looked over all the paperwork he had as he weighed his options. If he could help turn the tides of war, he could save so many more lives than he could just sitting here as he had been; trying to make the strikes as efficient as possible in hopes to reduce casualties. ...But would the Half-elf really be there at such an early time of day? He looked back at the Glass Scroll, the Agent in question seemed to frequent the bar around the clock. He could finish his paperwork when he returned, could he not? He stood up from his desk. Worse case scenario, he could find a lead as to when he would be back, or where the man stayed. The world needed all the heroes they could get right now, to have such a decorated war veteran sitting out of the conflict was nothing more than a waste. The Magister folded the letter away on his person, smoothing the cloth as he departed from his office.

 

He had a world to save. And with long and swift strides, he would head towards what he would have considered one of the most unlikely of places: The underbelly of Dalaran, a hive of scum and villainy; but potentially even more ludicrous, a bar.

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“It seems you have a visitor, Captain.” A voice sneered in the darkness around Magister Frostwhisper, whom was clearly far beyond any shred of his element at current. “You know we don’t like the uninitiated poking their noses in our business.”

 

Even in this dire of a situation, Vathelan struggled to recollect as to exactly how he got into this predicament. It had started with his search for the retired agent he had been eager to recruit. He couldn’t see anything. He had traveled into the Underbelly of Dalaran, looking for this bar his target was reported to frequent. Vath was forced into what felt to be a chair. The search proved to be fruitless, so he started asking around if anyone knew of this location. His back met the hard wood behind him. No one seemed to have wanted to give him a solid answer.

 

“I’ll handle ‘im.” A second voice spoke, the accent was not one Vathelan was quite familiar with. It wasn’t Trollish… “‘e won’ be a problem. One way o’ ‘nother. Ain’t that right?”

 

With the second voice claiming responsibility for the Magister, the first man seemed satisfied enough to remove the heavy sack from Frostwhisper’s head. He senses rushed back to him, and two things of note immediately caught his attention. The first was the wretched stench that reassured him he was still very much still within the sewer system of the Underbelly. The second was the man before him. Tanned skin, with short ebon hair. His right eye concealed by leather, his left was that of his own people; but without the glow of the proud magical heritage of the Sin’dorei. His build was too muscular for the average elf, but too lean and lithe to be considered entirely human either. This was further accentuated by the dark facial hair and the pointed ears that remained the size of a human’s. This had to be him as he stared impatiently for an answer. “Y-yes, Captain Vanderzee, sir.”

 

“That’s just what I wanted ta hear.” The Half-elf smirked as he nodded to the man who brought the Elf in, who took the hint and faded into the shadows. “Yer gonna have ta tell me what a wizard such as yerself is doin’ in a place like this though.”

 

“I...I don’t even know where this is. Is this the Cantrips and Crows bar? Why all the secrecy?”

 

“Do yerself a favor, let me ask the questions.” The Captain pulled his revolver pistol and set it upon the table with one hand, his other motioning for one of the bartenders over. When he was sure he was seen, he turned to look back at his ‘guest’. “Let’s just say after Proudmoore’s tantrum, we all got a little bit o’ nervous so out in the open. Yer bein’ here is gonna put a few o’ these fellas on edge. Speakin’ o’… yeh still ain’t answer me question. What brings yeh down ‘ere?”

 

“You, actually. We… I need your help.” The Magister’s throat was dry as he swallowed some air. “A… friend of mine is in danger. So I am looking to hire you.”

 

“Couple o’ years too late there, mate.” Vanderzee stifled a chuckle. “I’m retired. Ain’t in tha killin’ business no more.” The bartender reached their table. “Another Mead, Dwarven.” His attention returned to the Fullblood in front of him. “Want anythin’? Me treat.”

 

“No. I don’t drink.” Vathelan shook his head before struggling to take a deep breath, taking far too much of the chemical-ridden-body-refuse pugence that lingered in the air as he considered his next choice of words. Despite the smell of the location, the service was surprisingly quick. The goblin bartender returned with the Captain’s drink. “There is a war going on below us. And I assure you if the Legion wins, your drinking days will be over. That is, of course, assuming your funds don’t bleed dry first. The world needs you, my friend needs us. For her sake, I’m willing to foot the bill. So, please, name your price.”

 

Vanderzee was content to nurse his drink, relatively ignoring the plea of the man in front of him. That was until the gender of the elf’s friend was mentioned. This caught his attention, he sat down the flagon. “Tell me ‘bout her.”

 

“What?”

 

“The girl yer doin’ this all fer. Wha’s she like?” The Captain leaned in slightly, a bit too interested in a discription for Vathelan’s liking.

 

But if he wanted help, he suspected he would have to comply. An opening to negotiations was an opening afterall. “She’s the kindest person I’ve ever met. Brave and always with a smile, she--”

 

“Yer borin’ me, kid. Come on, give me somethin’ ta work with.” Even as he spoke, a wolfish grin reached his lips. He was testing the Magister, and Vathelan knew it. “Try again, give me some feelin’, eh?”

 

“...Where to begin? She’s not like most of our kind I’ve met, she’s certainly a cut above the rest. She is of heroic stature, her skin tanned from the warm embrace of the Sun.” The Captain went back to his drink, his boredom becoming even more prevalent. The Magister closed his eyes, trying to imagine her presence with him-- even in this horrible place. “...Her brilliant eyes, are like windows to her ever curious mind. When she smiles, the world lights up. And fortunately for the world, she smiles often. She is an endless supply of hope in a desperate world. She’s quick to see the silver lining of any given trouble, she always stands up for what she thinks is right… she has always been kind to me, she’s the first friend I’ve ever had. She sees so much in me, more than I can even fathom. And… I refuse to let her down.”

 

“...Well, I’ll be damned.” The Captain spoke, setting his mug down. When Vathelan opened his eyes, he would see an approving smile on the half-elf’s face, much to his confusion. “What? I was young an’ dumb once too, an’ I know a lovebird when I see one. If yeh feel tha’ strongly ‘bout tha’ woman…”

 

“Oh! Thank you Sir! I--”

 

“Don’ thank me yet.” The Captain murmured as he took out a small booklet and wrote something on it. After sliding it over for the Magister, he then took out a small case and picked one of his Sultry Maiden cigarettes from it. “Jumpin’ tha gun ain’ gonna do yeh no good kid, we ain’t spoken ‘bout payment yet.”

 

“Oh. Ofcourse.” The Magister gave a small smile before picking up the paper. His heart threatened to stop at the number listed. It was half his salary! His smile faltered, and the Captain picked up on it.

 

“In gold pieces. I was one o’ tha best, which ain’ exactly cheap.” He set the cigarette in between his lips, lighting it. He took a puff and released before continuing. “An’ yeh’ll ‘ave ta pay ‘alf o’ tha’ a month as a retainer fee too, o’course.” He eyed the Magister who stared at the paper before giving a shrug. “Yeh did wanna bring me outta retirement.”

 

“...If this what it takes to recruit you, then so be it.” Magister Frostwhisper accepted the terms with a conviction, that for a moment he thought he saw a look of surprise on the rogue’s face. “Welcome to the fight to save Azeroth, Captain Vanderzee.” He extended his hand.

 

“Great.” But there was one more catch. If the Half-elf was shocked, that moment was gone. Instead the expression was replaced with that of amusement. “But it be customary fer me ta have a drink ta seal the deal with me new employer. Yeh don’t have any objections ta this, do yeh?”

 

“If I must.” Emboldened by his resolve, he couldn’t afford to falter now. He reached for the mug to take a drink before the half-elf grabbed his wrist.

 

The two men exchanged a glance for a moment, Vanderzee clearly had something else in mind as he motioned for the bartender to return. He whispered something in the goblin’s ear, who in turn nodded.

 

What the Goblin returned with wasn’t something Vathelan would have expected. A single small stone container, the thing could not have held more than two ounces of liquid. However the liquid was on fire. The Magister looked at his new hire, who just gave him a smirk. This was his final test, it seemed. A trial by fire, he could almost her Dora say. He picked up the stone miniature cup with a smile at the imagined joke. He tried to blow the flames out. No avail. He tried again. The same result. He pondered this a moment before deciding there was no other option. He set the stone to his lips, he could feel the heat of the flames. He took in a breath of air, trying to prepare himself. Then he moved to down the shot of flaming liquor. To say it burned was an understatement. He wasn’t sure if he was imagining it or not, the fire that traveled down his throat. He grunted, his hand gripping the table as he tried to brace himself as the recreational poison’s effects took hold. He could feel the heat travel from his stomach, up his chest, and throughout his body until they reached the tips of his extremities. Flames temporarily licked his form, and only when they stopped could he even manage to cough and gag. It was dreadful! How did people do this for recreation?!

 

“Seems we have a deal.”

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Lady Arath’dorei,
 


Hope is as much a resource as anything else. The irony being how much its validity proves tied into the basic concepts of economics: Considered useless when plentiful as people seem keen to overlooking it, but wholly precious when the jaws of despair grasp upon the throats of the world. It is fortunate then, is it not, that it proves renewable?
 


And it is my personal belief, that our mission statement of the defense and preservation of the Sin’dorei should include planting the seeds of such a resource. I have found, and brought under my employment, a formally inactive agent of the Scryers that I am happy to direct to your service. And while not one whom actively works from the field, I too am willing to lend my mastery of the Arcane Arts to your defense wherever it is you need us. Consider it a personal favor from myself, and a professional act in confidence in hopes that we may find common ground against the greater threat at large in the future from the Scryers.
 


Sincerely,
Magister Vathelan Frostwhisper
Scryer Agent of Asset Protection and Acquisition

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At sunrise, the day of Elisande’s retribution was at last at hand. Over the passing weeks the forces of the Three Elven armies, the Kirin Tor and the Nightborne Rebels had amassed at their gates; now they began their march into the city. Thanks to groundwork laid by Dusk Lily and Ebonfeather alike, the first conflict of the day proved readily decisive in favor of the Elven Armies, allowing them to advance into the city proper towards the central Nighthold of Suramar; the rebels were left to cover their rear.

 

It was here where the Brothers Danteur, leaders of the Ebonfeather cell of the rebellion could at last let loose their nightmarish power. Kal’une, the more visible of the brothers in the day to day of their operations leapt forth into the crowd, his shape given way for the horrible demons that plagued their city. His claws were like blades, severing whatever appendages they managed to grab hold to. His strength, matched by his brutality and lust for violence, proved overwhelming for those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of his wrath.

 

The more elusive brother, the man known as Sin’soiel, was more subdued in his fighting style. At first he fought with classical purpose, illustrating would thousands of years of training could do to a swordsman. In the morning sun, the black razor-like daggers-turned-longswords cut through the air and loyalist alike. A swish in the air, a parry to help demoralize the foe, though it did not matter. They were far more outmatched than the loyalists knew. For it only took a single strike to make contact for his style to prove as terrifying as his brother’s. The man seemed indestructible from their eyes, spells cast didn’t take hold, those who got lucky hits in seemed to do nothing more than seal their doom. When the blood mixed between the Danteur and his foes, it sprung to live under his control. Now longer did they simply have to deal with the superb swordsman and his dual blades, but bladed tendrils of blood as well. Dozens fell before the Danteur Brothers, and so still did dozens more.

 

In the passing hours, scores of loyalist bodies, whole and severed, laid strewn across the elegant stone of the promenade where the siege had began, the blue pavement painted red from the blood and gore shed. The numbers of those defending the pathway dwindled and when they reached a point where victory had been assured the newest member of the Ebonfeathers proper, Isabaele, approached. “My lords, we have secured this location. M has assured me he has it handled from here.”

 

“Did you hear that, Kal?” Sin’soiel sheathed his blade, his body drank in the remnants of the blood to repair his form from the conflict. “Kadgar will be pleased with the news of our success.”

 

“Very well.” Growled the elf-turned-demon, he dropped the fel-charred upper half of his latest victim from his taloned fingers without ceremony where it could join the others. As he took steps towards the duo, the demon within was once again shackled. Allowing the brother to once again return to his natural state.

 

The trio coalesced into formation, Sin’soiel was flanked by his brother upon the left, his newest and most promising protégée at his right as they began their victorious march down the Concourse of Destiny. Each step of the march towards the finale of this conflict filled the central man with pride in what the combined might of the Elven peoples were able to accomplish. When they tore down this tyrant, a third for the man behind the illusion, they could then turn their sights to ending this war with minimal casualties. Here in this moment, it felt nothing was impossible for their forces. “Archmage...”

 

Except Archmage Khadgar was paying them no mind. Something of greater importance was unraveling before them. Their armies had stopped, greeted by the vision of the very tyrant they were marching to dispose. Grand Magistrix Elisande’s vision stared down at them with a sneer. “Behold this motley throng in which the rebels put their faith.”

 

“Sin,” the disguised Illidari leaned to whisper in his brother’s ear, “this doesn’t bode well. We should retreat and regroup.” Sin’soiel held his hand out to stay his brother’s concerns, their victory was so close. Just behind that gate.

 

“Kaldorei?” The visage of Elisande continued her mockery. “You disgrace a glorious past, hiding in trees and cloaking yourselves in false piety. You have grown as savage as the trolls that skulk about your forests.”

 

“Powerful magics are at play.” Kal’une hissed more urgently in the ear of his brother. “It’s a trap. We need to turn around. Now.”

 

“Quel’dorei?” The Projection’s eyes glanced at the next gathering of elves, that lead by the last living known Windrunner herself. “You are peasants playing at nobility, all too willing to mingle with lesser races that dilute your bloodline. You are unworthy of the high elves.”

 

Sin knew better than question his brother’s senses, the man seemed to have a sixth sense that replaced whatever he lost with his eyes. “Very well, pull back. I shall warn the others.” He began his march forward, summoning his own mana in preparation to block whatever his brother had seen.

 

“What? No!”

 

“Sin’dorei?” The image addressed the final of the elven forces before her. “Of all the elves, I thought you might understand the choice I made to save my people. Instead, you ally with misfits and monsters.”

 

“You forget, I am trained for this.” Sin’soiel tried to reassure his comrades as he rushed forward. Whatever it was Elisande had planned, she would release it soon. If he was going to save his people, all of his people, the time was now!

 

“Each of you has debased your proud lineage. Each of you has forgotten the ancient power that is our birthright.” Sin’soiel broke into a full sprint towards the armies in front of him, not allowing the combination of leather and metal he wore to hinder him. He had to save them! “Let this failed rebellion be a lesson to any that would stand against the Shal’dorei!” The Grand Magistrix let loose the power she had been building for a spell unlike anything they could have imagined from one of the mortal races. It mattered not that the back of the forces had tried to make their escape now. It was too late, far too late.

 

Sin’soiel was forced to watch as the wave of magic consumed the forms in the front, the very leaders of this military operation. He had opened his mouth to shout his warning, but as he was forced to watch in horror, it instead became a simple scream of a single elongated syllable of a word. The wave of magic continued its onslaught, devouring forms and freezing them in time-- eventually washing over Sin himself. He tried with all his might to use his training to fight it, but it was in vain. For all he did was buy himself a few seconds to scream in futility. And when his own voice was silenced, the last thing he heard was his Protégée’s voice echoing his own….

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Following an escort came three men of Elven descent. The central one, the leader of this gathering, was the shortest—At Six Foot Even. Their escort could tell it was the man expected, he had all the markings: The finely pressed Scryer uniform, the short dark hair, the satchel at his side and the glasses. He was Magister Vathelan Frostwhisper of the Scryers. To his left was his rugged half-elf companion, the tallest and burliest of the three—Kirital. To his right was, what one could assume, was his newest employee. An inch shorter than the bodyguard, the man had his own imposing demeanor. He too, was likely a half-elf. He was well armed, twin blades at his hips, a revolver, a couple of grenades and a flask. Before their escort could knock, the door flew open.
 


The new-hire, dodged the incoming Tauren. He glared with his singular eye, his lip slight in a curl underneath his stubble. He said nothing, however. He’d let the Magister take the floor as ordered.

 

Dora barely had a moment between Megeda leaving and three elves at her doorstep. She'd been just about to sit down in the chair,  to deal with the scrolls that laid in her bag, but the motion goes aborted before she's straightening up again and running a shaky hand through her long, ebon hair. "Va-" she halts, noticing the other two that dwarf him, and her body goes stiff. The jacket is open, you look sloppy- Her expression goes mildly pinched, exhaustion making it's impressions on the creases near her eyes. She considers fixing her jacket. She motions them inside instead, the sound of her boots heavy as she rounds her desk. "Evening, gentlemen," she greets them.

 

“Good Evening, Lady Arath’dorei.” The Magister gives a small bow, his voice and smile warmer than those who know his professional stances to be. “I am sure I need no introduction. To my left is Mister Kirital, my bodyguard. To the right is Agent—”

“Captain, sir.” The thug of an elf corrected. His singular eye seemed to inspect the woman before him. His inflections spoke of a seafarer. “Captain Raphael Vanderzee. You can call me Van if you wish, my Lady.”

 

"Nice to meet you both," her mouth twists uncomfortably, "though I really wish it'd been under better circumstances. And always good to see you too, Vath." She tried to toe that line between professional and friendly. When she'd seen Vathelan's face, there'd been a brief moment of relief to sweep away the thoughtful furrowing of her brow as she mentally leapt to one end of the battle across the other. Now she invites them to take seats on the many chairs parked just in front of the desk with a sweeping hand. "But I appreciate your assistance, no doubt about that."

 

“Woulda liked to meet you in better circumstances too.” The Captain smirks. “But, I doubt it. I only get called in when shit starts rolling uphill.” He stops as he sees the glare of his employer shoot beside him, slowly leaning into the offered chair.

“Always a pleasure, Madam.” The Magister gently takes his seat, trying to calm his own battle between the personal and professional personas that roared within him. This could get messy if he weren’t careful. “I am thankful you trust me enough to allow me to help you and your organization.”

 

She occupies the desk chair, finally. It's clearly built to house a bigger body, but she fills it out well enough. This is one of those times where she actually considers her own physical presence and is actually thankful that she's larger than the average female, tall and sturdy in build. At least the chair doesn't dwarf her. Life was so much simpler when she wasn't thinking about the kind of intimidation she creates in a damn chair! She'd rather be tinkering on the prosthetics she left in her private workshop. C'mon Dora, you can do better than this! "I trust your judgement, Vathelan, and frankly we're pretty low on resources. We've reached out to only one other organization- working with Sanctuary and using their aid." She turns her stare on the new-hire then, with her rubbing at her chin. "Captain, can you tell me a bit about your history?"

 

“A trust I hope you will find well founded.” The Magister smiles. “I will support you to the best of my ability, all you need do is ask.”

“What kind of history? And where do you want me to start?” As the Magister wasn’t glaring at him, a mischievous smirk crossed his lips.

 

The smirk isn't lost on her, or the potential implications. A tug at the corner of her mouth hitching up, like a fish tugging on a line. It smoothes out into a more relaxed smile, with her steepling her fingers and allowing her chin to rest on the tops of them. "The kind of history that is relevant, Captain. How familiar are you with gyrocopters, or a position of leadership? Your title suggests a lot, but I'd rather hear it from you."

 

“Business it is then.” He nudged the Magister once more, a glare his reward. “So… let’s keep this short, eh? I’ve been a sailor of sorts since I was but a boy, rose in power until I ran me own ship. Fought in yer Civil War—Yes, I met Glow-face.” He said as he looked at his employer. Who gave him a confused look. “But that ain’t important right now. I also ran and requisitioned supplies in the war in the North. Tried to retire, didn’t go so well. Ended up working on and flying ‘copters and bigger for awhile. Among other jobs.”

 

She probably shouldn't laugh. Somehow, that didn't strike her as behavior suited to acting leader, or maybe for this situation. She's awfully tempted though. The mouth corner tugs again, provoked. "Sounds like you've been awfully busy."

 

“You have no idea, Miss…” He gave another grin. And a… blink or was it a wink? A singular eye made it hard to tell. “Bar tabs don’t pay themselves, after all. Lucky for the Dress over here, I got myself some free time and a need for another tab to pay, eh?”

 

Spirits, this man really is a kind of scoundrel isn't he? She realizes she thought the word scoundrel to herself, like she's in one of those horrible novels that Phyruss likes to shove in her direction to make her uncomfortable. She looks pointedly down at a stack of contracts just in front of her, starting to rifle through the papers. "Then I'll just need you to sign on with us, as outlined here on this document. Standard jargon, adapted for this particular mission. You'll get a file on our target and you'll be expected to meet with one of our heavy weapons engineers to talk about the details of the fleet you're leading."

 

“Leading you say?” He grins as he looks over the contract. Specifically what was in it for him. He knew why the Magister had hired him, despite his heavy fee—even if the damn wizard denied it.

 

Vathelan looked over at the woman on the other side of the desk apologetically. He was stunned; he didn’t even know what to say.

 

Dora glances to Vathelan then, her eyes offering a chance for them to speak later if he wished it. She almost shrugged, but these were the measures they resorted to taking. Any modicum of assistance that she could unearth was valuable. "Yup, leading. You're in charge of our air force during the battle. This is our target." Another slip of paper inches across the desk towards the man, depicting Lazhio at his full strength during the time of the old Rough Raiders campaign against him.

 

Vathelan gave a small smile as she looked at him, nervous and uncertain. Was this a ‘We Need To Talk For Bringing This Scoundrel To Me’? Or was it a ‘I Missed You And Want To Chat’ look? Either way, he supposed he would take her up on her offer—away from prying ears if he could help it. But his concentration would be interrupted as the Captain took the photo and gave a small whistle, before showing it to the Magister. “Yeh know what this means, right?”

 

Dora leaned forward, holding her breath.

 

“…Yes. I know. We’ll talk about it later.” The Magister nodded, feeling his pocketbook screaming at him for even more abuse that it was about to take. The frown deepened upon his expression.

The Captain gave a small grin before taking the writing utensil. “…I’ll hold you to your word. I know where you sleep after all, Wizard.”  He was awarded a glare from Kirital, not that he seemed to notice as he signed his name upon the contract.

 

Oh, poor Vathelan! Dora shot him an encouraging little grin, secret. She tried not to enjoy the situation at his expense, and failed while she collected the documents. "Perfect.  There's lodging here in the port with space for you during the length of your contract. I'll be assembling all leaders to discuss coordination." She hands Van a communicator for his use, a pile of them set in a bowl for convenient reach. "Be ready to rise to the call when it comes."

 

“And a bar?” The Captain smiled. “I would enjoy buying you a drink at some point.”

 

The hand that extends the communicator freezes in mid air, with the rest of her to follow."Oh," Dora says, pointlessly, before she places the communicators within Van's reaching grasp. Wildly, her stare flickers over to Vathelan's face and then retreat back to Van. Drop to her papers, which she collects and starts tapping the edges of them against the wood top though they couldn't be straighter or more neatly gathered. "Auhm. That- ah, it's flattering-" her mind erupts into various screams of outrage at her incompetence, "I'm- this mission is really important and I'd like to have as few distractions from it as possible."

"So," she continues on because once she starts rambling she has no idea how to stop, it's a sickness, "now that we've gone over the details, I'll make sure that you get that mission briefing and someone will escort you to your new lodging! Are there any questions that you'd like me to answer for you before you're dismissed?"

 

“No further questions.” The Magister says flatly as he glares at Van. “Thank you for your time, Captain. Be ready to do what we’re paying you for.”

“…You heard the boss, I guess.” The smirk fading, the return of the look of a killer waxed back upon his features as he moved to stand up. “Guess I’ll take that escort before I start my little tour of the area.”

 

Dora makes the call into her comm that is lodged in her ear, a quick mumble into the device. An  orcess with chestnut hair loosely framing her face appears at the door, where she waits in silence for the Captain. "Thank you for your time," Dora says faintly, standing to walk with them out.

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The men are lead out of the office. Vathelan keeps his eyes on the shorter of the two half-elves until he is surely going where intended. Then he holds back, looking up at the woman at the door frame as he stood at the bottom of the steps. He could tell she was stressed; he tried to think of something encouraging and yet appropriate to say given this strange dynamic in play. “I’m… sorry if he crossed a line.” He starts. “Do… you want me to stay here too? My offer to aide you still stands, just tell me what you need.”

 

He's offered his help time and time again. Realistically, she knew that every hand available meant a better fighting chance for her uncle and for her shan'do. For beating Lazhio and for the continued survival of the world as they knew it. The reservations that hold her back fade in importance. "It was just unexpected, but it's fine. Uhm." What does she need? What does the company need? She wants to explain the risks...and since when did Vathelan have a bodyguard? What for? Just what kind of danger was he already in?

 

“Dora…” His voice is low, meant just for them. The formality dropped. He is worried for her, this much is evident. “I understand the perils of leadership; I understand the impulse to work yourself beyond the point of exhaustion. At least let me do some of your paperwork? It’ll allow you to focus better on the upcoming battle. Also… have you seen Lord-General Rayfeather around? If I can get him to help me to lean on Headquarters, I may be able to requisition some Golems at least to help.”

 

At the mention of the Lord-General, the cracks in her professionalism start to deepen. Her shan'do, who had put time and effort into her with training, had been dangling as a limp puppet with no way to help him. The images of his head caught in the claws come to her unbidden. She goes very still, and very quiet. She just needs a moment. Just a moment. She'll be fine, she can do this. She has to do this. "Faelenor was captured," she admits, voice whisper quiet and wavering. "It's part of the mission detail."

 

Not another one. Vathelan’s jaw tightens, his eyes express a deep sense of regret beyond the glass before them. “…I… didn’t know.” He looks behind him, to the group travelling to the guestrooms. His mind starts calculating. “If you want to take me up on the paperwork offer, let me know… you know how to contact me. For now… I-I’ll see if I can use that information to our advantage.”

 

She wavers. She needs to tell him. "...this monster that we're facing, this...man. Lazhio. He targets magic users, Vath. I...can ask my company to stay back and fight for our leader and for taking him down. He poses tremendous risk, but...if we fail, then all of our hope goes to surviving organizations who know about the threat and can do something." The shadows of the hallway outside her office press against her on all sides. She takes a deep breath through her nose, exhales. "I don't want to take you away from the Scryers. Not when you could be doing a lot of good in their service."

 

“…I see.” He pauses, seeming to process this new information. “I will respect your wishes. But have you considered the alternative? What if I lose you, Dora? Do… you know how much you mean to me? And how much shame I have from failing the first Lord-General? What… how do I live with myself with another failure like that? With having you taken from my world?” He shakes his head before leaning in to give her a hug. An unusual gesture from a man who seems to tend to shy away from physical contact.

It's not the first hug he's ever initiated with her. She's transported to a hillside just outside of Durotar, close to the crossroads where she witnessed Legion-infested ships flying overhead. She remembers warm arms and silly promises. As dark clouds filled the sky so that it looked like evening when the sun was at its highest point in the sky, they'd found a moment to laugh. Was he...putting her before his duty? Her arms hang on either side of him until, finally, they settled around his waist. "It's not about me," she murmurs. "You- Vath, you know the price of peace."

 

“And who do you think has a better shot at it? You or me?” She was so close to him, he wasn’t sure if his heart was racing from her touch or the fear of losing her. He was getting emotional. Emotions were always messy. “I… cannot ask you not to do this. For many reasons. But you—you cannot expect me to just walk away? To leave you to die without a moment’s thought?”

 

Desperation hounded her for the entirety of her life.  If they lived in the same place for the length of a season, the company considered the event a miracle. Years of watching her mother's back, wondering if this was the mission that killed her. Being sent on missions of her own and wondering if she'd ever see her brother's face again. It was either hunt or be hunted.  Hopelessness returns to lie in wait at her back, waiting patiently for her to take notice. She hears it in his questions. The back of his robes crinkle under her clenching fist. "The world is more important than just me," she reminds him, breathless.

 

“You say that…” The retort starts, but the logic is with her. So he simply holds her, in fear that this may be the last time. His clever mind, the one that had gotten him here against all odds, races for an answer. The missing piece of the puzzle. The solution to all their problems. After minutes, he finally admits it. “…I don’t know if I’m strong enough this time.”

 

She draws back, with the curtain of her black hair slipping to fall against the front of her coat. Just far back enough that she could meet his stare with her own. Her eyes glow a muted jade in the gloom. This was the man who forged credentials for the authorization of the Order of Eversong. He'd risked his career, his future for what he thought was right. She'd been so proud. "I believe in you, Vathelan."

 

“There has to be a way. I… believe in you too. I believe in both of us too much for this to be the end. I’ve yet to fulfill my promises to you.” His gaze reflected into her own, his mind still trying to whirl in a way to find a solution. “…I’ll keep looking for support to send you. If I can spin this as a rescue mission, maybe I can garner something greater than a single agent. Dora… if the battle… goes too far, if it proves a suicide mission… If I can give you a way out, would you take it?”

 

"No," she answers. "I die with my company."

 

"...And you will not reconsider? So that you can help me fight for the peace we so desire?"

 

She laughs, a single little sound trapped between them. "I think there's something you don't know about me. I care about peace, like my dad. It was all he wanted, and my mom died for his cause. I'm fighting for peace, but not for the world." Another shaky exhale. Gods, she's trembling now, nerves rattled. "I just want peace for my family. They come first. If I lose them, I have nothing to fight for. So yeah," she laughs again, a little reckless, "It's hypocritical to have me ask you to leave. But I don't think this is the end, and I don't," she gives him a tiny shake, her grip on his arms, "want to risk more people." Then her face clears with sudden realization. "Wait. You're a Scryer."

 

He heard her words. Her mention of family. Family. Something he never had. How could he relate? In her little speech, the only piece he could take solace in was her denial of this being the end. His beacon of hope had not yet run dry. “…Yes, Dora. I have been since before I met you. What are you…? Should we get you somewhere to rest?”

 

"No no," she mumbles, then drags him towards the interior of the office. She might be half-way to delirium, but she knows she's onto something. She shuts the door behind them, starts to scrub again at her hair as she paces to a stack of papers and flips through them until… "There's intel here that claims...yeah, that during his first surge into power, there were Scryers who defected to aid him. Fed him information and artifacts in exchange for promises of power. There was a Crosys Falirin, he was a magister...and he had help."

 

“And do you want me to go researching on what they found?” He sounded skeptical, wondering if she was just trying to humor him to get him away.

 

"Maybe?" she answers, dropping the papers back on the pile. Suddenly what she thought might have been a good lead evaporates. She leans against her desk with the small of her back resting against the lip, sinks a few inches with her boots skidding ahead of her, and groans into her palm.  "I don't know. I just- gods, Vath," she lifts her face up, "You ask how I can expect you to just stand by and let me walk into this fight when you'd be one of the first that he'd seek out if you were anywhere near the base. I'm not even magical, I'm some sort of elfish dud!"

 

“If you think it’ll actually help, I’ll do it.” The Magister moves to reorganize the papers so that he can try to get a better look at them. “And… maybe I was a little off base there. If I’m going to be… a part of your life, I’m going to have to get used to this notion. You’re a hero, this is what heroes do. I just—I care about you, Dora. You’re my first friend, ever. And—” He cuts himself off as he gets close to her, his eyes likely say what he won’t. “…This is hard for me. You’ve taught me that the price of inaction is worse than that of making a mistake, remember?”

 

She following two different conversations. She hears what Vathelan says, but she's also interpreting the rest in a way that she was slowing learning to decode. She couldn't play ignorant, not after all the mistakes she made in the past year. Not after seeing those same eyes from several different people and recounting what happened afterward, all the shattered promises that cling to her like emotional shrapnel.

"Vathelan," she says very carefully, "I care about you too. You barely know me. I barely-" she stops, lets out a frustrated sigh. Takes up his hands to hold in her own, like they were children about to swing them from side to side. "...maybe you have this idealized version of me in your head that I'm never gonna live up to."

 

“None of us are perfect, Dora Arath’dorei. I’ve read too many reports and profiles to not realize this. And I don’t mean to stress you out any further than you already are…” He gives a small sigh, kneeled as he was to be on her level. “I’m sorry if this is unfair given the circumstances. But… we’re, pardon the expression, if we’re living on Borrowed Time—what if we don’t get the chance? Which will be worse; the not knowing because we didn’t act, or learning from our mistakes?”

 

It's abysmally unfair of him to do this to her now. She has a company to hold together, putting the skills she learned into practical use for the first time. She's managed alright thus far; no major mistakes she feels like in her planning or the choices she's made in assignments. Emotionally, she's stable enough. Having a plan and putting into motion creates that stability that she needs to focus on the task at hand. But he's flinging her own argument against her. She's a day and some change away from leading her company into a war. She doesn't get to choose who lives or who dies under her command. She knows in her heart what would be worse. "You're using my own philosophy against me," she responds, her smile a little broken.

 

“It’s a solid argument, and it’s been something I’ve been thinking over… a lot.” He gave a small smile to try to reassure her, his voice is even and gentle as the words play past his tongue. “I’m not asking you to decide tonight, nor am I planning on asking you to be exclusive with me. Certainly not while we try to figure things out. I just… wanted you to know, just in case the worst does happen. At least I said something.” His hands gently rub her own in his grip. “…And, if I’m lucky, maybe you’ll consider it.”

 

She gives him a squeeze in return. "I've considered it," she admits. Tonight was a night for confessions, she supposes. She's running on food from about fourteen hours ago, an apple she scarfed down while she was examining the gates. Blood roars in her ears. Her heart is leaping ahead of her, confused but barreling forward without her consent. Crazy infects everyone the night before a battle. She's never been one to be satisfied with standing still. "I'm considering it right now," she says like a challenge.

 

“I do not mean to rush you, my lady.” He gives a small nervous smile. Part of him wants to retreat, another wants so desperately to know. “And I apologize for the intrusion...”

 

Surprise splashes across her face, completely bare. For Dora to hide her own heart was doable, with effort. But she'd tried to fight against what had been lying between them according to her better judgement, eventually gave in...and for what? The whiplash stuns her. "Oh," she says, her grip going slack. "...alright," she murmurs in a daze. Then she lets him go entirely so that she can turn away to look down at the piles of her notes. She plants her hands on the desktop, hunched over it. The faint color of her eartips go a deep red.

 

Well… that reaction wasn’t encouraging. He had made a mistake. “…Unless you’re sure?” He thought he was starting to catch on. Lady Bloodstone had criticized him for this.  “I just… I’m nervous for your answer. Please forgive me.” He started to fuss over her, trying to get her in a much more comfortable position.

 

"I'm just-" she halts, gathers her thoughts. She senses him at her back, but she's collected herself enough to angle herself slightly in his direction and allow him the right to have a face-to-face conversation. "I'm confused, I guess. You talk about acting and learning from mistakes, when there's a battle looming over our heads and then you ask me to take my time deciding...maybe," a wrinkle creases the place between her long brows, "maybe I don't know what you want from me."

 

“Honestly? I panicked.” He frowns for a moment, silently scolding himself. “But… can you blame me? Dora, you’re amazing. You’re smart, you’ve got a great sense of humor, you’re brave—ready to die for your family. You’re talented, you’ve got the markings of a great leader… and I’ve not even touched on your beauty. I admire and care about you so much… it’s a little intimidating.” He sighs as he tries to collect his thoughts. “Look… what I want from you is simple, I want you safe and happy. Preferably with me. And I’m willing to take the risk on that—but I also understand what’s coming for us.”

 

"I'm not sure I'm all that," Dora smiles, fondling a gold button on her jacket. She's going to get herself cleaned up and presentable soon, for the next meeting. Maybe get food in her too. "You can ask my brother, my humor is awful. I really really like puns." The point of the conversation is getting away from her. She chews on her bottom lip, considering. "...alright. I can add you to the roster of arcane casters. We'll fight this thing together. Then after that," she peers at him, wary but curious. She notices moonlight across his glasses. "...after the battle, we'll see what happens."

 

“Excellent. And… I am sorry for the confusion.” His lips twist in another nervous smile. He was relieved to hear she was considering it still, in spite of his horrible grasp of emotions. And he was even more thankful that he had the chance to oversee her safety through the oncoming chaos. “I just… I want to make sure I’m doing this right with you. You may not believe me, but you are all the bit amazing as I say.” He leans over to give her a joking whisper, “I like puns too.”

 

She broke into a laugh then, covering her mouth like they were sharing a dirty secret between themselves. The laughing felt good. This moment hung suspended in that otherworld of night where only they exist and death is forced to wait for it's harvest. She's relieved that she can laugh, even now. When they die away, she seems at least a bit refreshed. "Alright," she giggles, "okay. Then...yes. I guess we have a plan."

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It seemed impossible to determine how long the remaining of the trio stood there in shock after watching their assumed victory snuffed out with a single gesture. Three armies, of separate proud nations of Elven people, gone-- nothing more that statues lost to time. Even worse for Isabaele, was the loss of the man who offered her salvation from her former life, her dear commander was now stolen from her.

 

“We’ve done all we can here.” The flat tone spoke behind her, his hand coming to her shoulder. “We’ll live to fight another day.”

 

“No!” A look of harsh indignation filled her features as she whirled to look back at the man, “How dare you? We’re not leaving him behind! There has to be something we can do!”

 

“And what would you suggest? Wading into a destabilized temporal zone that the enemy controls?” Kal’une shook his head. “No. We have a war to win.” And with that, her objections were dismissed. The disguised Illidari pulled out a small sliver of a gem, “M, pull us out. The day is lost.”

 

Isabaele fell to her knees, defeated but still trying to come up with a counter argument. She had none. She cursed herself for her stupidity as tears ran down her face, the moisture caught the glinting light of the portal that formed behind the final half of the brothers Danteur. It was in this moment she finally found her voice again. “Wait… what about the other rebels, we’re not leaving them too are we?”

 

“They belong to Thalyssra, not us.” The voice of Kal’une was flat and to the point as usual, his back turned from the girl kneeling upon the Concourse as he began his journey towards the portal. He stopped three steps from its maw when he heard the lack of footfall behind him. His blind gaze returned to the girl. “You have two options: Stay here and wallow until the Duskwatch finds you; or prove that Sin’soiel was right about you. We lost this battle, but tomorrow is another day. The war continues. Decide if you desire to be a waste of our time, but know I will no longer tolerate such distractions. If you decide to remain with us I will require your full dedication. And be quick about your resolve, the Legion will not wait for us.” And with that final sentence, Lord Kal’une Danteur vanished-- potentially forever.

 

Isabaele looked back towards where the man she so admired stood in stasis and took a deep breath. She stood back upon her feet. “I will be back for you, I promise.”

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In his own preparations for the battle to come, Magister Vathelan Frostwhisper had kept finding himself at a loss any time the Captain asked for an explanation of the details of the job not listed in the contract—when he wasn’t leaving at the bar to get drunk on the Magister’s silver, of course. Not liking having a decidedly lacking understanding of the situation, he had decided it prudent to return to the office. Each step had him questioning his preparations. Should he bring flowers? Too forward. This was work, after all. And Dora had too much on her plate as it was—the whole reason he decided against actually getting an answer or saying the words. His hands hovered at the door of the office. He took a deep breath, only exhaling as he finally announced his presence.

 

How many more adjustments did this plan need? How many more hands volunteered for the sake of a fight that counted on so many factors outside of their control? Earlier, opportunities ran abundant out of the mouths of those in attendance at the meetings. Now that they put those plans into action, she kept running into new logistic problems. Most tedious part; the part she liked dealing with the least. She skimmed the end of her quill across her mouth, the feathery end chewed while she came up with what she was going to do for Cat in thanks for all of her assistance. Shokkra too. Cat fought for Kreyen, Shokkra for her best friend. Julilee for her support in everything, reliable even at all-time lows. Though they all bent their heads to their tasks for different reasons, they all bore the same banner and it made Dora speculate on just how much Sanctuary aided them now without question. Not because they were Sanctuary and allies...or maybe the term 'ally' meant more than it ever had before.... With the startle from the knock, she ends up with the feather end of the quill tip up one nostril. She sets it aside, brings her wrist to her nose to stop her sneeze, and beckons them with a muffled "Come in!"

 

After hearing her invitation, the young Magister gently opened the door and saw himself in with a warm smile. “Good evening, Lady Arath’dorei. How does the planning fare?”

 

She peers past a sea of parchment, catches sight of Vathelan. The sincere if tired half-smile reaches her eyes, just partially hidden under a heavy black fringe that always seemed to need cutting.  She stands, throws a hand in the direction of one of the chairs in front of the desk. "It's a little fiddly," she admits, "but promising at least."

 

“I could help, if you would allow it?” He seems slightly better rested than the woman before him. Though the robe he was in was less pristine than she had ever seen, save perhaps the end of their little hunting trip almost a year ago. “My specialties tend to be catching and managing the little details so that heroes such are yourself can worry about the bigger picture. You slay the dragon, I figure out how to make sure your men don’t go hungry during the venture.”

 

"You're restless," she decides, a dimple deepening as her smile hitches up further. If Dora Arath'dorei carried the confidence to claim any sort of expertise in anything at all, restlessness ranked at the top of the list. She knew the signs.

 

“I am worried.” He corrects, his eyes looking pointedly in direction and at all the paperwork. He sat down before her, gently moving to try to smooth out the wrinkles in his uniform as he did so. And then he eased his demeanor, back to a more familiar than the professional as he teased. “Do not tell me you were so quick to forget our conversation?”

 

Their last conversation; it's like staring into a dense fog in her own head where glimpses reveal themselves of their own accord, never to her satisfaction or to complete the picture. Vague notions, an awful lot of confusion. Her bottom lip attempts to roll back for her teeth to chew, but she manages to refrain. "You can be worried and restless," Dora counters, sitting when he does. "I learned that those two tend to go hand in hand." She looks like she might tip out of her chair, perched on the very edge, but her feet are solidly beneath her.

 

“I suppose it is difficult to get adequate rest when there is a threat of certain doom, or when your employee deems to claim the bed within the guestroom as his own.” The playful smirk continued to grow for a moment before it settled back down into his professional side threatened to overcome him once more. “Lady Arath’dorei… I know the eagerness to spill oneself into their work, the fear that someone else may get it wrong. But I am here. For you. Please do not hesitate to utilize my talents.”

 

"I- yeah, I know that Vath." Zakael can only do so much between his own exhaustion and taking care of his daughter. Amalyn...Dora passes by the infirmary to get updates on her status. At least Amalyn's recovering, but she won't set the burden of more paperwork on the woman. Or maybe Amalyn needs the work to feel included in the fight, to save her husband (or vengeance, but Dora moves right along past that possibility). "If I gave you anything, it would be a lot of grunt work. Giving the numbers another check, reporting directly to me." A ruffle of her hair, a mild furrow of her brows. Her smile carries a note of sardonic, like it's an uncomfortable sentiment that can't stand to land on her expression for any longer than an eye blink. "We've got...a lot of Sanctuary here filling a lotta roles. As much help as they provide, there's also been tension because of it. It's hard to keep up morale when it looks like we're handing off a lot of our control to an outside source, no matter how closely we might be allied."

 

“If running numbers will help alleviate some of the burden you bear upon your shoulders, then please, by all means.” His face remained in the twilight of both personas, each sentence seemed to play a different note in his mannerisms. “Though… I must admit, I am surprised to see Sanctuary actually acting.”

 

The amount left unsaid fills the room, forcing her attention. She's always been told that, as a leader, you're always listening for the unspoken. You're balancing multiple conversations with each word capable of changing the outcome. You can tuck meaning into phrases like cards up a sleeve. She's never once won a card game against her brother.  She works on her strengths to make up the difference. "They're not acting under orders. A lot of the members that are here came on their own, because of family or friendship."

 

“I suppose the reasons are irrelevant at current. What must be focused on is how to achieve victory in order to fight another day.” He adjusts the conversation as he does his glasses. “…Speaking of which, I feel I am at a loss of an understanding of the specifics."

 

The specifics? She gets another chance at trying to narrow down months of events into a succinct summary. The problem of information sharing among BT's own people buzzes around her head, with half-baked ideas that she's considered in those meandering moments where she's drifting between one problem and another. Better kept mission logs, maybe a little more bureaucracy. Not enough to stifle, just to smooth out their operations...

Oh, right. Debriefing first.

She tries to keep details relevant. "Alright," she starts, handing him off one of the reports passed around in their earlier meetings detailing the victims in Dalaran whose remains appeared no more than husks. Bodies of Sunreavers and stray mages. "These were found in the sewers a few months ago. We didn't get a confirmed ID until Aaren was attacked. Then Uncl-..Cobrak recognized Lazhio, not just from Aaren but from events prior...he borrowed a body of one of our own, using it like transport. I'm not sure about the form he's using now beyond the fact that it's strong." She picks up another loose sheaf with the pitlord-esque form of Lazio in the background, with the Rough Raiders to the front. "He breathed out a wave of felfire and had our best fighters retreating with just a word."

 

“You said he is devouring… essence of those Magically inclined, those trained in the classic arts specifically? Or are those using natural magics or the Divine for example also at risk of this?” His first question as he reads the reports. No one he knew sticks out within them, if there are names.”He… borrows forms? Does he kill his host? Does killing the host neutralize him?”

 

A soft knock comes from the door.

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The knock threatens to teeter the bulk of her thoughts off their railing. She goes through the rigmarole of standing for a new guest, calling out a clear "Enter!"

 

Kirital slips in.  He figured they were in discussion, so his body language reflects a quiet respectfulness.  Offering Dora a quick smile, he slips to the wall just beside the door; hands moving behind his lower back.  Like before he wears a dense cloth jacket lined with a short fur for cold, slack pants bound with cloth at his waist and ankles, and heavy boots layered with dense disks of metal.

 

Oh right...well, shoot, she's going to have to remember this guy's name eventually. The bodyguard that shadows Vathelan for reasons that Dora doesn't have knowledge about...and she's starting to worry that she really ought to have looked into that before hand. Too late now. She gives the male a nod of acknowledgement and a smile of similar briefness before she sits back down again, her posture changed into a rigidity that makes her back ache. "Weeell," she drawls, drumming a beat, "think of him like a felhunter. Any spellcasters are fair game. According to old mission logs on him, he can only possess bodies that are heavily tainted by fel...the body he's using now...I really don't know how he managed to reconstruct it, but it's a close approximation of his original if the testaments from retired Rough Raiders are anything to go by."

 

The Magister looked back at his bodyguard with a small nod before turning his attention back to the task at hand. “I see. And we are assuming he will strike here? What does he have to gain from such? Is it revenge? All this preparation for one Demon Hunter…”

"Not just any demon hunter...if it was that simple, well," she shrugs. "I mentioned before that he has a history of working with Scryers who defected to his cause. Artifacts in exchange for power." A twist of a frown, a shift of her shoulder blades like a predator cat out in the Barrens that makes the gilded piping of her military-style jacket shimmer. "He knows how to network and build a following. He's got two other known enemies on his side with incredible shadow powers. Like," she barks a short laugh, "like, they both outclass my mom in Void control and she's no slouch. Besides that...we have a plan. He wants these stones we have, that the Rough Raiders used to create a pocket dimension where they trapped him initially." She pauses, the windows of her stare darkening like the shadow of a bird across a dusty plain, there and gone. "So we want to lure him close enough to activate the stones again. We won't have the element of surprise on our side, but we have strategies for dealing with his army and his techniques. When we start the ritual, he'll sense it and he won't be able to resist."

 

“So, you are essentially trying to lure him into a trap.” The Magister looked over the report. Defecting Scryers. He could use this to gain Borrowed Time more favor from his organization after the battle was won. “You’re sending my Agent to lead your air force. And I am sure that you will brief him further later. What of your other forces? Are you well supplied, are you in need of anything I can acquire for you?”

 

From the conversation, Kirital attempts to catch up.  It seems they're planning to counter a foe of strength...with powerful allies...and who they plan to trap instead of defeat.  A look of concern turns toward Vath; brow turning outward until he steels himself against his wandering mind. Vathelan is no combatant.  Besides that's what Kirital is for. Through Dora's explanation, he moves his focus onto her and listens. She seems tense, though confident.  It brings a subtle smirk of interest to his stubbly face.

 

"We've got help pouring in on all fronts!" There's a little bit of that cheer in Dora that bears the marks of authentic if a bit worn down. It's too difficult for her to stay down for very long, goes against what comes naturally to her so she doesn't fight the sudden tide of good humor. "Honestly, it's been kind of a windfall of support from unexpected places, all of them vetted. We've got ships in the dock, we've got people diggin trenches, we've got out weapons specialist working on landmines, the tanks. Fel!" she grins, eyes going crescent with her mirth, "I've got my cousin up in the zeppelin tower working on a damn canon that oughta put a sizable dent in anything Lazhio tries to bring to the table." In her excitement, she brandishes a copy of the map that details their plans, with red markings of adjustments in the margins. She points to the square marking the command center, hovering over the map while her long ebon hair slips off her shoulders, messy and wild. "We have shamans who can detect underground tremors in case of tunneling. We have ballistas set up along the eastern and southern facing walls," her finger drags a line down, "and that's not accounting for the mines placed here, or the oil that will be set aflame by our rangers."

 

Kirital gets to his tip toes and peers to the map from the wall.  It seems rather complex and there are a lot of lines and words. Instead he returns to ogling Vathelan's back view with a subtle once over.  If Vathelan resolves to be here for this intense siege, he'll kick the shit out of whatever tries to attack him.

 

The hunter in Dora reacts to the movement in her peripheral; she notices the half-elf in his less than discreet attempt at satiating his curiosity. She'd be doing the exact same thing in his position. She shoots off a look towards him, that same enthusiastic and artless grin tossed in his direction like a bomb. She's pure energy in her element, explosive like the weapons she enjoys tinkering on in her spare time. It's like sharing a secret, a little understanding between him and her, before she returns her attention to the map.

 

Kirital grins.  He had a feeling Dora was into him.  That look confirms it to him. He makes a mental note to ask her to go clubbing in the Dalaran nightlife and maybe bring Vathelan along.  It'll be a celebration. Resting against the wall, he lets himself daydream a moment.

 

“Your tactician seems to have done an adequate enough job devising a solid plan of defense, save potentially warding the area to ensure that the enemy cannot simply teleport within.” Despite his studious tone, her usual liveliness is infectious. He cannot help but smile at how her excitement bubbles to the surface. “I am willing to lend my aid there if you so wish, and while I am not normally a combatant—I can provide support in terms of altering the flow of battle in our favor, or I can lend my prowess in keeping up the barrier if you would have me at either station. Unless you have something else in mind?”

 

Vathelan's offer sobers Kirital and his wandering mind.  He approaches the table and stands behind Vathelan with crossed arms and a raised brow at the man.

 

"It's not outlined here," she confides, "but we do have plans for an arcane barrier. Those magic users who can use light will be fighting against what are basically sha-puppets..." the movement gives her pause. Vathelan stands in the shadow of what Dora realizes is a giant of a half-elf. He might actually be the same size as Nokh, managing to loom in their space and her just shy of meeting his eyes. He might have had an inch on her, she'd have to guess. She gives his size a notice, a mental 'huh' before she continues on. "I can put you on the team with the barrier...you'd be closest to the inner circle where we're protecting the stones, but arguably that would be the safest place in the base."

 

“If you think my talents would be best suited there, then so be it.” He has his suspicions, but he doesn’t verbalize them. He understood the value of such a position tactically, and if she sought to protect him… he would have to take that as a good sign. “Where will you be?”

 

"Erm," she verbalizes, internally wincing while she keeps her eyes down, pinned to the map. "I'll be with the rest of the ranged fighters and fall back after they breach the wall."

 

"Where Vathelan goes, I'll be there as well."  Kirital adds. Looking over Dora, he smiles, demeanor turning friendly and a little scrutinizing.  It's almost as if he sizes her up in the least offensive way. "Should I get with you to see where I fit in?  Vathelan is my priority, but that doesn't mean I can't help defend others nearby."

 

The Magister’s lips thin as the briefing declared her positioning. His frosty gaze glared within the woman’s scalp. He looked about to protest at any moment. His brows knitting at his bodyguard’s declaration next. He obviously wasn’t pleased, and yet he said nothing at current.

 

What he sees is what he gets, that much is obvious just looking at her. If imagined lined up against other elven women considered typical in stature and grace, they'd probably try to gently direct her out and maybe hang up her femininity card as she left. She had the height that made her tower over most of her gender and race, and a thicker build beneath the jacket and trousers. Feminine demure was traded for the sort of free-spirited will of a younger mind who really just cared about what was practical. She was freshly scrubbed, at least, but bare-faced and curious. She considered the man and his question, rubbing thoughtfully at her chin. "Honestly," she starts, head canted, "I'd just like to know why Vathelan has a bodyguard in the first place. I don't wanna compromise your job, but I am wondering."

 

Kirital's grin turns toothy.  He's clearly proud of the position.  "Sure yeah! We can go over that and Vathelan's body over drinks." He soon catches what he said and attempts to recover despite a small blush.  "Ah, why I'm assigned to be his body guard, that is."

 

“It’s a bit comple—” The Magister had finally spoken up, his frigid concern had not yet thawed in this distraction. And then he heard that slip up and froze in place, his eyes slowly looking back up at the half-elf, before looking back at the woman before him. The correction did nothing to stop his flustering however, as a red hue slowly began to emanate upon the man in glasses.

 

There is a titan of a male blushing in front of her. What he'd said had caught her notice, but she wasn't going to give it much thought; at least until Vathelan cut himself off and his discomfort radiated off of him in a deep blush across his cheeks and the bridge of his nose. She runs the words in her head again, niggling loose the meaning, and hates that she feels her own face go hot when she isn't even sure why they are blushing (though she's got ideas, but they're distracting from the point!).  Her hands splay flat across her desk, with her stare roving from Kirital to Vathelan. "I'd- uh. Rather just hear it now."

 

"I'm a uh,"  Kirital clears his throat and slides a step away from Vathelan, similarly drifting his gaze to the far wall.  "A member of Sanctuary charged with stopping threats to Vathelan's person." He shrugs. "Simple as that, really."  He gives a somewhat desperate look to Vathelan to extrapolate, and hides it behind a smile.

 

"Who?" Dora is forced to ask, concerned, her focus on Vathelan.

 

“There have been… incidents, which were left unchecked. Some of the leadership thought this acceptable; others did not and understood the risk it posed to my delicate work in negotiations.”

 

"That's not the answer to my question," Dora frowns.

 

"You know her quite well, and I loathe the thought of being a wedge between your friendship."

 

Kirital nods during Vathelan's explanation.  Clearly the Magister is better at describing delicate situations.  Once the conversation continues he stops. "I dunno. Haven't had any incidents, really." He arcs a brow toward Vathelan.  Really he is oblivious to what harm merited Baern's order to bodyguard the mage.

 

The truth hits her with enough force to make her groan. She scrubs at her face, her reluctant little smile peeking from behind the gaps of her fingers. "Well," she sighs, laughter hiding in her eyes as she glances between them both, "yeah, I can see why you need a bodyguard. That's an entire set of problems I'd like to address later, when we're not dealing with a magic-sucking maniac."

 

"Shall we add it to the list of things we need to discuss after this scenario?"

 

"Yeah I can cover the first round but you're on your own after that." Kirital teased, or at least that was how Vathelan took it.

 

Her stomach freefalls, the gently amused curve of her lips wiped clean. There's too much in the unspoken to pick apart. When she tries to catch murmurs of a conversation in the dark, she hears her own voice but not his. Apologies and backpedaling. Clarification; a small perk that laid at the end of the unknown. "Sure," she offers, straightening. The buttons of her coat gleam in the light.

 

“I didn’t mean…” The Magister gave a small sigh, he seems slightly flustered. “We have much to discuss when this is over. I have hope that the majority of it will prove quite pleasant.” He manages to calm his fussing to give her a small smile. “…All we need do is survive.”

 

Dora probably does this to spite herself. It's her playing cards against her brother all over again, revealing her hand just by breathing or something. She lacks the ability to hide, to disguise. She feels like the air blares loud with the undercurrent of their conversation. Vathelan was going to read it just like Eiverlyn could read a person's history just by analyzing their clothes. Unable to stop herself, her stare flickers to Kirital. Was it written all over her face, the uncertainty? She takes up the map, a safe port in a storm. "We've got good odds. Surviving, I mean."

 

“Indeed.” The Magister gives a small nod, it was uncertain if he could see through her weak façade or not. “Thank you for your time, Lady Arath’dorei.” He moves to stand up from his chair. His eyes looked over his dear first friend. “We’ll get through this. Together. And… perhaps we can have our discussions over dinner?”

 

"I'm starving."  Kirital laughs. Overall he seems to not own a care in the world, or at least doesn't let such bother him.  There is a disarming quality that hangs about him as loosely as his attire. "So I'm game for anything." He does take a few steps back as his input ends.


 

Just like that, the bubble of tension breaks. Unconsciously, she aims a half grin Kirital's way. "Well, you're free to have dinner in the mess hall if you want. We've got a pretty decent chef...and yeah," she meets Vathelan's eyes, easy confidence returned to her. "Dinner after the battle is fine too."

 

Vathelan held the door open for the bodyguard, his eyes glancing back at his first and dear friend. The smile started warm, encouraging as she regained her confidence. “Thank you, Lady Arath’dorei.” The gaze lingered for a moment, the smile faded before contact was completely broken. He shut the door behind him and his companion without a word further.

 

Edited by Vathelan

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