Ninorra

A Drain on Life

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18 years after the First War (Year 592 by the King's Calendar)

 

Quel'thalas, the eternal kingdom, had for the most part remained separate from the tragedies of Azeroth. Despite sending waves of their people to fight beside the Alliance for the past fourteen years in an effort to fend off the orcish Horde and their allies, High Elves of both noble and low birth who were of no use to the war effort remained behind. It was mostly the rangers who were enlisted, swift elven archers of impeccable skill sent to die alongside humans, dwarves and gnomes. Many bodies were not recovered. In Quel’thalas, their people grieved and sang songs of their loss. The world was slowly healing from the thousands of deaths that resulted, and rumors were spreading about an orc uprising. The elves were restless.


In Silvermoon, the capital, talk was made of the possibility that their Alliance could not continue. It was both a frightening and liberating prospect to most. Many of the elves blamed the Alliance for the burning of their forests, the campaigns that led to the deaths of their sons and daughters. Music in the capital was minimal. It was a luxury to have joy in these times.

A luxury that some elves were willing to pay dearly for.

She was a young elf, but old enough to know how to fend for herself in the capital. Armed with a stringed instrument almost as large as she was, Ninorra Gitana boldly walked into taverns and sat beside fountains with the determination of an elven ranger. Her lowborn status was made obvious by the clothes that she wore, the manner of her speaking, even the gait in which she walked. This did not stop her from approaching the rich from a safe distance for the sole purpose of exploiting their sadness.

One such tavern, the Gilded Hawk, was well known for having a varied clientele. On most evenings, Ninorra could find a chair in the Hawk and play music for hours to the grateful applause and scattered coins of mourning mothers and fathers. Though too young to have been enlisted, the bard understood the gravity of the situation her people faced; many had died, she realized, but nobody she knew. This kept her goal, a hat full of coins, in context as she sang.

One such evening, she entered the Gilded Hawk carrying both her instrument and hat in one hand. In the other, she had managed to purchase a sweet roll from the bakery, which would have to be enough to feed her until she made her next coins. Gently kicking open the door to a dark smoky room decorated with purple silk, the child not yet taller than most elves’ midsections, approached the bar and lay her guitar on one of the chairs.

“You’re a bit early, aren’t you?” Asked the bartender with a glint of amusement in his blue eyes.

Ninorra smiled, her cheeks dimpled and full of pastry. Swallowing a mouthful, she politely nodded at the bartender to acknowledge him. “I wanted to eat first. Should I play the sad ones tonight again, Elerr?”

Elerr winced at her indifference. He understood that for most children, the gravity of their loss was beyond them. However, Ninorra in particular made him feel uncomfortable. Her red eyes, while not unheard of completely, were unusual, even for a lowborn elf like himself. Though the rest of her was perfectly normal; black hair, darkly tanned skin and a cherubic face, the red eyes were a distraction. “Yes, the sad ones,” he replied, attempting to hide his discomfort. “Some new remains have turned up. I think there are a few regulars who may have known them.”

The bard wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “I’ll play the sad ones, then.”

“How’s your mother?” Elerr asked, reaching for a glass to clean.

Ninorra frowned to herself. “She’s okay. She took most of what I made yesterday. Left me enough for this, but I have to make more tonight so I can buy new shoes.”

As if to make her point, the child wiggled her feet. Her black leather shoes, re-sewn and re-cobbled, appeared worse for wear. The heel had split straight up to her angle.

“Good luck, then,” Elerr whispered, sliding her a glass of milk. “And don’t tell anyone I gave you that.”

Ninorra took the glass gratefully and downed it. She would remember Elerr’s kindness in the years to come, when the Scourge wiped out the Gilded Hawk and slaughtered everyone inside. Elerr’s body would never be recovered, though those who loved him would mourn his loss.

On this day, however, he would listen to Ninorra play her guitar and sing her mourning songs. The elves would weep at the sound of a child’s voice, young and high pitched but precise enough to know which notes would make their hearts open. Their coin purses spilled enough for her to please her mother for one evening, and after hours of entertaining, the little girl went home.


 

Home was not a welcoming place for Ninorra. A single basement beneath someone’s large house, her mother rented it for a pittance. Most of Ninorra’s money went towards her mother’s experiments; equipment, regents, food. Since she was old enough to go on her own, the child had supported her mother’s obsession with fel magic by singing for enough money to feed and house them both. Her mother, in return, provided Ninorra with the only familiar face she knew.

On this evening, she assumed that she would be met by an amicable mother figure. At the very least, her mother would be happy to see a hat full of coins. Ninorra would promise to bring more the next day, and together they would eat a meagre supper of fish and perhaps some fruit. However, upon reaching the basement door, Ninorra discovered that it was locked. The little girl tugged on the door a few times, checking to see if it was stuck before pounding on it with her fist.

“Mother? Mother!”

No answer.

After a few frantic pounds, she walked around the house in search of their only window. Wiping at the dirt with her palms, Ninorra looked inside to see hardly anything of her own. The shelves and furniture were bare. All of her mother’s experiments were gone.

“She’s run off,” came a voice from behind.

Ninorra turned to see the landlord, an older elf with a trimmed beard, his long hair tied back into a silver ponytail.

“Took everything, even this month’s rent!” He shouted. “And left you behind, I assume?”

The little girl felt her heart pound like a drum. Looking around for some kind of thing to ground her, she remembered the hat full of money and tucked it behind her.

“What’s that you’ve got there?”

“It’s just—“

“You’re not going to stiff me this month!” He grunted, wrenching Ninorra’s arm until coins scattered all over the ground. “Look what you’ve done! Now I’ll have to--, wait, where are you going??”

Ninorra ran faster than she knew she could. Her guitar was heavy, but her hat was gone, so besides the instrument she only had herself, her clothes and her broken shoes. Despite knowing that her mother was gone, and that without her there would be no maternal punishment, she knew that this meant trouble. Where to go and where to sleep were in the back of her mind as she ran as far as she could from the landlord, leaving the payment from her night of work behind.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Ninorra
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19 years after the First War (Year 593 by the King's Calendar)

The High Elves of Silvermoon had spoken. They were no longer members of the Alliance that sent their sons and daughters to war, no longer inclined to listen to humans as if they were their leaders, let alone their equals. Retreating back into their city, the elves swore to defend their own lands with their own resources. No more bold alliances, no more campaigns that would see thousands of lives cut short. It was a time of determination, a time to set new goals and start fresh.

The songs were different, now. Some were sad, still. There were those who lost loved ones and would never recover. However, for many, there was a need to move past the depths of despair that Silvermoon waded in. It was a time of anthems, of powerful songs that people could sing along with.

Ninorra was a year older. She looked only a little different; a little taller, her hair longer, she was beginning to look less like a child.

In the wake of her mother's disappearance, she had grown both physically and emotionally. A year of singing for enough money to feed herself, enough money to pay for a room somewhere, anywhere nobody would ask questions about why a child was by herself. They weren’t luxurious rooms, but they were a roof, and even alone she felt safer than sleeping on the street. The few nights she didn’t have the money to afford a room, Ninorra would sneak into taverns and hide under a table before they closed. She found that if she closed her eyes and remained perfectly still, they usually wouldn’t check under the tablecloths. Still, draped beneath cheap fabric, it was safer than being outdoors.

There was only one night that she spent in this way.

The night that her mother disappeared, she ran from the landlord as fast as her legs could carry her. It was dark, past midnight, and the late drinkers were stumbling from their taverns arm and arm. Lovers sat hidden in corners, speaking in hushed voices. Mourners, still broken by the loss of their loved ones, wandered the streets alone. Ninorra ran past them all, toward nothing at all but the hope that the landlord would not catch her. When she had no more breath in her chest, she leaned over the cobblestone streets and coughed. Chest burning, the child looked back and saw that nobody seemed to be pursuing her. It was then that she realized that she was alone, far more alone than she had ever been, and looked for something, anything familiar.

Even at night, she could see the bright colors of the Court of the Sun. There were times she passed it during the day and marveled at its beauty. Tonight was no different, but she found herself less drawn to the golden decorative roofs and more toward the fountains that had been shut off for the evening. Approaching one of them, Ninorra looked into the still waters. Seeing her reflection, haggard and exhausted, with no one to help her, she eyes watered unhindered and she wept. Fat tears fell into the still waters, disturbing them with tiny ripples, her red eyes reflected on the surface. Under her breath, she whispered to herself the line from a song her mother taught her.

“Gellin falore, onde eran... felan anodun, eram eman.”

Quiet midnight, may I forget... what a dreadful time to think, to believe.

She felt the words in her, more so than she ever felt most lyrics. Now she understood the desire her mother had to forget, to stop thinking and just be, but where to be?

“Gellin falore, onde eran—“

“Don’t be afraid..” Came a quiet voice from behind her.

Ninorra turned quickly. Behind her was the cold night air, but nobody stood anywhere nearby. Wiping her tears with her palms, the little girl looked for the source of the voice and hesitantly called out.

“…hello?”

Nobody answered.

Turning back to the fountain, she saw her reflection surrounded by stars. The red of her eyes clouded her appearance, making it difficult to see her own face. Again, she whispered the tune her mother taught her, this time watching herself in the water.

“Gellin falore, onde eran... felan..”

The words were caught in her throat. Behind her, a figure had appeared. He stood taller than her, taller than any elf she knew, and his eyes were green. They glowed faintly, as if he were far away, but the shadow of his body was clear. She could not make out his face, or even what he was wearing, but he was there.

She felt a hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t be afraid..”

His grip tightened.

Without thinking, she bolted from the fountain. Ninorra ran as fast as she could, and still exhausted from her earlier run, turned back to look at whoever it was that had spoken to her. He was gone.

This was the memory Ninorra kept with her, the reason she would sing as much as possible every night. There was no way she was going to be outside alone again, no way she would invite the stranger back. Whoever he was, he terrified her, speaking to her in dreams. His voice echoed in her mind at night, when she was alone, looking for sleep.

“Don’t be afraid.”
 

Edited by Ninorra

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20 years after the First War (Year 594 by the King's Calendar)

The sounds of the dead and dying were everywhere.

In the two years since her mother’s disappearance, Ninorra, not quite a child but nowhere near an adult yet, learned how to find places to hide. When she couldn’t afford a room to sleep in, she hid under tables of taverns. When Silvermoon guards wanted to make trouble for her as she played her guitar for coins outside of the Court of the Sun, she hid behind bushes, behind statues, amongst the other elves meandering through the streets. She knew how to keep herself hidden, but her fears were small.

Only once was she caught by a guard for unlicensed busking, and the punishment was enough for her to learn how to hide better. He took every coin she made that day and kept it for himself. Ninorra swore to never forget that guard, and she remembered his face the next time she saw it; dead on the ground, his jaw torn away, as if someone had grabbed his skull and ripped it apart. She had seen it while the elves of Silvermoon ran for safety, and in the ensuing chaos tripped over the corpses of elite elven guards. His lifeless eyes looked up at her in a permanently horrified expression. She would never forget the way his jawbones protruded from his skull, how white they were, how close to the color of his beautiful hair and pale skin.

It all happened so fast. She had been playing her songs in the Gilded Hawk when the cries of attack went out. Having never been near a battle, Ninorra did not understand what was happening. She heard words like “Scourge” and “undead”. The name “Arthas” was whispered among patrons. She went to Elerr and asked, “What’s going on?” when guards burst through the doors.

“You have to evacuate! They’re coming! The Scourge is within our gates!!”

The elves ran, and Ninorra followed. She was confused when they seemed to gather, and as a massive group ran toward the Court of the Sun. She knew that they would never allow anyone inside without good reason, so why run there? As they moved, the crowds grew larger. Ninorra lost sight of Elerr and followed the guards instead, their golden armor a beacon in the throng. They seemed to lead them toward the golden domes ahead, if not toward the Court itself then somewhere near it at least. She could see them growing larger in the distance, and wondered if they magisters would actually allow them inside. As she ran, a group of elves older and larger pushed the girl aside, and she tripped over what felt like a bag of rocks. What she found when she picked herself up was that she had fallen over the body of a guard. Finally pausing to look at her surroundings, Ninorra saw the chaos in full.

All around, elves were scrambling. In between them, she noticed strange looking creatures; dark and skinny, their eyes glowing brightly. The Scourge. Hiding behind the corpse of the soldier, her back against a brick wall, she watched as one of the creatures reached for an elven woman’s long hair and jerked her head back. Sinking its massive jaws around the woman’s thin neck, the Scourge creature ripped away flesh and ate greedily, gulping down blood as it sprayed into its face, chewing the meat as if it were hawkstrider and not elven. Its face seemed so close to their own, but she saw only hunger in its eyes.

Gravity sunk gripped Ninorra’s legs and she could not move. Fear clenched her stomach, a knot that brought bile to her throat.

You have to run! She thought to herself.

The screaming was so loud, it almost drowned out the sound of the Scourge themselves. They made wretched noises, babbling gleefully as they ate the flesh of the dead. Ninorra felt the blood leave her face as, mere yards away, one of them caught sight of her. Sucking down a breath, the elf scrambled backwards into the wall, unthinking, her mind blank with terror.

You’re going to die.

The Scourge creature ambled forward, top-heavy, as if it had just learned to walk. Claws outstretched toward its next meal, it snarled and drooled a mixture of old saliva and clotted blood. Ninorra opened her mouth to scream, but there was no sound. Fear had paralyzed her, and with lips quivering she waited for death to come.

“Don’t be afraid…”

I’m going to die!

“You’re not alone...”

It’s going to eat me!!

“Just call. We will come.”

It was less than a foot away. She could smell the stink of the deceased, see each individual tooth rotting from the Scourge’s mouth. Ninorra opened her mouth and finally, with as much volume as she could produce, screamed.

“Help me!!”

A burst of flame and light. The smell of burnt skin, decay. He was a massive creature that resembled some sort of satyr, but much larger, with enormous black wings sprouting from his back. She recognized his clawed hands and remembered the night her mother disappeared.

“Don’t be afraid…”

It turned back toward Ninorra, but said nothing. The creature smiled at her, teeth a glistening white, the same white as the bones she'd seen in the dead soldier's jaw. Facing forward, it grabbed the Scourge by its throat and lifted it into the air effortlessly. The Scourge struggled but for a moment as the larger creature grabbed its skull and twisted. A sickening pop and ripping noise was followed by a gush of thick clotted blood spilling to the ground. The winged creature threw the Scourge corpse into a wall, shattering it into multiple pieces. Chunks of rotted bodyparts littered the grass, an eventual feast for rats.

He turned to look at the girl again.

“Run.”

Now she found that she could move. Legs pumping, Ninorra ran toward the crowd, not bothering to look back. Whatever had come to her rescue, she knew that its voice was the same that had visited her two years ago. Most if its appearence was a blur, but she remembered its face, its grin, and especially its eyes.

They were red, like hers.
 

Edited by Ninorra

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22 years after the First War (Year 596 by the King's Calendar)

Quel’thalas was in ruins.

Two years after the Scourge invasion, the High Elves were still making an attempt to rebuild. It was not going well. With most of their population dead, the responsibility fell on the shoulders of those left. However, with the desecration and immediate annihilation of the Sunwell, the remaining elves were weaker than ever. Though Prince Kael’thas’ decision to have the Sunwell destroyed may have saved his remaining subjects from the immediate threat of Kel’Thuzad’s tainting of their precious font, it also cut off their source of power. With nothing from which to draw their need for arcane magic, the elves began to fade.

They seemed a shadow of their former selves. In the immediate aftermath of the Scourge, they found themselves with a few areas in Silvermoon city that could be salvaged. High and lowborn alike worked together; burning the corpses of their fallen brethren, burning the corpses of the Scourge. The smell of burning flesh became a constant odor, a reminder of their trauma that would cling to the city even after the last body turned to ash. Though their burial rituals called for more than pyres, the sheer number of the dead would not allow for individual funerals. Together, the survivors surrounded massive bonfires, many of them holding hands with the strangers beside them.

Sin’dorei, they called themselves. Blood Elves. The blood of the fallen marked them, each survivor with their own memories of the battle and the loss. Only a few days after the Sunwell was gone, they all began to feel the effects. A hunger at first, small and nagging. Then an obsession.

Daily, they worked to clean their city, painfully aware that it might be meaningless. They were getting fewer and fewer, now. After so much death, the Blood Elves didn’t have the heart to kill those too weakened by their addiction, and cast them into the ruins instead. Falling to fits of madness, they walked like the dead through the dead earth, hopelessly searching for something, anything, to feed themselves. Most starved to death.

Amongst those still sane and living were very few children. One of them, an adolescent with red eyes and black hair, made the attempt to help wherever she could. It was not easy, and some regarded her eyes distrustfully, but most did not have the energy to discriminate. Side by side with those who might have once demanded she not be within a few yards of their presence, Ninorra mixed mortar and re-laid bricks. Her guitar had been lost in the invasion, but she found that for most people, a voice was enough. Sometimes, as they worked in lines to patch broken buildings and sweep debris, she would begin a song. Quiet at first, it would build with the addition of each voice, until the Sin’dorei could be heard throughout the remains of their city.



“A cold wind blows o’er Silvermoon
“Penance for the living
“Who work within the ruins, broken,
“Starving, walking, building

“They’ve burned their fallen and their foes
“Buried all the ashes
“Sent their starving to the ruins
“Trembled with the masses

“But still we stand amongst the sun
“Children of the Blood en masse
“Undeterred by death and dying
 “For the honor of Quel’thalas

“Glory to the Sin’dorei
“Children of the Blood, we stand
“Resolved, steadfast, obstinate
“Rebuild our sacred land”

 

Her voice was hoarse, but they joined her, and theirs were hoarse as well. In between rebuilding efforts, many of the Sin’dorei searched for ways to satiate themselves. Looting the homes of their dead, they hunted for enchanted objects, anything with magic from which to feed. Ninorra, like the rest, could feel herself paling. Even actual food was difficult to obtain after the Scourge razed their fields and destroyed populations of wild game. She could feel the bones in her face, her chest and her legs protruding. Money, though some still held on to it for sentimental purposes, was meaningless.

At night, the survivors who had no home to return to would gather together and find refuge among those charitable enough to help. For some, this meant sleeping in the grand mansions still standing. For others, it meant basements, and even storage rooms. Ninorra, having made herself useful by proving to be skilled in working with stone, was allowed a bed of straw in the home of a mason who had thankfully survived the Scourge. He and his family, a wife and one son around Ninorra’s age, welcomed her as a guest and shared what little food they could. In return, she worked beside them and brought songs.

Rumors were spreading about their prince, Kael’thas, and his desire to help his people. If a solution could not be found soon, it was common knowledge that the Blood Elves would fade to nothing. At night, when returning to the mason’s home, Ninorra and the family would discuss their options.

“I’ll look for more tomorrow,” promised Aethis, the mason’s son. “The enchanted eyeglass I found yesterday won’t last us much longer.”

The mason did not argue. He needed his son’s strength to lay brick, but the survival of their family was a more immediate need and his own size made it impossible to sneak as easily as his child. “Be careful,” he warned, but said no more.

Days later, the boy was found dead. He had been stabbed by someone, perhaps as they fought over a trinket. Desperation was turning the Sin’dorei against one another.

In his despair, the mason asked Ninorra to leave.

Edited by Ninorra

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23 years after the First War (Year 597 by the King's Calendar)

It had been a hard year for Ninorra. Three years after the Scourge invasion, and Silvermoon was still attempting to rebuild, despite that fact that their remaining citizens were dropping like flies. The youngest and oldest among them were the first to go, followed by anyone who could not find access to magic. Their economy had yet to stabilize, and in the ensuing chaos, crime was beginning to creep into their surviving population. Theft of magical items was rampant, and many of the highborn hoarded their goods only to be slaughtered by desperate starving elves.

Ninorra managed to keep herself busy by working with stonemasons. Since being asked to leave one home, she found refuge at night in various shelters, getting very little sleep as her fellow homeless Blood Elves cried out with hunger throughout the night. She found, however, that if she could continue to sing that she felt at least a bit more energized. Those around her also benefitted, and for a time she was appreciated as both a skilled bricklayer and a singer.

She had grown since the Scourge. Taller, her figure starting to show signs of womanhood, she was just beginning to be regarded as an adult by her fellow Blood Elves. Though there were some who still responded to her red eyes suspiciously, she found that if she worked as hard as her peers, they tended to see past them.

“We all have things we are not proud of,” said an older Sin’dorei, as they worked together on laying foundation for a new library.

She had mostly been keeping to herself, but the sound of his voice jolted her. Ninorra was spreading mortar on the ground, her long black hair tied back into a braid, strands matted to her forehead. Like everyone else, she looked exhausted. The older man, however, seemed worse for wear.

He was tall, much taller than anyone else working that day, and put off an air of both dignity and a demand for respect. Long white hair tied back in a ponytail revealed a heavily scarred face, and both a missing eye and arm. He was using his remaining arm to carefully lay bricks in a circular pattern in the ground. Ninorra stood up straight for a moment to speak to him.

“I’m not ashamed of anything,” she said calmly, glancing toward the other elves. They seemed too preoccupied with their own work to care about their conversation.

The older elf looked up at her, his one blue eye studying the young woman for a moment. “..then you are luckier than most.”

She saw that he was having trouble with the bricks. Wearing worker’s clothes revealed a sinewy arm, long since drained of most of its muscle. His hand shook as he placed each brick into position, jaw clenched with determination at the task.

“You look like you could use a hand,” Ninorra said with a smile, approaching him with dimples still in her gaunt cheeks.

There was a pause before the older man laughed, pausing in his work to eye Ninorra as she drew close to him. “There was a time when that kind of joke would get someone killed.”

She knelt in the ground beside him, wiping sweat from her forehead before reaching for the bricks at his side. “Then I guess I am lucky.”

Together, they lay out a pattern in the ground. Waves of bricks produced the road leading to the new foundation, and by the time they were finished, the sun was setting behind the Court of the Sun. Ninorra stood and put her hands on the small of her back, stretching. Most of the other laborers had gone home for the day, leaving her and the old bricklayer together to finish their work. She watched him study the ground, checking for mistakes.

“I think you did alright, for a beginner,” she said while reaching for the waterskin at her side. Ninorra handed it to the older man, who took it begrudgingly.

“You have a big mouth for a little girl,” he grunted, before taking a long drink. She could see the water travel down his neck, thin as he’d become. “What’s your name?”

She took back the waterskin and attached it to her belt. “Ninorra,” she answered, an eyebrow raised in his direction. “And yourself?”

He gave a short laugh, as if the question itself was ridiculous. “You don’t know?”

“I’m not a mind-reader,” she retorted.

“No, but you’re an impertinent little girl who doesn’t know Lord Gladius Visca when she sees him,” he said proudly before shaking his head. “Though in these times it hardly matters.”

Ninorra felt her face redden with embarrassment. She could tell he was once a fighter, but the idea that he might be a noble was a surprise. Dropping to one knee, she bowed her head respectfully. “Forgive me, Lord Visca. I didn’t know.”

Gladius’ felt his expression expression soften in spite of himself. “There’s no need for that. We’re all of us working to rebuild. Your skill is admirable.”

Smiling again, Ninorra stood and dusted off her hands. “Well, I’m not bad with rocks but I make a better bard than I do a bricklayer,” she admitted.

“I heard you singing before,” Gladius admitted. “The Search for the Sun. I remember hearing that when I was a boy.”

As if on cue, Ninorra recited one of the verses:



“He sailed across the sea with them
“He who walks the day
“Found the land of Quel’Thalas
“Here the Highborne would stay”



Gladius looked past Ninorra and toward the sun, the lines of his face darker. “There will come a time when those songs will be more than just a distraction from our hunger. We will need bards to remind us of who we are, and where we came from. The wars we fought and won, and the ones we lost along the way…”

She cocked her head at him, curiously. “Do you have any stories, Lord Visca?”

Gladius frowned at the girl. “I am a veteran of the Troll Wars. I have defended this land against invaders since before you were a glint in your grandfather’s eye. I could tell you stories that would shatter you.”

Ninorra shrugged, looking away proudly. “Can they be any worse than being massacred by the Scourge? Running away while everyone you know dies around you? Or trying to rebuild when you have nothing?”

There was silence between them, then. Gladius grunted and stretched his own back, a series of pops cracking in his spine. He took a few laborious steps toward Ninorra. “It’s not safe out alone. The addicts are getting bolder in their need, and will not hesitate to grab a child just to satiate their need. I will see you back to your home.”

With a sad laugh, Ninorra shook her head. “That would be nice, but I don’t have one. Me and the other plebians have been holing up in shelters nearby.”

Gladius frowned deeply, his disapproval obvious. Putting his only hand on Ninorra’s shoulder, the older man prompted a surprised yelp from her. “Come on, then,” he demanded, nodding down the road. “You can come with me.”

Ninorra smirked and glanced at his hand. “Awful quick to be inviting a girl home with you, aren’t you?”

“I’m not doing it out of charity,” he assured her, turning to walk. His gait was slow and deliberate, as he favored one side and his breaths became slightly labored. “I expect you to continue to help rebuilding the city. I can’t very well leave you out to be attacked by some wretched addicts. We have to do what we can to help each other. It is the only way our people will survive.”

“Then I accept your offer,” Ninorra said, walking beside him. She noticed that he seemed a bit slow, and tucked the information away in her head. “So long as you know I’m going to hound you for some stories. I could always use more songs.”

Gladius grunted and shook his head. “The ignorance of youth…”

Together, they walked to Visca Manor. There was an air of uncertainty, as if neither knew what they were really doing.

Edited by Ninorra
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24 years after the First War (Year 598 by the King's Calendar)

The Sin’dorei continued to decline. It seemed as if their hope for a future was decaying as quickly as their elders and children. Too weakened by their lack of the Sunwell, their construction efforts slowed. Ninorra, for her part, kept her part of the bargain with Gladius and continued to work with her hands; laying brick, spreading mortar, carting debris. He, in return, allowed her to stay with him and his son in their home.

It was the most luxurious home she had ever set foot in. Visca Manor was ancient, but noticeably empty. In the room provided to her, Ninorra was given a bed larger than the rooms she usually slept in. Food didn’t seem to be scarce, nor were clothes, and for a while she was uncomfortable with the arrangement. Looking for ways to repay the Viscas for their charity, Ninorra would help around their home and try to make Gladius as comfortable as possible. Sometimes, on nights when the pain of his condition made it difficult to sleep, she would sing for him.

For his part, Gladius’ son Draco did not seem to question the presence of a young woman in the company of his declining father. The one time she overheard him questioning it, Gladius flatly told the younger Visca, “Because I said so,” and no other questions were asked after that. She rarely saw the younger in the home itself, and was told that he was doing his part to search for something that could help their people. Draco seemed an obedient and loyal son, but there was worry in his face always, and he seemed relieved to know that his father was being cared for.

In the home itself, Ninorra found few clues as to why the house contained only the two Viscas, but she knew there had been others. Family portraits depicted Gladius and his wife, their three children. Draco was the eldest, but a daughter and a younger son seemed to be gone from their lives. She did not pry into their location, but listened to Gladius’ stories as they toiled with the other elves in their construction, hoping for a clue.

“The things I did in wartime, they would make your blood run cold,” Gladius explained as he carefully stacked bricks, building another wall. “There was no quarter given in those times. We were fighting for our survival. The trolls would have seen us wiped off the map.”

Ninorra’s ears would turn red whenever he mentioned the troll wars. Her mother, whether to embarrass her or educate her, often hinted that Ninorra’s father had troll blood in him. As she grew older, she noticed too that she was shaped a little differently than the other Sin’dorei, despite the withering. While most of their kind were known for their lithe and pale beauty, her rounded physique, full lips and curved nose harked back to their troll enemies.  Was it because of her father?

“I don’t think that’s limited to trolls anymore,” Ninorra responded dryly. “Though if something isn’t done, we won’t need their help.”

“Something will be done,” Gladius grunted, pausing to catch his breath. He crouched to the ground, breathing in deeply. “Prince Kael’thas has been planning an excursion. Draco has been summoned.”

Ninorra blinked in surprise. “Draco is leaving?”

“I have told him he must go. For the good of our people, that is his duty.”

Reflection on this news, Ninorra watched as Gladius hoisted himself up again to continue his work. Though she had never known him at peak health, his condition seemed to be worsening rapidly. He required assistance in small things, such as walking long distances or carrying heavy loads. More than once Ninorra found herself helping Gladius to his feet, though with their difference in height it was not ideal. 

“Maybe he feels that his duty is to you,” Ninorra suggested, keeping an eye on the older man’s movements.

Gladius seemed to think on that, his eyebrows knit, deep worry lines in his eyes darkening. “He will do as I tell him.”

There was a shift in tone as Gladius suddenly fell to one knee, his breaths ragged and labored. Ninorra abandoned her trowel and ran to his side, unhesitant to slide beneath his one arm and offer herself as support. “Come on,” she grunted under his weight, despite him being so much thinner now than he was when she met him. “We are taking you home.”

He didn’t seem to have the energy to argue. With her help, Gladius slowly managed to get to his feet and allowed her to lead him back to Visca Manor.


 

In the following months, Gladius rarely had the strength to leave his home. Despite her agreement to continue helping to rebuild Silvermoon, Ninorra remained by his side and helped him with whatever was needed. At first, he pushed back.

“I don’t need a damn nurse,” he told her one day, as she helped him down the stairs. “And if I did, I’d certainly get one that was more capable.”

Ignoring the slight, Ninorra remained beside him, an arm firmly looped around his. “You’d have to find one willing to put up with you, first.”

Their banter was a constant in Visca Manor. Daily, Ninorra would help Gladius around the massive house as he looked for ways to help his people; reading old books for clues, writing letters to the prince and his magisters. When he eventually had trouble holding a pen, she would write for him.

“Your handwriting is atrocious. Who taught you to write, a witch doctor?”

“Why yes,” she responded, eyes still on the page. “She taught me both writing and practical voodoo, just in case I ever needed to curse someone who was being ungrateful and rude.”

In time, he found it difficult to walk further than a few feet. The first time Ninorra helped him to bed, she found it strangely intimate, as if she were suddenly an actual member of his family. Without argument, she would remove his shoes and help him dress. He wouldn’t go so far as to allow her to see him naked, but she saw enough to understand his suffering. A once heavily muscled body, covered in battle scars, was withered and gray. His skin, paper thin and loose, bruised with every touch.

He would not live much longer, and they both understood that sobering fact.

One morning, as she brought him breakfast, she noticed that he was attempting to read an old letter. His hand trembled as he held the paper, lips moving as they read each line.

“Would you like me to read it to you?” She asked brightly, tearing pieces of bread for him to more easily be able to eat.

Gladius glared at her without turning his head. “I’m not completely incapable, you viper-tongued tart.”

“No, not if you can still insult me,” she said with a grin. “Come on, eat something.”

He set down the paper and grunted. “It won’t help. There’s no point.”

“Well it will certainly make me feel better to know I tried,” Ninorra argued, reaching over to straighten his pillows. “It might not make you well, but it will give you a little strength.”

“If I had my strength, it would be you on your back and not me,” Gladius said shamelessly, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Ninorra felt herself blush and nodded toward one of the paintings in the room. It depicted Gladius and his wife, perhaps a hundred or more years ago. “Sorry, I’m quite taken with someone else. He seems to watch me wherever I go.”

“You would be so lucky to find someone like that among the reprobates left in Silvermoon,” he grumbled. “Mark my words, Ninorra. When I am gone, I expect you to take care of yourself. Don’t go falling for the first idiot that says something kind. The last thing you need is to wind up pregnant in a time like this.”

“Look at you, being concerned for little old me,” Ninorra chuckled, bringing some bread to his mouth. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you actually cared.”

Gladius ate without argument, staring at the ceiling. It was quiet while she fed him, quieter than they usually were. As she used her fingers to guide food to his mouth, the older man noticed how thin they were. Though not as transparent as his own skin, her flesh had taken on a pallid tone. Bright blue veins sprouted from her wrists and into her elbow, a colorful road map to her heart.

“Draco has to go,” he said finally, holding up his hand to stop her. Gladius wrapped his long thin fingers around her wrist and held it in place. “I will not let this happen to our people.”

Ninorra lowered his hand to the bed. “Get some rest. I’ll come back to check on you.”

Again, he did not argue. Gladius could tell when someone was being as stubborn as he was.

 

 

Draco watched as Ninorra left his father’s bedroom. Closing his door behind her, she put a hand over her eyes. Though they did not speak often, he understood the extent of their relationship. His father had once told him that he tolerated the girl’s company out of charity, but Draco knew better. He’d been to war, he’d been treated by doctors, and there was little more comforting at one’s weakest moments than the presence of a woman.

Had there been some sort of emergency, he knew she would call for him. However, her tears told him something different; it would be soon.

He gave her a few moments before gently rapping at her door. “..Ninorra, are you alright?”

After a quick shuffling of feet and fabric, the door slid open. Ninorra’s eyes were dry, but red. Her nose and cheeks were bright with embarrassment, and she sniffled before answering him. “I’m fine.”

Avoiding his eyes, she was frail in comparison to Draco. Though they both suffered the effects of their Sunwell’s destruction, their youth was a saving grace. “How much longer do you think he has?”

Ninorra finally turned her eyes toward Draco, who looked so much like a young version of his father that it forced a gasping sob that she immediately covered with her hands. “I don’t know. Not long. I’m sorry, I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t really know how else to help him.”

“Do not apologize,” Draco said in a low voice, grasping the younger woman’s shoulder. “You are giving him comfort. I understand. It is all one can do, now. Just…” He looked around for a moment. “…thank you. For making his last days comfortable.”

“I should be thanking him,” she said quickly, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “For letting me be here. I mean, I have been, I just… I’ve never really known what it was like to have what you have.”

Draco raised an eyebrow.

“A parent who cares for you,” she continued. “A father. I never knew mine, but, your father, he loves you. He says harsh things to you, but, I know that’s what he does to people he cares about. He just doesn’t want you to see him like this. That’s why he lets me help him, really. Because it doesn’t matter what he looks like in my eyes. It’s the image of him in yours he doesn’t want to change.”

The younger Visca looked away. Ninorra pat his hand reassuringly, and they stood in silence for a long while.

Edited by Ninorra
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25 years after the First War (Year 599 by the King's Calendar)

It was going to happen any day, now.

In the two years since Ninorra had gone to live with the Viscas, she felt herself growing attached to the small and broken family. Draco, still making the attempt to help his people from Silvermoon, looked more anxious by the day. Rumors were spreading about their Prince and an excursion. He would be taking his finest men and women with him, and amongst them was Draco. Ninorra knew that this was what Gladius wanted, and he took the news well.

“They must go now,” he argued one day, as Ninorra helped him drink water. “Now, before it’s too late for the rest of you.”

She didn’t bother to ask him why he did not include himself. Gladius had grown so weak that he could no longer leave his bed, and the light had all but left his eyes. A whistling sound in his chest was the only sign that he still breathed while he slept, and during those times Ninorra sat beside him, waiting. Draco would often come, but not stay for very long.

It was an unnatural death, she felt.

To die of disease, or of injury, this was unavoidable. She saw people die horrifically at the hands of the Scourge, and yet this withering sickness he suffered from was worse in her eyes. Sometimes in the dead of night, he would make a noise in his throat, as if gasping for air. Ninorra would hold his hand and in a few moments, he would sleep silently again. On those nights, she reminded herself that this was their fate, and there was no shame in dying, but would anyone be there when it happened to her?

These were her loneliest nights.

“Don’t be afraid…” Repeated the voice in her mind. “You are not alone.”

“You’re not sleeping, are you?”

Ninorra’s eyes jolted open. She looked down to see Gladius looking up toward her, his once bright blue eyes faded to a dull gray. Smiling in spite of the exhaustion, her hands reached for his. They were cold and dry, his skin like thin silk over bone. “How can I sleep with all the fuss you’re making?” She asked with a scratchy voice.

Gladius did not argue.

“You are quite possibly… the most impertinent trollop… I have ever met,” he said in between breaths.

She grinned, tears in her eyes. In the two years since she and Gladius knew each other, she had grown from an awkward young girl, still unused to how her body was changing, to a young woman of a decent marriageable age. He often pointed out the changes, much to her embarrassment, but it seemed to bring him comfort to know that he could make her blush. “And you are an incorrigible old goat, so we're even,” she replied.

Together they laughed, as was their tradition, until Gladius turned to cough. He hacked a few times, his entire body convulsing with each breath, and fell on to his back exhausted. Taking a moment to regain his breath, he closed his eyes and said with a wheezing breath. “Be careful. Whatever you do, just be careful.”

His face contorted as he turned to cough. Standing to help, Ninorra saw immediately that the pillow beside him was stained with blood. In a panic, she ran to the door, swinging it open to scream.

“Draco!!”

Seconds later, the eldest Visca son ran into his father’s room, panic written on his face. He was fully dressed, eyes dark from lack of sleep. Rushing to his father’s side, he knelt beside the bed and took Gladius’ hands in his own. The two spoke in hushed voices, and for the first time, Ninorra felt uncomfortable beside them. Backing into the wall, she left the room without a word and closed the door behind her. She could feel her chest burning with dread, and remained outside of the door until hours later when she hesitantly opened the door.

The last surviving son of Gladius Visca looked utterly defeated as he knelt beside the body of his father, holding on to dead hands. Without turning to look at her, Draco muttered under his breath. “He is gone."

Ninorra and Draco were not close. They shared a home for two years, but never spoke more than a few words to one another. The night his father died, she felt compelled to comfort him, but more so sought comfort for herself. Despite their difference in age, Gladius had been her only companion for the past two years, and treated her with a familiarity that she had never known. The loss was palpable, like a weight in her chest.

Draco, in his grief, remained unmoving beside the bed. His face was still and unwavering in its expression, despite the tears rapidly streaming from his eyes. Without prompting, Ninorra knelt beside him and put an arm around Draco, her own tears far less controlled. He did not respond at first, but eventually leaned into her embrace, his face unchanging. They remained this way until the morning, silent but for Ninorra’s unhindered whimpering.

 

At first, Draco would not accept Ninorra’s desire to help him build his father’s funeral pyre. She argued the point; that she and Gladius worked together to lay stones, that it was the skill that brought her to him. Eventually, he allowed her to build the base upon which he would lay the platform, and alone he lay wood in a pattern until it was large enough for his father’s corpse to lie ten feet from the ground. Surrounding the structure, Ninorra lay more stones to keep the fire from spreading. They worked silently until it was time.

As the sun began it’s descent, Draco carried his father’s body to the wooden platform. He seemed nothing like the Gladius Ninorra knew; weakened, certainly, but full of stories and insults. She held her breath, waiting for him to open his eyes and call her something distasteful, but it never happened. His flesh had withered to a deep gray color, like the cheap stones she used to build the base of his pyre.

Leaving his father’s body atop the structure, Draco climbed down and reached the ground before lighting a match. Holding it carefully to the kindling near the bottom, he waited for the flames to spread before walking backwards.

The fire roared to a blaze within minutes. Again, the smell of burnt flesh reached Ninorra’s nose, peppered by the burning wood, but still distinctive in her memory. The sun was setting behind the fire, coloring the sky orange and pink. Instinctively, she opened her mouth, her mind blank as words poured over her lips.



“The sun sets o’er Silvermoon
“Fire in the sky
“Burning through our fears - we fight to dream, to rectify

“Though many fell before us
“Children, family, friends
“The night casts us her shadow as a promise to the dead

“A new day soon is dawning
“So watch the sun set, wait
“We children of the blood will never bow to any fate”

 

Her voice was the only sound besides the crackling of the fire. It cut through their dead and untended gardens, as even the night birds kept silent. Even as she sang, Draco’s face resembled the same expression he wore the night before, but there were no tears in his eyes. Only a resolute exterior, a clenched jaw, and an unwavering gaze toward the fire. They stood there, grieving in their own way, until only ashes remained.
 


After their private funeral, both Ninorra and Draco wordlessly returned to their rooms. In her heart she felt loss, but in her mind was a twinge of fear. With Gladius gone, what would become of her? Did he plan for this? She wondered if Draco would expect her to leave, and felt a deep sense of guilt at the idea. Of course she must leave.

Upon opening the door to her room, however, she was met with a surprise. Sitting on her bed, somewhat old and used looking, was a guitar. She approached it slowly, somewhat in disbelief of its presence. Despite its age, the wood was expertly carved. It looked like something that might have belonged to a rich person, or at least was commissioned by one. Tucked under the strings was a note. The words were scrawled in shaky script, as if whomever wrote it had difficulty holding a pen.

Ninorra,
Consider this payment for putting up with me. Do not forget what I told you:

  • Be careful
  • Rebuild our city
  • Do not lose hope

And if you can find the time, write a song about me. I told you more than enough stories, did I not? My only regret is that I did not find you sooner. Perhaps I could have taught you some manners. Then again, perhaps it is best I did not.

It is difficult for me to speak, let alone write, so I will end with this; I am glad to have known you. You made these last few years bearable. Thank you.

--Gladius Visca

 

Edited by Ninorra
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26 years after the First War (Year 600 by the King's Calendar)

The Burning Crusade

It was the dawn of a new era. Kael’thas and his Sin’dorei followers had been successful. With Illidan as their leader, the prince and his group went to Outland and discovered a way to save the remnants of their people. Demons were plentiful on the broken world, and with Illidan’s guidance, Kael’thas learned to siphon magic from the fel. War between the Blood Elves and the remaining Draenei was building. Illidan’s followers known now as Illidari, in their quest for knowledge and power to destroy the Legion, enslaved the mutated Draenei known as the Broken. These creatures’ devolutionary changes shadowed their own, raising more questions in regards to their sacrifice.

 Yet all of this was meaningless in comparison to the sudden breakthrough of the demon lord Kazzak. Demons poured out by the hundreds from the portal in the Blasted Lands, promising thousands more. With Kael’thas’ guidance, the Sin’dorei saw their opportunity. A captured naaru, a being of pure Light, was brought to Silvermoon. The Blood Knights, many of them former Holy Paladins, disregarded the faith that birthed their order and instead took power for themselves. The rest of the Sin’dorei, weakened from six years of magical starvation, fell upon the draining of fel crystals to feed their addiction.

The Sin’dorei changed.

Their eyes reflected the fel energy which fed them and turned a vibrant green. For those who were so weakened that they fed with too much ferocity, other changes were apparent; a reddish tint to their skin, madness. In time this was identified as fel corruption, and the Sin’dorei made it clear that it was not to be tolerated. Together, they learned how to feed. Together, they made a decision for their survival.

They would ally themselves with the Horde.

With Sylvannas to vouch for them, the Blood Elves joined their new orcish allies in Outland. The Warchief Thrall welcomed emissaries to Orgimmar, and requested able bodied warriors to their cause. With so few Sin’dorei left, much less anyone who could fight, the remaining elves took to training themselves in any way possible. For some, this meant a massive resurgence of arcanists. Rangers and warriors learned new techniques from their newfound allies, and fought side-by-side with the trolls that once threatened their existence.

For others, their alliance upon fel crystals to power themselves brought forth new possibilities.

Ninorra left Visca Manor with her guitar the previous year, the weight of her friend’s loss heavy in her heart. Draco had gone with Kael’thas, and from what she understood had done his part to ensure their people’s survival. She felt a small amount of pride in him, if only because she knew his father would have been glad. Draco fulfilled his purpose, and Gladius could rest in peace.

Leaving Visca Manor, however, had not been an easy task. It was the only home she had known for over two years. For several months, she found work as a mason and continued to help rebuild Silvermoon while finding nightly refuge with other lowborn Sin’dorei in group homes. However, when the news and eventual discovery of fel crystals reenergized their people, the economy suddenly had value again. There was work to do, and money to spend. The Horde was coming, and Silvermoon would not be embarrassed by their barbaric allies.

The pubs opened their doors, and within weeks were filled with all manner of people. Ninorra was glad for her guitar when she saw the streets suddenly crowded, though not with familiar faces. Until this point, she had never seen trolls up-close. Orcs and tauren, both massive in size, caused her to stare in wonder. The Forsaken, a memory of the Sin’dorei’s war with the Scourge, walked with their dignity intact. It was a wondrous time to be in the city, but more so it was a profitable time for anyone with skills to donate to the cause.

Finally, a need for music.

Emissaries from the Horde, along with various fighters and curious visitors wandered in and out of Silvermoon’s newly reopened pubs for a chance to taste elvish wine. Blood Elves welcomed brewers from Orgrimmar and Thunder Bluff, eager to discover ales and beers of the Horde. Friendships were made over bottles and tankards, and drifting along with their boisterous voices, a guitar played.

The Horde was quite generous with their coins.

Ninorra wandered from pub to pub, playing songs of hope and rebirth. Though her red eyes made some of the orcs curious, they did not question her. Many of them had similar mutations, leftovers from their own dealings with demons. The Sin’dorei, who were slightly less willing to accept this fact, were thankfully happy to sing along with her. Singing in Thalassian however, orcs and tauren often seemed left out. In an attempt to sway their favor, Ninorra taught herself songs in their language. At first, orcish felt crude in her mouth, but the more she used it the more she understood their various nuances. She could hear a strangeness in the way most Blood Elves spoke orcish, and sought instead to imitate the orcs themselves. For her efforts, she was rewarded with gold and heavy pats on the back. Eventually, she could afford a room at an inn that didn’t smell terrible.

It wasn’t enough, however, to erase the nightmares.

They were constant, these days. Though her people had so much hope for the future, and a war was brewing in Outland, Ninorra felt trapped by Silvermoon’s gates. She played day and night, sleeping a little in-between, only to be met with the same voice that followed her. It spoke gently, almost lovingly, as if there were some emotional connection between them.

“You are not alone.”

Eventually, she had enough money to seek advice. Her mother told her, as a child, that Ninorra’s soul was the property of demons. Her eyes were red because that was the mark of their handy work, and eventually, she would be devoured by them. It was always in the back of her mind, the nagging possibility of a fate promised by her own mother.

Nowadays, however, warlocks walked the streets with demons in tow. Enslaved by their masters, they seemed tame, friendly even. Ninorra considered the possibility; if she could enslave them, perhaps she could avoid her mother’s prediction. Now, finally a grown woman who could be taken seriously by a warlock trainer, she sought the advice of a visiting orc.

He took one look at her eyes and grinned, his tusks glinting in the Silvermoon sun. “Oh yes,” he chuckled. “I think we can teach you a thing or two.”

Her warlock training became more of a task than she anticipated. By day, Ninorra visited the warlocks of Silvermoon and learned spells that, for the most part, seemed distasteful. Draining life, inflicting pain, and simultaneously enslaving demons so that they could take the damage meant for you. It felt like the sort of thing to be looked down upon, but the warlocks of their order congratulated each other on various accomplishments in cruelty. Ninorra found herself gravitating toward spells that sickened people, but she put her focus in demons instead. Someday, she knew, there would be a time when she would face her visitor. When that day came, she swore, she would turn the tables and make him her slave instead. The training was exhausting, but with each new day and new spell, her confidence grew. 

Finally, she was strong enough to join the fight outside of Silvermoon. For the first time in her entire life, Ninorra would leave Quel’thalas and stand as a member of the Horde.

Her first day in the fray was terrifying. Ninorra was able to summon a Voidwalker to keep enemies from getting too close, but with her first assignment being so near the remnants of the Scourge, their proximity frightened her. Her first full day in the field was met with close calls, and the smell of burning dead flesh. The familiar scent brought her home, and strangely, made her more comfortable. After completing her first few tasks, she was sent to the Undercity in what was once Lordaeron. It was a long walk, but on the way she passed what looked like a very small hamlet.

There was a pub in its center.

With an optimistic grin, Ninorra went inside. On her back, as always, was the guitar. It was her first night outside of Quel’thalas, her first time playing for people that weren’t her own. She took a deep breath and went inside.
 

Edited by Ninorra
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Summer, 26 years after the First War (Year 600 by the King's Calendar)

Courtship

It was not the romance that Ninorra expected. In her songs, love was typical. Usually a valiant knight, or a beautiful lady would see someone that made their heart race. Someone would rescue the other from a terrible monster, there was some sort of conflict pulling the two apart. They always began with love at first sight.

It was not that way for the budding warlock.

Upon entering her first tavern outside of Silvermoon, Ninorra played music that she thought the other members of the Horde might enjoy. Surrounded by orcs, trolls, and Forsaken, she opted for something simple and optimistic.


The time has come to arm yourselves
To fight with axe and sword
Allies stand together
Strong, united with the Horde


It was an easy song, and for the most part, the patrons enjoyed it. Raising their mugs of frothy ale, there was a chorus of cheers as she went through each verse. Until the interruption, anyhow.

He was not the kind of Sin’dorei Ninorra expected to see much of. Wearing the armor of a Blood Knight, Vicailde Bloodstone seemed to stand apart from the other elves she had come across in the field. He was older, his face lined with knowledge of battles long past, a scar running down half of his face. White hair and a goatee further pronounced his age, but it was his eyes that caught Ninorra’s attention; they were weary, angry, and sad at the same time.

It was most certainly not love at first sight.

Approaching her, the Blood Knight sang his own chorus. His words slightly slurred, Ninorra cringed as he sang of loss and death. Her fingers slowed at the strings of her guitar, until she stopped playing entirely.

“Who told you to stop playing?” He asked, demandingly.

Ninorra stood from her seat and glared at him. “What you are doing is impolite!”

Vicailde smirked and broke into laughter, furthering the young warlock’s humiliation. “Polite,” he repeated, taking another drink.

It was her first time outside of Silvermoon, and surprisingly the first person to annoy her was her own kind. Ninorra felt her own temper rising with the Blood Knight, and after some back-and forth arguing, finally decided to leave. It would not be the last time they met.

 

 

For the next several weeks, she returned to the tavern to play songs after fulfilling her duties to the Horde. Often, patrons would leave a handful of coins beside her. She used this to supplement her income, and eventually found her way to a better suit of robes and magical objects. It was a good tavern to make extra money, with the exception of a certain Blood Knight.
He wasn’t there every night, but when he was, there was guaranteed to be trouble. Arguments, sometimes escalating to shouting matches, the warlock and the Blood Knight seemed to feed off of each other’s negative energy. More than once Ninorra would leave the tavern and swear never to return, only to go back the next day and argue all over again.

To his credit, Vicailde was typical in his insults. She was simple, her playing was as basic as her singing, and what good was music when their people were mostly dead? It wasn’t so much the warlock he seemed angry at, but the world in general. Though for some reason, he seemed dedicated to making her time in the tavern difficult.

It came to a head at last when she finally asked him why.

The Blood Knight seemed annoyed with the question. “You’re the one who keeps coming back.”

“I have the right to make a little extra money where I can. Not that it seems you’ve ever had that problem, Lord Bloodstone,” she said pointedly. It was obvious from his armor that he was not common, and at least boasted an elevated position with their military.

Though in pointing it out, she seemed to offend him.

He did not come back for the next several days.

Ninorra felt almost sad with his absence. The nights she played and he was not there, she found herself looking for him in the crowd. Despite their constant bickering, she his presence seemed to bring out a passion that she had not felt before. As if he were purposefully prodding her until her heart raced with anger, and a strong desire to punch him made its way to the surface.

One night, he returned. The Blood Knight did not attempt to argue, nor did he seek the attention of the warlock. Instead, he sat by himself and drank, listening to her songs. The light in his eyes were slightly dimmed, and she felt a pang of grief deep in her chest. It was a familiar sight, the look of a man who admitted defeat. She approached him, and with every bit of patience available, asked what was wrong.

“Marry me,” he demanded, without looking the warlock in the eye.

The explanation was simple. He was nearing the end of his life. With no family to leave the Bloodstone fortune, it would fall into the hands of his distant relatives. She was lowborn, he knew that, but at the very least her inheritance of his house and title would annoy them. It was a final stroke in his constant effort to undermine the nobility.

It made Ninorra feel sick.

“...you just want to use me,” she said, tears in her eyes. Though his presence was a constant source of anger, never once had she expected him to hurt her feelings. “You don’t care about me at all. If you did, you would know what this would do to me. What do you think they will say about a girl like me who marries someone like you? They will make my life miserable, all so you can enjoy some bitter joke. I’m not your joke.”

This time, she left.

 

 

He hurt her more than she wanted to admit. Throughout their verbal sparring, Ninorra felt something for him, a friendship of sorts. They disagreed on a lot of things, he made fun of her singing, her appearance, her background. However, despite all of his insults, she never felt hurt by his words. Asking for her to marry him felt like betrayal. She dreamed of a great romance, someday. A gallant knight, a handsome ranger, a clever mage. Someone to make her feel beautiful.

He made her feel cheap.

It wasn’t until they crossed paths in Undercity that he apologized. The Blood Knight was remorseful, if not visibly depressed. He apologized for offending her, and in his apology she felt the need to comfort him. Her anger, however, still lingered.

“Don’t you understand,” she said, exasperated. “You cheated me out of what is supposed to be the most precious moment in someone’s life. You didn’t even ask me to marry you, you told me. Like I was your servant. You have the nerve to apologize, as if you don’t even see the problem! I am not interested in a loveless marriage to someone for status or money. That is not who I am.”

He seemed to digest this for a while. “What are you suggesting?”

Ninorra was taken aback by the question. What was she suggesting? “Well, I… I mean, if you want to marry me, you’re going to have to work for it. I’m not just going to leap at the chance to marry the first man who demands it. You haven’t made any kind of attempt to be kind. You've never even kissed me, before.”

The Blood Knight looked away, as if embarrassed. They stood in the middle of the Undercity, Forsaken going about their business around them, paying no attention to the two quarreling elves. It was cold and dark, the glow of Forsaken eyes and enchanted torches illuminating the gray stone surrounding them.

“…do you want me to?”

The warlock’s breath felt caught in her chest, her mouth dry. Time seemed to stop as she searched the Blood Knight’s eyes, his years of battle and anger written in the lines around his face. Without thinking, she felt herself say “yes”.

Vicailde was slow in his movements, as if in an attempt not to frighten her. A plate covered hand cradled the back of her head, cold metal provoking goosebumps throughout her skin. With his other hand placed gently on her hip, the Blood Knight prudently pressed his mouth against the younger woman’s.

It was her first kiss, and despite his best efforts, it did frighten her. At first, too shocked to react to their sudden physical contact, her eyes remained open. However as soon as she felt his lips, the slow breath of his nose, and the closed distance between them, something in her brain seemed to deactivate. Whatever hesitation she felt was gone, and without knowing why, her hands crept up the cold metal of his breastplate until they were wrapped around his shoulders.

They stood there like that for a very short time, an innocent kiss that very suddenly moved from sweet to desperate. With her hands on his back, Vicailde pressed closer into the younger woman, his grip on her side tightening, her hair becoming entangled between his gauntleted fingers. Strangely, she could feel his pulse quicken. Ninorra’s own heart felt as if it would burst through her chest, and without further coaxing from the more experienced Sin’dorei, her tongue slid its way into his mouth.

It was the only signal he needed to dip her backwards, his hands supporting her weight. In the cold dead light of the Undercity, they clung to each other, two blood elves with no other history together besides arguments and frustration. Before either of them could go any further, a scratchy voice was heard nearby.

“Get a gods damned room!”

They abruptly disengaged from their kiss, though remained in the same position for a few moments, their faces a few inches from one another’s. Vicailde seemed out of sorts, his breathing labored, an almost frightened look in his eyes. Ninorra slowly guided herself back upright, blushing with embarrassment and excitement. She slid her hands from him and attempted to fix her hair as his cold metal gauntlets fell to his sides. They seemed to avoid each other’s gaze for a few seconds, until eventually the warlock and the Blood Knight felt themselves fall into a nervous laughter.

The Forsaken glanced their way, annoyed. The blood elves did not seem to mind.

Two weeks later, they were married.

 

Edited by Ninorra

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