The day after seeing my mansion for the first time I returned to Stormwind and promptly apologized to Lady Sonea for my negative reaction. She explained her reasoning for not telling me about my mother and thanks to Maron’s wisdom I understood what she meant. We had a good hug together and put the issue to rest.
A week later I started my official learning as a Kirin Tor mage.
Unfortunately, instead of magic and wonder, I discovered that my first year as a student included a lot of reading and memorization. That wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in my studies, but I decided it was worth it if I might end up like my grandfather.
It became apparent, almost immediately after starting, that I was a poor student.
When I wasn’t in class, I was far more interested in being back at the Sepher mansion. Uncle Maron taught me skills that I deemed far less important than magic, but far more practical.
I learned to milk cows, feed chickens, talk with the farmers to build relationships and garner trust. People loved meeting me and telling me of the days before the First War, when my grandfather had helped them with this or that. Generally, the Sepher name was loved throughout Northshire and the Elwynn Forest.
When winter came I learned about living on less food than normal, and I gained important insight into letting go of the extras that I enjoyed when supplies became scarce. We had the money to buy whatever we wanted, of course, but my Uncle reminded me that he hadn’t kept the estate alive by squandering the wealth away in exchange for some sugar during the winter months.
Spring came and with it was a whole new world of green plants and vibrant flowers.
Before I knew it, a year had come and gone.
On my fourteenth birthday, I woke to my Uncle surprising me with a massive breakfast. He recommended that I skip my studies for the day and come on a ride with him instead. I wasn’t one to miss out on Maron’s great stories and adventures, so I agreed without hesitation.
When we reached the stables, I found Ghost out in the field rather than in the old stall. I headed over and found that the stall had been redone and my name was etched in the door.
“It looks amazing!” I shouted.
“That’s not all,” Maron said. “Ghost is a good horse. We’ll keep her here with us, but I thought you might like a horse more to your stature.”
Confused, I let Maron lead me to the open horse pin where I saw one of our best horse trainers carefully walking a young black stallion in a circle. The horse allowed him to lead and pranced in a fashion that showed it knew how to behave.
“The one and the same,” Maron said with a big smile. “I spoke with the stable master last year and found out they were going to have him turned into horse stew. I bought him for more than they could get from the butcher and called in one of our best trainers.”
The trainer, hearing his mark, brought the stallion around so that it approached me. He stepped closer and handed me the lead.
“He’s a fine stallion, minus the bad step in his leg,” the trainer said to me. “Those fools in Dalaran must not know what it means to be defiant. They thought he was sick because he wouldn’t follow orders. The creature simply needed to be taught that there are orders to follow first.”
“You didn’t beat him, did you?” I asked.
“Ain’t no horse trainer that’s ever got anything from beating his horse,” the trainer replied with a frown. “Compassion and control is what I taught this horse. I’ve grown quite attached to young Surfal.”
“Is that his name?”
“Oh aye, it’s elvish for beloved. This creature is quite close to my heart. I have no doubt that in a short time, he’ll be dear to your heart as well.”
I took the lead now and extended my free hand to touch the stallion’s head. The horse responded by stepping forward so that my palm rested against his nose.
“You can change his name if you’d like,” Maron added. “Do you like him?”
“I do,” I said proudly. “I like him. I like his name too.”
“Alright then, what do you say we go for a ride?”
The ride started out simple enough. As much as Surfal seemed to tolerate me, he also didn’t seem happy that I was suddenly this new person riding him. I was hesitant to pull his rein or kick him with my legs, so I mostly allowed the horse to lead me rather than the other way around. Thankfully, Maron had full control of his own stallion and Surfal seemed comfortable following the fellow horse.
“It’s probably time we started talking about money,” Maron said as we were making our way toward Goldshire.
I cringed. I’d learned a lot about farming in the last year, and I had read a lot of books about magic, but money was something I hadn’t bothered to learn about. In Dalaran the Kirin Tor had managed my livelihood, and here in the Southern Kingdom, Uncle Maron had done a great job of keeping me fed. I saw no reason to disrupt that.
“You’re doing fine,” I said casually. “I trust you.”
“It’s not about trusting me,” Maron said with a long sigh. “It’s about knowing where your wealth is going and how you can keep it growing. I taught you how to milk a cow. Sooner or later I’ll have to teach you how to manage your gold.”
“It’s your gold too,” I said.
Maron smiled at me, but said nothing.
“I was meaning to ask you about that,” I said as I remembered the story from the Loremaster on the day I’d arrived in the city. “How did the Sepher family keep their gold safe during the wars?”
“You can thank your grandpa for that one too,” Maron said happily. “He used to protect the Sepher wealth with a spell over their vault. Only a Sepher could access the door. Anyone else would be thrown clear across the bank!”
“The Orcs never found a way inside?”
“They didn’t bother. Once they destroyed Stormwind they had plenty of wealth to take. They didn’t bother with one little vault that would have required magic. They just stole all the loose stuff and set fire to the rest.”
“So once the fighting was over you just headed home and found the vault still there?”
Maron shook his head. “I didn’t head home at first. I fought in the First War and served in the Second War. I had made my way North like everyone else. When we finally pushed the enemy back through the dark portal I had marched so far south I thought I’d stop by the ruins of the city for signs of my sister—” Maron stopped short and laughed. “I mean, of course, my sister-in-law.”
“Right. So I got to the Sepher mansion here and discovered it was largely in tact. I decided I’d try to salvage the place so I headed into town to see if I could hire any workers. I didn’t have much money left, but then I heard about the Sepher vault. I’d already told several people I was part of the Sepher family, so a mob of people pulled me over to the Sepher vault and told me to try opening the door.”
“They didn’t believe that you were a Sepher?”
Maron frowned. “A lot of people died in the wars. There were plenty of fakers trying to claim fortunes and manors that didn’t belong to them.”
“Were you scared you wouldn’t be able to open it?”
Maron’s frown faded. “Oh yeah, very scared. Your grandfather’s spell had held off an Orc army. I didn’t know any magic. How could I possibly take it down?”
“He didn’t give you a secret method?”
“No,” Maron said. “Nothing like that.”
“So what happened?”
“I reached out and twisted the vault door. It opened and I could go inside. No one else could, mind you, which kept our fortunes safe, but I was suddenly a very wealthy Sepher.”
“So what did you do?” I asked.
“I did what I ultimately thought was right. With no heir to the Sepher name I needed to build a legacy. I repaired the mansion, employed young energetic farmers, donated some gold to the crown to help fund the building of New Stormwind. All the while though, I decided I had to invest so that I could keep the fortune I had found from dwindling.”
“So how much gold do we have now?”
Maron smiled. “Twice the amount that we had when I first opened the vault door.”
“I’m sure grandpa would be proud,” I said with my own smile. “You sound like you know how to handle the coins. I don’t see why you’d want to pass that to me.”
“Because I was wrong about the Sepher heir. You were out there, alive and well thanks to Sonea, and all this money belongs… will belong, to you.”
“I’m fourteen,” I replied after mulling over his words. “I don’t need to own it yet.”
Maron looked like he was about to add something else to the conversation, but he was cut short by the scream of a woman. The two of us were off like lightning, Maron because he was a skilled rider, and me because Surfal was following Maron’s lead. We darted down the road toward the sounds and when we arrived we stopped in our tracks.
Two of the Stormwind guards were laughing. Scattered across the ground were fruits and vegetables, a canvas bag, and bent over trying to retrieve the items was the pale skinned woman… the warlock Kaellax.
“What’s going on here?” Maron asked loudly.
The two guards stopped laughing, but did nothing to help Kaellax up. They looked to Maron and appeared to be thinking over their response.
“This wench was under attack,” one of them said, finally. We were coming to help her, just as you have.”
Maron squinted at them and then looked to Kaellax. “Is this true?”
The warlock looked to Maron and I could see that her face was red, as if she’d been hit. The guards had been laughing. There was no way they had come to help. By now I knew well enough that most people would hit a warlock without second thought, but the Stormwind guard were meant to be above such things.
“I was in need of their help,” Kaellax said as she stood. “They scared the thief off.”
I looked to my uncle and saw that he was equally unimpressed with her answer.
“Very well,” Maron said. “Still, you guards are busy on patrol. My nephew and I can take the woman back to the city.”
“Thank you, Sir,” the guards said in unison. With a quick salute, they marched on.
I slid off of Surfal and quickly helped Kaellax gather her things. As we worked I looked to her and saw that she was clearly upset by the situation.
“Why did you lie?” Maron finally asked, once the guards had gone and Kaellax had her things gathered up.
“I didn’t lie,” she said.
“You did,” Maron said dismissively. “Those two were harassing you. I have the authority to throw them in the Keep.”
“Where they’ll tell all their friends about the woman that got them in trouble?” she asked sarcastically. “Well, that’ll be a great help in two weeks when they’re back out on patrol.”
“Fair enough,” Maron admitted. “Can I at least give you a ride into town?”
She looked at him suspiciously, but then her eyes turned to me. “Hello Sionis,” she said as a smile spread across her face. “Thank you for helping me.”
“I am happy to help,” I said. “They shouldn’t pick on you.”
“One of them lost their parents to dark magic,” she said. “I symbolize the thing that took their family away from them. Tell me, Sepher, if you saw an Orc on this road, would you not want to kill it?”
I frowned. “I suppose I would.”
“Perhaps, in that situation, you might identify with those young men.”
“You didn’t burn down a village or murder anyone.”
“Yet the Orc you meet one day may also be innocent of these crimes.”
I handed Kaellax her items and stepped back toward Surfal. “I think she’s okay,” I said as I mounted the animal. “We should be on our way.”
Maron didn’t look convinced, but he gave me a nod anyway. “Let’s get moving then.”
As we started to walk on, I couldn’t help but think about what she had said. It was true that if I saw an Orc I would want to hurt it, to kill it for crimes that it may not have commit. In that way I would be no different than those guards, but what if I was smart enough to see my own blind hatred for what it was? Perhaps, someday I could meet such a creature and not see the crimes of the past, but instead the possibilities of a better future.
For now, however, I would have to settle with the realization that knocking its groceries on the ground and having a laugh would be a better compromise than offering a hug or killing it right there in the street.
Thinking about this, I worried for Kaellax. Those guards gave her a slap. She would survive something like that, but what if another less thoughtful individual crossed her path?
I spent most of the remaining ride in silence. When I did bother to look at Maron, I saw that he too looked lost in his own contemplations.
We would go on to have a great evening of celebration with many friends, but this day, these thoughts in my young mind planted a seed that would eventually change my life.