Episode 9: The Next Step

The evening sun was sliding behind Azeroth’s horizon as Iliera took a seat near the edge of Dalaran’s floating island. The air was cooler up here now, as though the heat of the fel fires was finally starting to fade from the broken isles. In her hands she held a crumpled piece of paper, the latest letter from her sister, Vaeliera, back at the Exodar.

“You okay?” Sionis Sepher’s voice asked from behind her while she stared out, not at the setting sun, but the enormous demon world that loomed in the sky above.

“Am I okay?” she asked, turning toward him. “My sister writes to tell me that she’s going to assault a demon world, our lost world, and you’re asking if I’m okay?”

He frowned. “I suppose that’s not a great question.”

“I just… I need her to stay safe.”

Sionis came over to her, taking a seat and looking out at the massive planet in the sky. Talking about Vaeliera was difficult, for a few different reasons, as the tale of the Draenai sisters was tied together with a thread of mystery, one that stretched across time itself.

Sionis had actually met Vaeliera first, when the Draenai arrived on Azeroth all those years ago. She had endured a hard life on Draenor, surviving the death of her family and her friends, fleeing with Velen across the great dark, and finally coming to our world. Over time he would serve with her on multiple military campaigns. Over the years, Vaeliera became a powerful huntress and worked hard to help establish her people’s foothold, but the memory of her struggles on Draenor, losing her sister, never left her.

When the Alliance called for the expedition that would travel through time to a Draenor of the past, Vaeliera was first in line. A chance for real vengeance against the ones who brought her so much pain was something she couldn’t afford to pass up.

Fate, however, had another trick up its sleeves.

In this alternate past, the Shadowmoon Clan struck out against the Draenei villages of Shadowmoon Valley. The Alliance had already arrived through the dark portal, and Sionis was sent to help defend Arbor Glen from the assault. In the chaos of the battle, he met a young Draenei that seemed familiar to him. She aided him in his fight and when the village was secured, he discovered that this was Iliera, Vaeliera’s sister who had died long ago. Unlike the original events, Iliera was alive and well, saved from death by the Alliance forces that had come to Draenor. When he tried to explain, however, that he knew Vaeliera, he saw Iliera’s face fall and she began to weep. In this timeline, he discovered, the betrayal of the Shadowmoon orcs had led to an ambush on Draenei forces. Vaeliera had been killed by the Iron Horde.

Iliera, bolstered by the power of the Alliance that had joined her fight against the Iron Horde, rode with Sionis to the Lunarfall garrison. When she arrived, she watched in shock as Vaeliera greeted him before turning to realize that she was looking at her lost sister.

The two of them had been reunited, both forced to live a life without the other, and both struggling to accept the reality that was laid before them. Vaeliera had traveled here for revenge, but now she realized her family was alive. She could see them all again. Her anger was drained on that day and she rushed with Iliera in hand to see her mother and father.

Iliera, on the other hand, still felt the fresh pain of losing a loved one. Her world was collapsing under the weight of the Iron Horde and she needed to do something about it. Her sister would have nothing to do with it. She wanted Iliera safe and sound at Lunarfall, but she forgot that stubbornness ran in the family. Iliera would not be deterred, and with scores of experienced Paladins in Lunarfall, she had all the teachers she would ever need.

She travelled all over her world with Sionis, helping the Alliance in their fight against the Iron Horde. When the Legion revealed itself in Tanaan Jungle, she stood by the other holy warriors, calling upon the Light to help save her people.

As they faced off against Archimonde she saw the power of the demonic forces and knew that her fight would not end here. Yrel and the others on her world had finished their struggle, but she was not ready to stop. For a time she stayed on Draenor with Sionis and Vaeliera, but when the time came, they returned to Azeroth to help fight against the Legion once more. At the time, Iliera had begged her sister to remain on Draenor. In her view, Vaelera had suffered enough. It was time to relax and enjoy her family once more.

Vaeliera could not be swayed. The same blood ran through both their veins.

They had to fight.

So, back on Azeroth, the Draenei sisters diverged. While Iliera remained with Sionis and joined the Academy of Hope, Vaeliera had returned to her fellow draenei survivors and continued to lead as a huntress among them. Aside from a few quick meetings in Dalaran, the two had not seen one another or spoken in many months.

Their only communication now was through letters, like the one still crumpled in Iliera’s hand, and the news within it was more than anyone could have expected.

“She’s a fine huntress,” Sionis said now, trying to think of how to spin this. “If she’s going to Argus, I imagine the demons should be more concerned than you.”

“It’s not about that,” Iliera replied, looking to him with sad eyes. “This is it. My people all talked about this day like it was some kind of future event. The Army of the Light taking back our home. I would have never thought that it would happen now.”

“Why not?” Sionis asked. “We just reclaimed Azeroth, why not keep the ball rolling?”

“Where is the Army of the Light?” she countered.

Sionis paused for a moment, then smiled at her. “We’ve got the demon hunters.”

“That’s not an army.”

“So you don’t think we’re ready?”

“Maybe we are,” she said, pride swelling up. “I just envisioned it differently. I assumed there’d be a lot of us, at least more than I’ve seen so far, and we’d have ships and weapons and more than just… hope.”

“Hope has gotten us this far,” he replied.

“People like Fÿnn can do a lot more with a little hope than I can.”

“People like Vaeliera?”

Iliera gave a gentle smile. “I suppose.”

“Hope does them good,” Sionis said, glancing from Iliera to Argus once more. “For others, action is the key. They have hope. You have the Light. I have fire. The rest of the Academy has everything in between.”

Iliera squinted for a moment and then raised a brow. “Are you suggesting—”

“I think I am.”

“To Argus?”

“Why not?”

“All of us?”

“Those who want to,” he said with a nod. “Others can stay here and hold the line.”

“But it will be dangerous.”

“Hey, we might not be the Army of Light, but we’ve done well by our ways.”

She chuckled. “We have, haven’t we?”

“So what do you say?” Sionis asked her now, turning and standing so that he stood between her and the demonic world. “Shall we join your sister and go to Argus? We can hope for her safety from Dalaran, or we can go out there and do the protecting ourselves.”

Iliera gave a firm nod and stood. “I’m in.”

“Then we’ve got a lot to do. The Alliance and Horde are both gathering to travel to the demon world. We’ll call a meeting and get the Academy in order. This will be our greatest triumph. All that we invested in and learned will come to a head on Argus. This is what we’ve been preparing for. Saving Azeroth was a warmup. Now it’s time to end the Burning Crusade.”

“We are ready.”

“I think so,” the mage replied. “I think so.”

With that, the two jumped into action, rushing back to the streets of Dalaran to enact the new plan. There would be much to gather, much to prepare, but the wheels had been set in motion now.

The Academy of Hope was going to Argus.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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