After the war, we went back to Theramore.
The demons were purged, the Burning Legion pushed back against our might and determination, and the fires of green were largely extinguished. We had survived the fighting, but now we had to fight for our own survival.
Wood huts and simple hunting parties wouldn’t keep us alive forever. Our jobs quickly turned from soldiers to civil engineers.
We needed stone for walls. There was a quarry and an elderly stonecutter who could teach the young ones.
We needed clean water. A river chain surrounded the isle, but the sea water made it brackish. We went to work building an aqueduct to transfer fresh water into the settlement.
We needed babies. Many of the young soldiers went to work on accomplishing that goal without another word, but it also became a silent rule of the land that young women were expected to bring new life to our world. Having children had been a luxury in Lordaeron, but here in Theramore it was a necessity. That rule wasn’t greatly appreciated by everyone, but the acceptance that our people might die out without newborns meant it was not argued against.
Meanwhile, Appoleon was one of the few surviving members of the Silver Hand, though he had never become a full Paladin before its fall, so he went to work to set up a new order of holy warriors, as well as helping build the first Theramore military force, and the blacksmithing shop that would craft new blades and armor.
He recruited the young and energetic Fÿnn, Sellia’s son, after the boy demonstrated the ability to harness the power of the Light. After what we just learned, I’m glad to see that his efforts on recruiting the boy were not wasted.
Angus returned to his duties of teaching so that the Kirin Tor would survive through him. He revealed to us he had allowed his longing for knowledge to save a legacy. He had used a magical spell to shrink his library of spell books so that they all fit inside a small bag. The discovery was a pleasant one and revived the spirits of many of the mages.
A young and partially grumpy mage named Donathan was given the task of caring for the surviving books. I didn’t like Donathan, but I was happy that he had found a job where he wouldn’t cross paths with me. I knew this, of course, because I didn’t care for the library at all.
As others took up roles of leadership and power, I avoided it. I was not a great marksman, so hunting parties did not care for me. I was not built for lifting great weight, so the construction teams did not care for me. My magical power was impressive, but with no refinement or control, I was a risk in almost any capacity.
I spent hours stoking fires in the blacksmith shop, or conjuring food and water for the tired workers as they built new houses or hauled freshly cut stone from a quarry that the elder had helped create.
Many days I went fishing with the older survivors.
From time to time, Angus would approach me and attempt to pull me back into fire lessons, but I would resist.
I’m not sure what I was waiting for. Perhaps I was locked in a state of depression, now that my mind was finally able to think about the horrors that our generation had lived through; the fall of kingdoms, the end of the world, and the start of a new one. Maybe I just didn’t know where I was supposed to go from there.
Regardless of what I thought or wanted, things were about to change for me.
On a cool morning I woke and headed down to the stables as I always did. I would feed Surfal, take him out for a short ride, and then return to my work at the blacksmith. This morning, however, I was in for a surprise.
“Good morning Surfal,” I said, walking into the stables. “Are you ready for—”
In the darkness I saw a figure next to my horse. At first, I wasn’t sure of anything other than her gender, but when she stepped out into the morning light I saw that she wasn’t a human at all.
“Ishnu-alah”, the Night Elf said with a slight grin.
“Good morning,” I replied, uncertain of how else to respond. “You’re one of the elves, right? From Mount Hyjal?”
She didn’t speak, but as she looked at me, I noticed her eyes. The faint purple glow that I had seen that day on the battlefield was pulsing within them, the same glow that also pulsed within the eyes of my horse.
I knew that this was the woman that had saved my life and fought with me in battle.
“Oh, it’s you,” I said with a smile. “The Night Elf that rescued me. I’ve thought about you a lot since we first met, you know.”
I immediately blushed. Had I thought about her a lot? I supposed I had in daydreams or moments of reflection about the fighting at Mount Hyjal, but then to blurt out that I had thought a lot about her? Where had that even come from?
The Night Elf only smiled at me. She did not speak like she had that day.
“Can you not understand me?” I asked.
She tilted her head.
“You understood me on the mountain.”
The smile started to fade.
That’s when I realized what had happened. She hadn’t spoken to me in my language on the mountain. She had been speaking her native language the entire time, but I had been so open to the arcane magics that I must have been translating on the fly. Such magic wasn’t uncommon. Most mages learn them when they are very young. My unconscious mind must have simply weaved the magic when I needed it, even if I wasn’t totally aware.
I quickly tried to recall the spell and even did the juvenile hand motion that the teachers showed us to help remember the wording. With a flick of my wrist I cast the spell that would allow me to understand, and speak, the Night Elf language.
“Good fortune to you,” I said. “How are you?”
Her face twisted into a displeased look. “Arcane magic is not welcome among our people.”
“If we’re going to communicate then I’ll need to use it.”
“Most of my people would kill you in the street for such blasphemy.”
“Not you?” I asked.
She squinted. “No.”
“Good to know.”
She looked to my horse and reached out, gently touching his face. “You call your horse Surfal. Do you know what that means?”
“It’s elven for love,” I said. “Did you know that?”
“It means similar in my language. Why do you call the horse your beloved?”
I paused for a moment, thinking about it. “Well, Surfal and I had troubled pasts. He wasn’t healthy and sold off to die. I lost my parents when I was young. We found each other and we gained a freedom that we both love.”
“A sweet story.”
“If only that were the reason,” I said, admitting the truth. “The trainer that was hired to bring him to full health gave him the name. When I took ownership I didn’t feel it was proper to rename him. So he has been Surfal ever since.”
“The emotions you share with him are important. I can feel it through our connected souls.”
“Connected souls?” I asked. “Is that why his eyes glow?”
“That’s right,” she said with a nod. “This animal is now bound to my soul. I used my life energy to bring him back from the edge of death.”
“He’s bound to you? Like, he can’t die while you’re alive?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“So, will he live as long as you?”
The elf shrugged. “I do not know. When one of us dies, the bond will die as well, but what that means for the other I cannot say.”
“Are you saying if Surfal dies, you might die?”
Keaira frowned. “I do not know.”
“Wow, no pressure,” I said with a forced laugh. “If it makes you feel any better I do make sure that he is cared for each day.”
“It is good to know,” she confirmed, turning to look at me. “What is your name?”
“My name is Sionis Sepher. What’s yours?”
“My people call me Keaira.”
“What brings you to Theramore, Keaira?”
“A hunger for adventure,” she replied. “I have come with a small envoy that wishes to speak to Lady Proudmoore. Much has happened in the time since our last meeting and we seek your help in hunting the remaining demonic forces on our world.”
A fire was lit inside of me at those words.
There were still demons out there, threatening our existence.
“We will gladly help,” I said. “I can’t imagine Jaina wants those demons wandering around any more than you do.”
Keaira smiled. “I am happy to hear it. I feared that our prejudice toward one another might still limit our interactions.”
“Our prejudice? I attended school with elves,” I replied. “We don’t have a problem with your people.”
Keiara’s smile deflated. “Ah, I apologize. I mean our prejudices. We do not consider your humans to be… the greatest of allies.”
“We aren’t?” I asked. “We fought with you at Mount Hyjal. Our people died to—”
“It’s hard to explain,” Keaira replied. “In a way, many of my people blame you for drawing the attention of our enemies once more.”
“Once more?” I asked. “What do you mean, once more?”
Keaira frowned. “It’s hard to explain.”
“Are you telling me these things attacked us before?”
“Are they going to attack again?!”
“Possibly,” the Night Elf replied. “We shouldn’t speak of it now.”
I saw she was looking rather nervous and I glanced around. A few of the others were starting to come into the stables to get their morning rides and feedings out of the way. I also noticed Surfal growing equally nervous and I thought of their shared bond. I nodded firmly and told her I’d let it go.
“I do want to hear more,” I added. “Just not now.”
“I will tell you more,” she assured me. “When the time is right.”
“So, uh, can I show you around?”
“No, it’s nearly time. You must go with me. We will speak to Proudmoore.”
Jaina had started construction on a mage tower near the center of the island. There she intended to store the books that Angus had saved, as well as starting up a new classroom for the diminished Kirin Tor. For now the tower was little more than a foundation, and when we arrived there I found that Jaina was already speaking with the Night Elf envoy.
“Do you need to be up there?” I asked.
“No, I am just here for protection. Are you needed up there?”
“No,” I said with a short chuckle. “I’m not important enough for that.”
We were late to listen in on the conversation, but Jaina’s voice was clear and loud as she spoke with the envoy.
“I too have felt the lingering darkness,” she said. “I am glad you have reached out to us.”
One of the Night Elves bowed. “We were hoping you would lend us your aid in the lands beyond the forest. We are still tied up in many affairs in the aftermath of the battle.”
“Of course. I am confident we could find some volunteers to help.”
“We thank you for your assistance. We did not wish to disrupt your people after the losses you have endured, but we fear this danger must be contained quickly, before any more harm comes to Kalimdor.”
“I understand,” Jaina replied. “Come, let us step inside and discuss the details. From there, you can rest and gather your strength.”
As the night elves followed Jaina toward the small tavern that had been completed, I couldn’t help but glance at Keaira. She had just dropped a massive bombshell on me about these demonic creatures, and now the night elves were here asking us to help them finish off the enemy before more harm could come.
What weren’t they telling us? If the demons regrouped, could they summon more of their people? Were we on the brink of another invasion?
I also saw Jaina’s face for a moment and I saw the deep contemplation that swirled beneath her calm visage. She was asking herself these same questions. I hoped that she knew what I knew about our enemies. She always knew more than she let on, so hopefully that was the case here.
“Come,” Keaira said, tugging on my shoulder. “I would like to ride Surfal if you will let me.”
I nodded. “Sure. If you want. Seems unfair to say no.”
“Good,” she replied. “Come.”
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that my horse took so well to Keaira. They were sharing the same soul, I know, but Surfal had generally only warmed up to me or others that I encouraged. Keaira, on the other hand, jumped right on the creature and rushed off with him.
Soon enough, she circled back around, a big smile on her face, and extended her hand to me. “Come,” she said. “We ride together like we did on the mountain.”
I took her hand and mounted Surfal.
We rode out across the edge of the swamp, following the coastline as we went further and further north. Along the way we said almost nothing. We just rode. The wind whipping around us and Surfal blasting along the shore.
Until we saw smoke.
I pulled on the reins and as Surfal slowed, I felt Keaira’s body stiffen.
“What is that?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
We’d ridden farther than I’d ever gone, completely clearing the swamp lands and now entering the dry desert plateau that stretched on. I knew that a short ways ahead was the newly settled orc city of Orgrimmar, but I didn’t think there were any encampments this far south.
“We should go,” Keaira said. “This warrants investigation.”
I was impressed with her energy and eagerness to charge into what was likely a dangerous situation. I didn’t share that energy, but I also knew she was right. We needed to at least get a closer look.
We rode down the ridgeline and made our way toward the black smoke that was rising.
As we came over the last hill I was shocked by what I saw. There was a small Horde outpost, or at least there had been one. Now there was only burning ruin. Bodies of fallen orcs were scattered across the ground, left in the sun to rot and be picked clean by the buzzards.
“This is not right,” Keaira said. “The demons would have destroyed their bodies for the power.”
We rode into he remains and looked through the destruction. Keaira was right. Every demon attack had included fel-energy, and that dark power left damaging evidence behind. There was none of that here. “Maybe it was infighting?” she asked as she picked through some debris. “The orcs turned on themselves?”
“No,” I said, my voice heavy. I had just moved a large piece of burnt wood and found a weapon underneath. It was crafted with great skill, sharpened, and polished by a talented blacksmith. On the handle, a lion-shaped pommel. An Alliance blade. “These orcs were attacked by humans.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but then a distant sound of cannonfire silenced us both. We rushed up one of the nearby dry dunes to get a better look at the coast. Sure enough, a small dot on the water to the north. It was a ship, I knew it right away.
There was a small flash. Then the sound of another cannon blast echoed in the air.
Smoke started to rise from the coast.
“Someone is attacking the orcs,” Keaira said.
In an instant, my heart started to race. If other survivors had made it over from our lands, they wouldn’t know anything about what had happened here. They would only remember the orcs as the monsters that destroyed their lands and killed their loved ones.
“They don’t realize we’ve made peace,” I said aloud. “We have to get to them. Now!”
I rushed to Surfal and jumped on the creature. Keaira looked to me, this time it was her giving a look of anxiety rather than me. “Are you coming?” I asked.
“Into the battle?” she asked. “Like, right into the middle of it?”
“We have to stop them if we can. We can’t have any more needless death.”
She hesitated only a moment longer. “Okay, let’s go.”
TO BE CONTINUED…