Part 2

Leafsong awoke sluggishly, dragged from a restless sleep by the familiar anchor of a baby’s petulant cry. She had been curled up in a wooden chair beside her mate’s bedside for the hour’s rest she had managed to snatch, and now she stretched her cramping limbs with a grimace. Analith and Mirae were curled, asleep, in a makeshift crib; but Loredar and Flora had awakened and were attempting to clamber up on the chair. She reached down to scoop them up, miserably.

The room, which had been empty save for her children when she had shut her eyes, was now full of strangers — although all humans looked the same to Leafsong. Two priestesses bustled around the bed, daubing Ashamal’s pallid face with a cloth. A paladin and a Kaldorei druid conferred beside the medicine cabinet, their faces grave. Inlayelle lay sprawled half on the floor, weeping ostentatiously.

Ashamal Shalah’aman had not stirred for over twenty four hours.

He had slipped into a comatose state effortlessly, quite against all the predictions of the attending healers. However, as they informed an inconsolable Leafsong, as his ailment was magical in nature, rather than biological, they could not accurately predict it’s course. It seemed that the effects of Illosien’s curse were magnifying as time progressed. Shaman’s sight had been the first of his senses to desert him. Shortly before he had fallen into unwakeable sleep, he had complained of a numbness, an ability to feel his extremities. Now he lay motionless and silent.

The priestess withdrew the mirror that she had been holding over Ashamal’s blood drained lips. The faint mist of condensation on the glass was the only indication that the man still breathed. She shot a glance at the paladin, who sighed and turned to the lieutenant who was standing by the door. The staff of the Infirmary had given up on attempting to communicate with Leafsong, after one stilted conversation where the limitations of a hysterical adolescent Kaldorei’s Common became obvious.

“Our efforts are clearly having little impact on the Commander’s condition” the paladin murmured, aware of Leafsong straining her ears in the corner. “We’ve tried every magical cleanse we know, but to no avail.”

Leafsong’s gasp caught in her throat. Before she could think, Inlayelle let out another howl and entreated Ashamal pathetically in Darnassian.

“No!! An’da, we’ve barely had a chance to get to know each other!” The lieutenant stooped to comfort her.

Leafsong gritted her teeth, shoving Loredar and Flora off her lap. The fat babies rolled across the rug, then crawled over to investigate Analith’s precious tramset. As the posse of healers closed in a protective ring around Ashamal’s bedside, Leafsong steeled herself and put a hand on Inlayelle’s shoulder. The girl looked back at her with open dislike, her reddened amber eyes narrowed.

“What do you want?”

“Inlayelle, we ain’t doing nothing useful here.” Leafsong muttered, ashamed of the contrast between her gruff, common tone and Inlayelle’s high, cultured accent, so similar to that of Aphel’s. “We ‘ave to go get revenge!”

“Revenge?” Inlayelle blinked, staring at her blankly. “What do you mean?”

Leafsong tightened her small, dirty-nailed fist into a ball. “Revenge! On the Kaldorei scum who did this to him! Illusion Shalah’aman!”

At the sound of his name, Inlayelle winced.

“Are you insane?!” she hissed, bringing her face close to Leafsong’s. “He’s not only a monster, but monstrously powerful- the arcane has twisted him beyond recognition!”

“That’s why we gotta take our revenge!” Leafsong replied, stubbornly. “He can’t get away with this! We gotta hunt him down and kill him!!”

Inlayelle glared at her with open derision. “You’re just as insane as he is! He’ll kill you with a flick of his finger, and then your babies won’t have any parents!”

Leafsong realised that Inlayelle would no sooner return to Illosien’s lair than she would venture into the domain of Kil’jaeden himself. She swallowed, casting one last plaintive glance at her lifeless mate before withdrawing to the hall.

Before she could leave the room, she felt a hand on her arm. A green-haired Druid, tall and solemn faced with the hollow eyes of one who
hadn’t slept, was gazing at her with pity. Unlike the human medics, he had felt sorry for the Commander’s young mate, who had only
managed to get under people’s feet along with her innumerable children.

“It seems he is trapped somewhere in the Dream” he murmured quietly in their native tongue, his mouth beside her ear. Her eyes widened and she caught her breath, gazing fixedly forward as if she could penetrate that mystical realm that lay both beyond and within their own.

“He ain’t no druid, though?” she asked, plaintively.

The man shrugged, his gaze lingering on the prostrate man on the bed. “Don’t ask me how that infernal creature managed it. This curse is far beyond anything that I have ever seen. But there is hope for your lifemate still!”

Leafsong couldn’t form adequate words to thank him, but her trembling fingers clutched at his sleeve gratefully. Comforting as those words were, they did not divert her from her path into the hallway. The stone passage was unusually quiet; all spare healers had been called to the receiving wing after the arrival of an orc-ambushed unit. It was not quite deserted though, Elurina leant back against one of the stone pillars. She was clad impeccably as usual, her diaphanous yellow robes swirling into soft clouds of pink gauze around her legs, her milk white hair caught up in an enamel butterfly. Elegant features were arranged into an expression of careful neutrality, her slender fingers clasped.

“Leafsong” she murmured, inspecting a chipped nail with regret. “Where are you going?”

Leafsong looked up at her tall, beautiful grandmother; who drew far more attention than Leafsong herself ever would. “Granmaw, you know where I’m going” she replied, flatly. Elurina nodded slowly, fixing her silver gaze on her grandchild.

“You’re going to take revenge on the man who did this to your mate.”

“Are you goin’ to try and talk me out of it, granmaw?”

Elurina raised her eyebrows and shook her head. “Why should I? It’s traditional for Kaldorei women to pursue vengeance against those who harm their kin. Truth told, I’m glad that this facet of our culture has finally evidenced itself in you.”

Leafsong stayed mute, glowering quietly at her feet. Elurina circled her, the scent she wore lingering in the air around them. “Ach, you’ve gotten soft!” the woman said eventually, reaching out to pinch the girl’s soft hip. Leafsong winced. Elurina shook her head regretfully.

“You think you’ll have a chance against Illosien? You, with your handful of novice spells and your flimsy notion of revenge? You haven’t a chance!”

Elurina spat on the flagstones, the crude gesture at odds with her refined appearance.

“Three and some years in the lap of luxury – in the literal lap of your mate, letting him pamper and spoil you, protecting and providing for you, and you’ve gone soft! Abandoned your training, neglected your career!”

Leafsong’s eyes dampened; Elurina saw it and scoffed.

“You never let a tear fall even when you were near-starving as a babe. Now you cry at the slightest affront, you allow that bastard-born daughter to torment you freely, even your eldest child bullies you into getting his way! You had more spine in you when you were younger- in fact, you’re more a child now than you ever were before! Huddled under the wing of a man- a man!!”

Elurina’s scorn could have cut glass. Leafsong’s lower lip wobbled and she bit down on it hard, determinedly.

“Even if I’m hopeless, I’m goin’ to try,” she muttered after a few moments, her fingers working nervously at the strap of her satchel. “I ain’t letting him get away with what he done.”

Elurina surveyed her youngest grandchild with regret for a moment, then held out her arms. Leafsong allowed herself to be held, tears of fear and rage streaming down her cheeks.

“It’s not entirely your fault” Elurina said finally, stroking a hand over Leafsong’s head. “That man of yours should never have got so many children on you. Of course he is going to mollycoddle you when you are carrying his children! But, make no mistake, it’s a good thing that you are going to confront the monster. Your heritage shows at last!”

Leafsong looked up at her, teary-eyed.

“It’s showing?”

“Never clearer.”

“But- he’s got so much power,” Leafsong mumbled into her grandmother’s shoulder. “How can what I’ve been learnin’ compete with that?”

Elurina nodded, familiar with Leafsong’s novice studies. “He does, and you can’t hope to compete. He’ll obliterate you with a snap of
his fingers.”

Leafsong looked doleful, her grey eyes sad. Elurina smiled, suddenly.

“That is why we must trick him. There’s something we own that might help. Come close, and don’t breathe a word of this to anyone!”

That evening found Leafsong on her hands and knees, scrabbling around their shambolic rented rooms in the tavern at Lakeshire. She had just stopped short of ripping the furniture apart in her quest to find this elusive object. Clothes and
books lay strewn across the floorboards and she was on the verge of admitting defeat when- she spotted a blue glint under the bed. Not daring to breathe she reached for it, her swollen stomach pressing against the wooden floor. As her fingers closed around a cool silver handle, she realised that she had given the odd looking glass from the Highbourne chest to Mirae, for the vain baby was enraptured with her own reflection. Drawing out the mirror, she inhaled reflexively.

It was old and in poor condition, the silver surround tarnished with age. From a distance it appeared nothing more than a hand-mirror, the craftwork undoubtedly fine but nothing spectacular. Only when viewed from up close could the minute engravings around the rim of the glass be seen, tiny blue runes that looked as if they had been cut with a pin. They emitted a faint glow that tinted the rest of the glass, saturating any reflected face with eerie coldness.

It is very old and imbued with ancient protection charms Elurina had informed her. The charms used were old when Illosien himself was young and, Goddess-grant, he has not exceeded their power yet.

Leafsong turned the mirror this way and that, running a fingertip over the etched runes. The
glass felt cool to the touch, despite the sweltering summer heat.

It will reflect any spell used against it, and turn that magic back on the caster. One need only hold it up, as one would a shield, and trust to it’s power.

The glass itself was not pristine. Hairline cracks ran over the surface, thin as spider silk.

The glass is not infallible. It has been used before, and has been scarred by each deflected spell. As long as the glass itself holds, however, you should be safe.

The most serious flaw was a jagged crack that marred the glass just below the right hand corner. It appeared as if a large splinter had broken loose, revealing the tarnished silver backing beneath.

As you will see, child, it has been quite badly damaged. The extent of the damage that it takes relates to the intensity of the spell reflected. The flaw on the right side is the result of a deflected killing-curse. It is my belief that the glass will only be able to sustain one more blow of like severity. So use the mirror with caution. Don’t use it unless you truly believe that the next spell cast would be your end.

Leafsong gazed at her reflection once more, and then carefully tucked the mirror away in her satchel. With a last look at the rented rooms, remembering for a moment how happy she had felt being spoilt and protected, she squared her shoulders and made for the door.

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In the infirmary

The Stormwind military infirmary was an imposing and squat structure; its impressive stone edifices set back several dozen yards from the Cathedral District. Housing several large wards, flanked by private rooms for higher-ranking officers, it was staffed day and night by various healers and priests offering both temporal and spiritual comfort. In previous years the stone halls had been the sole domain of human priests and priestesses; but more recently Draenei shaman and lower-ranking Kaldorei druidic acolytes had come to offer their services in aid of the Alliance.

Ashamal Shalah’aman’s military rank would have afforded him one of the larger private rooms even if his mate had not liberally bribed the administrative staff. The suite was south-facing, a small balcony leading to a pleasant view of the outskirts, and the wide windows ensured that the maximum amount of sunlight illuminated the room. It was a shame that the occupant could not appreciate any of these assets.

Ashamal Shalah’aman had been bed-bound for two days, and it did not agree with him. Thanks to his mate, who was alternating between loud, undulating cries of despair and slavishly lavishing attention, he was impeccably dressed. Unfortunately, Leafsong’s grief loosened her usually steady hand, and Ashamal’s cheeks bore several small nicks where she had shaved him. Despite this, he still appeared more groomed than she. She hadn’t washed her hair for several days and her clothing was rumpled and stained; her attention divided solely between caring for her mate and her children. At nearly five months pregnant, she was exhausted, and spent every spare infrequent moment huddled beside her mate on the bed.

The older children couldn’t understand why their father lay prostrated and silent. Analith sulked when Ashamal was not able to read him a requested book, Mirae pouted when he could not identify and name a held object. Both could sense a change in their father’s demeanour, and it made them unsettled and restless. The younger babies couldn’t perceive the change, but were as demanding for their parents’ attention as always, vying for affection.

Leafsong did not spend her night-times idle, however. While her husband slumbered restlessly, she lit a candle and retrieved one of the texts she had bought surreptitiously from the Mage district. So afraid was she of her husband’s wrath that, despite his affliction, she still hid the leather-bound tome from his unseeing gaze. Her finger moved over the unfamiliar text, her mouth shaping the strange incantations, every line a struggle for her to decipher.

Despite the ordeal that formed every page, she pressed on, determined. Someone had to take revenge against Illosien Shalah’aman for this gross affront to her family; and with her husband infirm, it fell to her. If it occurred to her that challenging a millennia-old, Titanic-fuelled arcanist with a handful of novice incantations from a novice-level spellbook may have been mildly suicidal, Leafsong ignored this with characteristic stubbornness.

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Recap

Leafsong Shalah’aman was not given to idle hairdresser chat. Her clients, whether they be at the gnomish salon or a home customer, were both disconcerted and comforted by the fact that the green-haired Kaldorei hovering behind them made no attempt at conversation. Whenever they tried to engage her in polite banter, catching her odd pale gaze in the mirror propped in front of them, they were met either by an uncomprehending stare or by a noncommittal grunt. Although her bluntness had lost her a customer or too, it had also gained her a small but loyal core of customers who either preferred to maintain silence themselves; or were happy to talk at her rather than to her.

Leafsong didn’t mind her new job. After the income of their growing household had dwindled, the majority of their savings combined with the destruction of the GHE:SW contributed to her desire to find a new source of profit. She had begun work at the gnomish salon part-time as a sweeper, a position that paid only twenty silver per hour; it was monotonous but she could take the babies with her and keep an eye on them. After several weeks, she had been promoted to (very) junior hairdresser. Her years of snipping herbs carefully at the root, of crushing and mixing various alchemical concoctions had meant that she quickly learnt the art of cutting hair and mixing dye. Now she worked for three hours in the morning at the salon, and took customers at home from two until four in the afternoon.

While she snipped fringes and arranged elaborate curls, she used to think about her life and how she could further improve it. Not for her own sake, but for her family. Analith, coming up on three years old, was proving to be a bright and perceptive child. If only he could spend more time with books and learning and less time terrorising his younger siblings, Leafsong mused grimly, he would be a veritable genius. Mirae had just turned two and was still displaying little sign of cognitive development. Her vocabulary had expanded to just about thirty words, mostly about herself, but she still had trouble solving the simple toy puzzles that Analith had been solving since he was nine months old. Despite her arrested development, Mirae had the perfect, even features of a little doll, her milk-white curls and deep pewter eyes even drawing compliments from other races. Flora and Loredar, both nearly a year old, were coming on well. The loud-mouthed, attention-demanding Flora was still dominating her quieter brother, who had the calmest and sweetest temperament of them all.

And last but not least was her dear mate, who had taken up walking with a cane to alleviate the persistent pain in the old knee injury; who had been summoned and then summarily abandoned by various military outfits in the past few months, desk-generals who had heard of Ashamal Shalah’aman’s legacy but found him too old and ornery to control. She and he were still content with one another, the initial passion of lust fading to a more comfortable companionship; wild nights turned to slumbering embraces.

She wished that they had more money, she wished that she was not so far from her family and she wished that it would stop being quite so hot. But overall, she was happy with her lot. It was a good lot, and more than most people had.

((sorry for such a long gap between posts – I’ve been busy this past month with travelling, work, and final Masters’ dissertation! This is more of a catch up post than anything ))

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Leafsong and Aphel IRL

Been hugely busy with postgrad obligations. Thank goodness it’s the holidays! And after over three years, Leafsong and Aphel will be meeting IRL tomorrow 🙂 exciting !!!

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:(

yeah so aphel and leafsong broke up

thanks for the good times

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Reading

“Is that a … book? In the hands of Leafsong Shalah’aman? ”

Leafsong simultaneously ignored her mate’s impertinent query, and him know that she was ignoring him by releasing a small huff. He shrugged a shoulder, adjusting his position against the headboard and exhaling. For several minutes, the only sounds in the cramped little room were the soft sighs of the babies as they slept, accompanied by the occasional rustling of pages.

Another glob of wax rolled slowly down the side of the fat candle that sat on the bedside table. Leafsong grumbled and shifted slightly within the circle of his arms. He noticed that she had been gazing at the same page for the past two minutes. He weighed up the value of making another acerbic comment (a small revenge for the elbow she had ‘accidentally’ dug into his abdomen several minutes ago); but on seeing the furrows dividing the brow of his young wife, he changed his mind and kissed her on the top of her head instead.

“What are you reading?”

She held up a flimsy pink book, thin parchment cheaply bound; Aphel recognised it as the sort that was printed weekly by an infamous Darnassian publisher who catered for the ‘lighter’ literary tastes. He sat up higher against the cushions and plucked the slender tome from her fingers. It was little more than a pamphlet, gaudily illustrated with hearts and moonblossoms. The front page was covered in grubby fingerprints, suggesting that it had been repeatedly – if futilely- perused. The rest of the book seemed untouched. Aphel took pity on his literacy-challenged mate and opened the cover.

“Just relax,” he murmured into the top of her head as he took the glasses from her nose and rested them on his own. Clearing his throat, he began to read.

’Taken by the Arch Druid: A Tale of Lust and Moonlight.’ He stopped reading and stared down at his wife, incredulous. “What the fuck is this shit?”

Leafsong nudged him, impatient. “Keep readin’, it’s good.”

He exhaled.

’It was a beautiful starlit night. The moon hung over the Ashenvale lake like a gleaming silver coin. Yet its glow was not as radiant as that in the eyes of Starla Teardropshadow, the maiden with hair like spun silk. Starla Teardropshadow worked as a serving-girl for the notoriously wicked Porkchopper sisters. Marly and Narly Porkchopper, jealous of the winsome beauty of Starla, forced her to wear crude brown rags, in an attempt to disguise her natural allure. Starla was petite and curvaceous, with hair the colour of moon-kissed sea foam, skin the dusky blush of a violet petal –

He broke off, gnashing his teeth. “Who comes up with this shit? You could write better than this!”

Leafsong shrugged. He noticed that she was listening with utter absorption. “Keep going, don’t stop.” He sighed, irritably, and flicked forward several pages.

“Darling, this is an insult to my ears. Listen: ‘The Arch Druid prowled in, stealthy, retaining the sleek masculinity of a black panther even when in his Kaldorei form. He was bare-chested, the muscles covered with a sheen of sweat. Starla blushed, her cheeks pinkening, casting her long-lashed gaze downwards. He strode forward, tossing his hair back over his shoulder – like a stallion – and pressed her against his manly chest.’ Ah, Elune, I can’t read this-!”

He hurled the book across the room, causing Loredar to wake with a yelp.

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3 March

The faint light of an evening sun filtered weakly over the fields of the Stormwind outskirts, illuminating the tops of the trees with a pale golden crown. New spring leaves were budding, defying the devastation that had laid so much of the city to waste, trees eagerly welcoming the warmer weather. Leafsong bent down and dragged the bucket in the lake, waiting until it had gathered a full load of water before returning to her full height and calling to Analith and Mirae. The two young children, one running confidently, the other toddling unsteadily, headed towards her with clumps of river grass in their hands.
“Let’s go ‘ome” she told them, ignoring Analith’s cry of protest.
“No! More play” he insisted, stubbornly, staying out of reach of her groping hand. Leafsong bared her teeth at him, he bared his back. Mirae, momentarily distracted by a ladybug taking off from a nearby plant, clung to Leafsong’s skinny leg. Leafsong, sweating slightly from the exertion of carrying Flora on her back and Loredar on her front, dumped the bucket on the grass and lunged forward to grab Analith’s hand. He let out a yowl of protest.
“Quiet, you!” she hissed, her cheeks flushing as she gripped the bucket handle once more, keeping a firm grip on Analith’s chubby fingers with her free hand. “Mirae, hold Ani’s hand.” Mirae obediently placed her small hand in Analith’s sticky one. “Right, let’s go.” Slowly, laboriously, they began to make their way back towards the tiny ramshackle cottage at the border of the pumpkin field. The sun began to slip below the horizon with surprising speed, the chill of evening drawing in with alacrity. Leafsong quickened her pace as much as she was able, hoisting Mirae bodily over some of the larger pumpkins. On her back, Flora woke up from the jolting and began to make small sounds of hunger.
“Just a minute, just a minute, hold on, hold on,” Leafsong chanted through gritted teeth, starting to flag, her slender frame overburdened by bucket and babies. Flora grabbed at her unravelling plait and yanked, causing her mother to shriek.
“Agh, stoppit-! You little –mmph-“ she bit off the insult, slightly wild-eyed now, focusing on the cottage growing ever larger as they neared it.
“An’da!” Analith’s delighted cry jolted her out of her fixated stare and she paused. Analith ripped his hand from hers before she could clamp down on it and, summarily leaving his sister to flounder in a newly ploughed furrow, rushed off towards the lean figure of his father. Aphel, dressed in worn travelling leathers, strode across the field with his pack slung across his back, amber eyes fixed on his family. Analith stopped a few feet away, slightly in awe of the imposing male. Aphel reached down to pick up the child, holding him easily in one arm. Leafsong felt impromptu pinkness rising to her cheeks as Aphel approached her, letting Analith down between them. He looked tired, she noted, the grey streaks in his fading navy hair appearing silvery in the twilight, the shadows under his eyes more pronounced than usual. He gave no word of greeting, pressing his mouth against hers. He did not need to stoop to kiss his young wife; she was nearly as tall as he. Afterwards, she rubbed her cheek against his, feeling the stubble of several days.
“I missed you” she said, breathlessly, as he bent over to take the bucket and Mirae in his arms. He gave her a quick smile, sliding an arm around her waist.

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