Archive for August, 2011

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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