Work in progress
The Culling Edit
The young teenaged girl lay silent in her bed, a sweat glistening on her brow. The fever had lasted for well over a week, and still no end was apparent. Blonde hair dampened with sweat lay across her pale brow. Eyes blue as the winter sky were rimmed with red. Her frail frame shuddered in a fit of coughing and she attempted to sit up. Dizzy and disoriented, she arose from her bed and shuffled towards the door of her room.
“Mother?” her voice was hoarse, even to her own ears. She strained to be louder, “Mother?”
Her mother rushed up the stairs to her aid. “Isa!” she admonished, “You need to be in bed. You will never get better if you do not rest.”
Aideen d’Sylvere was a stunning woman, with hair the color of sunset and eyes the color of smoke. She brushed the damp hair off of her teenaged daughter’s forehead and felt for a fever with one hand. She winced but said firmly, “Bed, my darling daughter.”
Isa weakly nodded, allowing herself to be led back to bed. Aideen sat on the bed beside her. Quickly and efficiently, Aideen left the room and returned with a cup of fresh, cool water.
“Drink,” she said gently.
Slender fingers slipped around the offered cup, and her hands shook lightly to bear the weight. She sipped from the cup gratefully and sighed slightly, looking to her mother with wide eyes. “I’m going to be okay, right?” she asked fearfully.
Aideen kissed her forehead softly. “Of course you will. Now rest,” she said as she made her way quietly out of the room.
Isa saw the doubt in her mother’s eyes. She had heard her parents talking of a plague sweeping through the countryside. The people in towns had been dying of strange and inexplicable causes. She didn’t know any details, only what she could hear through the cracks in the floors, but Isa was scared. Her fever had started suddenly, and for days she could barely eat a thing. Finishing her water, she looked out her window, leaning her weary head against her arms. The sun dipped down to the horizon, light fading from the countryside of Lordaeron. Shadows seemed to gain power and move stealthily from their hiding places. Streaks of the softest pink gave way to purple as day fought to succumb to the night. As the first stars became visible, Isa lay down to sleep; scared of what may come.
She was awoken in the middle of night by a fierce shaking.
“Issy!” a voice hissed, “You have to wake up. You have to come with me.”
She opened her eyes to see the figure of her brother, his silver armor stained with blood. Light brown hair fell into his eyes and his helmet and mace were haphazardly tossed to the floor. “Kaveric? What’s…?”
“There’s no time!” he insisted. “Get up; we have to go, NOW!” She stood wearily, attempting to shake off the vertigo that struck her. His terror was evident in his green eyes. As she dressed, Kaveric watched out the window vigilantly. It was only at that time that Isa heard the noises from outside. Screams of terror, moans of agony were coming from the streets. Terror gripped her and turned her blood to ice. “What’s happening?” she asked fearfully.
“ISA, FASTER!” he hissed, replacing his helm and picking up his mace.
She quickly put on the first robe she could find and donned a pair of shoes. She followed her brother, a young recruit to the Silver Hand, down the stairs.
The sight at her kitchen table stole her confusion and immediately replaced it with terror. Her parents sat at the table, silent. Their soulless eyes looked vacantly across the room at nothing. Slowly, Isa approached them. She touched her mother’s hair questioningly. “Mother?” she whispered. The woman said nothing. Their faces had an eerie greenish pallor.
Kaveric pulled her hand away and dragged her towards the door. “You can’t help them, Isa. It was in the grain. The damned plague was in the grain.” He dragged her up to face him; “The only reason you have been spared by this is because you’ve been so sick. Had you eaten, you would be infected.”
She stared at him in shocked disbelief. “So mother… father…. They’re?” Her voice trailed off.
“Yes,” he said. “Far better you see them like this than what happens when… never mind what happens. We need to find a place for you to hide.”
“From WHAT?” she protested as he pulled her out the back door and into a back alley.
Kaveric looked at her in disbelief and pointed to the streets. “Look around, sister. Death has come to Stratholme in the guise of mercy. Arthas has gone mad. He thinks genocide is the answer. No attempts to dissuade him have worked. He and his men are progressing through the city, destroying everything that lives.”
Isa shook her head in abject horror as he continued. “But that’s the easy death,” Kaveric said bitterly. “On the other side of town is something that I can only describe as a demon. He, too, with an army of creatures from hell is slaughtering the city claiming the souls of all he destroys. Death by his hand means service in his nightmarish army. For eternity.”
Isa began to cry, her knees weakening and she fell to the ground. Her brother hoisted her up to her feet and held her gently. “There’s no time for fear. Fear will only lead do death. You have to go. Stay out of the streets; try to make it to the eastern gates of the city. Be strong.”
She held fast to his armor, sobbing. “What about you? Where will you go?”
He gently smoothed her hair, but looked around warily. “I have to fight these monsters. I have to try. I’ll meet back up with Uther and his forces. The Alliance will persevere. I just… don’t know how.”
With a light kiss to her forehead, he hefted his mace. “Now go. Live. I love you,” he whispered.
Isa turned from him and fled.
With tears streaming down her face, she ran through the back alleys of Stratholme. Screams echoed off the buildings and seemed to come from every direction. She leaned into a doorway, coughing as she attempted to catch her breath. Suddenly, she heard noises from ahead of her. A group of strange creatures were huddled together just down the way. Whitish grey, with oozing wrinkled skin, they were digging and pawing at something in the road. With a gag of revulsion, she realized it was a human body. They were eating the flesh from a human body. The sounds of the gruesome feast seemed to echo in her ears and she tasted bile in the back of her throat.
With an inquisitive growling noise, one of the four creatures lifted his head, blood smeared across his bony face. He seemed to sniff the air. Isa forced herself back into the shadow of the doorway. The creatures appeared to have mouths as wide as their own faces. Large, sharp teeth gaped from their bloody maws. Their muscled arms ended in large hands with claws. Never in her darkest nightmares could Isa have imagined such an evil. The inquisitive one continued to look around. Sniffing like a dog, he came closer to her hiding spot. She held her breath, praying to the light that he would not see her. She reached her hands behind her body and quietly tried to open the door. Her prayers were answered with an unlocked door. Opening it, she backed out of the alley and into the home.
At an agonizingly slow speed, she closed the door. She latched and barred it quickly and ducked down below the windows to avoid being seen. The creatures finished their meal and continued down the alley past her hiding spot. With a sigh of relief, Isa turned to check the house. Immediately behind her, a man stood. Her heart pounded as she backed away from him quickly. Her movement went unnoticed. He stood in the middle of the room, unseeing, with the same vacant stare of her parents. Cautiously, Isa moved around him to check the front door. She locked it and sat down against it. Her head was pounding, her lungs were burning. She coughed violently. The fever that saved her life now threatened her safety. Slumped against the door, she watched the man cautiously. He seemed to pay her no mind, simply standing there; staring into nothing. Dawn was breaking, creating strange shadows on the floor. Grey light drifted through windows, offering no solace.
Suddenly, the man made a noise. Isa’s eyes stayed focused on him, ready to take flight. A long low groan escaped from lightly parted lips. His breathing became heavy and rapid. His vacant eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed to the floor as if he had no control of his muscles.
Isa’s heart leapt into her throat as a cold wave of panic washed over her. Her brother’s words echoed in her mind. “Far better you see them like this than what happens when… never mind what happens.” Isa knew if she did not flee, she would see exactly what her brother omitted. The body on the floor twitched and convulsed. Muscle and bone seemed to twist and strain as a deafening howl came from the man. His hands tightened into claws, nails exposed and elongated. His jaw seemed to separate as new teeth appeared from nothing. And his face, oh his face… Isa couldn’t bear to watch and yet could not look away. All humanity drained from his eyes and a sickly yellow glow emanated from them. He was turning into one of the creatures from the alley!
She had no weapons, and her mage training was in the earliest of stages. There was only one spell she knew, only one spell she had been taught: fireball. She pulled herself to her feet and focused her energy as the arch mages had taught. She pulled on the light inside of her and the light around her and thought of fire. Fire: burning, destroying, cleansing, primal fire. She brought her hands together, focusing her energy on that desire, on that need. The air between her hands shimmered and grew hot as the air combusted. She pushed with her mind, with her soul to create the fireball. It roared to life between her hands as she focused, standing still, unmoving for the specific time to get the incantation right. The fire burned her fingers and hands as she let it fly towards the targeted beast.
The fireball roared across the room and slammed into the creature in a fury of sparks. He immediately ignited. An inhuman shriek of pain bounced off the walls as he thrashed about, burning. Isa attempted to refocus her energy to release another volley. The man-creature ran about the room, howling in pain and anger. The fire blazed off of the last of his clothing. It was at that moment of bitter victory that the curtains caught fire. The flames licked up the walls as if it had a life of its own. The fire was hungry and so it consumed everything it could reach. Flames from the ignited curtains spread up the wall and licked across the ceiling. Isa ignored this as the flaming creature realized she was the cause of his pain and charged her.
She stopped casting and dove behind the table. Frantically she grabbed a chair to fend off the creature. The flimsy wood shattered in her hands, catching fire as well. The creature came for her, snarling, blistering, barring its teeth all the while the flames devoured the house around her. In terror, Isa began casting. Her focus was better, her time reduced. Another fireball flew across the room and landed on the creature as it reached her. The explosion of fire was astounding. The creature fell to the ground, blazing. Isa backed away quickly and immediately saw the damage her untrained powers had caused.
The fire was everywhere, blazing around the room. It was quickly becoming an inferno, and both exits were barred. “Great,” she muttered to herself in utter despair. The ceiling creaked ominously and she looked up to see the wrath of flames above her. She ran for the door, the flames hungrily licking at her robes. She stamped at them and tried to open the door. Her hand was burned by the searing heat of the door knob and she pulled back in pain. The creaking above her worsened and she ran to the window. Without even bothering to look outside, she smashed the glass out into the alley. The arm of her robe caught fire, but she ignored it. Brushing the glass out of the way, Isa climbed through. Her arm seared and blistered horribly as she hung from the window before dropping to the ground lightly. She found a nearby barrel of holy water and doused her burning arm. A cloud of steam floated upward as the flames were extinguished and Isa let out a scream of pain.
A scream of loss.
A scream of terror.
The tears welled up as she examined the burned skin, forever a testament to this night.
Tearing a strip from her dress (which proved to be difficult with one hand out of commission) she haphazardly wrapped the burn. Once her arm was secure, she ran down the alley. Tears left streaks on her ash-covered cheeks as she ran down the alley. Breaking free of the alley, she emerged on the main street of Stratholme. Buildings were burning, and bodies littered the streets. She ran. Her lungs burned and her muscles ached, but still she ran for the gates. Past the horrors of her homeland, through the once great city, the bastion of the Alliance; she ran. Not as if her life depended on it, she ran because her life did, in fact, depend on it. Isa reached the Eastern gate and slipped through the opening. She made it just off the road before she collapsed.
She awoke to a cold cloth on her face. A woman in white robes hovered over Isa’s prone body.
“Did I live?” she managed to whisper.
“Yes, dear,” the woman replied. “You’re safe.”
Isa closed her eyes and cradled her ruined arm. “No.”
“We will never be safe again.”
The salty sea air blew Isa’s hair back from her face and pulled at her skirts. She stood silently on a small outcropping of rocks, scanning the horizon. Blue eyes shielded from the bright sun with a single hand, she watched the open waters of the great sea. The waves made a rhythmic crashing noise against the shores of Theramore Isle. Seagulls careened overhead, circling the fishermen in lazy ovals. She frowned at the waters, squinting against the light sparkling off the waters. The faintest speck had appeared at the horizon.
She wrinkled her nose and swept her hair away from her eyes. Could it be a trick of the eyes? Isa watched in silence, studying the small spot. The loud, drunken laughter of one of the fishermen startled her briefly.
“At it again, ‘eh, Isa?” Michael Crowe called up to her, “You auditioning to be a figurehead, a siren or a sea-witch?”
Isa frowned in annoyance at him as she looked back to the ocean. “Are you expecting a shipment, Mister Crowe?” she asked quietly.
He turned his seaman’s eyes out to the horizon as she indicated. “Well, I’ll be. Ye’ best be getting’ yerself a job over in the lighthouse, little lady. That’s a ship, but it ain’t one I’m expecting!” he exclaimed. “Mighty good set of eyes ye got there.”
Isa nodded once to acknowledge his words as she watched the shadow on the horizon. It shimmered against the blue of the sky and against the dark of the waters. Goblin merchants and supply ships came weekly and with scheduled dockets sent before sailing. The Alliance transports from Menethil and the ruins of Nor’drassil came only when necessary. Months had passed since the end of the third war and still the ships of survivors came. Soldiers on the long sail home, refugees seeking a new start on this far-off continent, the last survivors. The ships originally had come daily; some with grievous wounds. Isa, Helaina and Tamberlyn did their best to help those they could. She had become quite skilled with bandaging, but lacked the spells with which to heal. Isa learned quickly the power of removing curses, and had called upon the arcane to attempt to aid those plagued with painful ailments. As the ship approached, she thought back on those people. Humans, like herself with so few places to go. Theramore was a safe harbor: or at least, as safe as one could hope for in these dark times.
Time passed and the speck grew into a shadow and finally into a discernable boat. She narrowed her eyes and caught her breath in a gasp. “Mister Crowe, its flying the Alliance colors. I’ll need to get Captain Vimes.”
Michael Crowe raised a fish-covered hand to her in a wave, “I’m sure that it’ll get here just fine, little lady. But iffen ya feel you need to get the Captain, have at it.”
Isa scowled as she nimbly climbed down from the rocks, hiking up her skirts as she magicked herself down past the docks and towards the Foothold Citadel. She dodged the soldiers and hurried towards the stairs. Her breath caught in her throat in anticipation. She had managed to watch every ship, managed to see every face as they filtered through the port city. But not a one was that of whom she sought. She hiked her skirts up in annoyance as she rushed up the stairs. She always wondered idly why the high commanders felt the need to be holed away up in this tiny room. Upon entering she curtseyed deeply to the officers on duty.
“Begging your pardon, sirs, but I seek audience with Captain Vimes,” she said softly, her eyes turned towards the planks in the floor. The men nodded to her and she approached the ornately carved desk.
“Speak,” he said to her looking up from his paperwork.
“Sir,” she began, “A ship approaches. It bears the colors of the Alliance.”
Captain Vimes looked down to her. “A ship you say? Assemble the team.”
Isa curtsied deeply, backing away. “Yes, sir,” she replied promptly. She turned from the room and walked at a respectful pace until she hit the door. Isa then broke into a run, dashing down the stairs. She exited the keep and magicked herself towards the training grounds.
“Helaina, Tamberlyn!” She called out to the medics, “A ship approaches.”
The two women exchanged glances quickly and grabbed the supplies they needed. There was never any way to be sure what state the passengers on the ship would be in. The seas were no longer a safe place with the marauding pirates, pillagers and occasional beasts. Isa’s heart was in her throat as she hurried to the dock. She always hoped. She hadn’t ever given up the hope that one day; Kaveric would walk off the ship, silver helm in hand. She had to hope. It was all she had left.
The three women stood at the edge of the dock and watched as the sails were rolled up and the anchor was dropped. It gracefully made its way to a stop at the edge of the harbor. Deck hands prepared the plank, and many people huddled together on the main deck. The trip across the great sea was arduous, and the delight at the sight of land was apparent on each face Isa could see. Isa and the medics stood to the side as passengers started to disembark. Isa’s heart warmed as she saw families come off the boat together. Their remaining belongings tucked into bags, they huddled together as if cold. Survivors, refugees, explorers and travelers made their way off the boat.
The troops were last to disembark. Their armor showed signs of wear and tarnish. Their faces showed lines of fatigue, horror and grief. Isa scanned the armor, noting the different levels of the guard. It was then she saw the all-too familiar shining armor of the Silver Hand. She craned her neck to see the Knight’s face. His face was obscured by people passing and locks of blond hair that hid his eyes. Isa’s breath caught in her throat. She couldn’t tell if it was merely the force of her belief or a trick of weary eyes, but the resemblance was enough that Isa broke formation to rush to the knight’s side.
She blinked through the crowd to come to his side. She placed a curious hand on his arm tentatively, “Kav?” she asked, her voice edged with a clear note of desperation.
The man, surprised, turned his head down to look at her. “No, my lady. I am not who you seek.”
Isa’s face flushed in disappointment and embarrassment. “My apologies, my lord,” she managed to choke out as she turned away. The tears burned in her eyes against her will, and the breath that had been caught in her throat was released in a long and angry sigh as she moved away.
“My lady?” the knight inquired after her, as he put his bag down. “Please, I apologize for my likeness to whom you seek. If you would tell me of this man, I may be able to lend you assistance.”
Isa paused, fiercely rubbing at her traitorous eyes with one hand. She noticed Helaina watching her with concern. Isa turned to the man, curtseying to him respectfully. She kept her eyes hidden behind long lashes to hopefully mask the tears.
“I am searching for my brother, Kaveric d’Sylvere. He was a newly inducted knight to the Silver Hand before the war. I have not seen him since the night of the betrayal,” she said softly. Speaking the name Arthas in public had yielded violent results, so Isa refrained.
The knight nodded once, looking away as if remembering. “Ah, Stratholme. Such a horror," he said under his breath. He continued, "Many of our men have perished in these past months. Our ranks have depleted between deaths and madness,” he stated. “Some were so obsessed with the hunt for the scourge they have split off into a new order, the Scarlet Crusade. They have become crazed zealots, attacking anything and anyone that comes into their lands. Others of our scattered Order now hunt the undead that plague our home with a frightening ruthlessness. The light holds no comfort to them now, since the betrayal. I’ve known many of the survivors, but I cannot say I know them all. I am sorry to say that I don’t recognize that name.”
Isa nodded bravely, curtseying again. “Thank you for your time,” she whispered almost inaudibly and turned from him.
“May light bless you and aid you in your search,” he said to her with a valiant bow.
Isa’s back was to him, so the withering look of disgust that marred her fair features went entirely unnoticed.
The mage's tower at the center of Theramore echoed the feeling of Lordaeron. The winding, creaking wooden staircase that wound upwards made one feel as if they would be overcome with dizziness if ascended too quickly. Isa stood, her chin held upwards defiantly and her ocean-blue eyes narrowed into determined slits. Her mouth tugged downwards into a scowl as she shook her head in disagreement.
"No," she staunchly proclaimed. She held her hands behind her back to hide the fact that they were balled tightly into fists. "There are many other aspects of magic you can teach me. I don't want to learn about that."
Archmage Tervosh frowned down at the yourg woman. "I need you to understand that you are closing yourself off from a school of magic that is both powerful and useful. Your fear of it merely holds back your training."
Isa stared at him icily, the air around her dropping in temperature subtly as she attempted to reign in her temper. Her first reaction to fear had become anger, irrational and sudden. She shook her head firmly, her eyes threatening. "I don't care," she hissed.
Tervosh merely shook his head and sighed at Isa, his eyes concerned. "You will never learn to master your powers when ruled by fear."
"I'm not afraid!" she spat back, livid.
Tervosh smiled then. It was not a cruel smile, but merely a knowing smile. "Not afraid? You're sure?"
Isa glowered. "Of course I'm sure," she insisted.
The smile still played on Tervosh's wizened face as he moved to her side and with the flick of his hand, encased himself in a wreath of flames. The molten armor seemed to lick around his body and the waves of heat radiated around causing the air to shimmer and burn. Cobwebs and dust seemed to melt as the heat radiated off the archmage's armor as it writhed and licked around his body. Isa's icy veneer of defiance shattered as she winced back from him, shutting her eyes and shielding her face from the heat. She, in turn, threw a barrier of ice around herself, the air freezing and crackling as the energy sucked the heat from the air around her.
"Not afraid, d'Sylvere? I see. Of course not." he chuckled as he dismissed the spell.
Isa slumped to her knees, still hidden behind her wall of ice, defeated. "Please don't make me," she whispered. "I can't control it. Its a living thing with a mind of its own. The fire is a beast, and it hungers. I don't want to learn. I don't want to have the responsibility of that power."
Her shield flickered once and faded, her pale skin cool and damp from the residual coldness. She didn't look up at her teacher. She didn't look up at all.
"Fine then," Tervosh said simply, "we will continue with the arcane." He looked at her for a moment, his eyes softening for a moment. "You will someday need to exorcise the demons that lurk in your past. They hold you prisoner in your own mind. I know it must be hard, but it has been hard for all of us. You are not the only one in pain. We have all lost something. Remember that."
Isa quietly got to her feet, her lips tightly pulled into a grim and determined line. She nodded to him, but in acquiescence as opposed to agreement. Tervosh gestured for her to sit down and she obeyed. The argemage went to the bookcase and drew out a small velvet bag.
"Did your mother ever tell you the history of your name, Miss d'Sylvere?" he inquired as he shook the bag once. It sounded as if it was filled with gems or stones. Isa shook her head, daring to look up at him again.
He reached into the bag and pulled out a stone. It was small, less than two inches across. The stones was polished smooth, but there was a carving in the center of it. When he held it up to her, the carving shimmered with an internal light. He laid the stone on the table. "This is Isa."
Isa looked up at him dubiously as he continued.
"This is a rune. The runes are carvings into stones that create power and spells. Rune magic is a very powerful thing. The runes can hold, bind, summon and transport. You'll see them in many of the relics in the world, especially the ones with older magic. This is an old art," he explained.
He gestured to the rune on the table, "Isa is the rune of ice, of frost and of stillness. In a reading it can mean the cooling of a relationship, or the halting of forward movement. Unleashing the power of Isa can be a devastating mixture of cold and ice. Ice and cold are dangerous. Lethal even," he paused, smiling at her, "But still beautiful in their own way."
Isa had never known this history of her name and she looked at the stone curiously. Tervosh smiled at her and nodded once, "Interesting how your affinity with the school of frost has brought you closer to your own name."
Tervosh took the rune and dropped it back into the bag. He drew out another stone, this one with an intricate carving that glowed with a faint silvered tone. "This is a rune of teleportation. It will allow you to travel to any of our cities in an instant. All you must do is channel your power through it, unleashing the power of the rune itself."
Isa took the rune from him, tracing the overlaying designs on the surface. The face of the stone was warm to the touch.
"I need you to travel to the alliance city of Stormwind. It is far south of the ruins, so you should be safe. The city is fortified with guards. I need you to speak with Elsharin. He will be able to give you additional help with your training," he said to her as he returned the velvet bag to the shelves. "Use your hearthstone to return once you have finished."
"Will I be able to travel to other places?" Isa inquired, tracing the carvings on the rune. "If I were to attempt to portal to a specific person, say?"
Tervosh frowned. "These runes are aligned with the magical flows of the mage towers. It will only bring you to the seat of power of the city you travel to."
Isa nodded once. "I see."
"Take the rune in your hand, and focus your power through it," he instructed. "Stay focused. Good."
A bright light seemed to eminate from the stone and surrounded her. The earth tremored slightly and the light encased her.
"Stay focused!" he called to her. "Otherwise you might end up in the wrong-"
The tower around her disappeared. For a moment, everything was dark. Her mind whirled and her eyes spun and she sank to the floor. A floor that was suprisingly plush. Isa blinked to see a regal violet carpet beneath her knees. She got to her feet and straightened her skirts, awed by the magesty of the tower.
The portals swirled and churned like deep amethyst and emerald clouds. Rune carvings lit around them, twinkling lightly. High above, the ceiling looked like the night sky. Bookcases lined the walls with more leather-bound tomes than Isa ever could have imagined. Her heart caught in her throat as she imagined this was what Dalaran must have been like. She turned in a circle and one of the mages hurried to her side.
"Good day, mage. I am Elsharin. You must be Isa. Please, walk with me," the mand said, bowing before her and offering his elbow to her.
Isa curtsied and took the offered elbow. He escorted her down the winding path of the tower. The spiral path seemed to never end, the walls decorated with tapestries and rich wall art. Isa gazed, transfixed at the luxurioes that adorned the tower; chandeliers, candlesticks, even the floor gleamed. He escorted her out into the sunlight. Isa blinked once at the bright light, trying to see.
She was thankful for his arm at that moment, as the sight before her eyes caused her to immediately faint.
She awakened, but the nightmare had not passed.
Isa clutched frantically to Elsharin's arm, the petite girl clinging to him as if she had seen a ghost. Blue eyes were wide in terror as she looked out at the city.
It was not Stormwind that she saw, but Strathome.
The sun shone down on the green grass of the mage quarter, and the people of the city of Stormwind busied themselves with their daily activities. But Isa couldn't see that.
As she watched, the happy people dropped to the ground. One by one, succumbing to the plague. Memories of fire and the echoes of screams attacked her and she closed her eyes tightly, burying her face in the robes of the mage.
"Are you well, dear?" Elsharin asked softly, laying a hand on her head.
"Send me back," she moaned into his robe.
"What was that?" Elsharin asked with a shake of his head.
Isa pulled away, backing away from the city and its all-too-human inhabitants. Stormwind was far too similar to Stratholme. It was too much, and far too soon. "I can't stay here," she whispered as she backed into the safety of the tower. She edged backwards, eyes filled with horror. "I can't. I need to go back. Please."
Elsharin stared at her, his wizened features lined with concern. "You want to discontinue your training here?"
Tears slowly streamed from her eyes and the girl choked back a sob. "Please... please, just let me go."
The confusion clearly etched upon the archmage's face, he silently waved a hand, opening the portal back to Theramore. Isa ran towards it, ran through it, and upon arriving in Theramore; continued to run.
Wordlessly, she headed for the stairs picking up the hem of her robes as she decended the stairs.
"Isa?" Tervosh called after her receding figure. "Isa... what happened?"
Isa didn't turn. She left the tower, the brilliant sunlight of the Theramore afternoon not improving her spirits. Tears continued to stream down her cheeks as she turned towards the inn. She made her way up the stairs to her room and began throwing her belongings haphazardly into bags.
The imposing figure of the archmage loomed in the doorway. "Miss d'Sylvere. What do you think you are doing?"
"Leaving." she muttered under her breath.
Tervosh put a slender finger to his lips, frowning in contemplation. "Yes, that much I gathered. Am I allowed to inquire as to why?"
"No," the girl spat out as she hefted the bags over her shoulders. The weight of the bag almost toppled her tiny frame, but she set her face into a grim and determined frown. The tears still evident on her cheeks, Isa glared up at Tervosh in anger.
The mage arched an eyebrow regally as he nodded. "You can't be ruled by your fears, d'Sylvere. You will be owned by those demons until you face them."
Isa narrowed her eyes and pushed past the archmage, making her way down the stairs without a word.
"Do you even know where you will go?" he asked after her as she stalked away. "You don't have anyone left, Isa. Stay here, and we'll look after you."
Isa turned, her face twisted into a tortured mixture of agony and loss. "You're right. I don't have anyone. Might as well just get used to that."
Tervosh shook his head. "You know the way back. Keep the rune. You'll come back."
Isa turned away from him and walked out the door.
The tears dried quickly on her cheeks as the girl stalked down the path towards the docks. She did not look up, blue eyes trained on the ground. Her jaw was clenched, brows furrowed into a scowl. Michael Crowe looked up as the mage stalked by.
"'ey there, Isa," he called.
She didn't look up, merely continued down the dock. Her mind was racing, trying to make sense of what she was doing. Trying to make sense of what had happened. She was emotional, as sixteen year old girls tended to be; but her mind kept returning to that one word.
Her footfalls sounded hollow on the planks of the docks. A massive ship was docked at the end of the pier, the sails being prepped for sail. The last of the supplies were being loaded into the hold. Isa stared up at the masts and turned to one of the dock workers. She spoke, but her voice sounded empty, "Can you tell me where this ship is headed?"
The worker looked up, his weathered face cracking a smile. "Off to Menethil Harbor. 'tis a long voyage iffen yer plannin' ter set sail."
Isa lifted a shoulder in an idle shrug and nodded. Menethil Harbor sounded vaguely familiar. Hoping to find something less familiar she inquired, "What ships set sail from Menethil?"
Running a hand through sun-bleached blonde hair the man screwed his face into a confused frown. "Well. There's this 'un, an' then there be a boat to that there elf city. Dar.... Darn... The tree them druids grew."
Isa smiled wryly and nodded. "Excellent," she said under her breath. "How much for passage?"
The man looked uncomfortable. "Tis bad luck to have a woman on board," he said in a low voice.
Isa shook her head once, "Then its good I'm just a girl. How much?"
The man grinned slightly, "No charge. You can hide out down in the lower bunks. Ain't noone ter bother ye down there."
She nooded once in thanks as she made her way up the gangplank.
"Ye runnin' away from home 'er sumthin?" the mann called after her as she boarded the ship.
Isa turned back to him with a cold glare, "Can't run from home when you don't have one, can you?" She dropped the wintry gaze, hiding her eyes behind long lashes. Tears again threatening, she decended into the bowels of the ship for the voyage.
Isa stood on the deck of the ship in transfixed awe. The scenery that had unfolded before her was breathtaking. Each of the trees seemed to glow with its own light. Rich purples and deep fuchsia blended together in a tranquil twilight as dusk fell over Tel'Drassil. Wisps danced lazily; tiny points of light that wove through the expanse of foliage. The branches of the great tree rose up higher than Isa could see despite craning her head back and squinting into the clouds.
Humbled by the awe, Isa gathered her bag and disembarked from the ship. She had never encountered the night elves, save for the occasional ship in Theramore, and she was immediately stunned by the grace and beauty of the race. Petite, even by human standards, the elves towered over her as she nervously made her way up the hill towards the portal that led to the city.
Darnassus spread out before the mage, each building seeming to entwine itself into the branches of the trees. She walked slowly along the path, stunned by the beauty of the city. It gave off a feeling of peace, of serenity. The city itself emanated a comforting feeling of nature, of wild power. Isa stared in transfixed awe at the surroundings. So foreign, so completely unknown. Everything in the elven city was unlike anything she had seen in her life. And for the first time in many months, she felt safe.