“Velen knows what he is doing, Rashanna. We must retain our faith. It is through his great leadership and that of the holy Naaru that our people remain free.”
The deep voice of the male draenei echoed hollowly through the cavernous corridor despite obviously being pitched low in an attempt for privacy.
His companion snorted. “Free? You call this free? We are hunted nearly to extinction, and you think–”
The male’s voice crashed through the hallway, filling the empty space with a tidal wave of sound. They were both silent for a moment, only the soft clicking of their hooves on the smooth metallic floor audible as they continued walking.
When the male spoke again, his voice was quiet, almost muffled. “Rashanna, I love you dearly, but you must not be heard to speak so. If anyone were to….”
The voices trailed farther and farther away, until even the final rumbling echoes of their speech were silenced.
A small figure slipped out of the shadows behind a fat pillar and glanced warily up and down the corridor, her heart beating so fast and so hard that she clutched at her chest as though to keep it from escaping.
Biting her lip, the purple-skinned draenei child tightened her grip on Norba, her stuffed owlbear, and stood for a moment, indecisive.
That was close. She’d almost been caught. If she hadn’t heard the sound of their hooves, the patrol would have caught her for certain, and then she’d be in big trouble. Nobody was supposed to be in the outer corridors. Most especially not children. They were Off Limits. It seemed like everything was Off Limits, from the moment she was born.
Don’t talk to strangers, don’t leave the sight of her parents, don’t do this, don’t do that. The list of don’ts was staggering. Even more alarming was the list of things she wasn’t allowed to talk about. She’d gotten into more trouble for asking the wrong question than any of the other draenei children she knew.
And nobody would tell her why.
Her brow furrowed, the tiny nubs of growing horns barely visible where they poked out of her long black hair. Her momma had braided it this morning, parting it gently around the horns to emphasize them and make them look larger. She’d been so proud when they’d finally started growing, and made sure to pull her daughter’s hair up every day since then.
Unthinking, the girl reached up and touched one of the nubs, frowning. If she got caught, her momma and her poppa would be in big trouble too.
Obedience and a desire for freedom warred within her little heart, and she leaned back against the column, hugging Norba tightly to her chest. The instant her back touched the stone, her body flared up with a dull pain and she gasped, springing away from the surface.
How could she have forgotten? Just this morning she’d been spanked and sent to her room. And she didn’t even know what she’d done wrong! They’d been eating breakfast, and she’d asked her poppa how long they had been hiding from the orcs and the blood elves and the demons. He’d been furious, given her a whopping, and stormed out of the house. Momma had come in afterwards, telling her she needed to stop asking questions like that, didn’t she know it made poppa mad?
But she hadn’t done anything wrong! She just wanted to know! She heard other people asking the question in hushed tones, when they didn’t think she was listening. But nobody knew the answer. Poppa was one of Velen’s personal guards, she thought for sure he would know the answer.
She knew her poppa loved her. He cried every time she was bad and he had to spank her, and she heard him and momma talking about it late at night. They talked about whether or not he was doing the right thing, and how else he could teach her to keep her inquisitiveness in check. She didn’t know why he cried, unless he felt bad that he had to spank her. Sometimes they talked about how the spankings hurt him more than they hurt her, but privately she thought maybe it hurt her backside a whole lot more than his hand.
She knew he didn’t spank her to be mean, that she was doing something wrong. She just wished someone would tell her why!
The memory of the pain fading across her back, she clenched her jaw in determination. She was going to see what was outside, and find out for herself what was so terrible about it.
Clutching Norba tightly, Whiska scampered down the cavernous outer hallway, looking for a window she could reach to get outside.
* * *
Whiska walked across the rocky landscape, staring wide-eyed at the torn and broken land around her.
This was…awful. So much worse than she could ever have imagined. Even aside from the fact that the air seemed to hold just as much dust as the ground, making it difficult to breathe, the entire landscape just looked unutterably wrong somehow. After the initial exhilaration of being outside wore off, she was more than ready to go back inside. Her eyes smarted from the bright sun, and her skin felt abraded and burned. She longed for the cool hallways of her home, the subtle blue threads of lights, the beautiful multifaceted crystals.
Here there was nothing but desolation and devastation, sheer cliffs and rocky outcroppings.
She had just turned to head back when she stumbled. She barely regained her balance in time to prevent herself from being launched over the face of a cliff, but unfortunately her grip on Norba loosened, and the beloved toy sailed over the edge.
Whiska dropped to her knees, her dress flapping madly in the wind, and peered over the edge. Tears filled her eyes and spilled across her cheeks. Norba had been a gift from her poppa! He’d decorated the little toy with handcrafted jewels, each one lovingly made just for her. Every night when he tucked her into bed they would take time to look at each and every crystal, pointing out what magical properties it had and what it was made from.
She couldn’t lose Norba. She wouldn’t.
Looking down, she saw that the cliff face wasn’t completely sheer. Here and there clumps of vegetation sprang out, and there was a series of ledges and handholds down to a broad ledge below.
Biting her lip, she swallowed the last of her tears and started to lower herself down. She couldn’t lose Norba. Not Norba. Norba went everywhere with her.
She repeated the phrase to herself as she crawled down the cliff, even when she slipped a few times and nearly fell, her tiny hooves scrabbling madly against the rock and barely managing to find hold.
Finally, she reached the large ledge that was her goal, and she collapsed onto the rough surface, her arms and legs shaking from the unaccustomed exercise, her breathing labored and unsteady.
When she finally lifted her head to gaze around her, she froze in terror.
She was not alone.
There, not ten feet away, sat…something.
It…she…she was…she was beautiful, even though she was just a child herself. Her skin was a warm shade, almost a caramel brown. Her hair fell in glossy golden waves past her shoulders. And her eyes! Her eyes were like the most expensive and beautiful emeralds her father had ever shown her.
Whiska had never seen anything like her. Everyone she had ever known had been cool colors, shades of blue and purple and white. There were a few draenei with warmer tones, but even those few paled in comparison to this golden person before her now.
The two of them sat, staring at each other for the span of several minutes. Finally, Whiska ventured a tentative smile. “Hello?”
At that, the golden child burst into a glorious smile. Whiska was amazed. It was like…it was like the sun itself shone all the brighter because this person was happy.
“Hello. I am Tyrsdae.” Her voice was rich and melodious, barely a child’s voice at all. It was as though she tasted each syllable personally, and her accent fell oddly on Whiska’s ears.
“I am Whiska. What…what ARE you?” she asked, in hushed tones. “Your ears, they are so long! And your feet are all funny-shaped!”
The face of the other child, Tyrsdae, twisted into a small, secretive smile. “Do you find them unattractive, simply because they are not like your own?”
Whiska’s eyes widened, afraid that she had offended her. “Oh no! You’re…you’re so beautiful!”
Tyrsdae’s smile widened. “Do you think that I am here to hurt you? Do you not trust me, even though you know nothing about me?”
Whiska paused for a moment, remembering her parent’s caution, their warnings of staying away from strangers, but then she frowned. Surely they couldn’t have meant this golden person. She was obviously not a hideous, grunting orc, or an evil, power-hungry blood elf. And certainly she wasn’t a demon. From what her parents had told her, any of these three would have attacked her immediately. This person must be something different, maybe she was the first person to ever meet one!
So she smiled at Tyrsdae, and said that of course she didn’t mistrust her. And the girl had smiled back and declared that of course, they must be best friends from then on.
And they were. The rest of the afternoon flew by in a happy haze for the young draenei. To think that she had made a new friend, and one so very beautiful.
When Whiska realized how much time had passed, Tyrsdae graciously offered to levitate her to the cliff above.
The two had embraced like old friends, and before sending Whiska on her way, Tyrsdae had cautioned, “You must keep our friendship a secret, dear Whiska, for I fear that your people would hurt me if they found me.”
“But why should they do that? You are so good, and kind!”
Tyrsdae’s face grew shadowed and unhappy, and Whiska felt wretched for even asking. “Please, don’t worry, Tyrsdae. I won’t tell anyone.”
And the shadows left her face, like the sun clearing a cloudy sky, and Whiska knew she had done the right thing.
The two parted ways, and Whiska rushed home so that she could bathe and change clothes before her parents saw her and knew that she had been outside. It wasn’t until her poppa tucked her into bed that she remembered the loss of Norba. When he asked after the doll, she panicked and lied, saying that she had given it to another child who needed it more.
The hurt in her poppa’s eyes nearly made her cry out and spill the whole tale to him, but he just smiled and tucked her into bed, telling her she was growing up so fast.
She swallowed the lie, and spent the night crying into her pillow, never feeling so guilty or so torn in all her life.
* * *
Tyrsdae waited until the draenei was out of sight, then reached into her dress and pulled something from its hasty hiding spot, her green eyes hungry. She ripped each of the glittering gems from where they had been sewn onto the soft fur, then remorselessly demolished the doll, making certain that there were no gems hidden inside. Nonchalantly, she gestured with her small hand and set the remainder of the gutted doll alight, smiling as the small fire consumed the stuffing and fur.
She pocketed all the gems but one, a small blue crystal. She could feel the magical energies inside, calling to her. She tossed the crystal into the air and tapped it for the mana it contained at the apex of its flight. The gem burst, a bright explosion of light and soft sound, and she pulled the illicit power into herself, feeling it soothe and soften the never-ending ache and burn inside of her.
She would be back tomorrow, to meet with her new “best friend”.
She had some theories she wanted to test, and this was a situation that was simply fraught with opportunity.
* * *
Whiska leaned precariously over the edge of the cliff, looking for any sign that her new friend was waiting for her.
“Hello! Tyrsdae? Are you…are you down there?” Her little voice was swallowed up by the vast cavern, small mocking echoes tossed back and forth from the rocky walls like bullies passing a stolen toy.
Whiska leaned a little farther, then squeaked in alarm as the rock beneath her hand gave way, sending a trickle of sand and stone to the ledge below.
She sat on the edge of the cliff for a moment, her heart beating rapidly from her near-fall. The wind whipped her dress around her small form and sent stray tendrils free from her mother’s braids to dance about her face.
“Whiska? Dear friend, please come down, I will levitate you to make your journey safer.”
Tyrsdae’s warm voice bounced off the stone faces like a golden bell, rich and full, and Whiska’s small face broke into a smile. Her friend had remembered, she’d come back!
Eagerly, she lowered herself down to the first foothold on the cliff face, and felt Tyrsdae’s spell wrap around her like strong, sturdy hands, lifting her and easing her down to the ledge. Laughing, she ran forward and hugged Tyrsdae as she felt the spell ease. “Oh, that’s so wonderful! How do you already know so much magic? Are you going to be a mage?”
Tyrsdae hesitated, then returned the hug. Evasively, she answered, “I…am still surveying all of my options. I like to experiment. This spell, for example, is the result of experimenting with the mage’s slow fall and the priest’s levitate. It requires a slightly more difficult reagent, but otherwise works just fine. It certainly is an improvement over rock climbing!”
Whiska laughed, as Tyrsdae had intended, and the blood elf child skillfully steered the conversation away from herself. “What about you, Whiska? Have you already decided what you will be when you grow up?”
Whiska smiled and began to speak, her white eyes glowing with enthusiasm. “I want to be a priestess, just like my momma! I want to follow the Naaru and save lives. I want to be strong, and help in case we go to war again, and follow the Light! Poppa says I already have a strong ability in using the Light, that I have a natural talent for it!”
Tyrsdae frowned slightly, and Whiska quieted, confused. “What’s wrong? Is there…is there something wrong with that?”
Quickly, Tyrsdae waved a hand. “Oh, don’t worry about it, dear. I don’t want to distress you. But look! I’ve brought you a present, to show that you are my very best of friends! Hold out your hand!”
Excited, Whiska did as she was bid, and Tyrsdae hid a small smile as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a small ribboned package, laying it gently in the draenei’s hands.
Wiska’s eyes widened. “Oh, what is it? What is it?” She fairly danced with anticipation.
Tyrsdae laughed. “Well, open it and find out!”
Eagerly, the draenei child ripped at the colorful wrapping, and gasped as a delicate golden chain slipped silkily from its paper prison and pooled like warm liquid in the palm of her hand.
Awed, she lifted the chain until the heavy pendant swayed before her eyes, suspended in the air like some great insect, the sun gleaming across the surface. As she looked closer, she saw that while the chain was golden, the setting for the pendant was a silvery metal. The pendant itself was made up of a series of smaller stones clustered around a larger centerpiece. The smaller stones were split into two colors. Half of them were the same rich, vivid green as Tyrsdae’s eyes, and the other half were a gleaming, shadowed purple, almost like Whiska’s skin. The center gem was a solid, unbroken black.
Uneasily, Whiska’s smile faded as she looked at it, and Tyrsdae hurriedly interrupted her scrutiny. “Don’t you like it? I made it specifically for you. The chain is golden, like me, and the pendant is silver, like your eyes. And the stones, half are for me, and half are for you. I went to a great deal of trouble, I DO hope you like it, dear Whiska.”
Whiska frowned, torn between the desire to make her friend smile and some unknown discomfort. “But…the purple stones, those are shadowgems, right?” she inquired, calling upon her memories of jewelcrafting sessions with her poppa. “Poppa says I should be careful when working with shadowgems, that they can sometimes be dangerous. And what’s this stone in the middle? I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Tyrsdae frowned miserably. “You don’t like it! Oh, I should have known better, I’m sorry I even brought it up. I suppose we’re not good friends like I thought. That you would even think I’d give you a gift that would be dangerous…well, I’m sorry that I even made it for you!”
Whiska looked up and saw the unhappiness on Tyrsdae’s face, and immediately began apologizing. “Oh, no! It’s not that I don’t like it! It’s…it’s lovely, perfectly lovely, truly it is! I just…wondered what stones were in it, is all.” She tried to smile, but couldn’t help but feel a thread of uneasiness. Something about the necklace felt…wrong. Or different. But she couldn’t pinpoint the source.
Tyrsdae nodded at her, an oddly intent look on her face. “Put it on, then. I want to see if it suits you.”
Whiska hesitated only a second, then slipped the amulet over her head. Immediately, her feelings of unease disappeared. How silly she had been, it was just a gift from a friend. And a perfectly lovely gift at that, so very beautiful, with such unique stones!
Tyrsdae smiled beatifically. “Ah, you look simply beautiful, dear Whiska! I think our colors suit you perfectly. Now, you must promise never to take it off, and never to show anyone. If you take it off, it means we’re not friends, and you don’t want that, do you?”
Whiska shook her head.
“And if you show someone, they’ll want to know where you got it, and what would you tell them? Better if they don’t ask, don’t you think?”
Remembering the previous night, and the first lie she had ever told to her father, Whiska’s face darkened and she nodded, agreeing.
Tyrsdae reached forward and adjusted the amulet slightly, slipping it beneath Whiska’s cotton gown. “There, now we’re friends for sure.”
Little Whiska smiled and agreed, overjoyed.
* * *
“Join me, Velen, and I will give you power beyond imagining! Knowledge, the likes of which cannot be described! All I ask in return is your loyalty, your sword and your people at my side.”
“Never! My people will never fall for your lies, Sargeras!”
“Lies? They are not lies. These are true promises, and I always fulfill my bargains. I will swear this by whatever oath you hold holy, and upon whatever pain of falsehood you desire.”
“Ha! You cannot fool me! You are evil, and your plans, your plots, and your goals are also evil!”
“Evil, you say? I have never lied to you, nor am I the one who is shouting, Velen. Please, calm yourself, and let us discuss this as two intelligent beings. In what way is my purpose evil?”
“You seek to destroy all life! That is an evil goal, and one which I will not join for any power, and for any knowledge!”
“I seek to destroy life, this is true, and you’ll note that I also do not lie about this. I have seen…horrible things, Velen. You are so young, to view life as precious, when it is so full of hate, brimming with injustice, echoing with the cries of the wronged, the screams of those whose lives are so filled with misery that they wish only for an end to the so-called ‘gift’ of life. I would show you this pain, if you would simply open your eyes to see it.”
“I…Tyrsdae, you’re not playing it right!”
Whiska stomped the rocky ground with one dusky hoof, glaring at her companion.
Tyrsdae dropped her arms from the dramatic pose she had struck while playing the part of Sargeras, crossing them gracefully across her torso. Lifting one golden eyebrow, she smiled at Whiska. “What part was wrong, exactly? Was that not what Sargeras promised?”
Whiska looked uncomfortable. “Well, yes, but…but Sargeras is the bad guy! You’re making him sound like the good guy, and making Velen look bad!”
Tyrsdae’s mouth quirked. “I am simply playing the part as I understand it. It is up to you to decide how Velen should respond. What is it you think I should have done?”
Whiska frowned. “I dunno. You should have attacked me or something. Sargeras is EVIL, Tyrsdae, you have to play him that way.”
Tyrsdae waved a hand in dismissal. “From what you’ve told me, the facts are that he offered power and knowledge to Velen in return for loyalty, and that Velen refused. Is that not how I just played it?”
Confused, Whiska sat down. “I dunno. It just doesn’t seem right, that’s all.”
“Well, maybe that means you’re not playing Velen right. It doesn’t matter, you were the one who wanted to play the game anyway. Let’s play something else, okay?”
Whiska nodded absently, her mind trying to find out just where the game had gone wrong. Surely Tyrsdae couldn’t be right….
* * *
“Your hair is so beautiful, Tyrsdae. It’s like sunlight!”
Whiska pulled the brush through her friend’s hair, smoothing the golden tresses until they fell in a gleaming waterfall across Tyrsdae’s back. The little draenei sighed wistfully. “Everything about you is so beautiful.”
Tyrsdae smiled. “You know, you are very pretty as well, Whiska. Or you could be, at least. It’s such a shame about those horns growing from your head.” Tyrsdae made a small tsk, tsk sound. “Maybe if you let your hair down, covered them up a little, they wouldn’t be quite so noticeable.”
Unconsciously, Whiska reached up and touched her growing horn nubs. “But…Momma says my horns are beautiful.”
Tyrsdae stood in one smooth motion, the folds of her dress falling gracefully around her feet. She turned to Whiska with a look of soft pity. Behind her, the sun lent her golden hair and skin a bright halo, and she hid her smile of triumph at the look of awe on Whiska’s face.
“What do you think, Whiska? Do you like your horns?”
* * *
“Whiska, you’ve changed your hair.”
The sound of her Mommas’s voice stopped Whiska in her tracks, and she turned to face the graceful draenei priestess, her heart beating wildly.
“It’s…an interesting choice. It looks very nice, it just doesn’t show off your lovely horns, dear.”
Torn between shame and secrecy, Whiska lashed out. “I like my hair this way, Momma. Leave me alone!”
The little draenei stormed into her room, slamming the door behind her and throwing herself heavily on to her bed.
When she heard the tentative knock at her door, she clenched her eyes shut and hugged her pillow tighter.
After a moment, she heard the soft sound of her momma’s hoofsteps leading away from her door, and she let herself cry.
* * *
“Tyrsdae! What are you doing?!” Whiska’s voice was beyond horrified.
Tyrsdae glanced up and smiled at her friend. “Oh, hello, Whiska!” She glanced down, as though surprised at Whiska’s reaction. “What do you mean?”
Tyrsdae sat in the shade of a nearby boulder, her crimson dress pooled around her gracefully folded legs as though she were a part of the rock around her. In her hands, she grasped the soft body of a frantically struggling moth. The small creature clacked its mandibles together in alarm, its wings fluttering madly, sending a glittering spray of mothpollen into her lap.
“Oh, let it go, Tyrsdae, you’re hurting it!” Whiska cried out.
Tyrsdae cocked her head to one side, all innocence. With a passing gesture, she sent a pulsating ball of purple and black energy into the little body, and instantly it stopped struggling.
Whiska gasped. “Oh, Tyrsdae, how could you?!”
Calmly, Tyrsdae lowered her hands, resting the moth’s body in her lap. “I’m afraid I don’t understand your alarm, Whiska, what is the matter?”
Whiska glared at her. “What’s the matter? You just killed that moth! For no reason at all!”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk. Do you think so little of me?” Tyrsdae smiled softly at the young draenei, her composed reaction to the situation defusing Whiska’s anger.
“But–” the draenei began, but Tyrsdae interrupted.
“I told you when we first met that I needed a reagent for the spell that I used to bring you down from the cliff face. Magic isn’t free, you know. The reagent I need is a glittering moth wing, untorn and undamaged. Every time you’ve visited me, it has required the sacrifice of a moth, dear Whiska.”
Whiska frowned, confused. “But–killing things is wrong!”
Tyrsdae’s eyebrows drew downward in disappointment. “Whiska, haven’t I taught you anything? You must learn to think for yourself, rather than just accepting everything someone tells you. The meat that you eat — did you think it was just magically created? Tyrsdae laughed. “Of course not! Animals die all the time, and they die on your behalf, that you may eat. If there is any wrongdoing or guilt in their death, you share that guilt, as you benefit directly from their loss. If anything, it is worse that you do not realize the sacrifice that was made to bring that food to you.”
Whiska sat, heavily. Her simple cotton gown billowed in the wind, leaving her darkened purple legs bare, the black hooves dragging shallow grooves into the dry dirt beneath her.
“Well…” she paused, thinking, then started speaking again. “Well, yes, but that’s for food. It matters why you’re doing it, I’m sure. If you don’t need to do it, why kill something?”
Tyrsdae laughed, a sound like bells chiming. “Oh, silly Whiska. Does it really matter?” When Whiska started to nod, Tyrsdae interrupted with a gesture. “I wasn’t asking if it mattered to you. You aren’t sacrificing anything. Does it matter to the moth? Whether it is killed for food or to collect some part of its body that is needed, does it matter? It’s dead either way.”
Whiska frowned, thinking about this, and Tyrsdae quietly spoke. “And without the death of the moths…we wouldn’t be able to be friends. Isn’t that worthwhile? Does that not matter to you?”
* * *
“Tyrsdae! I have a present for you!” Whiska laughed and twirled in excitement as the spell lowering her to their customary ledge gently released her.
For the first time since she’d known Tyrsdae, the little girl looked completely surprised.
Whiska laughed again and caught her friend up in a hug. “A present!”
“But…but why?” Again, that look of complete astonishment.
“Because you’re my friend, silly! Like the necklace you made for me!” Tyrsdae’s eyes widened slightly in alarm, then resumed their customary look of vague boredom. Whiska didn’t notice, too busy digging into her pocket for the blue-ribboned gift.
With a flourish, the little draenei presented Tyrsdae with the tiny package, her smile wavering a little with nervousness.
“It’s…ah…not as nice as what you gave me. But I made it myself, just for you! I’ve been working on it for weeks.”
Tyrsdae reached for the gift, surprised to see that her hands were shaking. With a frown, she stilled them and accepted the gift with a graceful gesture.
Now nearly overcome with nerves, Whiska started babbling. “Besides, today is our 1 year anniversary! We’ve been best friends a whole year now!”
Ignoring Whiska’s running commentary, Tyrsdae stared blankly at the gift in her hands for a moment, her brows drawing forward. With a small shake of her head, she banished the unwelcome emotions and waved a hand idly over the small package. Her magic threaded around the gift, tugging at the ribbon and unraveling the present like a flower opening to face the sun. Nestled deeply in the paper and ribbon, the gift glowed a soft green.
Whiska held her breath as Tyrsdae flicked a finger, causing the object to rise gently and float, suspended in front of her face.
It was a moss agate, painstakingly carved into the form of a moth, wings outstretched. The heart of the stone pulsed slightly, sending out a muted green glow.
Tyrsdae was silent for so long, staring at the gem, that Whiska finally burst out, “Do…don’t you like it, Tyrsdae? I hope you do, I know the cutting on it is rough, I tried to be as delicate as I could and remember what Poppa taught me. And I used my lessons from Mannor Ante’Tiros, and I made a song for us, about our friendship, and I sang it into the stone. If you hold it up to your ear and listen, you can hear it a little. I know I don’t have the prettiest voice, but my teacher said that it was a really pretty song, and….”
Tyrsdae ignored her and reached up one delicate, golden hand, allowing the moth to fall into her palm. She brought the item forward and stared at it, then frowned savagely and thrust the gem into her pocket.
At her expression, Whiska curbed her ramble, her face falling. Tyrsdae turned away from her, hiding her face. The draenei opened her mouth a few times, as if to speak, but always closed it without making a sound. Had it been that horrible? She’d tried so hard to make it perfect, so it would match her beautiful and enigmatic friend. She should have known better.
The silence between them grew, a vast chasm of some emotion that Whiska didn’t understand.
Then suddenly Tyrsdae spoke, her voice so soft that the little draenei almost didn’t hear her. “Th-thank you. Very much.”
At Tyrsdae’s words, Whiska looked up and breathed a sigh of relief, feeling a huge weight of anxiety drop from her shoulders. She danced forward and hugged Tyrsdae from behind. “What do you want to play today?”
* * *
“I’m worried about Whiska.”
“So you’ve noticed it, too?”
“Yes. I don’t know what to do! For so long, all I wanted was for her to stop asking questions. And now that she has, I can’t help but wish that she’d just…well, I guess it doesn’t matter.” A heavy sigh. Disappointed. “Maybe she’s just going through a phase.”
“It’s more than just that. She…well, over the past few months, she’s been different. She’s quieter, and more apt to get angry and snap at someone for the smallest slight. And her hair…it’s been gradual, but it’s definitely getting lighter. I didn’t notice it until one of the neighbors said something. Her skin too, it used to be a light shade of purple, but now it seems to be getting darker. ” Upset. Frustrated.
“Give her time, love, maybe she’ll grow out of it. One of my cousins was born with blue hair, and by the time she hit puberty it had darkened almost to the point of being black. I’m sure we don’t have anything to worry about. This is our little Whiska. She’s still going to her classes during the day, I feel like I hardly ever see her anymore, but we’d hear about it if she were getting into trouble.” Soothing, reassuring.
Hidden in the shadows of the dining room, Whiska pulled her ear away from the wall and frowned. She’d found the ‘sweet spot’, as she called it, when she was very young. If she listened at the wall just to the left of Momma’s Argus plate, she could hear everything that was being said in the master bedroom.
They should be happy, she’d stopped asking those stupid questions. Tyrsdae had explained why she wasn’t supposed to ask questions like that, about how people didn’t like to have their faith called into question, didn’t want any sign of doubt or dissention. Tyrsdae told her that she shouldn’t be mad at them, they just didn’t know any better.
But she was mad. She was mad that nobody would ask questions, nobody would give a straight answer. Asking questions and knowing the answer should be encouraged! Surely that would build a stronger faith. Unless they had something to hide. Didn’t want the answers known.
She just had to come up with her own answers then.
But her parents didn’t have any reason to be worried about her. She was fine. Better than ever. Her frown grew into a scowl. Why couldn’t they just leave her alone?
* * *
Whiska slid down the last fifteen feet of the cliff wall, the once-friendly rocks and clumps of vegetation now cruelly digging into her tender skin. Her vision was completely obscured, the trailing runnels of tears matted with dirt.
“TYRSDAE!” she cried out, ignoring the various aches and pains caused by her fall.
“Tyrsdae, where are you?!”
She had to be here, she just had to! If she could just talk to Tyrsdae, surely all of this would become clear.
Confused and miserable, Whiska broke into hiccuping sobs, collapsed in a dirty heap at the base of the cliff. Her parents had come to her with one of the highest ranked priests in the city, saying they were worried about her, they just wanted to have her checked out, to make sure she was okay. She had protested, but her poppa had put his hoof down and told her she must. The Anchorite had closed his eyes, called upon the Light…and then….then he’d…screamed…and called her a….
“TYRSDAE!!” Whiska screamed it, her high pitched voice echoing off the rocky faces, magnifying the desperation and terror, thrusting it back at her mockingly.
“No need to shout.”
Whiska gasped and swiped hastily at her grime-covered eyes? “Tyr…Tyrsdae?”
“Of course it is, who else would it be?” Tyrsdae’s voice was cool, a thread of amusement woven through it like a viper, velvety and dangerous. Tyrsdae stood a few feet away, the sun a halo of brightness behind her slight figure. She was robed in rich red material that draped her childish figure, pattered with delicate golden thread. As she stood there, she looked nothing like a child at all, instead seeming the very image of grace and power, a golden goddess-figure.
Whiska scrambled to her feet, too distraught to notice the change in her friend’s demeanor. “Tyrsdae, they…they’re calling me a…demon!” Her voice broke as she said the last word, and she prepared to run into Tyrsdae’s arms, desperately craving the comfort of the only person she thought able to explain what was going on, but her headlong rush was checked by the sound of Tyrsdae’s laughter.
“Oh, not quite yet. By my calculations it would take another year, maybe two, before you completely became a demon. I underestimated your resilience when I gave you that amulet.”
Whiska stopped, confused, and the look on her face made Tyrsdae laugh again, the rich bell-like sound that Whiska had loved so much now seeming sharp and metallic. Unwillingly, her hand reached up to touch the outline of the amulet around her neck, the one Tyrsdae had given her on their first planned meeting.
“Oh, you haven’t figured it out yet? You always were so very gullible, dear, dear Whiska. I must admit, I was surprised at how easy you were to string along, at times it made the game even less fun. You were so full of righteous indignation that your people wouldn’t answer your questions, yet just like every other spineless, brainless squidface hiding up in that prison you call a city, you willingly accepted everything I told you.”
Tyrsdae’s beautiful face twisted up in a sinister smile, and Whiska took a step back, feeling the very first trickle of fear.
“I even told you to think for yourself, come to your own conclusions, yet not once, not ONCE did you question me! It was almost too easy.
“I hadn’t intended to meet you that day. When I saw you wandering on the ledge above, I could feel the magic in the crystals laced through your stupid toy, and I wanted it. It was a simple spell, to make you trip. Your survival was unintentional, and I’ll admit to being surprised that you actually crawled down that cliff face to get your toy back. But when you so easily accepted me as a friend, I knew I had a stumbled across a golden opportunity.”
Whiska stared at Tyrsdae, horrified. Tyrsdae had…had caused her accident that day? And stolen Norba? But, none of this made any sense!
“I suppose I could just have killed you, but I am a Blood Elf, and we never overlook a chance at power, my dear. A young, gullible draenei child? It was too perfect!”
A blood elf?! Whiska’s eyes widened. But…blood elves were the enemies of the draenei!
“You see, I know about your people. How you were once demons, how most of you were corrupted by Sargeras. And what a lovely opening to test out a theory, just how close to demons were you? You, with your pathetic, simpering worship of the Light. Nobody could be that good. So I made that amulet, and you took it. It’s a simple enough tool, it concentrates shadow and demonic energies. By now, I’d imagine your system is positively brimming with demonic power. You barely even look the same, your skin has darkened, it’s almost black now. And your black hair is nearly white, it’s really quite a fascinating change.”
Tyrsdae gestured gracefully with one golden hand, and Whiska found herself caught up in the elf’s levitation spell, the warm, gentle hand that she was so familiar with now transformed into unyielding bands of steel. She struggled, feeling her skin bruise against the invisible restraint.
“I could have brought you home, let the adults have their fun, but you were mine.” Tyrsdae’s face assumed for a moment as mask of fierce possessiveness, and Whiska felt the hand tighten around her body. She felt the urge to cry out, but remained silent, her wide silvery eyes fixed securely on Tyrsdae’s face.
Tyrsdae paused, staring at her captive. Her brows drew downward, and furiously she screamed, “Stop staring at me!”
She gestured, and Whiska was slammed into the cliff face, the invisible hand throwing her as easily as a toy. She felt something in her arm snap and she lost the ability to control her left arm, the entire appendage swathed in pain.
Still she did not cry out. She bit her tongue to keep from screaming, but her eyes never left Tyrsdae’s face. She had been a friend. She had been her best friend. She had lied to her parents, had endured so much, just to be with her.
And it had all been a lie.
Tyrsdae screamed again, her beautiful face sharp and ugly in anger. “STOP STARING AT ME!” The elf built a glowing purple bolt of shadow energy and furiously thrust it at Whiska. The bolt hit the draenei with a physical force, picking her small body up and slamming her into the wall again.
When Whiska picked herself up this time, a thin trickle of blood fell from the corner of her mouth, and she was unable to take a full breath. Her glowing eyes again met the bright green of Tyrsdae’s, full of such hurt, such betrayal, that the blood elf child screamed again. She stomped her foot angrily against the rocky ground, the first truly childish action she had taken.
Whiska reached up with her right arm and pulled the amulet out from beneath the tatters of her thin cotton gown. She glanced down at it, and a tear dripped down from her cheek, landing squarely on the large black stone in the center. The tear sizzled when it hit the surface, and Whiska spoke, her voice labored. “You…you once told me that…if I…if I ever took this off, we wouldn’t be…friends…anymore.”
Whiska gripped the amulet so tightly that her dusky knuckles turned white. With an abrupt motion, she tore the pendant away from her neck, the silver and gold chain shattering, sending a sparkling spray of broken links soaring away from her small figure.
Tyrsdae paused for a moment, then burst into laughter, the golden peals falling like fat raindrops around the broken draenei.
The blood elf softly raised her hands and began to applaud, mockingly. “Oh, bravo! Very dramatic, very well done. Why, I think I almost feel a tear coming on.”
The warmth in her voice drained. “Stupid squidface. As if I could ever have actually considered you a friend.”
Whiska dropped the amulet, the metal falling to the ground with a dull thud. Instead of feeling free, or lightened, she felt even worse. She lifted her betrayed eyes back to her once-friend, and Tyrsdae frowned at her.
“What, so now you’ve made your gesture, we’re not friends anymore, are you going to attack me? You and your pitiful delusions of becoming a priestess? Don’t make me laugh!” Her lip curled in disdain.
Whiska said nothing, made no movement, just stared at her, burning the blood elf’s face into her memory.
Tyrsdae snarled. “Stop it!”
Whiska ignored her, her silvery eyes never wavering.
Furious, Tyrsdae screamed at her, punctuating each word with a glowing shadowbolt. “STOP. STARING. AT. ME!”
For a moment after her outburst, the ledge was silent. The blood elf breathed heavily, staring into the heavy cloud of red dust called up by her magic. When the cloud finally dissipated, she was shocked to see Whiska staggering to her feet.
Tyrsdae’s brows drew together, and she stomped her foot. “Why won’t you DIE already?”
Angrily, she reached to her side and pulled out the small silver dagger she used for collecting samples. With a yell, she ran forward and buried the blade to the hilt in Whiska’s chest. The little draenei fell forward, clutching at Tyrsdae’s gown.
Overhead, the first shouts of draenei voices were heard. “I think she went this way, I heard something!”
With a hiss, Tyrsdae threw Whiska away from her, the draenei’s body heavy and clinging to her skirts. She turned to run, but found herself trapped, Whiska’s hands clutching desperately at the red and gold fabric of her dress.
“Let GO, you stupid squid!” Tyrsdae yanked frantically at the material, which finally parted with a soft whisper, then ran as fast as she could around the side of the cliff, away from the draenei search teams.
When the searchers finally found her, she was barely alive. Lying on the ground, Whiska’s sight faded as she watched Tyrsdae’s golden ankles disappear around the rock face. As her vision darkened to a thin tunnel, she heard the voices of the searchers come closer and she tightened her grip on the scrap of cloth.
As she lost consciousness, she promised herself that she would get stronger. She would stop being a sheep, stop following blindly where anyone would care to lead. And someday…she would find Tyrsdae again. And kill her.
* * *
Whiska straightened her back, one dusky hand unconsciously smoothing the corner of her Tabard of the Hand. She tried to ignore the sideways glances, the distrustful looks from her fellow draenei. Even with this tabard, proof that she was trusted by Velen, some draenei couldn’t bring themselves to forget that she had nearly been turned into a demon.
Growing up, she became used to the whispers. Even though she had been cleansed by one of the Naaru themselves, still she was eyed with vague suspicion. She had rejected her priestess lessons after her teacher had not-quite-privately-enough complained about having to teach a demon.
Her father had helped her find a place among the paladins, and she had thrown herself into her studies.
A gust of wind picked up a strand of her silver hair, and she tucked it back into place with a practiced gesture. Her hair was styled in a pair of tall tails, pulled away and accenting her dark, dramatic horns as much as possible. She no longer dreamed of being beautiful, but her thoughts always returned to that time in her youth when every day seemed tinged with gold.
She frowned, lost in thought, her face obscured by her customary red mask. Some of the draenei called it vulgar, to wear something so obviously of blood elf manufacture. Still she refused to remove it. The cloth symbolized the promise she had made.
Some day she would return to Draenor. Outland, as they called it now. And she would find the blood elf named Tyrsdae. And no one, draenei, naaru, or otherwise, would stop her.
* * *
Tyrsdae glanced idly out the window of one of the many turrets of Silvermoon City. She had grown and fulfilled the promise of beauty made by her young form, her green eyes becoming more luminous, her tanned skin becoming smooth and silky, and her golden hair falling thick and sleek past her shoulders.
Despite her opulent surroundings, she gazed out the window, staring into the blue skies with a pensive look on her face.
“You’re doing it again! Daydreaming warlock, head in the clouds!”
“Silence, Imp. Do you doubt my power?”
The imp’s grin fell from his face and he backflipped away from her, hiding behind a low table.
Tyrsdae smirked and turned back to the window. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a glowing green stone, clumsily shaped into the form of a moth. Her smirk disappeared, replaced by a brooding frown. She held the small gem up to her ear, listening to the sound of a familiar innocent draenic voice lifted in song.
Her face twisted in anger, and she drew her hand back to throw the stone out the window, but something stopped her, as it always did.
She glared at the stone, her knuckles whitening in her grip around it, then furiously thrust it back into her pocket.
“Imp! Come, we have work to do!”
With a swirl of rich, blood-red skirts, she left the room, using her magic to close the door behind her.