Allyriae Alyrion

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    Allyriae
    Allyriae
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    Author’s Preface

    This is the tale of my main character, who has through her years and journeys in Azeroth and beyond become known and perhaps not-so-humbly named the Lady Allyriae of House Alyrion of Lordaeron and of Stormwind, Archmage of the Kirin Tor, and more generally as a Hero of the Alliance.

    It began as tale of her youth and background, but has developed over the years into a continuing tale, and just as our hero, Allyriae’s journey continues, so shall this tale.

    Chapter 1 – Lordaeron

    Alyrion was one of the oldest and most powerful of the noble houses of Lordaeron, descended from Strom, it maintained strong ties of blood and friendship with House Menethil, which had long ruled Lordaeron. Rumor had it that there was even some Quel’dorei blood in the line introduced at some point during the long years of peace and friendship with Lordaeron’s neighboring city-state of Dalaran. Whether fact or just rumors carefully introduced to bolster House Alyrion’s reputation for power and wisdom, Alyrions were commonly named in the Thalassian tradition (which itself was not uncommon in Lordaeron, as several of the great houses claimed strong ties if not blood ties to the high elves).

    It came to pass that Allyriae was born to Lady Karenea Benemoore of Kul Tiras and Lord Tanriel of House Alyrion of Lordaeron just prior to the First War, when Medivh first opened the Dark Portal and the demonic Horde legions poured into Azeroth. Fortunately, the northern human kingdom of Lordaeron was far removed from this initial invasion (which was primarily focused on the southern Kingdom of Stormwind), and this was a time of peace and prosperity for the peoples of of the north. Allyriae was the first and only child of the Lord Tanriel and Lady Kareneas, and as such was doted over heavily. She was kept away from many of the other young children, particularly those of lesser station, as her parents saw it. Unfortunately, this included most all the other families in the court. While her parents encouraged her to study and associate with Princess Calia and Prince Arthas, both were older than she, and she took no particular interest in them. Besides, she felt bullied by the young prince as he called her “the little pale she-elf” in reference to her light complexion and Thallasian name.

    As such, the young child of House Alyrion was a lonely little girl, preferring her mother and father’s stories, or the works of court bards and artisans. To cheer her up, her parents took her on a trip to the nearby city of Dalaran. Although she was only five, the wonders of that amazing and magical city opened her eyes to the world around her (or at least, the world her parents wanted her to see). How magnificent it would be to live amongst the high elves as a great sorceress, she thought. It was a memory she’d never forget.

    Soon after returning to Lordaeron, she befriended an older boy who she’d seen wandering around the court. When she asked her father about the boy, he told her that he was the boy king in exile from the distant land of Stormwind, which had fallen in the war a few years prior. This filled her heard with all sorts of marvelous dreams of being the noble lady of a mighty king, of which she understood little but adored the stories. She followed the older boy around, and soon enough he began talking to her and telling tales from his lands to the south. These weren’t the stories of elves and men fighting trolls and forming the great Arathi Empire, as her father told her, but they were instead about a mysterious and powerful mage named Medivh who lived in a frightful tower. One day he used his dark magics and opened a portal to another world. Demonic monsters poured through the portal; a fearsome race known as orcs. They invaded the great Kingdom of Stormwind, burning the beautiful forests of Elwynn and the village of Northshire. The monstrous orcs eventually sacked Stormwind and the survivors barely escaped with their lives. King Llane died a noble death, fighting off the demonic Horde, but was overrun. (It would be some time before Ally learned the truth of that, that King Llane had instead been assassinated.)

    Ally was enthralled by the story, particularly when the boy claimed himself King Llane’s son, Varian. When she went to tell her father the story, however, he was upset. She didn’t understand what happened, but she heard that her father went to his friend, King Terenas, and together they took Varian into a room. There were raised voices. After that, Varian wouldn’t tell her any more stories. She wasn’t sure who to be angry with about that. It was as if her parents and the king were conspiring to keep things from her. Even as young as she was, she was beginning to grow frustrated about her isolation.

    Just one year later, everything changed. Later she’d reflect and pray to the Light that her parents could have sheltered her and protected her for longer, while at the same time cursing them for doing so. The stories of the demonic Horde and Stormwind were all true, as she and all the peoples of Lordaeron soon found out. They were on the move northward, and King Terenas, Lord Tanriel, and the other leaders of the kingdom where preparing for a great march southward to retake Stormwind. The Second War was upon them.

    She had heard so many stories of duty and honor, but she didn’t truly understand nor did it abate her tears when her father came to her and told her that he had to go. He said that long before she’d been born, he’d sworn to protect Lordaeron and now went to serve alongside Uther Lightbringer as a Knight of the Silver Hand. As double blow, her mother, Lady Kareneas followed her husband into battle after taking up the robes and scepter of a priestess of the Light. Only later would Ally be told by her relatives in Kul Tiras that, like her father, Kareneas was honor-bound to serve the Light and protect her lands, having taken oaths as a priestess before she had married.

    The months of war while her parents, and her friend Varian, who she’d come to regard as a sort of older step-brother, were away were the most lonely of her life. King Terenas and his family were busy and would not speak with her, which was mostly to her suiting. Arthas had grown some, but still made cruel japes at her on occasion, asking her if she and her lord Varian would like to move to Dalaran and raise a half-breed pack of elvenkin. No, she did not like the young prince one bit, in which she was alone, for the boy seemed to be a favorite of the court. Small wonder. He was the prince. She was just a little girl with dreams of Dalaran, high elves, and far off kingdoms.

    Then the news came. King Terenas came to tell her himself. He knelt at her bedside, for it was late, and told her that the Lord and Lady of Alyrion had been slain in battle. He continued on for some time, no doubt uttering words about noble sacrifice and highest of honors, but she heard none of it. Eventually the old king went away, and she wept herself to sleep, and she did for many nights to come.

    During her days in the months after, people spoke of the end of the war. The orcs had been driven back, many of them killed or imprisoned. Stormwind had been recaptured. There was much talk of sending fleets of ships with supplies and long-exiled families back home to the southern kingdom. The only reason she heard any of it was because such talk inevitably involved the boy king, Varian Wrynn, her only friend. At least Prince Arthas no longer bothered her. Perhaps his father had finally told him to leave her alone. She didn’t know. She didn’t care. Courtiers came to express their condolences to her, but she wouldn’t see them. Royal advisors and counselors of the king came and tried to explain things to her, things that she didn’t care about. They told her that she was the Lady of Alyrion and sole heir to her house. They also told her that she needn’t worry, for she’d be well taken care of until she came of age.

    The servants with whom she’d never really conversed tried to hide frowns from her as they went about their daily duties of preparing meals and all the sorts of things that servants did. It was all a reminder to her that things were continuing on, without her parents. Maybe without her. Would the servants keep preparing meals and cleaning the rooms if she wasn’t there? Somber thoughts for a girl of near seven years.

    After a few more weeks of this, King Terenas came to her again. This time, however, he didn’t kneel and gently tell her that all would be well in a gentle voice, like the courtiers had been doing. He took her by the arm and began marching her down the stone corridors away from her apartments. Behind her, she glimpsed servants rushing in behind them, making a ruckus. When she asked, the old king replied firmly, and Ally would never forget what he said. “They’re cleaning out your apartments. You’re moving south to Stormwind. King Varian has generously extended an offer for you to go live with him. He has taken a wife, now. A lovely young lady if word is to be believed. They’ll treat you like family. You’ll be well-provided for. Fear not for your lands and holdings here. All will be safe until you’re of age.” When she’d whimpered, he stopped and turned her to him, grabbing both her arms and holding firmly. The old man towered over her, every bit the king that he was.

    “Listen to me, girl. I’ve seen that haunted look before, from those who have returned from war, or those who have lost everything. I’ve seen what men and women like that become. I won’t have it. Your father was my friend, and his father before him. Long have our families been tied. I won’t have all that remains of your house lost to grief. You’ll go, now. Nothing here will serve you well but remind you of what you’ve lost. Grow up, girl. When you’re a woman grown, come claim your rights here. Lordaeron will be here waiting, and if not me, then my son will welcome you with open arms.”

    As she looked back upon the great towers and mighty wall from the road as the carriage rolled away from the city that had been her home, she bit her lip. She’ d been quiet until then, even as they packed her carriage and several wagons. The king had said no more after that. As the small caravan slowly made its way away from the city and turned southward, she said in a teary, quiet voice which grew louder with every word, “You’re wrong. I’ll never come back here. Never! I hate you! I hate Lordaeron! I hope you all die!”

    Chapter 2 – Stormwind

    Eight years passed. They had been the happiest of Lady Allyriae’s life. She was now a young woman of fifteen years. Varian and his queen, Tiffin, had indeed taken her in all those years ago. She’d lived in Stormwind Keep and watched as the magnificent city was rebuilt. Best of all, she was living the stories. This was the great southern kingdom that had fought the orcs. There were stories and monuments to great heroes everywhere. A great harbor brought in peoples from distant lands, and tales of far off and wonderful places came with every ship. She was educated with the other children, mostly nobles of the newly reborn Kingdom of Stormwind. She had playmates, and later friends who would study with her, and together they whispered secrets of the court.

    Although her house was not native to Stormwind prior to the rebuilding, her treatment as a sort of younger adopted sister to the King (at least as the Stormwind court saw it), elevated her status considerably more than it would have had she simply been an outsider noble from the northern kingdom.

    Despite the bright days of her teenage years in Stormwind, she never completely forgot her parents nor the burden that she carried as the heir to all that remained of her house. It was a quiet thing though, a small thing which nagged at the back of her mind. Her life was here now. Let the Menethils have their northern kingdom, and let the other houses up there have their political games. This was her home, now.

    At night, sometimes, she’d still think back to her parents stories, though. Then, she’d remember that trip to Dalaran when she’d been just a little one. What a place of wonder! At one point, she started thinking more about those memories of Dalaran, and a desire rose in her to return to that magic city buried in her memories. This led her to visit Malin, the great archmage who resided in a special area of Stormwind devoted to visiting magi, mostly from Dalaran, although rumors had it that a few practiced dark arts in the cellars beneath the shops. She’d had classes before from Malin, and knew him to be a kindly middle-age man. She asked him about Dalaran, and about the arcane arts. He nodded at her questions, then replied, “Do you know about the Council of Tirisfal? Or the Guardians? Do you know how the Quel’dorei and ancient Arathi came together and built that magnificent city? Do you know the history of your house, m’lady? You know, they say you have some Quel’dorei blood in you.”

    To that she said nothing, remembering young Arthas teasing her about the stories.

    “Well,” he continued, “maybe so, maybe not. It’s true that half of the Lordaeron nobility and royalty claim some Quel’dorei descent. Of course,” he chuckled not unkindly, “the high elves are quick to rebuke those claims. Seems they’re less than fond of the idea that humans and their kind have ever interbred. Uh, of course…” he leaned closer conspiratorially, “…they’ve perhaps never seen Lady Jaina and Prince Kael’thas stealing kisses away in dark corners of the Great Library of Dalaran, eh?”

    Lady Jaina Proudmoore. Ally knew of her house as some far distant relation to her mother’s House Benemoore. She might even barely have remembered the tall and fair lady visiting Loredaeron from time to time. She could have sworn that the young woman had been taken with the cruel prince from her youth. The young prince seemed to have two sides.

    Snapping back to the moment, she asked Malin, “Would it be possible for me to see Dalaran? I can pay my own way for travel, of course. I can charter a fine ship up the coast.”

    The mage smiled at her with a twinkle in his eye. “Travel… in a boat? Oh, my poor child. We need to educate you.”

    The next day, he teleported a group of children and some older students including Ally to a clearing right in front of the great city of the mages. As she walked those streets she tried to listen to what Malin was telling her about the history of the city, she was half distracted by the intense memories of her childhood visit there. Before the tour had wrapped up and while both the children and the older students were distracted with other minutae, she took the gentle older mage’s hand and declared, “I want to be part of his. Can I stay a while?”

    Malin gently took her arm and replied, “M’lady, while the Kirin Tor doesn’t mind visitors for a time, they’re a bit touchy about people looking around in the libraries and near the Violet Citadel. I should have warned you about that. I’m afraid the Kirin Tor is somewhat exclusive. Mostly Quel’dorei and a few privileged of our people are allowed…”

    “Lady Jaina studies here!” was the best retort she could come up with. Then, forgetting herself and the public street which they stood in, she stomped and was again a girl of half her years. “You know who I am! I’m the head of one of the most powerful houses in all the human kingdoms! I have wealth, and powerful allies! Varian will…”

    “Girl!” came a voice from behind her. She spun and faced an older man with a well-trimmed gray beard. She recognized him, for he’d come to visit Malin in Stormwind on occassion. Malin seemed to revere him. High Sorcerer Andromath, a powerful voice in the city, had his arms folded in front of him. “I couldn’t help but overhear you.”

    Malin looked down, as if ashamed for a moment that his student had spoken out so. Andromath stepped closer and continued, “Do you think that your birth gives you any special privileges or rights here? Do you think that Lady Jaina is welcomed here because of her lands and titles? Do you think that a pretty face will get you anywhere here?” His eyes drilled into her. “We are the Kirin Tor! The traditions of our order descend from the most prestigious Council of Tirisfal. This city was here before Lordaeron. It was here before Stormwind. Your titles and wealth will do you no good here, Lady of Alyrion. Go back now with Malin. If you really want to claim what you think you have some inherent right to–if you ever want to be a member of the Kirin Tor–you’ll earn that privilege through study and years of practice! Not before!” With that, he turned and walked off.

    Ally remained shamefully silent as they walked out of the city that day, gathering up the others, and teleported back to Stormwind. She didn’t even remember to thank Malin that day for the trip. It was a few hours later, after considering hard what Andromath had said, that she realized he’d called her by name. Lady Alyrion. Well, a well educated member of the Kirin Tor would of course know all the noble families of all the human kingdoms, wouldn’t he? She’d certainly boasted enough about it. But.. what if it was something else? Had he been expecting her?

    She fell into a troubled sleep that night, dreaming disquieting memories of her childhood in Lordaeron. Upon waking, she returned to the Mage Quarter of Stormwind and sought out Malin. She apologized for her outburst and asked him, not as a Lady of Lordaeron, nor of Stormwind, but as a child opening her eyes, heart, and mind to the world, “Tell me what I need to know, please.”

    It began there. For over a year she studied hard. She forsook most of her court activities and most of her friends began to shy away, for they didn’t fully trust the magi from that side of town. Only Varian and his wife encouraged her, and that was all she needed.

    Then, almost as it had those many years before, the news came. Queen Tiffin came into her room, shook her awake, then told her the news.

    It was impossible. It couldn’t be. Arthas, had turned on Uther Lightbringer, and after disappearing for months to the frozen wastes of Northrend had finally returned and… slain his father, and the undead legions he’d brought with him… they’d killed everyone… the entire Kingdom of Lordaeron and its surrounding lands. And yet, that wasn’t the worst of it. Because so few had survived the Scourge onslaught, news had taken so long to reach the southern kingdoms that another travesty had stuck in the meantime. A great demon lord named Archimonde had returned from the Twisting Nether and had, in a single stroke, destroyed the great Kirin Tor city of Dalaran.

    She arose right away and went to Malin, who now had Andromath by his side as they poured over maps in the Mage’s Tower. She pleaded, she begged to go see Dalaran, but Andromath simply shook his head. “It’s gone, girl. You need to understand. This war. The Scourge have ripped through Lordaeron. The orcs have escaped Durnholde. Demonic forces have utterly destroyed our city. Now, this traitor prince is tearing through Quel’thas directly on a path for Silvermoon. War is upon us! We have no more time for teaching young students! Go back to your keep, Lady of Lordaeron. ”

    So it was that the Third War came. Startlingly few refugees trickled in from the northern kingdom. Word had it that almost everyone had been enslaved-through-death by the Scourge. Stormwind served as a fallback position for the forces which used to make up the old Alliance of Lordaeron from the Second War, and now it was simply being called The Alliance. The war expanded even to the continent far across the sea to the west. Kalimdor it was called. That was where the orcs had fled. Word had it that Jaina’s father had sent a fleet of ships from Kul Tiras in pursuit of them, but had not been heard from again. Dark times had come again.

    Chapter 3 – Interlude in Darkness

    Four years later, once again, everything had changed. Thankfully, Stormwind was spared the brunt of the Third War, but that didn’t save them from ill turns of events. Ally’s studies with Malin and the mages had been put mostly on hold while the remnants of the Kirin Tor focused on the future of their shattered order. The nobility of Stormwind, many of which she once accounted as friends, had turned greedy and suspicious. Their political games had taken on a dangerous air. It had come to a climax when the Stonemason’s Guild, who had done much of the planning and physical labor over the years of rebuilding the city, accused the nobility of shorting them their due compensation. The other houses scoffed and wouldn’t hear Guildmaster VanCleef’s pleas. Even King Varian was silent on the issue, which disappointed her more than anything. Within days, the city was in an uproar and the Stonemasons set fire to the market in a violent protest-turned-riot. Tiffin had been near the market when the uprising began. Not even her guards could save her from the trampling of the mob. The Queen of Stormwind was dead, killed by VanCleef’s mob.

    Tiffin had been such a gentle soul, and there were none in the city who had an ill word for her. Varian went near madness with anger. He immediately disbanded the Stonemason’s Guild and called for the heads VanCleef and his cohorts. If Ally had felt sympathy for the pleas of the guild before, now she shared the King’s anger. Tiffin had deserved better, and they had a young son. Andiun would now not know a mother, something with which Ally sympathized on the deepest of levels.

    Matters became only worse in the following months. Without explanation, Varian vanished. No one among the nobility knew anything, or so they claimed. No one could be sure of anything these days. Lord Bolvar Fordragon, one of Varian’s closest friends and advisors took up the mantle of stewartship for his son, Anduin, and his kingdom. It’s not that Ally didn’t trust Bolvar, but he was a knight and soldier from the old days when he’d marched with Varian against the orcs in the Second War–the war that had claimed her parents. She simply didn’t know him or his world. She was sure that Lord Bolvar saw her as just another dandy of the court, albeit with a weighty title from a fallen kingdom. Then Lady Prestor came, and matters got worse, still.

    The corruption and feel of the court in Stormwind finally turned Ally away. She moved into the Mage Quarter and once again asked Malin to take her under his tutelage. If Lordaeron didn’t exist any more, and if all that was good about Stormwind was falling around her, then all she had left was her studies.

    Malin had started teaching her again, gladly so, as the ever-kindly man noted that unless the Kirin Tor introduced to mages into their ranks, he feared what would become of them. Then, Andromath came again and said to her, “Girl, look around you. This city is falling to corruption and vile forces. I can feel them within this city. The dark times are not over, and I sense that the true struggle is just beginning. Heed my words now, child. Leave this place for a time.”

    Ally complained, “But my studies… what about the Kirin Tor?”

    “No. You’re still not ready, girl. You know so little of this world,” the elder magi calmly rebuked her as Malin silently watched, though she could see him subtly nodding in agreement.

    Ally then remembered what old King Terenas had told her that day, on her last day in Lordaeron. He’d been trying to protect her from her grief, from her memories, from the other nobles, but mostly from herself. She’d cursed him for it. She’d wished Lordaeron would fall. Never had she regretted that wish so much as she did now, as it came stabbing. She’d been such a foolish little girl, then. Andromath was trying to protect her to be sure, but there was more than just that. He wanted to give her another chance. A chance to again start over, just as she’d done when she’d first come to Stormwind.

    After some time of silence with the two elder mages looming, she nodded and spoke. “I understand, finally. With the Light as my witness, I say the following. Today I set aside my title, my fallen kingdom, my lands, my wealth, my friends, and even what I think I know of this world. Today I start anew. This corruption won’t taint me. Where would you have me go?”

    For the first time in her recollection, Andromath turned to Malin and smiled.

    Chapter 4 – Northshire

    One year later, little had changed in Stormwind for the better, but for Ally, it was life anew. She’d left Stormwind, and had left her estates and holdings under the care of the few friends, merchants, and mostly the elder mages that she had trusted. She moved to Northshire. At first she worked and studied some in the old abbey there, but then later began traveling to the various farms in the countryside.

    It was during that time that she came to the Brightwood farm. A kindly man, Lowren Brightwood, invited Ally in for dinner. She’d learned to adore the simple, kind, and trusting nature of the local folks. In her childhood, she’d been taught that these were lesser folks, the common people. Her years in Stormwind had began to tell her different, as Varian was a good man, who held the common people in high regard. Even so, she’d rarely gone among them and hardly considered herself one of them. Now, though, after her months wandering amongst the village folk of Northshire… well, things weren’t as she’d been taught. They were just folks. Folks trying to live their lives, just like the rest of them up in the great cities. So, when goodman Brightwood invited Ally to a simple dinner with his family, she took the offer eagerly.

    Brightwood asked where she’d come from, and she told as little as she could while still maintaining a polite air. She’d come from the city (that much was hard to hide with her lack of practical knowledge of the forest), and she was on a sort of sabbatical, which was true enough. What did these good folks need with lords and ladies, anyhow? And what would they care of the woes of the outside world? Instead, she listened.

    Brightwood told of his family, how he’d been forced from his land here, known as Brightwood Grove for as many generations as he could count, when the orcs came. He’d moved up to Lordaeron with the other exiles. It was there he met is wife, an herbalist who also was from Elwynn, exiled during the Second War. They married and were soon able to move back after the good King Varian had retaken the city and promised the common folks of Elwynn their lands back. As good as his word, Brightwood and his wife returned to his family’s grove here in Northshire. Here they had two children, a beautiful golden-haired girl, now of seventeen, named Saralaine, and her younger brother, Toriam, a red-haired youth with a mischievous grin.

    When her father was done speaking, the girl spoke up from across the simple wooden dinner table. “You seem lost. Where are you going from here?”

    Ally went to immediately respond that she wasn’t lost, that she knew exactly where she was, but as she studied the girl’s gaze, she wondered how this simple farm girl had cut to the heart of the matter so easily. The best Ally could do was come up with an honest answer. “I am not sure. I…” she stumbled over her own words, “…I’m not sure where to begin.”

    Brightwood’s wife spoke up, “Ah, the beginning is best. Mayhap where you’re from. You don’t talk like a girl from around here. Are you one of the Lordaeron exiles?”

    Her first instinct was to hide her past, for she feared what they would think of her. She had no reason to tell this story, but then reasoned that these folks knew so little of distrust, why sew those seeds now? Was she not trying to start a new life? Let it be an honest one. So, she told them the story. She told them of her birth in Lordaeron and generalized what she knew of her house. She told them of her move south and her years living in Stormwind as a friend of the king. She told them of her desires to join the Kirin Tor, and of how those dreams were shattered by the destruction of Dalaran. Finally, she told them how she’d come to wander Northshire looking for an escape from the corruption in Stormwind and a new beginning.

    When she was done, and afraid she’d told them far more than they’d have cared to hear, the girl Sara spoke up after a long silence. “Seems to me that you can’t forsake the past, m’lady. It’s who you are. Mayhap you shouldn’t, but it might be that you’re going about this all wrong. Who or what do you serve?”

    Half-answers came immediately to Ally, but that was just it–they were half-answers. Lordaeron? No, it had fallen. Stormwind? Not really, they didn’t need her. The Kirin Tor? No, they wouldn’t have her. Herself? Yes. She’d come to find her own enlightenment.

    Sara continued, as if the question had been answered aloud. “It doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s something greater than yourself, you know? All that talk of honor and duty from nobles, begging your pardon m’lady, well that’s just talk. Everyone should serve a larger purpose. I follow the Light. Now before you go pegging us as just some religious back-country folk, mind you that I’m not telling you what you should serve, only that you should serve something. You should build a foundation of service to other folks. You came to get away from all those things in the city and be among us common folk? Then do so.”

    Goodman Brightwood nodded. “Aye, my daughter has the right of it. A clever girl, beyond her years or her upbringing, methinks. The Light sent us a true gift, here. Say… have you checked over at the Abbey of late? I heard they had postings for adventurous folk looking to help out. I hear tell of problems with kobolds and bandits down by the Osworth place.”

    Ally stayed with them that night, the young Sara kindly lending her room to her. They shared stories and news of the world. Ally found this simple farmer’s daughter surprisingly well informed and educated. She’d been moved by Sara’s eloquent words, as well-spoken as any high-born lady. Good folks, and perhaps more able to see the truth of matters than those proclaimed more wise.

    The next day, she set out back to Northshire Abbey and thanked the Brightwoods for the food and shelter. She would not forget them nor their kindness–and that girl, Saralaine Brightwood, she seemed to have an uncommon insight for someone of her age. Perhaps even truly gifted by the Light. Strange, Ally had never considered herself overly spiritual, though she pondered such matters on the short journey back to the abbey.

    Chapter 5 – A Time for Heroes

    Six years later, Ally returned to Northshire Abbey. Nothing was the same, anymore. So much had happened in those years. As she dismounted from her Quel’dorei steed and stared up at the old stone structure, she pondered all that had happened.

    It had begun that day after she’d met the Brightwoods. Her new life, one of service, had started that day. She’d asked around to see what she could do to help, and had found the people there in need. It hadn’t ended there, she’d journeyed Elwynn, serving the common folk and the soldiers of the Stormwind guard alike. She’d taken the opportunity to learn the practical arts of magehood–the ones that the teachers, even ones like good Malin in Stormwind, had hestitated to show her before. By the time she returned to Stormwind, some months later, Malin and Andromath had already heard of her deeds in the forest and the lands beyond, and they welcomed her. Andromath had asked rhetorically, “Are your eyes finally opened? Do you now see what you can still become?”

    She’d learned from them, from Adromath, Malin, and the magi there. Still, she was no longer a student to sit each day studying the great mysteries from the library. She traveled, and she served. She served whoever asked and for whom it felt right to serve. She’d continued to work with the Stormwind guards, or with the brigades in Westfall, Redridge and Duskwood. She’d traveled the great jungles of Stranglethorn, and eventually far abroad to the lands of Kalimdor, and even returned on occasion to the fallen northern lands.

    She’d made friends along the way. While visiting the great dwarven capital of Ironforge, she’d met among their own nobility a middle-age and somewhat stubborn senator. In human society he would have been a minor noble, but among the dwarves he stood well for his wartime service during the Second War. His name was Brin Stouthammer, and after being invited to stay a few days with him and his family, she learned that the old soldier-turned-politician had once served with a Lord Tanriel Alyrion and his wife during the war. He’d known her father, and mother. She learned more about her parents from the stories of that short stay with the Stouthammers than she’d ever known. Brin had been there the day they’d been killed. He spoke with a grave voice about how terrible it was to leave children behind. He had his own sons, now, Durnhill, Durnhan, and little Aulin. He hoped they’d find service in their own ways, as they grew older. The eldest, Durnhill, was learning to be a mechanic and pilot for the air guard. Something that his father was quite proud of.

    There were other friends that Ally had met, and other ties to her past that had returned. Each new friendship and greater act of service enriched her, and indeed, before she’d realized it, her own reputation had grown to the ranks of those few great adventurers who were, slowly, making the world a more tolerable place despite the years of war and devastation.

    She’d traveled to the shattered world of Draenor, through the re-opened Dark Portal. She’d walked the ghostly halls of Karazhan, the dreaded tower from the stories she’d heard as a child back in Lordaeron. She and her friends had fought Kael’thas Sundstrider and even the ancient Illidan himself at the summit of the Black Temple.

    Then, she’d gone to the frozen wastes of Northrend, and none of what had come before had prepared her for those days. She’d fought with Lord Bolvar at the Wrathgate, and had watched him burned by the Red Dragons’ fire. She’d stood beside Varian as they planned to recapture Loredaeron, only to have the plan collapse when Jaina had spirited them away. After seeing how hard the Forsaken had fought for that city, she later realized that the Alliance would never again take that city. Lordaeron was lost forever. She had something else to hold on to now, though. She’d gone to the newly rebuilt Dalaran, and at long last been welcomed into the ranks of the Kirin Tor. She’d seen the great Titan city of Ulduar, and journeyed into the very heart of the Scourge. He was dead, now. After all these years. Arthas Menethil was dead. The boy who had taunted her so cruelly as a child, and yet, her had been the prince of her youth. Lordaeron was truly dead now. Who else better declare such a thing than her? Menethil’s line was ended, she thought ruefully. Had there still been a kingdom, she herself could have laid a rightful claim to the throne. Yet it would never be so, now. Who else better to bury the dead kingdom than the last claimant to the throne?

    The dark times had ended. True, the northern kingdom was gone, but Stormwind was stronger than ever. Varian had returned, his son was growing into a young man, and the power of the Kirin Tor once again echoed across the land. The Horde was kept at bay by heroes like herself and her friends. Times were good.

    A chestnut mare reigned up behind her and the rider, clad in simple woolen garb, dismounted. “It was good to see them again. I should see them more often. Really there’s no reason not to. Especially now.”

    Ally turned away from the view of Northshire Abbey to face her friend and more recently adventuring companion, Saralaine Brightwood. “Your brother? Has he taken over management of the farm?”

    Sara nodded, holding the reigns in her hand. “Well, he handles the buying and selling of the goods at the market here in Northshire. Seems like Ma and Pa did well with the gold I’ve been sending them. You can do a mighty lot with gold here in Northshire. A mighty lot, and their needs are modest. They hired some farm hands and added a good bit on to the house. Seems Toriam is fancying the idea of marrying a girl from Goldshire.” Sara paused a thoughtful moment. “Ya know sometimes I wonder…”

    Ally smiled ruefully. “Settling down is not for women like us, Sara. I’m no dandy of the the court, and you’re no farmwife.”

    “You don’t intend on being the last of your house forever, do you?” Sara asked pointedly. “You always told me how Alyrion was descended from Strom. Who is to say that same great lineage of a future kingdom shall not be descended from you?”

    “Mmm, who is to say? And besides, I plan on living a very long time. It’s that good Quel’dorei blood, you know,” she said with mirth for a topic she once had shunned.

    Sara nodded, understanding the private jest. Ally had explained to her that the young prince had teased her about rumors of Alyrion mingling with Quel’dorei. Of course, Arthas was gone now. Their tasks were complete. What was left? Relative stability and peace now reigned where once there had been war and fear. What became of people like them?

    As if reading the uncertainty on her face, Ally began to reply with the same sentiment. “Perhaps I’ll build a little tower here, myself. Make a school for young commoners to explore the arcane arts. Maybe…”

    A slow, deep roar came up from the ground. The world began to tremble. Both women braced themselves for the quake. They’d both felt it a few times already in the prior weeks. The quakes were coming more often, now. Their horses were both well-trained, they kicked and snorted, but held their ground standing next to their masters.

    “I don’t like this…” Ally began to say, but was cut off as the tremor turned into a grinding shake. Never before had either of them seen such a quake. Screams mixed with the sound of crashes came from the nearby market. Stones ripped lose from the doorway of the abbey in front of them, and still the ground continue to spasm. For a moment, terror gripped at Ally’s heart as she muttered the name of the shattered world on the other side of the Dark Portal. “Draenor. It’s happening again…”

    The shaking stopped after what seemed entirely too long, though probably had been just a minute or two. Azeroth wouldn’t be broken this day. Would it? Sara regained her footing, calming her horse which was now unnerved despite the training.

    Ally asked in the direction of no one in particular, “What in the Light just happened?”

    Sara made no answer as she ran toward the collapsed wagons and storehouse in the nearby market. She almost fell as aftershocks rattled the world for a few more moments. Stopping short, the priestess saw all she needed to see. The wagon had collapsed on a its owner, a beam from the storehouse had impaled a bystander, and other bloodied and bruised marketgoers sat or lay nearby. A tree branch had snapped and landed on a nearby tent.

    Forgetting all modest pretenses, Sara went to one knee and made desperate prayers to the Light. She stood and thrust her arms in the air, a surge of bright golden energy pulsing away from her in a ring outward, washing over the ruined market, and against the walls of the old abbey.

    As the healing waves dissipated, the surrounding crowds began to stand, in mixed awe of the terrific quake that had just befallen the land, and the healing wave that had washed over them.

    Ally stayed back and watched. She’d felt a tremor even in the ley energies near this place. What could have possibly shaken the world so badly as to shift the ley lines themselves? Could the Blue Dragon Flight be making good on their threats? No, Malygos was slain. She’d been there.

    What was happening to the world?

    “Saralaine,” she announced to the priestess standing a few feet away, about to be overwhelmed with a mix of fearful questions and thanks for the miraculous healing. “You know what this means, don’t you?”

    She did. They both did, but it no more needed said. They weren’t retiring from their adventuring any time soon.

    Far beneath them, deep within the bowels of Azeroth, Deathwing stirred.

    Chapter 6 – The Cataclysm

    Ally had been spending the last few weeks in deep research. Ever since the quakes began hitting, she had worried terribly. She couldn’t help but be reminded of Draenor and the fate that befell that world. Had Malygos or his followers succeeded in destabilizing the ley lines of Azeroth?

    These fears were put to rest after some time studying in the Dalaran libraries, however. The types of quakes weren’t indicative of arcane unrest. She had other clues, however. Images of Cho’gall had been seen in the cultist camps around Azeroth. What did it mean?

    She expanded her studies to other Alliance libraries around Azeroth, but she couldn’t find a tie between the dark demonic energies with which Cho’gall and his cult were associated and the ever-worsening quakes.

    Finally, the breakthrough came one evening while studying in the Stormwind Keep library. She’d found some old tomes relating to the War of the Ancients. She was about to set them aside to find more relevant information when a page fell out. She reached down to pick it up and couldn’t help but be fascinated by the work. It was a treatise on Neltharion’s role during the ancient war.

    Of course, Ally, as any decently educated noble, let alone member of the Kirin Tor, had been educated on the basic principals of the Aspects. Indeed, she’d worked with several of them, and fought others, most recently Malygos. Even so, she sat and for reasons beyond common sense, let herself be drawn into the study of Neltharion and his downfall.

    Hours later, she slammed the book shut, troubled. The types of quakes, the raging elementals, particularly the fire and earthen ones, they all matched. Was he still alive after the Aspects had chased him from Grim Batol? Was Cho’gall also alive and somehow working with him?

    Someone had to know more. Yes. They would know. Resolute, she stood, not even cleaning up her books, and began a portal.

    An hour later, her drake landed at the pinnacle of Wyrmrest Temple. She approached Alexstrasza, giving the ancient Aspect a slight nod of respect, and asked her question.

    Another hour later, she limped through the doors of the Voilet Citadel. At least the blood flowing from the gash in her leg had finally slowed. Her clothing was burned and tattered. Had it been anything less than the most powerfully imbued fabric, it might not have been there at all. Her once beautiful, blond hair which had hung straight to her shoulders now ended frayed and singed at her neck.

    Vereesa Windrunner, standing near Rhonin gasped, but Ally paid her no mind. She went straight for Rhonin.

    He eyed her, then asked in a neutral tone, “What did you do to anger her?”

    “I asked her where Deathwing was.”

    Rhonin made a sound that was something between a grunt and a snarl and paced in front of her. “You are a foolish, foolish girl! You’d have been wiser to slap Alexstrasza and all the other Aspects at once.”

    Ally replied flatly, unmoved by the insult, “I gathered that. Rhonin, you destroyed the Demon Soul. Surely you must know more. Where did they chase Deathwing to after the Aspects had regained their power?”

    Rhonin stopped and stepped in front of her, too close for comfort, then emphasized each word. “Let it go.”

    Then she knew. That was her final confirmation. She lashed back in a sharp reply, “Why?”

    “Because there’s nothing we can do to stop it. He’s beyond our power. The Kirin Tor cannot involve itself in what’s coming. We need to fortify ourselves here where it’s safe, so that we can preserve our knowledge, and plan for the future.”

    It could have gone one way or another, right then and there, and it almost did. Ally’s anger and fear almost boiled over and she almost retorted with words she could have never taken back. It all went through her mind. Where was the Kirin Tor when Lordaeron fell? Where were they when her prince slew her king. Terenas, when he’d sent her to Stormwind all those years prior, he’d saved her life. Maybe there were political motivations, but it hadn’t mattered. Where was Dalaran when the Scourge marched all over Lordaeron? They had hidden themselves in a bubble! Protected from the cares of the world, they did what they did best, run away and scheme for another day.

    Since her first trip to Dalaran when her parents had brought her as a little girl and she’d seen that amazing magical city, she’d known what she’d wanted. Now, nearly thirty years later, she was on the verge of renouncing her magehood, renouncing the Kirin Tor, and damning this Light-forsaken city. They were cowards. Deathwing stirred and they’d just sit there as her home… her real home, not Loredaeron, not Dalaran, but Stormwind, lay in danger. The whole world lay in danger.

    Stormwind. That was where she’d grown up. That was where she’d truly begun her journey. Not among the plotting and scheming nobles of Lordaeron, nor among the books and tomes of Dalaran, but in Stormwind, and in the forests of Elwynn and Northshire.

    Remembering the memories of peaceful and serene Elwynn forest and the friends she’d made there brought a new calm to her. Rhonin stood there waiting, judging her response.

    No… despite her feelings, she was a member of the Kirin Tor, now. She wouldn’t hate this man, or this city. It was the nature of mages to want to protect knowledge, and to plan for the future. Maybe she just wasn’t a perfect mage. Maybe this city wasn’t really her home, but she’d not shun it, either. She didn’t have time. The world didn’t have time. She belonged elsewhere.

    She began to step backwards, towards the entrance. Rhonin wrinkled his forehead, unsure what to make of the response. “Allyriae, forgive my harsh words. I was merely… surprised. Where are you going? Stay here, where it’s safe!”

    She turned, announcing as she strode out, wounds still aching, “Home. I’m going home to serve my people.”

    An hour later, in the Stormwind Cathedral, Ally eyed her surroundings. The injured lay around her. Falling debris had been swept to the side. The quakes were becoming steady now. It was coming. She knew it in her heart. How could they all have been so blind?

    She found the woman she was looking for standing up from a litter with a child on it who had been freshly healed. The woman turned to her and she gave a start as her eyes fell on Ally.

    “By the light!” Saralane Brightwood exclaimed, hand at her chest. “What happened to you?”

    Ally had nearly forgotten the damage from the run-in with Alexstrasza mere hours before. She’d taken wounds in battle before, this was no different. Seeing the concern in her friend’s eyes, she shook her head. “Don’t worry about it.”

    Sara wouldn’t hear of it and placed her hand on Ally’s shoulder and closing her eyes, concentrating. After a few moments of silence, Ally had been fully healed, although her hair was still ragged and singed, and she’d need a change of clothes when she had a chance. Nodding in thanks, but wasting no more time, she quickly added, “Sara, the world is ending.”

    Sara hesitated a moment, then nodded as if understanding. “I know, that’s what people are saying. They’re afraid. King Wrynn is doing all he can, but…”

    “No, you don’t understand,” Ally interrupted, “we have to get these people out of here. The buildings are coming down around us. I’m going to Varian now, and will counsel him to evacuate the city. It’s coming. Go home, Sara. Go to your family. There’s more than enough people here to help. Northshire needs someone there to comfort and protect them. Please, go.”

    Sara could have argued, Ally knew that, but as if sensing the truth of it, she simply nodded and replied, “Light protect us all.”

    A short time later, having taken a few minutes to borrow some fresh clothes from the Cathedral, Ally made a quick pace up the main entrance corridor to Stormwind Keep, her mind focused. Almost as an afterthought, her hand went to the two rings on her fingers. One was of the Kirin Tor. It signified that she’d attained the goal she’d wanted so badly as a child, to be a mage of the Kirin Tor. She removed it. The other ring bore the seal of House Alyrion of Lordaeron. Prince Arthas, Princess Calia, Lord Tanriel Alyrion her father, and her. She had been fourth in the line of succession. She removed that ring, as well.

    Her fingers moved over a third ring. It bore the seal of House Wrynn and had been a gift from Varian when she’d been younger. It didn’t make her a member of his House proper, of course, but rather it represented her as a friend and ally of his line and of Stormwind. She left that ring alone, and placed the other two rings in a deep pocket inside the modest woolen robe. She didn’t discard them. Those roles were still part of her, but today–this day–she needed things to be more simple. This was where she belonged.

    She approached the throne and found Varian standing there with his son and his advisors, discussing the details of reinforcing various city structures even as the world continued to tremor. She made a bow, deeper than likely she’d ever given him. “Majesty.”

    Wrynn turned to her. If he was surprised by her inordinately plain garb, he didn’t let it show. “Lady Alyrion, you’re here with word from the Kirin Tor? Do they have any idea what’s happening.”

    She replied, with more sorrow in her voice than she’d meant to betray. “No, I’m here alone. The Kirin Tor will not be here.”

    Varian’s eyes, so hardened in the recent years, somehow became even harder. “I see. Mages. Should have known.” Several of his advisors nodded in agreement.”

    Ally continued earnestly, “I’m here to serve, your majesty. I have counsel, perhaps I may…”

    She never finished. The world lurched. The ground hit her side, with Varian and his son tumbling next to her. The stained glass windows far above shattered. The ceiling threatened to come down on them. Outside, the air became fire.

    The Cataclysm had come.

    The tale of Allyriae and her companions continues in
    The Tides of War: My Characters.

    Mages who blink and run away, live to pwn another day!

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    Allyriae
    Allyriae
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    Author’s Preface

    This is the tale of my main character, who has through her years and journeys in Azeroth and beyond become known and perhaps not-so-humbly named the Lady Allyriae of House Alyrion of Lordaeron and of Stormwind, Archmage of the Kirin Tor, and more generally as a Hero of the Alliance.

    It began as tale of her youth and background, but has developed over the years into a continuing tale, and just as our hero, Allyriae’s journey continues, so shall this tale.

    Chapter 1 – Lordaeron

    Alyrion was one of the oldest and most powerful of the noble houses of Lordaeron, descended from Strom, it maintained strong ties of blood and friendship with House Menethil, which had long ruled Lordaeron. Rumor had it that there was even some Quel’dorei blood in the line introduced at some point during the long years of peace and friendship with Lordaeron’s neighboring city-state of Dalaran. Whether fact or just rumors carefully introduced to bolster House Alyrion’s reputation for power and wisdom, Alyrions were commonly named in the Thalassian tradition (which itself was not uncommon in Lordaeron, as several of the great houses claimed strong ties if not blood ties to the high elves).

    It came to pass that Allyriae was born to Lady Karenea Benemoore of Kul Tiras and Lord Tanriel of House Alyrion of Lordaeron just prior to the First War, when Medivh first opened the Dark Portal and the demonic Horde legions poured into Azeroth. Fortunately, the northern human kingdom of Lordaeron was far removed from this initial invasion (which was primarily focused on the southern Kingdom of Stormwind), and this was a time of peace and prosperity for the peoples of of the north. Allyriae was the first and only child of the Lord Tanriel and Lady Kareneas, and as such was doted over heavily. She was kept away from many of the other young children, particularly those of lesser station, as her parents saw it. Unfortunately, this included most all the other families in the court. While her parents encouraged her to study and associate with Princess Calia and Prince Arthas, both were older than she, and she took no particular interest in them. Besides, she felt bullied by the young prince as he called her “the little pale she-elf” in reference to her light complexion and Thallasian name.

    As such, the young child of House Alyrion was a lonely little girl, preferring her mother and father’s stories, or the works of court bards and artisans. To cheer her up, her parents took her on a trip to the nearby city of Dalaran. Although she was only five, the wonders of that amazing and magical city opened her eyes to the world around her (or at least, the world her parents wanted her to see). How magnificent it would be to live amongst the high elves as a great sorceress, she thought. It was a memory she’d never forget.

    Soon after returning to Lordaeron, she befriended an older boy who she’d seen wandering around the court. When she asked her father about the boy, he told her that he was the boy king in exile from the distant land of Stormwind, which had fallen in the war a few years prior. This filled her heard with all sorts of marvelous dreams of being the noble lady of a mighty king, of which she understood little but adored the stories. She followed the older boy around, and soon enough he began talking to her and telling tales from his lands to the south. These weren’t the stories of elves and men fighting trolls and forming the great Arathi Empire, as her father told her, but they were instead about a mysterious and powerful mage named Medivh who lived in a frightful tower. One day he used his dark magics and opened a portal to another world. Demonic monsters poured through the portal; a fearsome race known as orcs. They invaded the great Kingdom of Stormwind, burning the beautiful forests of Elwynn and the village of Northshire. The monstrous orcs eventually sacked Stormwind and the survivors barely escaped with their lives. King Llane died a noble death, fighting off the demonic Horde, but was overrun. (It would be some time before Ally learned the truth of that, that King Llane had instead been assassinated.)

    Ally was enthralled by the story, particularly when the boy claimed himself King Llane’s son, Varian. When she went to tell her father the story, however, he was upset. She didn’t understand what happened, but she heard that her father went to his friend, King Terenas, and together they took Varian into a room. There were raised voices. After that, Varian wouldn’t tell her any more stories. She wasn’t sure who to be angry with about that. It was as if her parents and the king were conspiring to keep things from her. Even as young as she was, she was beginning to grow frustrated about her isolation.

    Just one year later, everything changed. Later she’d reflect and pray to the Light that her parents could have sheltered her and protected her for longer, while at the same time cursing them for doing so. The stories of the demonic Horde and Stormwind were all true, as she and all the peoples of Lordaeron soon found out. They were on the move northward, and King Terenas, Lord Tanriel, and the other leaders of the kingdom where preparing for a great march southward to retake Stormwind. The Second War was upon them.

    She had heard so many stories of duty and honor, but she didn’t truly understand nor did it abate her tears when her father came to her and told her that he had to go. He said that long before she’d been born, he’d sworn to protect Lordaeron and now went to serve alongside Uther Lightbringer as a Knight of the Silver Hand. As double blow, her mother, Lady Kareneas followed her husband into battle after taking up the robes and scepter of a priestess of the Light. Only later would Ally be told by her relatives in Kul Tiras that, like her father, Kareneas was honor-bound to serve the Light and protect her lands, having taken oaths as a priestess before she had married.

    The months of war while her parents, and her friend Varian, who she’d come to regard as a sort of older step-brother, were away were the most lonely of her life. King Terenas and his family were busy and would not speak with her, which was mostly to her suiting. Arthas had grown some, but still made cruel japes at her on occasion, asking her if she and her lord Varian would like to move to Dalaran and raise a half-breed pack of elvenkin. No, she did not like the young prince one bit, in which she was alone, for the boy seemed to be a favorite of the court. Small wonder. He was the prince. She was just a little girl with dreams of Dalaran, high elves, and far off kingdoms.

    Then the news came. King Terenas came to tell her himself. He knelt at her bedside, for it was late, and told her that the Lord and Lady of Alyrion had been slain in battle. He continued on for some time, no doubt uttering words about noble sacrifice and highest of honors, but she heard none of it. Eventually the old king went away, and she wept herself to sleep, and she did for many nights to come.

    During her days in the months after, people spoke of the end of the war. The orcs had been driven back, many of them killed or imprisoned. Stormwind had been recaptured. There was much talk of sending fleets of ships with supplies and long-exiled families back home to the southern kingdom. The only reason she heard any of it was because such talk inevitably involved the boy king, Varian Wrynn, her only friend. At least Prince Arthas no longer bothered her. Perhaps his father had finally told him to leave her alone. She didn’t know. She didn’t care. Courtiers came to express their condolences to her, but she wouldn’t see them. Royal advisors and counselors of the king came and tried to explain things to her, things that she didn’t care about. They told her that she was the Lady of Alyrion and sole heir to her house. They also told her that she needn’t worry, for she’d be well taken care of until she came of age.

    The servants with whom she’d never really conversed tried to hide frowns from her as they went about their daily duties of preparing meals and all the sorts of things that servants did. It was all a reminder to her that things were continuing on, without her parents. Maybe without her. Would the servants keep preparing meals and cleaning the rooms if she wasn’t there? Somber thoughts for a girl of near seven years.

    After a few more weeks of this, King Terenas came to her again. This time, however, he didn’t kneel and gently tell her that all would be well in a gentle voice, like the courtiers had been doing. He took her by the arm and began marching her down the stone corridors away from her apartments. Behind her, she glimpsed servants rushing in behind them, making a ruckus. When she asked, the old king replied firmly, and Ally would never forget what he said. “They’re cleaning out your apartments. You’re moving south to Stormwind. King Varian has generously extended an offer for you to go live with him. He has taken a wife, now. A lovely young lady if word is to be believed. They’ll treat you like family. You’ll be well-provided for. Fear not for your lands and holdings here. All will be safe until you’re of age.” When she’d whimpered, he stopped and turned her to him, grabbing both her arms and holding firmly. The old man towered over her, every bit the king that he was.

    “Listen to me, girl. I’ve seen that haunted look before, from those who have returned from war, or those who have lost everything. I’ve seen what men and women like that become. I won’t have it. Your father was my friend, and his father before him. Long have our families been tied. I won’t have all that remains of your house lost to grief. You’ll go, now. Nothing here will serve you well but remind you of what you’ve lost. Grow up, girl. When you’re a woman grown, come claim your rights here. Lordaeron will be here waiting, and if not me, then my son will welcome you with open arms.”

    As she looked back upon the great towers and mighty wall from the road as the carriage rolled away from the city that had been her home, she bit her lip. She’ d been quiet until then, even as they packed her carriage and several wagons. The king had said no more after that. As the small caravan slowly made its way away from the city and turned southward, she said in a teary, quiet voice which grew louder with every word, “You’re wrong. I’ll never come back here. Never! I hate you! I hate Lordaeron! I hope you all die!”

    Chapter 2 – Stormwind

    Eight years passed. They had been the happiest of Lady Allyriae’s life. She was now a young woman of fifteen years. Varian and his queen, Tiffin, had indeed taken her in all those years ago. She’d lived in Stormwind Keep and watched as the magnificent city was rebuilt. Best of all, she was living the stories. This was the great southern kingdom that had fought the orcs. There were stories and monuments to great heroes everywhere. A great harbor brought in peoples from distant lands, and tales of far off and wonderful places came with every ship. She was educated with the other children, mostly nobles of the newly reborn Kingdom of Stormwind. She had playmates, and later friends who would study with her, and together they whispered secrets of the court.

    Although her house was not native to Stormwind prior to the rebuilding, her treatment as a sort of younger adopted sister to the King (at least as the Stormwind court saw it), elevated her status considerably more than it would have had she simply been an outsider noble from the northern kingdom.

    Despite the bright days of her teenage years in Stormwind, she never completely forgot her parents nor the burden that she carried as the heir to all that remained of her house. It was a quiet thing though, a small thing which nagged at the back of her mind. Her life was here now. Let the Menethils have their northern kingdom, and let the other houses up there have their political games. This was her home, now.

    At night, sometimes, she’d still think back to her parents stories, though. Then, she’d remember that trip to Dalaran when she’d been just a little one. What a place of wonder! At one point, she started thinking more about those memories of Dalaran, and a desire rose in her to return to that magic city buried in her memories. This led her to visit Malin, the great archmage who resided in a special area of Stormwind devoted to visiting magi, mostly from Dalaran, although rumors had it that a few practiced dark arts in the cellars beneath the shops. She’d had classes before from Malin, and knew him to be a kindly middle-age man. She asked him about Dalaran, and about the arcane arts. He nodded at her questions, then replied, “Do you know about the Council of Tirisfal? Or the Guardians? Do you know how the Quel’dorei and ancient Arathi came together and built that magnificent city? Do you know the history of your house, m’lady? You know, they say you have some Quel’dorei blood in you.”

    To that she said nothing, remembering young Arthas teasing her about the stories.

    “Well,” he continued, “maybe so, maybe not. It’s true that half of the Lordaeron nobility and royalty claim some Quel’dorei descent. Of course,” he chuckled not unkindly, “the high elves are quick to rebuke those claims. Seems they’re less than fond of the idea that humans and their kind have ever interbred. Uh, of course…” he leaned closer conspiratorially, “…they’ve perhaps never seen Lady Jaina and Prince Kael’thas stealing kisses away in dark corners of the Great Library of Dalaran, eh?”

    Lady Jaina Proudmoore. Ally knew of her house as some far distant relation to her mother’s House Benemoore. She might even barely have remembered the tall and fair lady visiting Loredaeron from time to time. She could have sworn that the young woman had been taken with the cruel prince from her youth. The young prince seemed to have two sides.

    Snapping back to the moment, she asked Malin, “Would it be possible for me to see Dalaran? I can pay my own way for travel, of course. I can charter a fine ship up the coast.”

    The mage smiled at her with a twinkle in his eye. “Travel… in a boat? Oh, my poor child. We need to educate you.”

    The next day, he teleported a group of children and some older students including Ally to a clearing right in front of the great city of the mages. As she walked those streets she tried to listen to what Malin was telling her about the history of the city, she was half distracted by the intense memories of her childhood visit there. Before the tour had wrapped up and while both the children and the older students were distracted with other minutae, she took the gentle older mage’s hand and declared, “I want to be part of his. Can I stay a while?”

    Malin gently took her arm and replied, “M’lady, while the Kirin Tor doesn’t mind visitors for a time, they’re a bit touchy about people looking around in the libraries and near the Violet Citadel. I should have warned you about that. I’m afraid the Kirin Tor is somewhat exclusive. Mostly Quel’dorei and a few privileged of our people are allowed…”

    “Lady Jaina studies here!” was the best retort she could come up with. Then, forgetting herself and the public street which they stood in, she stomped and was again a girl of half her years. “You know who I am! I’m the head of one of the most powerful houses in all the human kingdoms! I have wealth, and powerful allies! Varian will…”

    “Girl!” came a voice from behind her. She spun and faced an older man with a well-trimmed gray beard. She recognized him, for he’d come to visit Malin in Stormwind on occassion. Malin seemed to revere him. High Sorcerer Andromath, a powerful voice in the city, had his arms folded in front of him. “I couldn’t help but overhear you.”

    Malin looked down, as if ashamed for a moment that his student had spoken out so. Andromath stepped closer and continued, “Do you think that your birth gives you any special privileges or rights here? Do you think that Lady Jaina is welcomed here because of her lands and titles? Do you think that a pretty face will get you anywhere here?” His eyes drilled into her. “We are the Kirin Tor! The traditions of our order descend from the most prestigious Council of Tirisfal. This city was here before Lordaeron. It was here before Stormwind. Your titles and wealth will do you no good here, Lady of Alyrion. Go back now with Malin. If you really want to claim what you think you have some inherent right to–if you ever want to be a member of the Kirin Tor–you’ll earn that privilege through study and years of practice! Not before!” With that, he turned and walked off.

    Ally remained shamefully silent as they walked out of the city that day, gathering up the others, and teleported back to Stormwind. She didn’t even remember to thank Malin that day for the trip. It was a few hours later, after considering hard what Andromath had said, that she realized he’d called her by name. Lady Alyrion. Well, a well educated member of the Kirin Tor would of course know all the noble families of all the human kingdoms, wouldn’t he? She’d certainly boasted enough about it. But.. what if it was something else? Had he been expecting her?

    She fell into a troubled sleep that night, dreaming disquieting memories of her childhood in Lordaeron. Upon waking, she returned to the Mage Quarter of Stormwind and sought out Malin. She apologized for her outburst and asked him, not as a Lady of Lordaeron, nor of Stormwind, but as a child opening her eyes, heart, and mind to the world, “Tell me what I need to know, please.”

    It began there. For over a year she studied hard. She forsook most of her court activities and most of her friends began to shy away, for they didn’t fully trust the magi from that side of town. Only Varian and his wife encouraged her, and that was all she needed.

    Then, almost as it had those many years before, the news came. Queen Tiffin came into her room, shook her awake, then told her the news.

    It was impossible. It couldn’t be. Arthas, had turned on Uther Lightbringer, and after disappearing for months to the frozen wastes of Northrend had finally returned and… slain his father, and the undead legions he’d brought with him… they’d killed everyone… the entire Kingdom of Lordaeron and its surrounding lands. And yet, that wasn’t the worst of it. Because so few had survived the Scourge onslaught, news had taken so long to reach the southern kingdoms that another travesty had stuck in the meantime. A great demon lord named Archimonde had returned from the Twisting Nether and had, in a single stroke, destroyed the great Kirin Tor city of Dalaran.

    She arose right away and went to Malin, who now had Andromath by his side as they poured over maps in the Mage’s Tower. She pleaded, she begged to go see Dalaran, but Andromath simply shook his head. “It’s gone, girl. You need to understand. This war. The Scourge have ripped through Lordaeron. The orcs have escaped Durnholde. Demonic forces have utterly destroyed our city. Now, this traitor prince is tearing through Quel’thas directly on a path for Silvermoon. War is upon us! We have no more time for teaching young students! Go back to your keep, Lady of Lordaeron. ”

    So it was that the Third War came. Startlingly few refugees trickled in from the northern kingdom. Word had it that almost everyone had been enslaved-through-death by the Scourge. Stormwind served as a fallback position for the forces which used to make up the old Alliance of Lordaeron from the Second War, and now it was simply being called The Alliance. The war expanded even to the continent far across the sea to the west. Kalimdor it was called. That was where the orcs had fled. Word had it that Jaina’s father had sent a fleet of ships from Kul Tiras in pursuit of them, but had not been heard from again. Dark times had come again.

    Chapter 3 – Interlude in Darkness

    Four years later, once again, everything had changed. Thankfully, Stormwind was spared the brunt of the Third War, but that didn’t save them from ill turns of events. Ally’s studies with Malin and the mages had been put mostly on hold while the remnants of the Kirin Tor focused on the future of their shattered order. The nobility of Stormwind, many of which she once accounted as friends, had turned greedy and suspicious. Their political games had taken on a dangerous air. It had come to a climax when the Stonemason’s Guild, who had done much of the planning and physical labor over the years of rebuilding the city, accused the nobility of shorting them their due compensation. The other houses scoffed and wouldn’t hear Guildmaster VanCleef’s pleas. Even King Varian was silent on the issue, which disappointed her more than anything. Within days, the city was in an uproar and the Stonemasons set fire to the market in a violent protest-turned-riot. Tiffin had been near the market when the uprising began. Not even her guards could save her from the trampling of the mob. The Queen of Stormwind was dead, killed by VanCleef’s mob.

    Tiffin had been such a gentle soul, and there were none in the city who had an ill word for her. Varian went near madness with anger. He immediately disbanded the Stonemason’s Guild and called for the heads VanCleef and his cohorts. If Ally had felt sympathy for the pleas of the guild before, now she shared the King’s anger. Tiffin had deserved better, and they had a young son. Andiun would now not know a mother, something with which Ally sympathized on the deepest of levels.

    Matters became only worse in the following months. Without explanation, Varian vanished. No one among the nobility knew anything, or so they claimed. No one could be sure of anything these days. Lord Bolvar Fordragon, one of Varian’s closest friends and advisors took up the mantle of stewartship for his son, Anduin, and his kingdom. It’s not that Ally didn’t trust Bolvar, but he was a knight and soldier from the old days when he’d marched with Varian against the orcs in the Second War–the war that had claimed her parents. She simply didn’t know him or his world. She was sure that Lord Bolvar saw her as just another dandy of the court, albeit with a weighty title from a fallen kingdom. Then Lady Prestor came, and matters got worse, still.

    The corruption and feel of the court in Stormwind finally turned Ally away. She moved into the Mage Quarter and once again asked Malin to take her under his tutelage. If Lordaeron didn’t exist any more, and if all that was good about Stormwind was falling around her, then all she had left was her studies.

    Malin had started teaching her again, gladly so, as the ever-kindly man noted that unless the Kirin Tor introduced to mages into their ranks, he feared what would become of them. Then, Andromath came again and said to her, “Girl, look around you. This city is falling to corruption and vile forces. I can feel them within this city. The dark times are not over, and I sense that the true struggle is just beginning. Heed my words now, child. Leave this place for a time.”

    Ally complained, “But my studies… what about the Kirin Tor?”

    “No. You’re still not ready, girl. You know so little of this world,” the elder magi calmly rebuked her as Malin silently watched, though she could see him subtly nodding in agreement.

    Ally then remembered what old King Terenas had told her that day, on her last day in Lordaeron. He’d been trying to protect her from her grief, from her memories, from the other nobles, but mostly from herself. She’d cursed him for it. She’d wished Lordaeron would fall. Never had she regretted that wish so much as she did now, as it came stabbing. She’d been such a foolish little girl, then. Andromath was trying to protect her to be sure, but there was more than just that. He wanted to give her another chance. A chance to again start over, just as she’d done when she’d first come to Stormwind.

    After some time of silence with the two elder mages looming, she nodded and spoke. “I understand, finally. With the Light as my witness, I say the following. Today I set aside my title, my fallen kingdom, my lands, my wealth, my friends, and even what I think I know of this world. Today I start anew. This corruption won’t taint me. Where would you have me go?”

    For the first time in her recollection, Andromath turned to Malin and smiled.

    Chapter 4 – Northshire

    One year later, little had changed in Stormwind for the better, but for Ally, it was life anew. She’d left Stormwind, and had left her estates and holdings under the care of the few friends, merchants, and mostly the elder mages that she had trusted. She moved to Northshire. At first she worked and studied some in the old abbey there, but then later began traveling to the various farms in the countryside.

    It was during that time that she came to the Brightwood farm. A kindly man, Lowren Brightwood, invited Ally in for dinner. She’d learned to adore the simple, kind, and trusting nature of the local folks. In her childhood, she’d been taught that these were lesser folks, the common people. Her years in Stormwind had began to tell her different, as Varian was a good man, who held the common people in high regard. Even so, she’d rarely gone among them and hardly considered herself one of them. Now, though, after her months wandering amongst the village folk of Northshire… well, things weren’t as she’d been taught. They were just folks. Folks trying to live their lives, just like the rest of them up in the great cities. So, when goodman Brightwood invited Ally to a simple dinner with his family, she took the offer eagerly.

    Brightwood asked where she’d come from, and she told as little as she could while still maintaining a polite air. She’d come from the city (that much was hard to hide with her lack of practical knowledge of the forest), and she was on a sort of sabbatical, which was true enough. What did these good folks need with lords and ladies, anyhow? And what would they care of the woes of the outside world? Instead, she listened.

    Brightwood told of his family, how he’d been forced from his land here, known as Brightwood Grove for as many generations as he could count, when the orcs came. He’d moved up to Lordaeron with the other exiles. It was there he met is wife, an herbalist who also was from Elwynn, exiled during the Second War. They married and were soon able to move back after the good King Varian had retaken the city and promised the common folks of Elwynn their lands back. As good as his word, Brightwood and his wife returned to his family’s grove here in Northshire. Here they had two children, a beautiful golden-haired girl, now of seventeen, named Saralaine, and her younger brother, Toriam, a red-haired youth with a mischievous grin.

    When her father was done speaking, the girl spoke up from across the simple wooden dinner table. “You seem lost. Where are you going from here?”

    Ally went to immediately respond that she wasn’t lost, that she knew exactly where she was, but as she studied the girl’s gaze, she wondered how this simple farm girl had cut to the heart of the matter so easily. The best Ally could do was come up with an honest answer. “I am not sure. I…” she stumbled over her own words, “…I’m not sure where to begin.”

    Brightwood’s wife spoke up, “Ah, the beginning is best. Mayhap where you’re from. You don’t talk like a girl from around here. Are you one of the Lordaeron exiles?”

    Her first instinct was to hide her past, for she feared what they would think of her. She had no reason to tell this story, but then reasoned that these folks knew so little of distrust, why sew those seeds now? Was she not trying to start a new life? Let it be an honest one. So, she told them the story. She told them of her birth in Lordaeron and generalized what she knew of her house. She told them of her move south and her years living in Stormwind as a friend of the king. She told them of her desires to join the Kirin Tor, and of how those dreams were shattered by the destruction of Dalaran. Finally, she told them how she’d come to wander Northshire looking for an escape from the corruption in Stormwind and a new beginning.

    When she was done, and afraid she’d told them far more than they’d have cared to hear, the girl Sara spoke up after a long silence. “Seems to me that you can’t forsake the past, m’lady. It’s who you are. Mayhap you shouldn’t, but it might be that you’re going about this all wrong. Who or what do you serve?”

    Half-answers came immediately to Ally, but that was just it–they were half-answers. Lordaeron? No, it had fallen. Stormwind? Not really, they didn’t need her. The Kirin Tor? No, they wouldn’t have her. Herself? Yes. She’d come to find her own enlightenment.

    Sara continued, as if the question had been answered aloud. “It doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s something greater than yourself, you know? All that talk of honor and duty from nobles, begging your pardon m’lady, well that’s just talk. Everyone should serve a larger purpose. I follow the Light. Now before you go pegging us as just some religious back-country folk, mind you that I’m not telling you what you should serve, only that you should serve something. You should build a foundation of service to other folks. You came to get away from all those things in the city and be among us common folk? Then do so.”

    Goodman Brightwood nodded. “Aye, my daughter has the right of it. A clever girl, beyond her years or her upbringing, methinks. The Light sent us a true gift, here. Say… have you checked over at the Abbey of late? I heard they had postings for adventurous folk looking to help out. I hear tell of problems with kobolds and bandits down by the Osworth place.”

    Ally stayed with them that night, the young Sara kindly lending her room to her. They shared stories and news of the world. Ally found this simple farmer’s daughter surprisingly well informed and educated. She’d been moved by Sara’s eloquent words, as well-spoken as any high-born lady. Good folks, and perhaps more able to see the truth of matters than those proclaimed more wise.

    The next day, she set out back to Northshire Abbey and thanked the Brightwoods for the food and shelter. She would not forget them nor their kindness–and that girl, Saralaine Brightwood, she seemed to have an uncommon insight for someone of her age. Perhaps even truly gifted by the Light. Strange, Ally had never considered herself overly spiritual, though she pondered such matters on the short journey back to the abbey.

    Chapter 5 – A Time for Heroes

    Six years later, Ally returned to Northshire Abbey. Nothing was the same, anymore. So much had happened in those years. As she dismounted from her Quel’dorei steed and stared up at the old stone structure, she pondered all that had happened.

    It had begun that day after she’d met the Brightwoods. Her new life, one of service, had started that day. She’d asked around to see what she could do to help, and had found the people there in need. It hadn’t ended there, she’d journeyed Elwynn, serving the common folk and the soldiers of the Stormwind guard alike. She’d taken the opportunity to learn the practical arts of magehood–the ones that the teachers, even ones like good Malin in Stormwind, had hestitated to show her before. By the time she returned to Stormwind, some months later, Malin and Andromath had already heard of her deeds in the forest and the lands beyond, and they welcomed her. Andromath had asked rhetorically, “Are your eyes finally opened? Do you now see what you can still become?”

    She’d learned from them, from Adromath, Malin, and the magi there. Still, she was no longer a student to sit each day studying the great mysteries from the library. She traveled, and she served. She served whoever asked and for whom it felt right to serve. She’d continued to work with the Stormwind guards, or with the brigades in Westfall, Redridge and Duskwood. She’d traveled the great jungles of Stranglethorn, and eventually far abroad to the lands of Kalimdor, and even returned on occasion to the fallen northern lands.

    She’d made friends along the way. While visiting the great dwarven capital of Ironforge, she’d met among their own nobility a middle-age and somewhat stubborn senator. In human society he would have been a minor noble, but among the dwarves he stood well for his wartime service during the Second War. His name was Brin Stouthammer, and after being invited to stay a few days with him and his family, she learned that the old soldier-turned-politician had once served with a Lord Tanriel Alyrion and his wife during the war. He’d known her father, and mother. She learned more about her parents from the stories of that short stay with the Stouthammers than she’d ever known. Brin had been there the day they’d been killed. He spoke with a grave voice about how terrible it was to leave children behind. He had his own sons, now, Durnhill, Durnhan, and little Aulin. He hoped they’d find service in their own ways, as they grew older. The eldest, Durnhill, was learning to be a mechanic and pilot for the air guard. Something that his father was quite proud of.

    There were other friends that Ally had met, and other ties to her past that had returned. Each new friendship and greater act of service enriched her, and indeed, before she’d realized it, her own reputation had grown to the ranks of those few great adventurers who were, slowly, making the world a more tolerable place despite the years of war and devastation.

    She’d traveled to the shattered world of Draenor, through the re-opened Dark Portal. She’d walked the ghostly halls of Karazhan, the dreaded tower from the stories she’d heard as a child back in Lordaeron. She and her friends had fought Kael’thas Sundstrider and even the ancient Illidan himself at the summit of the Black Temple.

    Then, she’d gone to the frozen wastes of Northrend, and none of what had come before had prepared her for those days. She’d fought with Lord Bolvar at the Wrathgate, and had watched him burned by the Red Dragons’ fire. She’d stood beside Varian as they planned to recapture Loredaeron, only to have the plan collapse when Jaina had spirited them away. After seeing how hard the Forsaken had fought for that city, she later realized that the Alliance would never again take that city. Lordaeron was lost forever. She had something else to hold on to now, though. She’d gone to the newly rebuilt Dalaran, and at long last been welcomed into the ranks of the Kirin Tor. She’d seen the great Titan city of Ulduar, and journeyed into the very heart of the Scourge. He was dead, now. After all these years. Arthas Menethil was dead. The boy who had taunted her so cruelly as a child, and yet, her had been the prince of her youth. Lordaeron was truly dead now. Who else better declare such a thing than her? Menethil’s line was ended, she thought ruefully. Had there still been a kingdom, she herself could have laid a rightful claim to the throne. Yet it would never be so, now. Who else better to bury the dead kingdom than the last claimant to the throne?

    The dark times had ended. True, the northern kingdom was gone, but Stormwind was stronger than ever. Varian had returned, his son was growing into a young man, and the power of the Kirin Tor once again echoed across the land. The Horde was kept at bay by heroes like herself and her friends. Times were good.

    A chestnut mare reigned up behind her and the rider, clad in simple woolen garb, dismounted. “It was good to see them again. I should see them more often. Really there’s no reason not to. Especially now.”

    Ally turned away from the view of Northshire Abbey to face her friend and more recently adventuring companion, Saralaine Brightwood. “Your brother? Has he taken over management of the farm?”

    Sara nodded, holding the reigns in her hand. “Well, he handles the buying and selling of the goods at the market here in Northshire. Seems like Ma and Pa did well with the gold I’ve been sending them. You can do a mighty lot with gold here in Northshire. A mighty lot, and their needs are modest. They hired some farm hands and added a good bit on to the house. Seems Toriam is fancying the idea of marrying a girl from Goldshire.” Sara paused a thoughtful moment. “Ya know sometimes I wonder…”

    Ally smiled ruefully. “Settling down is not for women like us, Sara. I’m no dandy of the the court, and you’re no farmwife.”

    “You don’t intend on being the last of your house forever, do you?” Sara asked pointedly. “You always told me how Alyrion was descended from Strom. Who is to say that same great lineage of a future kingdom shall not be descended from you?”

    “Mmm, who is to say? And besides, I plan on living a very long time. It’s that good Quel’dorei blood, you know,” she said with mirth for a topic she once had shunned.

    Sara nodded, understanding the private jest. Ally had explained to her that the young prince had teased her about rumors of Alyrion mingling with Quel’dorei. Of course, Arthas was gone now. Their tasks were complete. What was left? Relative stability and peace now reigned where once there had been war and fear. What became of people like them?

    As if reading the uncertainty on her face, Ally began to reply with the same sentiment. “Perhaps I’ll build a little tower here, myself. Make a school for young commoners to explore the arcane arts. Maybe…”

    A slow, deep roar came up from the ground. The world began to tremble. Both women braced themselves for the quake. They’d both felt it a few times already in the prior weeks. The quakes were coming more often, now. Their horses were both well-trained, they kicked and snorted, but held their ground standing next to their masters.

    “I don’t like this…” Ally began to say, but was cut off as the tremor turned into a grinding shake. Never before had either of them seen such a quake. Screams mixed with the sound of crashes came from the nearby market. Stones ripped lose from the doorway of the abbey in front of them, and still the ground continue to spasm. For a moment, terror gripped at Ally’s heart as she muttered the name of the shattered world on the other side of the Dark Portal. “Draenor. It’s happening again…”

    The shaking stopped after what seemed entirely too long, though probably had been just a minute or two. Azeroth wouldn’t be broken this day. Would it? Sara regained her footing, calming her horse which was now unnerved despite the training.

    Ally asked in the direction of no one in particular, “What in the Light just happened?”

    Sara made no answer as she ran toward the collapsed wagons and storehouse in the nearby market. She almost fell as aftershocks rattled the world for a few more moments. Stopping short, the priestess saw all she needed to see. The wagon had collapsed on a its owner, a beam from the storehouse had impaled a bystander, and other bloodied and bruised marketgoers sat or lay nearby. A tree branch had snapped and landed on a nearby tent.

    Forgetting all modest pretenses, Sara went to one knee and made desperate prayers to the Light. She stood and thrust her arms in the air, a surge of bright golden energy pulsing away from her in a ring outward, washing over the ruined market, and against the walls of the old abbey.

    As the healing waves dissipated, the surrounding crowds began to stand, in mixed awe of the terrific quake that had just befallen the land, and the healing wave that had washed over them.

    Ally stayed back and watched. She’d felt a tremor even in the ley energies near this place. What could have possibly shaken the world so badly as to shift the ley lines themselves? Could the Blue Dragon Flight be making good on their threats? No, Malygos was slain. She’d been there.

    What was happening to the world?

    “Saralaine,” she announced to the priestess standing a few feet away, about to be overwhelmed with a mix of fearful questions and thanks for the miraculous healing. “You know what this means, don’t you?”

    She did. They both did, but it no more needed said. They weren’t retiring from their adventuring any time soon.

    Far beneath them, deep within the bowels of Azeroth, Deathwing stirred.

    Chapter 6 – The Cataclysm

    Ally had been spending the last few weeks in deep research. Ever since the quakes began hitting, she had worried terribly. She couldn’t help but be reminded of Draenor and the fate that befell that world. Had Malygos or his followers succeeded in destabilizing the ley lines of Azeroth?

    These fears were put to rest after some time studying in the Dalaran libraries, however. The types of quakes weren’t indicative of arcane unrest. She had other clues, however. Images of Cho’gall had been seen in the cultist camps around Azeroth. What did it mean?

    She expanded her studies to other Alliance libraries around Azeroth, but she couldn’t find a tie between the dark demonic energies with which Cho’gall and his cult were associated and the ever-worsening quakes.

    Finally, the breakthrough came one evening while studying in the Stormwind Keep library. She’d found some old tomes relating to the War of the Ancients. She was about to set them aside to find more relevant information when a page fell out. She reached down to pick it up and couldn’t help but be fascinated by the work. It was a treatise on Neltharion’s role during the ancient war.

    Of course, Ally, as any decently educated noble, let alone member of the Kirin Tor, had been educated on the basic principals of the Aspects. Indeed, she’d worked with several of them, and fought others, most recently Malygos. Even so, she sat and for reasons beyond common sense, let herself be drawn into the study of Neltharion and his downfall.

    Hours later, she slammed the book shut, troubled. The types of quakes, the raging elementals, particularly the fire and earthen ones, they all matched. Was he still alive after the Aspects had chased him from Grim Batol? Was Cho’gall also alive and somehow working with him?

    Someone had to know more. Yes. They would know. Resolute, she stood, not even cleaning up her books, and began a portal.

    An hour later, her drake landed at the pinnacle of Wyrmrest Temple. She approached Alexstrasza, giving the ancient Aspect a slight nod of respect, and asked her question.

    Another hour later, she limped through the doors of the Voilet Citadel. At least the blood flowing from the gash in her leg had finally slowed. Her clothing was burned and tattered. Had it been anything less than the most powerfully imbued fabric, it might not have been there at all. Her once beautiful, blond hair which had hung straight to her shoulders now ended frayed and singed at her neck.

    Vereesa Windrunner, standing near Rhonin gasped, but Ally paid her no mind. She went straight for Rhonin.

    He eyed her, then asked in a neutral tone, “What did you do to anger her?”

    “I asked her where Deathwing was.”

    Rhonin made a sound that was something between a grunt and a snarl and paced in front of her. “You are a foolish, foolish girl! You’d have been wiser to slap Alexstrasza and all the other Aspects at once.”

    Ally replied flatly, unmoved by the insult, “I gathered that. Rhonin, you destroyed the Demon Soul. Surely you must know more. Where did they chase Deathwing to after the Aspects had regained their power?”

    Rhonin stopped and stepped in front of her, too close for comfort, then emphasized each word. “Let it go.”

    Then she knew. That was her final confirmation. She lashed back in a sharp reply, “Why?”

    “Because there’s nothing we can do to stop it. He’s beyond our power. The Kirin Tor cannot involve itself in what’s coming. We need to fortify ourselves here where it’s safe, so that we can preserve our knowledge, and plan for the future.”

    It could have gone one way or another, right then and there, and it almost did. Ally’s anger and fear almost boiled over and she almost retorted with words she could have never taken back. It all went through her mind. Where was the Kirin Tor when Lordaeron fell? Where were they when her prince slew her king. Terenas, when he’d sent her to Stormwind all those years prior, he’d saved her life. Maybe there were political motivations, but it hadn’t mattered. Where was Dalaran when the Scourge marched all over Lordaeron? They had hidden themselves in a bubble! Protected from the cares of the world, they did what they did best, run away and scheme for another day.

    Since her first trip to Dalaran when her parents had brought her as a little girl and she’d seen that amazing magical city, she’d known what she’d wanted. Now, nearly thirty years later, she was on the verge of renouncing her magehood, renouncing the Kirin Tor, and damning this Light-forsaken city. They were cowards. Deathwing stirred and they’d just sit there as her home… her real home, not Loredaeron, not Dalaran, but Stormwind, lay in danger. The whole world lay in danger.

    Stormwind. That was where she’d grown up. That was where she’d truly begun her journey. Not among the plotting and scheming nobles of Lordaeron, nor among the books and tomes of Dalaran, but in Stormwind, and in the forests of Elwynn and Northshire.

    Remembering the memories of peaceful and serene Elwynn forest and the friends she’d made there brought a new calm to her. Rhonin stood there waiting, judging her response.

    No… despite her feelings, she was a member of the Kirin Tor, now. She wouldn’t hate this man, or this city. It was the nature of mages to want to protect knowledge, and to plan for the future. Maybe she just wasn’t a perfect mage. Maybe this city wasn’t really her home, but she’d not shun it, either. She didn’t have time. The world didn’t have time. She belonged elsewhere.

    She began to step backwards, towards the entrance. Rhonin wrinkled his forehead, unsure what to make of the response. “Allyriae, forgive my harsh words. I was merely… surprised. Where are you going? Stay here, where it’s safe!”

    She turned, announcing as she strode out, wounds still aching, “Home. I’m going home to serve my people.”

    An hour later, in the Stormwind Cathedral, Ally eyed her surroundings. The injured lay around her. Falling debris had been swept to the side. The quakes were becoming steady now. It was coming. She knew it in her heart. How could they all have been so blind?

    She found the woman she was looking for standing up from a litter with a child on it who had been freshly healed. The woman turned to her and she gave a start as her eyes fell on Ally.

    “By the light!” Saralane Brightwood exclaimed, hand at her chest. “What happened to you?”

    Ally had nearly forgotten the damage from the run-in with Alexstrasza mere hours before. She’d taken wounds in battle before, this was no different. Seeing the concern in her friend’s eyes, she shook her head. “Don’t worry about it.”

    Sara wouldn’t hear of it and placed her hand on Ally’s shoulder and closing her eyes, concentrating. After a few moments of silence, Ally had been fully healed, although her hair was still ragged and singed, and she’d need a change of clothes when she had a chance. Nodding in thanks, but wasting no more time, she quickly added, “Sara, the world is ending.”

    Sara hesitated a moment, then nodded as if understanding. “I know, that’s what people are saying. They’re afraid. King Wrynn is doing all he can, but…”

    “No, you don’t understand,” Ally interrupted, “we have to get these people out of here. The buildings are coming down around us. I’m going to Varian now, and will counsel him to evacuate the city. It’s coming. Go home, Sara. Go to your family. There’s more than enough people here to help. Northshire needs someone there to comfort and protect them. Please, go.”

    Sara could have argued, Ally knew that, but as if sensing the truth of it, she simply nodded and replied, “Light protect us all.”

    A short time later, having taken a few minutes to borrow some fresh clothes from the Cathedral, Ally made a quick pace up the main entrance corridor to Stormwind Keep, her mind focused. Almost as an afterthought, her hand went to the two rings on her fingers. One was of the Kirin Tor. It signified that she’d attained the goal she’d wanted so badly as a child, to be a mage of the Kirin Tor. She removed it. The other ring bore the seal of House Alyrion of Lordaeron. Prince Arthas, Princess Calia, Lord Tanriel Alyrion her father, and her. She had been fourth in the line of succession. She removed that ring, as well.

    Her fingers moved over a third ring. It bore the seal of House Wrynn and had been a gift from Varian when she’d been younger. It didn’t make her a member of his House proper, of course, but rather it represented her as a friend and ally of his line and of Stormwind. She left that ring alone, and placed the other two rings in a deep pocket inside the modest woolen robe. She didn’t discard them. Those roles were still part of her, but today–this day–she needed things to be more simple. This was where she belonged.

    She approached the throne and found Varian standing there with his son and his advisors, discussing the details of reinforcing various city structures even as the world continued to tremor. She made a bow, deeper than likely she’d ever given him. “Majesty.”

    Wrynn turned to her. If he was surprised by her inordinately plain garb, he didn’t let it show. “Lady Alyrion, you’re here with word from the Kirin Tor? Do they have any idea what’s happening.”

    She replied, with more sorrow in her voice than she’d meant to betray. “No, I’m here alone. The Kirin Tor will not be here.”

    Varian’s eyes, so hardened in the recent years, somehow became even harder. “I see. Mages. Should have known.” Several of his advisors nodded in agreement.”

    Ally continued earnestly, “I’m here to serve, your majesty. I have counsel, perhaps I may…”

    She never finished. The world lurched. The ground hit her side, with Varian and his son tumbling next to her. The stained glass windows far above shattered. The ceiling threatened to come down on them. Outside, the air became fire.

    The Cataclysm had come.

    The tale of Allyriae and her companions continues in
    The Tides of War: My Characters.

    Mages who blink and run away, live to pwn another day!

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