Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wings of Disruption


Part two of a series of short stories centered around the sin'dorei, and based on my interpretations of the 4.1 patch: Rise of the Zandalari. There's an intriguing conversation involving Halduron Brightwing in the Ghostlands, which brings into question the current state of blood elven government. This, then, is my interpretation of these events as they would take place within the story I roleplay as Cerylia.

Part two focuses on Halduron Brightwing, the Ranger General of the blood elves, what Lor'themar's response to his bringing high elves to Zul'Aman was, and his conflicts regarding what he believes is best for both the blood elves and the high elves. Enjoy!


Warning for some brief vulgar language this chapter.



The glimpse of white hawkstrider feathers coming up the road into the Zul’Aman staging grounds gave Ranger General Halduron Brightwing a sense of both disgust and relief. Disgust at what the white hawkstrider symbolized—it was formerly the noble mount of Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider, who ended up betraying their people—but also relief because of who he knew would be riding it. And at the familiar sight of his second-in-command, Lady Cerylia Dawnwing, he breathed a sigh of ease. In this stressful time, it was good to have someone nearby that he knew would be on his side.

Vereesa Windrunner, standing a few feet away, gave a noticeable scowl at the sight of the red-headed Farstrider. The two had gotten into some disagreement back in Dalaran, during the campaign against the Lich King, and while Cerylia maintained her poise well enough in conversation with her, Vereesa made her disdain for the Dawnwings clear. It probably had something to do with the family’s service to the Sunstriders in the past, and riding up the hill upon the prince’s own hawkstrider probably didn’t help matters.

Knowing Cerylia, she had probably done it on purpose. Halduron couldn’t help but wonder, wryly, if he was rubbing off on her.

Halduron had never been a remarkable figure; at least, he never thought so. When he was young, he only ever wanted to be a ranger, and had trained alongside Lor’themar Theron faithfully under the then-Ranger General, Sylvanas Windrunner. The Scourge invasion changed all that, though… and the two friends found themselves in positions they hadn’t considered themselves ready for. Halduron became Ranger General, and Lor’themar became Regent Lord of Quel’Thalas. Essentially, leader of their people.

Since that day, Halduron had been nothing but supportive of his friend and leader. He praised their little victories, defended their lands jealously, gave Lor’themar a supportive shoulder to lean on, and advised him in political matters to the best of his ability. If nothing else, Halduron was shrewd and quick to learn. He hated politics as much as Lor’themar did, but he knew it was important to adapt and be versed in such matters in order to survive. Survival was ever the goal of the sin’dorei, even to this day.

In recent years, though, Halduron’s admiration of his best friend had diminished. His optimism had given way to cynicism, over what he perceived as inaction and inability on Lor’themar’s part. In Halduron’s eyes, it seemed as if the blood elves were nothing but convenient pawns to the rest of the Horde; even his predecessor, Sylvanas, now Queen of the Forsaken, often treated the sin’dorei as tools for her own use. Their forces and strength were stifled, to the point that the blood elves still were fighting off the remnants of Scourge in their lands, and still struggling to get all the draenei to leave their precious island, Quel’Danas. (Though the draenei were respected for their courage and part in restoring the Sunwell, it was generally agreed that allowing what was left of the Shattered Sun to remain intimately entrenched in Horde territory wasn’t the best of ideas, for either party.)

The worst part was that whenever their supposed allies in the Horde snapped their fingers and demanded the blood elves to come and serve, Lor’themar would drop whatever he was doing and send more of their people off. More people that weren’t protecting and restoring their home. No wonder their city was still half in ruins. No wonder the Dead Scar was taking forever to heal.

The Horde had given their blessings and aid to the sin’dorei, of course. Cerylia often reminded Halduron how the tauren—gentle and kind beings that they were—had sent several of their druids to help in restoration of the Ghostlands, and it was working. Slowly, but surely. The Forsaken had provided military support and defense that was sorely needed, much as Halduron hated to admit it. Even Thrall, when he had been warchief, made sure to include the blood elves in the greatest of battles, and called upon them for their skills when needed. Yes, when Thrall had led the Horde, Halduron had felt better about being part of it. He could trust the noble orc to give the blood elves just what they deserved.

But times had changed, and Thrall was no longer leader. The new warchief, Garrosh Hellscream, valued the blood elves far less. Their only saving grace was that Cerylia knew Garrosh personally, had endeared herself to his Mag’har brothers and sisters in Outland, and thus knew him far more intimately than the brown-skinned orc probably liked. Perhaps for that, and the fact that she had a mind for political stratagem and military tactics, Garrosh still treated the blood elves with respect. Cerylia had admitted to Halduron, though, that he mostly believed the elves to be weak… something that the Ranger General despised. Anyone who believed the sin’dorei weak would come to regret it in time.

But it was not just this changing of hands within the Horde that made Halduron come to dislike the position of the blood elves. It was also what he perceived as weakness in Lor’themar himself. And it had all started with one disagreement…

“Greetings, my lord,” Cerylia spoke, elegantly, as she hopped off her hawkstrider mount. “And to you as well, Lady Vereesa.” She tilted her head in the direction of the high elven ranger, giving her the briefest of nods.

Vereesa narrowed her eyes a little at Cerylia, but nodded as well. They didn’t like each other any, but they had begrudging respect for one another all the same. They could at least be trusted to be civil.

“What news from Silvermoon, Lady Dawnwing?” asked Halduron. “I trust the Regent Lord received my report?”

Cerylia raised an eyebrow at him and rolled her eyes. “If you can call that thing you sent him a report,” she replied. “I think you upset him.”

“Good. That was the intent.” Halduron turned away from her, considering the letter that he had sent to Lor’themar, when a messenger had come to Zul’Aman demanding to know the meaning of high elves and Alliance volunteers in Quel’Thalas. “You know perfectly well how our Farstriders are spread out. I can’t even count on you to be in Quel’Thalas all the time, as you travel so much. I need more troops to handle this Amani threat.”

With a shrug, Cerylia touched her runed bracer on her wrist, drawing blue, mystical magic out of it and forming it into a summoning circle on the ground before her. She moved her hands elegantly, directing the magic into a powerful spell, and then in a surge of mana, a small portal appeared. Through the portal stepped a lithe, white tiger, snuffling the air around him as his huge paws touched the ground. Cerylia gestured again, and the portal disappeared, the magic returning to her bracer. Halduron smirked a little at the trick, while Vereesa rolled her eyes. Though Cerylia did not actively use spells to fight—not having much talent for advanced spells—she still was a sin’dorei and she knew magic innately. This latest trick of hers allowed her to summon her mighty pets from her stable at home, and have them aid her in battle.

“I’m just here to warn you that Lor’themar isn’t happy with your recent... behavior,” she continued, rubbing the tiger’s head lovingly. “I’m here on his command, in fact.”

“So, you represent him now?” Halduron asked, frowning. “I did tell you to stay out of this. You shouldn’t be caught up in this.” It was his way of expressing his concern for her, of her getting caught up in the political back and forth between him and the Regent Lord that had become more and more hostile recently. He liked to give Cerylia a hard time, certainly; he imagined she was furious at him for setting a date without permission for her wedding to that Blood Knight, Mithraius. But he still liked her. She was like the sister he could fight with on a daily basis yet still be fond of.

Although… her lack of irritation with him at the moment was a little odd. Something was being left... unsaid.

He didn't like it.

Cerylia smiled thinly, in a way that put Halduron on his guard. He liked Cerylia as a ranger, as a person… but he hated her as a politician, an ambassador. She was quite clever, had her hands in things that even he didn’t know about, and knew how to manipulate people to get where she needed to be. He knew this. She even told him how she could even exercise such skill over Lor’themar himself. And in that, he knew she also was warning him that she could do it to him too, if Halduron wasn’t careful.

“He’s asked me to inform you that you have another set of allies on the battlefield now,” she replied, sounding almost amused. “Commander Llylithen Dawnwing will be in charge of these troops. We have some Blood Knight and mage support from Silvermoon, as well as many volunteers from our Horde allies. These trolls won’t stand a chance.”

Vereesa gave a start, and Halduron forced himself to break out of the shock of Cerylia’s words long enough to follow the high elf’s gaze. Coming up the road was a death knight in dark, spiked armor, astride a Deathcharger whose eyes burned blue. Behind him, a sizeable group of about thirty Blood Knights were led by a familiar paladin with blond hair—yes, it was Cerylia’s fiancĂ©, Mithraius—all riding on red-armored chargers. Blood elven mages and a couple of other members of Horde races followed along behind on foot, making the total number of soldiers about fifty or so, if Halduron had to guess.

The death knight approached and dismounted, giving a sweeping bow before removing his helmet. Halduron knew before he even saw the long, pale blue hair that this was Cerylia’s older brother… Llylithen Dawnwing.

“Greetings, Lord Brightwing,” he spoke, with a too-amused smile on his pale yet handsome face. “And… Lady Vereesa, what a surprise. How are you? Is your husband well?”

Vereesa glowered, her hand tightening on her bow. “What is the meaning of this?” she asked, pointing at the troops he had led in. “We don’t need your motley crew of pompous paladins, arrogant mages, and filthy barbarians here—”

“Vereesa!” Halduron snapped, a bit of panic washing over him at her sharp tongue. Among the “filthy barbarians” were some Darkspear trolls. He could not let Master Vol’jin or his soldiers hear such a thing. If nothing else, Halduron was grateful for the troll’s help; he had warned the blood elves of the danger long before they realized something was wrong at the Amani capital.

He turned to Llylithen again with a frown, crossing his arms. “What are you doing here, Llylithen?” he asked, no longer in the mood for formalities. “If Lor’themar sent you, I told him to not interfere with this mission—”

“What your Regent Lord decides shouldn’t be considered ‘interference,’” reminded Llylithen pleasantly. “My orders are as follows—assist Master Vol’jin in defeating the Amani trolls before they can amass an army to threaten Quel’Thalas and the rest of the Eastern Kingdoms… investigate whatever plans they may be formulating within the walls of Zul’Aman… and end those plans before they come to fruition. Nowhere did I hear the command ‘interfere with Halduron Brightwing’s campaign in Zul’Aman.’ So don’t you worry your pretty head about all that, all right?”

“I’m not stupid,” Halduron snarled. “I know what Lor’themar wants you to really do here. But this is a Farstrider matter. If your sister wants to join me, if you and your friends here want to fight in Zul’Aman under my command, then that is fine. But we do it my way.”

“Lor’themar does not seem to agree,” Llylithen replied, tartly. “If you insist on inviting the Alliance into our lands at the risk of angering our Horde allies, and disregarding your own leader’s requests for explanation, then you should not be surprised that he takes matters into his own hands. Or were you so arrogant that you believed he wouldn’t do anything in response, and just let you do as you pleased? What was next? Were you going to invite the high elves into Silvermoon itself for training and meetings? Perhaps allow the Alliance to build a base in our borders so they could easily reach Zul’Aman—or our city?”

Halduron did not answer, though inside, he was seething. He truly hadn’t believed Lor’themar would make any such move in response to his letter. Memories came back, of that time years ago when he had invited the high elves to see the Sunwell reignited. Lor’themar had expressed shock, even rage at the idea, but in the end Halduron had gotten him to allow it anyway, despite much protest by the populace and by the Grand Magister, Rommath, himself. It was something people were still mad about, though by now the high elves had been sent away in the wake of the Cataclysm. Only a few select quel’dorei pilgrims were allowed—with supervision—to visit the Sunwell each month.

Even Cerylia had been furious about the matter, leaving a fierce slap across Halduron’s face when she found that the high elves were treading on sacred ground that they had done nothing to fight for. That they would get the benefit of seeing the blessed Sunwell reborn, when they had done nothing to save it from Kil’jaeden. In her mind, she would rather draenei be free to enter Quel’Danas than the quel’dorei; at least the draenei had fought just as hard as the blood elves had for the Sunwell. She had been next to hysterical the next few days, sobbing about how it wasn’t fair, or seething with rage when she saw the high elf pilgrims touring the island. She had all but beaten one senseless when she saw him spit upon the simple grave site made for Prince Kael’thas. Halduron remembered how he had to drag her off, apologize quickly as he spirited her away, and hold her for nearly an hour as she screamed her anguish against him, cursing the quel’dorei for their cowardice and crying her apologies to Kael’thas for having killed him herself on Quel’danas.

It was his one regret about the whole thing—that he hadn’t foreseen the disrespect that the high elves would show on a site of so many painful memories. At least the sin’dorei who hated Kael’thas had respect enough for the good man he had once been, to not piss all over his memory.

Yes, Halduron had hurt her in so many ways that day, but he truly had believed it was for the best. The quel’dorei and sin’dorei, they were the same people. He really believed that someday they could reunite, if they could but get past these irritating faction differences. This Horde and Alliance nonsense. Maybe the elves would be better off being neutral again.

He shot a glance in Cerylia’s direction, and saw her pleasant expression had changed. This time… she looked resolved. Almost satisfied. He realized that she enjoyed this. Revenge for Quel’Danas, he knew. Perhaps even revenge for his manipulation of her wedding, just so he could get a rise out of Lor’themar. You will pay for inviting these people back into our lands. You will pay for thinking you could use me to your advantage.

Halduron knew then that this miscalculation would not end well.

“I assure you that the integrity of Quel’Thalas shall be maintained,” Halduron said, struggling to keep his voice even. “The high elves and their allies are here because we share a common concern about the Amani trolls. Even Master Vol’jin is pleased with their presence.”

Llylithen sneered a little, looking past the Ranger General’s head at the troll camp a little closer to the entrance of Zul’Aman. “What Master Vol’jin does should not override blood elven policy in our lands,” he quipped. “However, since we’re all here now, we should certainly make the most of it. But I’ll make it painfully clear that I am not under your command, nor do I have any intention of working closely with you and your new playmates.” With a sharp jerk on his horse’s reins, he waved Halduron aside to continue towards the troll camp. “I will be speaking to Master Vol’jin now, if you please.”

Halduron would have been tempted to stay stubbornly in the path of the death knight, just be defiant, but the Deathcharger’s fierce fangs and snaps in his direction quickly prompted him a safe distance away. Furiously, he gripped at Thori’dal, resisting the urge to use it on Llylithen. “Lor’themar’s interference will not go unpunished here,” he snarled. “I am the Ranger General here. This is my realm of authority.”

Llylithen turned his head back to Halduron briefly, with a smile. “If you have a problem with the way the Regent Lord wants to defend his people and his lands,” he said, pleasantly yet dangerously as well, “then at least have the balls to insult him to his face, instead of writing your snide notes to him or making the rest of us have to relay it to him. Don’t be a fucking coward.”

Vereesa practically exploded at that, perhaps offended by the way her only significant ally in Quel’Thalas was being verbally abused. “Just because you’re a Dawnwing doesn’t mean you can be so fresh!” she snapped. “If your spineless Regent would show his face here I would be more than happy to tell him just how I feel about his interference—”

“Just as sharp-tongued as your sister, Sylvanas,” Llylithen said, dismissively. “If only your words carried as much weight here.”

The high elf might have put an arrow in the death knight’s head right then and there, if her two rangers at her side hadn’t grabbed her arms quickly. Vereesa could only stare murderously at him as he continued on to the troll camp.

Halduron stared blankly at Mithraius, now left at the head of the army, who gave him an uncharacteristically-disdainful sneer before leading his troops off to make camp. His gaze then shifted to Cerylia, who looked remarkably unaffected. She smiled a little at the Ranger General’s eyes upon her, coming to his side and shrugging helplessly.

“I warned you,” she nearly taunted.

He scowled at her. “Was this your doing? Do you hate me this much?” he asked. “If this is about the invitations, I’m sorry, but you didn’t have to—”

“I didn’t do this,” Cerylia replied, stunning him into silence. “Lor’themar thought this up on his own. I was just as surprised as you are, though admittedly I was pleased that I wasn’t on the receiving end of it.”

“So he wants to humiliate me, is that it?”

Cerylia smiled, just a little. “He wants you to know your place.”

“Damn you,” Halduron hissed, before pausing, correcting himself. “Damn him.”

“Look… I just wanted to tell you: Lor’themar has something else up his sleeve,” Cerylia warned, softly, so no one else could hear. Halduron was sharp enough to recognize how she was playing both sides, subtly deflating his anger towards her so he wouldn’t lump her in with Lor’themar and be equally angry with the both of them. To his dismay, it was working. “Just be careful.” She touched his arm briefly, as if to reassure him that she was still worried about him despite her disagreement with him. “…I’m sorry. We really shouldn’t be fighting like this. But I’m inclined to agree with Lor’themar this time.”

Though furious, Halduron couldn’t hate her, even if he thought her apology was pathetic. “I’m not mad at you,” he growled, only half-lying. “But just… go.”

Cerylia paused, looking him over sympathetically before walking off, to join Mithraius and the rest of their small army. Though the force looked pitifully tiny, the Ranger General would guess that they were extremely skilled. It was always in Cerylia and Llylithen’s style to do the most with as few people as possible.

Vereesa gave Halduron a scathing glare as he finally came back to her. “What are you going to do about this?” she snapped. “If they interfere with our attack plans, we could make a grave miscalculation. These Amani aren’t idiots. They could easily divide and conquer our forces like this!”

Halduron wasn’t worried about that, though—no, he was confident that the Amani would be put down, one way or another. His concern was that Lor’themar would win, that he would be able to claim victory in Zul’Aman and not Halduron. This was supposed to be his chance to show his talents as a Ranger General in defending Quel’Thalas, and how the high elves and blood elves could work together and perhaps all live in Quel’Thalas again someday. This disruption threatened everything, and if Halduron failed he would look like an Alliance-sympathizing, insubordinate fool.

No. I will not lose this. Not now. I can’t.

Somewhere in the back of Halduron’s mind, he pleaded with himself to stop this foolishness, to stop fighting with his best friend and just apologize for all this. But his pride pushed the thought away.

It was too late to turn back now.

--
Endnotes:

- I always hesitate posting stories in which my character seems to have accomplished a lot; for instance, we see here that Cerylia is allied with the Mag'har, know Garrosh personally, and killed Kael'thas herself on Quel'danas. I don't normally like when people make their original characters all-powerful, but Cerylia is, of course, the frame in which I interpret the World of Warcraft. Her accomplishments are canon, and I suppose in an RPG like WoW, that's ok. To me, she's the hero. This story thus depicts those events the way I remember and RPed them--two-manning Magister's Terrace repeatedly, completing the Mag'har quest chain with wide-eyes, and being asked by Garrosh in Cataclysm to help him out with the Twilight Highlands campaign. I'm sure you WoW players can understand. :)
- Halduron is caught in a tough position this chapter, but I'm not trying to make him look bad. I rather like him. We'll see how he responds to this disruption in upcoming installments.
- Veressa Windrunner, on the other hand, I'm not that fond of. Though I'm trying to be fair to her. ;P

Part three will be about Grand Magister Rommath, how he views this conflict between Lor'themar and Halduron, and what his own beliefs and plans for the sin'dorei entail.

As always, comments are welcome. Thanks! :)

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