An Encounter

A suramarene dove warbled a greeting to the sun, then squawked and took flight, disturbed by the thumping passage of a scaly saber that reeked of fel.  The saber’s rider smirked slightly, as always amused by the reactions his presence inspired.  The wiry figure urged his felsaber to greater speed.  The night’s business had taken longer than expected, and he took ill any time away from the woman to whom he had recently joined himself.  He sped down the road leading to ancient bastion of Suramar City, eager to rid himself of the cargo he carried and be away home.  Finally, after far too long a time to suit him, he reached the Alliance camp.  Dismounting, he reached into one saddlebag and removed a small wooden cylinder.

Nodding to an officer, he handed it over, saying, “For the mage,” indicating the form of Khadgar on the far side of the camp.  Khadgar for his part, sensed his name and looked up.  Seeing the Demon Hunter, he nodded and hurried over.  

“Thank you for this, Forosuul.  I heard that your status among the Illidari had changed, I feared we lost your services.”

Scowling faintly, Forosuul replied, “Just a slight reorganization, Guardian.  I remain dedicated to the defense of Azeroth.”

“Good to hear!  Again, thank you for bringing this,” He brandished the wooden cylinder then bowed slightly, hurrying back to his work.

“You’re welcome,” came his quiet reply.

Turning to leave, Forosuul was brought up short by a sight in the trees just outside the circle of Alliance tents.

Ducking behind the trees he had seen a figure.  A kaldorei female, violet haired, dressed in elaborate monk’s robes, her face covered by a scarf.  She was exactly as Mire’s latest puppet had been described to him.  Why would she be here,  he mused.  He’d heard no report of her being involved in the war on the Legion, and Mire certainly took no part in it.  From what his Spymaster had told him, Mire kept her new dog on a short leash.  An unpleasant thought occurred, What if Niire duped me again, and was meeting her grandmother out here, thinking it unlikely to be noticed?  Grimacing at the thought, he crept after the figure, using his Sight to keep her in view without giving himself away.

She, too, seemed to be keeping out of sight.  She moved from tree to tree, always keeping something between herself and the sputtering magical barrier that once protected the city.  Watching her movements, it became clear very quickly that she was following someone.  Ever more curious, Forosuul hoisted himself into the treetops and leapt, using his demonic wings to glide over the canopy and see what she was after.  With his Sight, he could see her form below, and following her course, he soon saw her target.

A party of three Nightborne.  A woman and two men, it seemed, were making their way through the forest to the city.  Their path had obviously taken them a long way ‘round the Alliance camp.  The Nightborne were working to cleanse their city of demonic infestation, why would they avoid their new allies, unless…

“Elisande’s loyalists…” he said under his breath, in a whispered growl.  This raised new questions.  The Silverthorn believed Mire had contacts among the Nightborne, but they did not know in which faction.  If she was working with Loyalists, why was Estelæth – if it was indeed her – following them so stealthily instead of just joining them.  He was determined to find out.

Eventually, the party of Nightborne reached the city’s edge, having made their way far down the western edge, and waiting to cross the barrier until they were adjacent to an area still controlled by Loyalists. So, one mystery solved, he thought, I know who they work for.

He trend his attention back to the kaldorei monk.  She, too, tracked the Loyalists to the city wall, but here she stopped.  She kept back, in a stand of tree perhaps 20 yards from the barrier.  She stood staring at the city, irresolute, seemingly unwilling to follow the Nightborne any further.

Or perhaps, he mused, She had also found what she wanted to know.  He decided he was tired of guessing.  He launched himself out of the canopy and came down behind her with a crash, just forty strides distant.

Almost too fast to follow, she spun and leapt into the air.  From her sleeves an elaborate series of blades emerged, fanning out into a deadly configuration.  She arced directly over his head, twirling gracefully, then she came careening down, trying to reach his face with her blades.  Summoning the fel, he dashed across the clearing to the spot she’d just vacated.  She hit the ground where he’d stood, her bladed fan sinking into the soil.  Her head snapped up, her eyes wide with surprise for barely a moment before narrowing again.  Recovering quickly, she stepped backward into a fighting stance, holding her blades before her.

Grinning at her, Forosuul called out, “Nice form.  You’ve adopted the Spinning Crane and merged it with a torpedo roll.”

Taken aback, she responded in spite of herself, “How could you know that?  Demon Hunters know nothing of the ways of the monk.”

“Demon Hunters who used to be monks do.”

“Preposterous!  The Illidari were all in prison when Panderia was discovered!”

He grinned again.  “Well, technically, that is true.  I was imprisoned in the Warden’s Vault.  I was also in Panderia, studying at the Temple of the White Tiger.”  Seeing her skeptical expression, he added, “I have taken an unusual path.”

“You are lying.”

“I don’t care if you believe me, it doesn’t matter.  You are Niire’s grandmother.”

Hesitantly, she replied, “I am Estelæth.”  As soon as the words left her mouth, she barred forward in a torpedo roll, spinning blades leading the way, straight for his chest.

Laughing, Forosuul leapt into the air, crashing down once more across the clearing.  Through his laughter he shouted, “Nice!  You’re fast.  If I was someone else you might have had me.”

Glaring and frustrated, she shouted back, “Stand and fight, you grinning fool!”

“Why?  This is more fun.”  Bellowing incoherently, she rushed again, this time she summoned a chi doppelgänger.  One went left, one right, both had their hands outthrust in the Death Palm configuration.  His Sight easily showed him which image of her was genuine.  He spun his blades with a flourish, his right hand knocking away her deadly strike and riposting to strike her in the chest, sending her flying back across the space.  At he same moment, moving independently, his left blade slashed and obliterated the doppelgänger.  “Happy now,” he asked, laughing.  Roaring again, she leapt.  He recognized what she intended and gathered the fel around him, shielding himself and turning her Paralysis strike against her.  Instead of holding him, as she struck her body went rigid, and she stood before him, unable to move.  Her mouth worked spasmodically but no sound came out, and her eyes glared surprise and hatred.

He walked around her slowly, paying special attention to her accouterment.  “This armor is powerfully enchanted…some of it very old.  Ancient, even.  And your weapons, those are of Mogu make, if I am remembering right.  How long have you been preparing for your fight with Silannah?”  In answer she only made a strangled sound, at which he said, “Oh, of course, forgive me.”  Waving a hand, he dismissed the fell, sending her tumbling onto her back.  Before she could recover, he placed a boot on her chest.  “Ok, here’s how this goes.  You are going to put your weapons away.  I am going to do the same.  I am going to stand back there and we are going to talk for a bit.  If you draw those blades again, I will get serious.”  He regarded her flatly, and after a moment she angrily nodded assent.

Carefully he back away, sliding his warblades into the harness on his back as she tucked her bladed fans away.  Once satisfied, he spoke again, “So, how long?”

“Too long.”

“Silannah said you used to be a warrior.  Why the change?”

“Why do you care?”

“I am a curious person. Indulge me.”

Sighing angrily, she replied, “As warriors, we were perfectly matched. I needed something more. An edge.”

“Hmm…interesting choice.”

Why are we even talking,”  Estelæth barked abruptly.

Narrowing his felfire eyes, Forosuul replied in a whisper quiet voice that nonetheless conveyed menace, “Because neither of us is a monster, despite what you may think looking at me.  I fight the Legion because it will not negotiate.  I don’t fight if I don’t have to. I want to think better of my own people.”  Standing straighter, he lightened his tone.  “Now why don’t you tell me why you are here?”

“How is it your business?”

“You are currently considered a threat to my family.  Every breath you draw is my business until such time as you decide to stop being a threat.”  He let that hang for a moment, then added, “Or until I decide that you stop breathing.”

She glared at him.  She wanted badly to draw her blades again and sink them into that smirking face, but he had shown she was overmatched, and she was not suicidal.  So she said, simply, “I was following someone.”

“I know that.  You were following  party of three Nightborne.  Curiously, they entered the city near an area controlled by Loyalists, and you did not follow them in.”

“I learned what I needed to know.”

“And what was that, exactly?”

“Where they come from.”

Arching an eyebrow in exasperation, he added, “Enough evasions, Estelæth.  Who are they?  Why did you follow them?”

Sighing heavily, shoulders slumped, she replied, “I learned from an informant within Mire’s household that she regularly receives visitors.  Nightborne.  Mire herself never told me of it, and she always has the meetings when my duties place me outside the house.  I was…curious.”

“The word is suspicious, madame.  You were suspicious.  You either think she is up to something sinister – which seems odd for you – or you worry that she does not trust you, which puts you in precarious position.”

Angrily, she demanded, “What do you, ‘that seems odd for me?’”

“You are currently involved in a plot to remove the more powerful defenses of my House, in order to murder one of its members.  You conspired to get me removed as the leader of the Illidari. It looks to me like sinister is your thing.”

Glaring at him, she replied, “I am not a monster, Forosuul Silverthorn.  I did not have you assassinated.  I merely tried to get you out of my way.  The same with the old man.  My vendetta against Silannah is personal.  I tried mightily to keep it between the two of us.  I am here today to discover if Mire is working with the Legion, or with those who are.”

“A glimmer of conscience? Niire will be shocked.”

Making a sour face, Estelæth replied, “That child is a fool.  I tried to give her a purpose, but she proved lacking.”

Casting an angry glare on her, Forosuul shot back, “You have no concept of what she has endured.  Her defection is more your doing than mine.  I just provided her with an alternative.”

“And what of my suffering,” retorted Estelæth with a shout.

“Your suffering is a result of your inability to change.  Only you can address it.”

“This from someone who willingly traffics with the powers of the Legion.”

“My reasons are my own, as are Niire’s. A little understanding and compassion would have gone a long way, Estelæth.”  Turning, he gazed into the sky, at the bilious fel-bathed aurora of Argus, hanging low in the southern sky.  “Look at it, Estelæth.  With that in the sky, does some conflict between two moldy old Kaldorei Houses make any difference?  Right now you are bending every part of our considerable will in the service of settling a nine thousand year-old lover’s quarrel. Think about how much sense that makes. And on top of that, in order to meet that goal, you serve a woman who is willing to work with agents of that,” he spat the word, gesturing at the orb of Argus, “simply in order that her House might maintain its influence and power.” Het let his words hang in the air. He did not voice the alternative.  He made no offer of parlay.  But the message was clear.

Estelæth stood silently for many long minutes, then finally spoke, only to say, “Silannah tried to make nice with me too, she even apologized.  I did not relent.  Why would I heed your words?”

“Because, Estelæth Deepshade, as you said, you are not a monster, and you recognize the truth when you hear it.”  So saying, he leapt into the trees, gliding through the canopy, swiftly disappearing from sight.

Estelæth was left alone with her thoughts.  She stood in that glade for an eternal hour, beset with doubts on every side.  Eventually, she would leave.