The older-looking kaldorei sat on a carved stump before a cottage laying alongside the road running from Dolanaar to Darnassus. He sighed contentedly, enjoying the cyan-filtered light of the morning moon cascading down through the heavy boughs of Teldrassil. Hearing the padding of heavy paws, he turned and looked eastward, towards Dolanaar. Walking their sabre’s at a leisurely pace, two kaldorei women paced into view, stopping a few hundred feet short of his home. One was very, very tall, and thin, but wiry, like a tough river reed, and held herself with a dignity one did not often see in these times. The other was shorter but athletic and muscular, surely a Sentinel, or at the very least a fighter of some sort. Both wore exquisite formal gowns, one in blue, the other in white. Both had silver hair and the palest possible skin for a kaldorei. They didn’t notice the older man sitting just off the road.
The one in white, with the muscles, fidgeted, seeming ill-at-ease.The woman in blue looked at her, smirked and said, “Gown giving you trouble, Sil?”
The one addressed – full name Silannah – glared at her without real venom, but replied, “I feel naked! Where is everyone else?”
“If you’d prefer naked, we could go over yonder,” grinned the taller woman, pointing at a stand of dense foliage further off the road.
“Hilarious, Kajeda, remind me again why I wore this dress for you,” said Silannah, her face carefully set in an expression of irritation, but her eyes sparkled with mirth.
“Because you know that later, I am going to take it off of you.”
The man beside the road was starting to think he should go inside. This conversation was obviously not meant to be public. Before he could get up, however, the two woman were joined by another party.
“Well you’ve got me th-” the one in white began, but was cut off.
Both women suddenly went silent, hearing the soft thump of a pair of sabre’s paws on the road to the east. Both relaxed and smiled as two figures came around a bend in the road. On the violet arcane sabre in the rear rode a pretty kaldorei woman, dressed in an unadorned white shift. Ahead of her, riding a magical ruby cat, rode a kaldorei male. Both shared the same pale skin and silver hair as the first pair, but the male’s skin was covered in scales and short horns sprouted from his head. He was dressed in ancient kaldorei fashion for men, a long black kilt around the waist, trimmed in silver thread; he was shirtless, baring his shimmering red demonic tattoos to the air. Wrapping his ruined eyes was a red cloth, the green felfires he had in place of eyes ever so slightly leaking through.
The man beside the road hissed a quiet whisper towards the door of his home, “Nadyia, come out! You’ve got to see this.” A lovely woman joined him outside, outfitted in well-worn leathers, her turquoise hair – complimenting the man’s own dark green – pulled back to allow her to work. She ducked back a little, instinctively, at seeing the gathering on the road. “That’s a Demon Hunter, Nadyia. Here on the Tree. Who would have thought…” The woman, for her part, said nothing, watching the group apprehensively.
Kajeda, the woman in blue, held her arms out, smiling ear-to-ear, “Forosuul, my grandson,” she cried, embracing the Demon Hunter as he tried to slip off his mount.
Returning her embrace, he whispered “Thank you so much,” in her ear, to which she held his face in her hands and smiled at him, kissing both of his cheeks.
Kajeda then turned to the woman. They stood only two feet apart, both gazing at one another, eyes shining, finally Kajeda reached out and gathered the younger woman up in her arms, saying quietly, “Tindomiel, my daughter-by-choice.” Tindomiel buried her face in Kajeda’s neck and wept. Their joy was palpable.
Off to one side, Silannah watched all of this, smiling happily at the union of her recently acquired family. Forosuul turned to her and bowed low, saying “Cousin.”
She inclined her head, “Step-grandson,” with a grin on her face.
Momentarily caught off guard, he gaped at her, then shook his head, refusing to take the bait.
Kajeda finally spoke once more, “Now we lack only our standard bearer, and our…special guests,” she said, grinning a little wickedly.
“You lack nothing,” came an imperious voice from across the road. With a cascade of violet, the mage Kalithil dropped the invisibility spell with which he had cloaked his party, and stood forth. Like the others, Kalithil had silver hair and pale skin, but his skin was lined with great age and care. He was robed and hooded in blue and gold, as was his wont. Behind him stood two young kaldorei girls. One with the same hair and skin as everyone else present, the other with hair of watery blue. The blue haired one bounced on her heels and seemed to shake with excitement, while the other stood dull and silent, looking exhausted and miserable.
“Well, something is certainly up,” whispered Nadyia. “What could this be, Radnaal?”
“If I had to guess, I’d say we are seeing an old-time Gathering here. That lady in blue, she has that Matriarchal look, wouldn’t you say?” Nadyia nodded and went back to watching.
Kajeda greeted the newcomers, “Kalithil, welcome. And Alsabe, and Lilybeth, is it?” The blue haired girl nodded so quickly her hair was displaced. The other only nodded robotically. Slipping into the ancient dialect, she continued, “We thank you all for being here to Stand with Our House on this day of days,” she said, smiling beatifically, “Kalithil, thou shall precede us, bearing aloft Our colors. Behind thee I shall walk. On the side of my strength shall walk my Scion, and on the side of my heart my Consort. Tindomiel, my supplicant, shall proceed behind me, whilst our guests and retainers shall make up her train.”
Hearing the ancient dialect, Radnaal gave his mate a “told you so” look. She rolled her eyes at him.
Kalithil, also reacting to the archaic speech, smirked knowingly at Kajeda, then nodded, and produced a simple staff, seemingly from nowhere. Wrapped around its head was a blue cloth, which he unfurled, revealing the deep blue field of the House standard, and the device, a circle of interlocked thorns, worked in silver thread.
Seeing the standard, the man beside the road was so surprised he forgot himself and exclaimed, “Silverthorn?” At this interruption, all eyes turned to him. He stood there, looking for everything like a deer caught by the beam of a lantern at night. Kajeda glided over to him.
“Do I know you, sir?”
“Oh, um, no ma’am. I just recognized the standard. Your House has been around a long time. But…well…they said you were all dead.”
“Hmm..who said this?”
“Oh, before I had this place,” and here he proudly thumped the doorframe of his cabin with a meaty fist, “I had one just like it outside Astranaar. You here a lot of gossip if you sit by the main roads, keep your head down, and your ears open.”
“What is your name?”
“Oh, uh…Radnaal Maneweaver, Matriarch.” Pulling his mate out from where she’d been hiding behind him, he added, “And this is my mate, Nadyia.” Both of them bowed, somewhat awkwardly.
Smiling at both of them, Kajeda said, “Well, Radnaal and Nadyia, I consider you a good omen. It warms my heart that our House was not forgotten in the centuries of our absence.” She smiled on then, adding in a conspiratorial whisper, “Keep this meeting quiet, will you? We’re surprising someone,” and winked. Radnaal blushed, and Nadyia nodded her head vigorously. Smiling once more and inclining her head respectfully, the Matriarch of the House of Silverthorn rejoined her family.
After she returned, Kalithil spoke a word of power. Coalescing out of the mists, a great golden cat took form, one of the lions found in the warmer climates. It was barded with blue and gold, matching his robes perfectly. He settled into the saddle and locked the standard into his right stirrup.
“Why are you riding,” asked Kajeda flatly.
Arching an eyebrow, Kalithil replied, “Because there is no way this old man is walking all the way through this damn city, and my mount is majestic and lends gravitas to our proceedings.”
Kajeda threw her hands in the air, conceding. Kalithil swung the big cat around, a satisfied victory grin plastered on his face.
“Oh, Kal, as my Standard Bearer, you are also my Crier. Please announce us to all we pass. Loudly.”
Kalithil turn in his saddle, an incredulous look on his old face, “What? No one does that any more!”
“Well, you are. You aren’t using any energy on walking, so we may as well..how did you say? Add gravitas to our proceedings,” replied Kajeda, smiling a little too sweetly. Kalithil scowled, but nodded grudgingly and faced forward once more. He began to walk his great cat towards the city, the others moving to their places behind him.
Watching them proceed towards Darnassus, Radnaal opined, “Something big’s happening today, mark my words,” to which his mate gave him a look that simply seemed to say, “well, obviously.”
Upon reaching the city gate, Kalithil grimaced, raised his voice and bellowed, “Hear ye! Kaldorei of Darnassus! The House of Silverthorn proceeds through the city! Behold our Sublime Matriarch, who walks behind me barefoot, like some sort of-OW!” His head lurched forward, solidly thumped by the rock Kajeda had thrown. Wincing and raising his left hand in surrender, he went on. “Our Sublime Matriarch, Kajeda, returned to us! We seek parlay with the House of Whisperwind!” He looked back, gave Kajeda a look that said “good enough?” She nodded, and on they went, Kalithil repeating his lines with each person they spotted.
By the time they reached the Seat of Whisperwind, they had a crowd following them, precisely as Kajeda had hoped. By tradition, if the people of the city, whatever city, wanted to witness a parlay between Great Houses, they had to be allowed. This forced Tyrande, and by extension, Mire, to come outside and do the whole thing in public.
Tyrande made the procession wait close to an hour. Doubtless, they hoped the crowd would scatter, rendering it a private affair once more. But with a demon hunter standing openly, and in a place of honor, with a Great House, everyone was curious. Forosuul, ignoring their scrutiny, stood with his head high, his eyes rarely leaving his beloved. The people of Darnassus chatted and waited. Everyone wanted to see what this was about.
Finally, they emerged. Tyrande, with Mire on her right. Malfurion was not present, so the place to her left was intentionally left empty. Rather bad form; she should have had a trusted retainer or close relative in that place, but Tyrande never let slip an opportunity to remind everyone who her husband was, and how very devoted they each were. Behind her a few retainers stood, looking confused and fidgety.
With everyone in place, Tyrande bowed, and called out, “Silverthorn, you are welcome in my House! Matriarch, I am pleased to see you among your people once more! Had we known you were coming, we would have prepared a more suitable welcome.”
Lies, thought Kajeda, but she bowed even lower, and responded, “My thanks to you, Lady Tyrande, and my apologies. I had simply assumed you would be forewarned of our arrival. We come today to discuss a matter of import to both of Our Houses.” As she finished her eyes darted to Mire. Her mention of being forewarned had the desired effect. Mire’s eyes were pits of hatred, directed at Alsabe. Alsabe, seeing this, went utterly white and looked at the ground. Kalithil was smirking behind his helmet, obviously enough that the helm did not conceal it.
“Indeed, Kajeda. Let all bear witness. State your purpose, please.”
“Some time ago, a daughter of your House, Tindomiel, came to Us, and, for reasons of her own, sought asylum. She petitioned Us to be joined to Our House.” She waited a moment, and let the ripple of surprise run through the crowd. Concealing a grin, she went on, “Long did We debate this, as it was no small matter. But Tindomiel’s plea touched Our heart. We come today to announce that We have accepted her, and from this day she shall be joined to Silverthorn, and be considered as mine own daughter.” At that the crowd was hushed, utterly shocked. To leave the greatest of Great Houses was unheard of.
Tyrande, standing opposite, seemed placid and regal as ever, but to Kajeda’s trained eyes, she was fuming. There was little she could do to stop any of this. She had only one card to play, and she played it, calling out, “Tindomiel, my cousin, come forward!” From behind, Tindomiel emerged. She walked slowly forward, until she stood before Kajeda. She kept her eyes locked on Tyrande, refusing to even glance at her mother. “Daughter of Whisperwind, is this true? Do you seek to leave us? Do you do this of your own free will, free of…” here she paused, her gaze falling meaningfully on Forosuul. “Dark influences?”
All eyes followed hers, watching Forosuul. He stood resolute and unmoving, but the felfires in his eye sockets smoldered, sending little wisps of billions green curling into the air, and the glimmer of his tattoos flared, casting bloody light on those nearest him. He did not flinch from who he was, or from their stares. Kajeda swelled with pride.
Tindomiel, recognizing the ploy, deflected it well, saying, “Yes, my Matriarch. My choice to leave predates my meeting any member of the House of Silverthorn. For if you recall, many years ago did I leave home for the Moonglade, to study as a druid. It was then that my choice was made, even if it meant to be without a House. But now, discovering Silverthorn, my heart has found its kin.”
Tyrande’s jaw imperceptibly clenched at this. If she attempted to refute this, the plot to kidnap Tindomiel and convince her of Forosuul’s death might be exposed. Mire’s scheming had brought her full circle, and she was trapped. Realizing this, her eyes darted to Mire, giving her a dark look. Mire, for her part, was almost apoplectic with rage, and did not notice Tyrande’s scrutiny. In fury, she began to step forward, and opened her mouth as if to speak. Tyrande held her back, flashing her a meaningful and angry look. Mire could not speak in this setting without leave, and Tyrande was not giving it. Shaking with impotent rage, she stepped back. The gathered crowd watched all of this drama with baited breath. Darnassus was usually so quiet, they’d be talking about this for years to come.
Finally, Tyrande composed herself and replied, “So be it, Tindomiel. You shall follow your heart. You are Whisperwind no more.” So saying, she gave Kajeda a perfunctory bow, turned and fled inside her home, her procession rushing to keep up with her. After they’d gone, Mire remained behind, staring at her daughter. The crowd waited, holding its breath. Mire had a reputation for viciousness, and they wanted to see it confirmed.
She let out a single, strangled word, “Daughter…”
Tindomiel cut her off with a shout, eyes flashing, “No longer!” With that, Mire crumpled to the ground, a keening wail escaping her lips. Kajeda, watching her, looked at her with softened eyes, almost feeling sorry for her.
Tindomiel looked at her new Matriarch, saying, “She cries out for the death of her ambition, Mother, not for me. Do not pity her.”