The sound of a boulder striking frozen ground, followed by the creak of leather and boots hitting the snow. He’d found the place. Muttering a word of dismissal, his steed dissipated into the ether from which he’d summoned it. The small cottage was not far away, sitting on the edge of the tiny village of Starfall. It was modest, and remote. He liked it immediately. He shivered slightly, the cold finally making it’s presence felt. Normally neither cold nor heat especially bothered him, but Winterspring was in a class of it’s own in that regard. Nothing outside of Icecrown compared. Squinting into the ever-present chill wind, he strode towards the cottage.
As he approached the door, he summoned his Sight, which afforded him the luxury of knowing if anyone, and who, might be home. As he had hoped, he saw the form of his grandmother sitting alone in the cottage. Possibly reading. He hesitated a moment at the door. Demons he could face without a second thought, but his new family unmanned him. Finally, he squared his shoulders and knocked lightly on the door. Through his Sight, he saw her jump slightly, then her shape flowed into the form of one of the owlcats out of Aszuna, and she faded from the visible world. The owlcat padded silently to the door, and sniffed. He waited patiently. After a moment, her form flowed again and she opened the door.
“Forosuul!” she exclaimed, feigning surprise at seeing him, but smiling.
“Hello, grandmother,” he replied, bowing slightly.
The tall woman rolled her eyes at him, saying “Always so formal!”
Hesitating a moment, Forosuul replied, “I…don’t really know how else to be. I never had a grandmother before.” At this the woman frowned slightly, suddenly very aware of how sensitive the subject of family was for the younger kaldorei.
“We don’t rely on formality in our family, Forosuul, call me by name.”
He nodded, said “Very well…Kajeda,” at which an enormous smile broke across the woman’s face.
“Now,” she said, motioning him inside, “Come out of the cold. Winterspring is not a place for outdoor conversation.” Forosuul obeyed, surveying the small, one-room cabin. It was pleasantly warm inside, but not only was there no fire, there was no fireplace or hearth. He looked around, then spotted the ripples of heat coming from the runestone near the bed. Kajeda motioned to a large bear-skin rug that covered the center floor. “Sit,” commanded the woman. Forosuul obeyed, folding his legs under with easy grace, carefully removed the warblades from his back, and laid them gently to one side.
His eyes looked about the room once more, suddenly noting her gear hanging on a rack in the corner. Leaning against it was a familiar staff.
“You wield it?” he said, sounding surprised.
Smiling, she nodded and replied, “Of course, why would I not? It is beautiful, powerful, and you gave it to me.” Gliding over to it, she ran her fingers lovingly along the gnarled wood. “It is a physical connection to you, and through you, to my beloved Silea. It is a symbol of everything I have gained since coming back to the world.” He just gazed at her silently, too touched to respond. Joining him on the rug, she asked, “So what brings you out my way, my grandson?”
“Well. To be honest, I just wanted to speak with you again. And after both Tindomiel and Silannah felt the need to inform me about the spy, I thought that was a good reason to visit you.”
Looking both surprised and gratified, Kajeda replied, “You are interested in the spy?”
Forosuul nodded slowly, saying, “Yes. I mean, not in her, but in what I can do to help.” Kajeda smiled at this, happy to see him taking an interest in the House. Not understanding her reaction, he continued, “This is…new to me. It’s been a long time since I was part of anything like a family.”
Still smiling, she reassured him, “I understand, Forosuul. I was smiling because you are trying to be part of this. It makes me very happy.”
Returning her smile tentatively, he reiterated, “All right. Good. So…how can I help?
Pursing her lips in thought, she answered, “At this point, I am not sure you can. If you want to find her and act welcoming and befriend her, it would not hurt to have another pair of eyes…,” she froze, suddenly mortified at what she’d said.
Forosuul was confused for a moment, then realized what she was reacting to and laughed aloud, unable to help himself. Tapping the cloth covering his ruined eyes, he said, “Kajeda, I have been like this for a very long time. I am over it. I can’t exactly expect everyone to refer to them as my ‘eye sockets’ or ‘pits of felfire’. Eyes is fine.”
Kajeda relaxed a little, smiling apologetically, and tried to explain, “I think our people have always viewed the loss of the eyes – and the marring of the face – as a terrible sacrifice done only to gain even more terrible powers. Old habits, I am afraid. Forgive me.”
“It is a sacrifice. That is the whole point. Sacrifice is the core of our service, even when our service is rejected. We will sacrifice our lives, or anything else. Nothing else will stop the Legion.”
Gazing at him with worry in her eyes, she said, “I know the stories. I just hope it does not come to that for you, Forosuul.” After saying his name, she looked slightly irked for a moment, then said, “What does Tindomiel call you? Or maybe your friends. I feel strange alway using your whole name.”
He blinked, caught off guard by the question, “um…those familiar with me, Tindo included, call me Foro mostly.”
“Very well, Foro it is. So, Foro, As I was saying, you can befriend Alsabe if you want to observe her and add your insights, but you don’t need to make any special effort at the moment. We are watching her very closely.”
Somewhat archly, he said, “From what I hear, Silannah is watching her especially closely.” at which Kajeda burst out in a fit of very un-grandmotherly giggling.
“Well, when you see the girl you will understand. She is rather impressive to look at.” Forosuul simply looked dubious at the comment, but made no further remarks.
They sat in easy silence for a few minutes. Kajeda suppressing occasional giggles , Forosuul simply enjoying her presence in ways he had not expected. Eventually, he cleared his throat, then added, “I had another motive for being here, if I am being honest.”
Perking up her ears and stifling her giggles, Kajeda said, “I thought you might.”
He flinched slightly, his earlier resolve on the subject faltering, but continued anyway, “I think it is time to formalize Tindomiel’s place in the family.” At seeing Kajeda’s hardened expression, he blurted, “Here me out, please! I made demands of you before. Perhaps I should not have. I don’t know. But if nothing else, she deserves it. I think you agree with me there.”
“I do, in fact.”
“So..let’s do it. The House of Whisperwind might be angry, and maybe it will make some other Houses look at us sideways, but why should we care? Haven’t they been doing that for thousands of years anyway? I am not a political animal. So maybe my understanding is too simple. But…it’s the right thing to do, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Kajeda replied, looking her grandson up and down, evaluating him with a practiced eye.
He continued, despite her steady gaze, his voice rising with his passion, “And, look at what they are doing! Sending spies! Spying! Over family matters, that’s insanity! They aren’t going to stop anyway, so we might as well do what we want!”
Gently, Kajeda laid a hand on his arm, “Calm, my grandson. Breathe,” she said, giving him her warmest smile. “You are, of course, completely correct.” She paused a moment, thoughtful, then continued, “It is odd, you keep schooling me on doing the right thing. On not allowing expediency to cloud my ethics. On not giving in to fear.” She smiled once more, her eyes misting as she leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead, “I am more proud of you than you can possibly imagine.”
At her touch, Forosuul’s tension bled out, and at her declaration, his shoulders slumped and tears gathered in his eyes. Until that moment he had not known what it could mean to him to hear such words. Sensing his need, she wrapped her arms around him, and held him as a mother might.
He sat there for a while, letting the sobs subside, then sat back, absently declaring, “That is starting to become a habit.” The cryptic comment made Kajeda looked at him quizzically, at which he blushed deep purple and stammered, “oh, um…not important.” Kajeda’s questioning look turned to a slight smile, and then abruptly, she stood.
“Come. We have much to do.”
In response, Kajeda slipped into a formalized, lilting, ancient dialect. Hearing it, Forosuul was moved in ways he did not understand, but he understood in his bones it meant than Things Were Happening. “We are gathering Our House. Thou will see to notifying thy grandsire and thy beloved,” Kajeda declared. Looking momentarily thoughtful, she smiled craftily and added, “Find and bring in our spy as well. Alsabe’s presence will rattle some cages.”
“I am..confused. Where are we gathering? What cages?”
Kajeda smiled wickedly, “Why, my beloved grandson, We are going to Darnassus. We will call upon Whisperwind, and announce Our decision. And we will do it with all Our House in State.” Seeing Forosuul’s stunned expression, she added, “And We shall also be making apparent Our stance on our Demon Hunter brethren, as thou will stand at my right hand, with mine Consort to my left.” Eyes wide, Forosuul stood and bowed. The gesture came to him unbidden, a primal response to her assuming the mantle of Matriarchs of old. Kajeda smiled, and laughed lightly, saying, “You need not bow to me, ever, Forosuul. Now go! Gather Our House. We will meet outside the gates of Darnassus at sunrise in 3 days.” Nodding, he gathered his weapons and left the house.
After he left, Kajeda stood in silence for a few moments, weighing the import of her decision. It would shock some people. Silannah would likely be apprehensive about such a precipitous move. But he was right. It was the right thing. So be it.
In the southeast of Westfall, pressing against the foothills, stood an old, decrepit tower. It was once the haunt of a powerful but insane mage by the name of Mortwake, a sympathizer of the old Defias Brotherhood; they whose likenesses now served to frighten away the curious. He approached it slowly, using his Sight to navigate the illusions that guarded its doors. The wood was old and weathered, barely seeming to fit the frame. He pushed it inward, not bothering to knock. Inside, the gloom was thick, the shadows swallowing everything after a few feet. Just like the last time he’d been here. Unlike the last time, there was a warm glow filtering down from the upper floors. Curious, Forosuul began to ascend the spiral stairs. The lower half of the tower remained gloomy and run down, exactly as he had expected, but when he reached the upper floors he was in for a shock.
As he ascended the final step leading to the penultimate floor, he walked into the warm glow of what looked like a hundred candles and lanterns, all ranged around the circular track, flooding the whole floor with light. On the cold stone walls were colorful hanging and draperies, and the dust had been cleared off the bookshelves. On a work table he spotted jars of herbs, a mortar, and bottles of inks and stacks of blank scrolls, all the marks of a working scribe. Confused, he almost turned to go back down the stairs, but there was only one mage’s tower in Westfall, so he could not really be in the wrong one. Had Kalithil abandoned it?
“Oh hey, hi there!” a bright, bubbly voice from behind him exclaimed, speaking Darnassian. Spinning around in a flash, he almost grabbed hold of his weapons, but was brought up short by the smiling but now-startled face of a Kaldorei girl.
Young and pretty in a soft, curvy way, with hair the color of the ocean off Tanaris and a smiling, guileless face. She was the last thing he expected to see here.
“Hi! Can I help you?” She said again, in an excited, sing-song voice.
Still confused, he replied, “Uh…I’m looking for Kalithil.”
“Oh! Yeah, he’s upstairs! Who are you? My name’s Lilybeth, Kalithil’s new apprentice!”
“Um, I’m…” But before he could finish, she cut him off.
“Oh WOW! Your eyes! Wait, wait, you’re a Demon Hunter?! ARE YOU FOROSUUL?” The last sentence was nearly shouted, as her eyes grew wider and wider, seeming to defy the boundaries of her face. Forosuul could only nod, unsure how to respond to this person. “NEAT! Kalithil is your grandfather, right?” Another helpless nod. With that the girl took a deep breath and shouted at the top of her ample lungs, mouth opening to astonishing proportions, “MASTER! YOUR GRANDSON IS HERE!”
A moment later, a irritable voice drifted down from the uppermost floor, “For the love of Elune, child, just bring him up! There’s no need to shout.” Looking abashed, she motioned for Forosuul to follow her and all but ran up the stairs.
Following a little more slowly, Forosuul reached the top step and paused. The young kaldorei was standing near his grandfather’s worktable, almost vibrating with excitement.
With a flourish, the girl indicated Forosuul and called out, “Your grandson, Master!”
Kalithil heaved a weary sigh, “Yes, I can see him, Lilybeth. Please go downstairs now, and read over the next 3 chapters of A Study of Demonological Influence in Portal Making by Asturias the Traveled.” At that the young girl zipped downstairs, giving Forosuul a huge grin as she ran by. “She is very excitable, but a good student so far,” Kalithil said apologetically. “I admit, I am surprised to see you. Pleased, however.”
A little disapprovingly, Forosuul said, “Master?”
Kalithil nodded, said “Yes, naturally.”
“I thought our House was informal.”
Kalithil scowled slightly. “This has nothing to do with our House, Forosuul. I am her teacher, and she is my student; Master and Apprentice. It is entirely appropriate.”
“If it makes you feel better about it, someday – provided she keeps up her studies – she will take an apprentice and be called Master herself, or Mistress, if you will.” At that Forosuul nodded, seeing his point. “so, why have you come to see me?”
“Kajeda sent me.”
“Hmm, are we only to speak when we are ordered to? And yes, I know the irony of that coming from me.”
Forosuul smiled slightly, “Just a coincidence in this case. I went to see her and she decided something, and sent me out to tell you, Tindomiel, and Alsabe.”
“Alsabe?” questioned Kalithil, obviously surprised by the inclusion.
“Oh, do you not know about her? She is a spy sent by M…”
“I know about that,” cut in Kalithil, “What is going on that you would be telling her?”
“Oh, um…Kajeda thinks it could cause some unrest if she comes with us to Darnassus…”
“Wait, what? Back up, I think you skipped a few steps there.”
Forosuul blinked, then took a deep breath, resuming, “Kajeda has made her decision regarding Tindomiel, which I think you know. But she has also decided to formally announce it. The entire House will meet at the gates of Darnassus in 3 days. We will enter in State, proceed to Tyrande’s Seat, and make the announcement. Alsabe will stand with us, Kajeda thinks it will upset someone.”
“Ohhh, I see, rattling cages, is she?”
“Uh, yes. Those were her exact words, actually.”
Kalithil, grinned, said, “Well, we have known each other a long time, after all. She wants you there as well, in all your Fel glory?”
Forosuul nodded. “She wants to do it all at once. I..um..convinced her.”
Suddenly an excited and poorly stifled squeak sounded from the stairwell. Turning, both Forosuul and Kalithil saw Lilybeth duck back down. Kalithil thundered down, “Are you eavesdropping, child?”
Weakly, from below, the words drifted up, “Um..maybe?”
Kalithil laughed to himself, wearily called down, “Yes, child, you get to come too. Everyone goes, to bolster our numbers. You can stand next to Alsabe and make them all wonder if your charms have suborned her.”
An exuberant “YAY!” came from below, followed by the sound of shuffling papers and feet slapping on the wooden floors, running across the tower.
Forosuul just stared at his grandfather, incredulous. Shaking his head, he says, “I hope you will tell Kajeda that was not my idea.”
Laughing, Kalithil nods his assent. “She would have blamed me anyway, but fear not, I will alibi you. So what’s next?”
“Well, actually, you can help me with this next part. Are you keeping an eye on Alsabe? Because I have no idea where to find her.”
The older man confirmed it, saying, “I keep track of any and all threats and assets to the House, be they living or material. Our little spy has been spending almost all of her time in Dalaran. She seems to be trying to find ways for her path to intersect that of Silannah. I highly suspect she was sent to try and sabotage Sil and Kay’s burgeoning relationship. Seek her there, she is often seen and coming and going at the entrance to the Netherlight Temple.”
“You call her Kay?”
“I do, but no one else does. I would not advise it.”
Grinning, Kalithil explained, “It is a relic of past days. A nickname she never liked. I only use it to annoy her.”
“You two are very strange.”
“No, just old,” laughed the older man. “Do you need to leave right away?”
“I should not stay too long. Kajeda seemed to want everything in place.”
“Stay for a meal? We can talk about our family history, parts you have not heard.”
Forosuul smiled, surprising himself by being happy at the invitation. “How about if I come back after my messages are all delivered? That way everyone is happy.”
“And you don’t get scolded,” said Kalithil as he laughed, “That is fine, I will see you soon.” Forosuul began a bow, then hesitated, remembering what Kajeda said about formality. Seeing it, Kalithil said,
“Oh, Elune! Forosuul, formality is not something we always have to avoid. A show of respect can work both ways. Your grandmother always hated it, but I find it civilized.” And so saying, he bowed low to his grandson.
Smiling, Forosuul returned the gesture, then turned and strode down the stairs.
Standing right at the landing for the next floor down, Lilybeth bounced up and down on her heels, barely containing herself. When Forosuul reached her floor, she leaned in and hissed in a ridiculously loud whisper, “Did you say Tindomiel?”
Forosuul nodded, saying, “Yes, she is my…um..mate.”
“REALLY? WOW! Did you know I know her? Well, sort of…”
Forosuul blinked a few times, overwhelmed in the gale force of Lilybeth’s enthusiasm. Finally, he spoke, “Um, I see. I will tell her you said hello. You will see her in 3 days, when she joins the House.” As soon as he said it, he knew it had been a bad idea.
Lilybeth’s head seemed to almost want to leave her body, “WHAT?” she yelled excitedly. “OH MY GOSH THAT IS AMAZING! I WILL BE ABLE TO TALK TO HER ALL THE TIME!” Forosuul was almost knocked over by the force of her shouting.
From above, Kalithil roared, “Girl, stop screaming and LET HIM LEAVE!”
Lilybeth’s jaw snapped shut comically, and she nodded, still smiling from ear to ear. Bouncing up and down, she waved and then raced off across the room. Fearing to be caught up in her whirlwind again, Forosuul raced down the stairs.
A small darkened alcove in the floating city of Dalaran. On one end, a mystic portal shimmers, providing the area’s only light other than a few candles. On the other, a small table sits with a few chairs surrounding it. Slouching in one chair is a figure in causal clothing, booted feet propped up on another chair, a slouch hat pulled low over his eyes. He seems to be napping.
The portal shimmers, a form stepping through in a shower of gold. The seated figure does not move, does not turn towards the light. But he does not need to turn to See. As the form stepping through the portal takes shape, he almost falters in his studied disinterest. Kajeda had not been kidding. The woman who steps through is quite something to look at. A young-ish kaldorei, she is extremely voluptuous. She has almost exaggerated proportions, far more curvy than the average kaldorei, with a rounded, pretty face. And the way she is accoutered is equally distracting. Boots that come up to her thigh, stockings that peek just above them, and bare thighs up to ridiculously short kilt; a bare midriff and sort of halter top, with a violet-glowing staff on her back. She levitates, her small feet hover maybe a yard off the floor, one leg slightly crossed over the other. Her presentation is either intended as a careful seduction of anyone in her vicinity, or remarkable innocence. Forosuul thinks he knows which it is.
Sitting up and removing his hat, Forosuul calls out, “You are Alsabe, right?”
Startled, the girl whips her head around, her silver hair flying around her face. Seeing the scarred, scaly kaldorei demon hunter, she swallows, and answers a bit hesitantly, “…y-yes?”
Rising, Forosuul forces himself to smile pleasantly. “My name is Forosuul. The Matriarch sent me to speak with you.”
“Kajeda sent you?”
An odd clarification, he thought, almost as if she could not be sure which Matriarch might want her attention. “Yes, of course.”
“I see. You…you are the Scion, yes?” Forosuul nodded, having almost forgotten the title, “how may I serve you, Scion?”
“Please, it’s just Forosuul, or Foro, if you like.”
“Oh, all right.”
Motioning to a chair, Forosuul continued, “Please sit, my neck is going get a crick looking up at you floating there.” And saying so, he regained his seat.
Nodding, Alsabe drifted to the floor, said, “As you wish,” then took the chair opposite him. She gazed at him a moment, then leaned forward, placing her elbows on the table. Forosuul noticed that she very deliberately moved her shoulders forward, making her already enormous breasts stand out even more. He had to concentrate not to stare or roll his eyes. The impressive sight was almost undone by the obviousness of the ploy. He wondered if this girl had always got anything she wanted just by jiggling at the right person.
Clearing his throat, he went on, “Silannah told me about you. Told me you were responsible for the stock of herbals we have now. I am a scribe, so I appreciate your efforts.”
“Oh, you are very welcome, Foro.” She trilled the ‘r’ in his name, and elongated the trailing g ‘o’, imbuing his name with seductive edge that was hard to describe, or even detect. Had he met her at a different time of his life, he might easily have fallen under her spell. This girl may have made mistakes with his family, but she was not to be underestimated. “I just want to make myself useful, in any way I can.” The emphasis was not lost on him.
Smiling tightly, he replied, “Well, there is a task coming up, one in which everyone has a part.”
“Oh, by all means! I am eager to serve!”
“I’m sure you are. In 3 days, the House will proceed into Darnassus in State. Once there, Kajeda has a very important announcement to make to the House of Whisperwind.”
“Oh my, that sounds exciting,” she cried, bouncing seductively.
“You are expected to stand with the House, you understand?”
“Of course!” And more jiggling.
“Very well,” as he said it, preparing to leave, he had a sudden inspiration. Kajeda’s attempt to cast doubts on Alsabe by having her stand with the House would be far more effective if Whisperwind was not informed ahead of time of their intentions. Alsabe would almost certainly send word to Mire as soon as he was gone. Unless he stopped her somehow, and had her watched over for the next 3 days. “Actually, now that I think on it, I am due to travel back to Westfall and have a sit-down with Kalithil, the Majordomo. You should accompany me. It would be much preferable if you could all stay together and travel to Darnassus as a group. Do you have any other commitments the next 3 days?”
Alsabe seemed momentarily taken aback, then stammered out, “um..Silannah wanted me to continue my gathering, and to make some samples of my alchem…”
“Oh, that’s no issue, I will tell her I have commandeered you for a few days. This matter far outweighs simple herb-gathering.”
Without excuses marshaled, Alsabe’s face fell slightly, but she quickly corrected herself and tried to act happy, saying “Oh, THANK you, a few days off from clipping plants would be welcome, if I am being honest. Where will I be staying again?”
“Westfall. A region near Stormwind given over to grain farming. Kalithil maintains a rundown old mage tower near the foothills there.”
“I see,” with effort, Alsabe tried not to look horrified at the idea of staying in a musty old tower with an old man for 3 days.
“Don’t worry, he has an apprentice, a nice young woman who is just great to be around.”
“Oh, well, that’s nice, I can get to know her then.”
Smiling strangely, Forosuul replied, “yeah, you have fun with that. Shall we go?”
“May I go back into the temple and gather a few things?”
“Of course, I’ll be right here until you come out. I recommend some traveling clothes.” Alsabe stiffened at the last comment, but smiled robotically and re-entered the portal to the Temple.
Left alone once more, Forosuul ruminated. I hope I am not too far off the mark here. I am doing this without leave, and who knows how Kalithil will react when I show up with this girl in tow. I doubt she can reach out to Mire while I wait here, too long in there and I might become suspicious. And when she arrives with our House and has not told her mother what is happening, hopefully they will start to doubt her.
He smiled to himself, rather pleased with his quick thinking. Moments later, the portal flared once more, and Alsabe stepped through, wearing a dress suitable for travel this time.
Smiling at her, he said, “There you are. That did not take long at all. Shall we catch a gryphon?” Alsabe nodded stiffly, and they walked out into Dalaran.
Kalithil and Forosuul sat across the table from each other, on the top floor of Kalithil’s tower. Between them was set a simple meal of cheese, fruit and strong wine. From the floor below, the sound of excited squealing and laughter, punctuated by exasperated sighs and groans of irritation.
Kalithil looked at Forosuul, glanced towards the stairs and the noise, said, “Why?”
Forosuul grinned and replied, whispering, “I need her watched. I don’t want her warning them we are coming.”
“Ahhh, very clever, Forosuul. You are thinking like your grandmother.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Kalithil barked out a laugh, said, “As you like.” The two men continued to eat their meal and chat.
Hours later, Forosuul descended the stairs again, stopping on the apprentice’s floor. Lilybeth bounced around joyously, chattering full speed, and unceasingly, at Alsabe. Alsabe, for her part, was trying her best to endure and not look miserable.
“Lilybeth, a word, please,” said Forosuul.
“Yes, Forosuul?” she replied brightly.
“Just so you understand, Alsabe was cast out by her family. A terrible business, not her fault at all. We have taken her in, but she is still reeling from that loss. For the next 3 days, I expect you to watch over her, and not leave her alone. Not for a moment, all right?”
Hearing this, Lilybeth’s eyes grew wider and wider, filling with sympathetic tears. Suddenly she rushed over to Alsabe and snatched her up in a desperate embrace, squealing, “YOU POOR THING!”
Alsabe, for her part, broke character under the strain. She stood with her mouth agape, staring at Forosuul in horror at her life for the next 3 days. Pleased with himself, the demon hunter grinned at her and descended the tower.