Summer had come and gone. The leaves were starting to fall off the tree’s and the wind was beginning to acquire the brisk cold bite of the approaching winter. Ahliarin Nepharin felt the same thing happening to her. Growing colder inside the longer she was here.
She had been at Northshire Abbey for months. It was home to a human religious order of clerics who called themselves the Brotherhood of Northshire. It rested in the foothills of Elwynn Forest and acted as sort of a training ground. The abbey had been rebuilt since the Second War when it was a base for Cho’Gall and his Twilight’s Hammer clan.
Ahliarin’s training was different. Even with the power in the arcane, she was subjected to lessons in gardening, tailoring and jobs like cleaning and other tasks she didn’t mind, but felt her abilities would be better served with the Serpents of Dawn. She was a mage. A relatively powerful one she was told. Power that when finally unleashed freed her soul and helped save the Serpents of Dawn from a terrible fate. The Serpents of Dawn were a mercenary wing of the Argent Dawn led by Kilazar A’steroth, a dangerous night elf rogue and expert assassin during the third war.
She had been here for months and it had actually consumed her every waking thought. This is what she wanted, no, what she needed to do. This was how she could make amends with her past and do something for the better of Azeroth as a whole. Ahliarin Nepharin didn’t have the brightest past. She had been a slave to the Burning Legion. An operative who was cold and ruthless, but didn’t have a choice. Her mind was enslaved to demonic magic and dark compulsions.
That’s why she was here. As the dark mage, lady Kaeddi Sauding she governed houses who had sworn allegiance to the dark powers of the world with an iron fist. She was surprised her list of crimes didn’t have her executed, but the light had mercy on her. As did the word of the Argent Dawn. So she was brought by them to Northshire Abbey. After several days of negotiations it was decided that being at the Abbey would be the best place to immerse her into civilization to evaluate her and see if she was a liability.
She had been placed under the watchful eye of a priest named Noriella Lightgiver. At first the woman seemed genuinely compassionate. She was there to help Ahliarin with her studies and explain the change in the world some since she was taken in the as the Horde moved through Lordaeron in the second war. She was impressed to find that somebody who had been under the influence from childhood was as educated as Ahliarin was. To less of their surprise, she was also quite familiar with world events.
While she was still young at the time, she remembered when she had become a servant of what had been called a Death Knight. She remembered being taught that her power made her a ruler of the land, superior to the mundane trek of human’s parading around Azeroth. For some time she believed it. For some time she was a weapon. Slowly, she began to question her place. She came to learn what she did was wrong.
As the months grew on and Ahliarin’s interest in the Serpents of Dawn grew, so did the amount that Noriella pushed her and tore her down. Stories of her actions were reflected on. People she had killed, forced to relive the moments countless times. Forced to read passages of forgiveness from a prayerbook after each reciting. There were many days that she cried herself to sleep feeling she could not go on any further.
As time passed she would be sent out to help with the incursions. Defias insurgents, disgruntled workers that had helped rebuild Stormwind and felt they had been cheated out of payment, had infested the vineyard. Kobolds, rat like creatures with a deterrence to sunlight had infested the mines to the west. She was being allowed to join the patrols to help defend against these problems. She found at this time, that she was scared of her own magic.
All of this seemed irrelevant to the threat of the Burning Legion. She realized that these local issues were a threat to the people here, but she knew that what she was destined for was something more. That very idea had Noriella pushing her down and stripping away her own self worth. Today, that was over. Today she would push back.
“You’re drifting again woman,” Noriella snapped, the long switch she carried for authoritative appearance than discipline, smacking her desk with a loud crack. “Perhaps you are misunderstanding my intent here.” Ahliarin found it hard to believe the woman was a priest. Even with compassion filling her brown eyes, she could change her demeanor in a moment to suit her needs. Today her red hair was pulled back in a bun and eyes seemed hard along the edges like she had little rest recently. She was a relatively pretty woman, most men could consider a trophy wife. Her lips were pursed in determination and righteousness.
“This is not a matter of what you want or think you want but a matter of what you should do. You have a very traumatic past and I don’t think you fully understand what it is you seek” she continued. “You have your head in the clouds with this Serpents of Dawn notion. That drops you right into the battle front with those who have already controlled you before. What do you think could happen? What is it you are searching for? Vengeance serves nothing in the long run and if it’s ever fulfilled you find yourself empty and with nothing.”
“I’ve heard this all before Noriella, which means perhaps you are missing my intent here. I have nothing in the way of a desire for vengeance. What I need is salvation! I would expect you to know the difference priest.” She bit that last part off with a little bit more scorn than she was intending but continued on. “I have done things, terrible things that most people would probably be executed for. The fact that I’m still alive is a gift of the very light you stand for.”
She realized that she had tightened up, and her entire body had leaned forward in her chair, staring Noriella down in defiance. They both remained motionless for several moments. Noriella tilted her head. A look of frustration and surprise on her face.
“I would watch your tongue Ahliarin as the gallows has not been completely ruled out of your future. If I was to think for one second that you pose even the slightest threat you will be making that walk.” It was easy to see that the woman was not enjoying this task any more, being criticized for her beliefs. Ahliarin knew the risk in speaking out in this fashion. She was instructed by Brother Paxton that Noriella was the fork in the road of her own life and death.
“Than do it. We can walk to Marshal McBride together, Lightgiver. If that is what you think should be my fate, than so be it. At least I will die for doing something I believe in.” She, however was not caring anymore. She was done listening to something that changed nothing about how she felt. She was done trying to prove herself to people who cared more about their own beliefs than her own desires, no, needs.
“Very well, mage.” she smiled. “I shall consult with Marshall McBride on his thoughts and we shall see what he says.” So much for calling a bluff. She didn’t regret her outburst as much as she thought she would. As she walked back to her bedding she replayed the day in her head. She realized she no longer understood what they were trying to do. At the beginning they had said they were going to help her, but how long would she have to sit here before they felt she was ready leave this place.
All she remembered about going to sleep that night were tears. It wasn’t the first tears she shed while here, but it occurred to her they may be her last. Maybe she would make the gallows on the morrow. She had been here far too long, when she could be making a difference in the world. No matter what the dawn brought, she knew in her heart it would damn well be the last tears she would shed in this place.
At sunrise, she was summoned to the Grand Hall. Her tears had only strengthened her resolve. She chose the nicest dress she had, which were not the types she was accustomed too in her old life, but one’s she had made herself through her own skills in tailoring. Straightening her high collar, Ahliarin turned to look in the mirror. Yes, this was the best dress for the occasion, especially if it was the last day alive.
The silver and gray gown gleamed in the light. She ran her fingers down the exquisite embroidery of red and black she had done. Most people never looked to close or they could see the representation of ethereal threads of fire magic that lined the bottom and around the collar. A symbol of her power. The dress dipped down, showing just enough for her to feel like a powerful woman. She smiled to herself as she begun to pin up her hair. The irony that her dress told so much of who she was and yet nobody noticed. It was still pleasing to the eye even if not befitting the full elegance of a noblewoman. Even the belt and boots she chose were in line with color.
She made her way to the cathedral where she was met by Brother Paxton, Marshal McBride and Noriella. They stood at the center of the wall which led to the bell tower via staircase behind it. She was told to wait against the wall until she was called on. On Noriella’s right was Magus Trelinar, Archmage of Dalaran. He was a resplendent man, in rich purple silk robes and the tabard of the Kirin Tor. He had stubble of hair forming the outline of a beard and his brown hair was starting to grow out giving him a rugged appearance.
On the other side of the hall from him was a knight in the Black Tabard with the sun of the Argent Dawn addressed as Lieutenant Brynn and …. Kilazar A’steroth. Her breath caught momentarily in shock. He wore rugged leather gear for maneuverability. Daggers were sheathed at his sides and his hands hovered nearby ready to pull them at any moment. His braided emerald hair fell over his right shoulder. The light in his eyes bore into her soul: assessing her, studying her, judging her.
“Ahliarin Nepharin, it is the understanding of the Brotherhood of Northshire and the Argent Dawn that you believe your destiny to be with the mercenaries known as the Serpents of Dawn.” Marshal McBride had a serious tone and a deep voice that echoed through the hall with an almost eerie foreboding.
She stepped into the middle of the room, cautious and unsure of herself now. She was expecting to be marching off to the gallows by noon. She would not however, let them see her doubt.
“That is correct.” She kept her eyes on McBride. In her mind this was a showdown.
“What makes you believe that this group of mercenaries has a need for you?” asked Brother Paxton.
“I do not if they do so much as I have services to offer them and a shared belief in the cause in which they stand for.”
Kilazar said nothing but stood dangerously against the wall like a lion ready to pounce at any moment. His arms were now crossed, but still within quick access to his blades.
“Over the last couple months, under the very strict methods employed by Noriella we have come to believe that this may very well be the path for you. Kilazar A’steroth has accordingly agreed to allow you to join his wing of the Argent Dawn.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” she said. “I have spent the better part of the last few months being beaten down and explained in more ways than I can count that I am not worth it. I expected to be at the gallows by now.”
“The last few months showed us, if anything, that your will is strong. Noriella has exerted a lot of energy in stripping away the false sense of self you had so that you could build the true you. Everything that you went through was to find yourself. Through it all you held on to one glimmer of thought. The cause of these few individuals. We believe you have earned the chance to prove it to more than just us.”
She didn’t know what to say. This was all a test? The torment, the crying to sleep was all just for this? She looked at Kilazar who only stared at her. It occurred to her at that moment however, that while it was a test, it was one she had passed.
“Ahliarin Nepharin, you are hereby released from your lessons of the Brotherhood of Northshire and from this day forward are responsible for your own actions. May the light continue to have mercy on your soul.”
“The Kirin Tor is also very inclined in seeing you reach your potential, Nepharin,” Trelinar broke in and placed his hand on her shoulder. “We will be watching your career with great interest.” With that he walked out of the room.
Noriella was walking away with Marshal McBride and Brother Paxton while Lieutenant Brynn addressed Kilazar A’steroth in hushed tones. Her eyes followed Noriella out of the room with a new respect.
Turning she stared Kilazar in the eyes. “Permission to come aboard Serpent Lord?” She said more nervous than she would have liked. She would not back down though.
“Permission granted,” he replied as he walked to the door. She followed, staying a step behind him to his right. “Your first mission begins now.”