A New Mission

Posted in Laila, Southern Barrens, Stormwind on July 25, 2011 by lailagreenwalker

Laila at her studies

Only two months into her studies, Laila was bored already. She could not believe it. This had been a dream of hers – the achievement of a goal. She was invited to study with the mages of Stormwind, an opportunity those of lower birth like her self rarely saw in a lifetime. At first she had taken to it enthusiastically, but it soon become clear that the skills she had the most aptitude for were most definitely not scholarly skills. At first she was so proud to make a breakthrough and learn something new. But the excitement quickly faded when she realized her life allowed little opportunity to actually use the skills she was learning. Oh sure, she could light her lantern or fire when the night grew dark or chill her water in the heat of the afternoon, or conjure up bread when she had been at her studies long into the evening and was too tired to make a meal or go procure one. But the skills she learned the fastest were those of a war mage.

It had become abundantly clear to her and those teaching her that she had unwittingly been set on the right path from the start. She controlled the elements as if they were simple tools. When she didn’t want to be found, no one could find her. When she wanted to make a quick getaway, no one could catch her. She had tried hard to become a scholar and master the quieter skills of the academic but it was no use. She had a keen eye for gathering herbs and always came back with an abundance of greenery in her basket, but all her attempts at potions, salves and elixirs failed. She could sew a cloak or a frock or put together a pair of boots with precision, but when she tried to enchant them it wouldn’t take. She hadn’t the patience of a scribe nor the focus of a historian.

Her practical skills at least went to some use. Once she abandoned alchemy and enchanting, she found that she could make a tidy living selling her herbs and clothes to masters and wealthy students who did not care to do the grunt work for themselves. In the short time she had been here she had been able to move out of the inn and set herself up in a small set of rooms of her own in the mage district. It wasn’t anything like her home had been, but she had both a bedroom and sitting room, a stove and a small herb garden, and she was quite comfortable there. But even her little rooms couldn’t stay the apathy that was slowly settling in.

One day, after she nearly set fire to a thousand-year-old scroll, Elsharin sent her home. “This will not do, Laila,” she said. “Deathwing has done enough damage to Stormwind, I cannot have you burning the rest of it down. Go now and take a break from your studies until you hear from me. You desperately need a change.”

Laila stalked home, frustrated and scared. She was sure to be sent away now. She was clearly not cut out to be a mage. Perhaps she could become a merchant. She had proven handy at that, but she sighed at that thought. While she loved spending her afternoons in the woods or creating a perfect garment, it did not cure the boredom. Just like she had not been ready in Westfall, she was not ready to settle down here.

She spent the next several days worrying and trying to calm herself by roaming the woods, visiting the folk out there and picking herbs. It did nothing to calm her, but it passed the time more quickly than sitting home. At the end of the week she received a letter summoning her to the tower. When she got there, the archmage himself was waiting for her. Her heart sank.

A new assignment

He was waiting for her outside the tower and he invited her to walk with him. So she did. Admittedly, it calmed her a bit. Whatever hard news he had, she felt she could take it better walking about the city than sitting in a tower room.

“Laila,” he said, sternly “Elsharin reports that are faltering in your studies.”

“Sir,” she replied meekly, “I am afraid she is correct. It is not for lack of eagerness or trying … it is … I don’t know how to say it. I am afraid I am just not right for this. I hoped I might be, but I must accept that I am not. I know you must dismiss me and I am prepared. I will make no fuss.”

The master looked at her quizzically and laughed. “My dear, do you think you are the first mage ever to chafe at sitting within a tower or library all day long? Can you really think you are so special?”

Laila was puzzled. ‘Well … no sir, I imagine there are many who have failed as I have.”

“Failed? Get a hold of yourself girl! Think how many people there are in this world. Do you think every single mage is exactly the same? Do you think all of us just love to sit around peering at scrolls all day long or measuring out drops of this and that into a vial?”

“Well, I …” she hadn’t really thought of it that way. “I guess …. I thought that’s what a mage … WAS.”

“Nonsense, child. Mages are all sorts. How often do you see me chanting over a crystal ball? Do you even know how powerful I am?”

“Well, you are an archmage, you must be …”

“Very powerful? Not a bit of it. Many archmages are quite powerful but some of us or not. I am rather average if it comes down to it. I just happen to have a talent for managing people and running things, so I’ve been made an archmage so I can run this tower and things don’t run to chaos. We all have our specialties and it’s pretty clear you are not a scholar. There’s nothing wrong with that, we just have to find something else for you to do. As it happens, with the state of things your kind happens to be more in need than the scholarly type anyway.”

Laila’s heart swelled. This was sounding more hopeful.

“After Elsharin came to me, it didn’t take me too long to find a spot for you. Turns out, your work out in Westfall has made you fairly well known.”

“Me?”

“Yes you, don’t gape. You don’t know, but some of those people you were talking with were more well-placed than you know and in casting about on your behalf I received a bite from a very big fish indeed. No less than Jaina Proudmoore herself has requested you on Kalimdor.”

“You’re … kidding. Jaina Proudmoore? How can she possibly know who I am, it has to be coincidence or a mistake.”

“She knows exactly who you are, she made that very clear in her reply and she wants your talents in particular. And you might he happy to hear she has requested your friend Edmond as well. You can go together. Clearly she is aware of what you two did in Westfall.”

Of course. “So she is needing cheese then?”

“Of course. Armies must be fed. And clothed. You are going as a seamstress again. You sewed up Van Cleef’s smallclothes so well, surely you can do the same for the men of the Alliance. You will receive particulars about any further duties when you arrive. You are to report to Admiral Aubrey of the Theramore Marines.”

And so it was that Laila and Edmond found themselves working together again and packed off to a whole different continent. Laila was terrified, but excited. This was what she was meant for, much as she hated to admit it. Admiral Aubrey greeted them as the seamstress and provisioner they were sent to be, but once they were alone in his quarters he revealed their true mission.

“My lady Jaina, she is in need of eyes and ears here in the region. The battle is at a critical point and because the situation is so perilous, there is not a lot of information to be had from the battle lines. The news we do receive back is so incomplete and sometimes even strange that Jaina has determined she needs a true report. You will be sent from post to post to ‘resupply’ them. Do so but also find out what is going on. You will travel with a small escort of Marines and Preservers who are proven loyal. When you are able you will report to Jaina herself. You know how, for you did it often from your home.”

Suddenly a memory fell on Laila, of a woman in a tower she had oftentimes met with. She had been told it was an academic and teacher she was reporting to and the woman had seemed scholarly and unassuming. She had gone by the name of … “Elayne,” Laila gasped. “That is correct. Now you understand how to contact her?” “I do,” Laila replied, breathless. She had been speaking directly to the Lady herself and she had never known. How many ways had she broken protocol? Best not to think about it.

“Now get a hot meal and some rest. You are leaving for your first camp with the dawn.”

Arrival in Stormwind

Posted in Laila, Stormwind on February 27, 2011 by lailagreenwalker

Laila looks out over Stormwind in the moonlight.

Laila left Westfall by ship.  Now that the Defias threat was dampened and the land was in such upheaval, it was much faster to sail up the coast than to travel by land, even though it was now much safer by land than it had been before. There was no fanfare, no big farewells. Just a ferryman who took Laila and Patch out to sea until they met up with a large ship anchored as shallow as it could go. Patch was extremely distressed to find himself at sea, but he was a solid horse and had been trained for battle as well as work. He stood stock still and didn’t move, and just stared at Laila balefully. They lowered a wide plank down to the ferry for her and she and Patch carefully made her way up it to find her welcoming committee – Elsharin and Edmond. She hugged them excitedly.

It had been quite a while since she had seen either of them. The cruise to Stormwind was perfect for them to catch up. It was cold and cloudy and the wind was brisk, so they went belowdecks and shared hard biscuits and black coffee with the Captain and then sat together and spoke of their lives since they had last seen each other.  Elsharin had been working for the Silver Covenant, who had her looking into a new Blood Elf organization called The Reliquary. Elsharin admitted that she had been somewhat relieved to hear from Gryan Stoutmantle and that it had been a relief to surrender the task. She did not feel as militantly as the Silver Covenant about the Sin’Dorei and after her initial research into the Reliquary she found that she could not quarrel with their cause, for what they sought was not only an end to the Sin’Dorei dependency on arcane power, but also a way to repair the sundering between the Sin’Dorei and Quel’Dorei. Elsharin grieved that they remained enemies and felt that she would actually welcome diplomatic inroads. Laila was fascinated to hear of all this. Being so entrenched in Stormwind she knew and heard little of anything outside of human politics. It was somewhat refreshing to hear about something else for a change.

As for Edmond … “I’ve been learning how to make cheese,” he grinned.

Laila peered at him, as if waiting for the punchline.

Edmond laughed. “No, I’m serious. I’m training with Stormwind’s master of cheese, Elling Trias. He is teaching me the fine art of cheesemongering. Of course I have more that I am learning as well, but every good SI:7 operative must have real life skills, and some sort of occupation. Making cheese is a fine one, don’t you think?”

Laila laughed at him. Of course it made sense. Some SI:7 agents went about their business as agents, but many others were undercover, sometimes deeply so. In her own travels she had met with the unlikeliest of figures – shepherds, transients, farmhands, makers of ladies’ delicate garments, schoolmarms, spoiled debutantes, and ink-stained clerks, among others. Why not a cheesemonger? What surprised her was that Edmond was taking that route. He had once wanted to be a paladin. There wasn’t a more straightforward profession than that. She had assumed he would opt for one of the more public law enforcement routes rather than subterfuge. She felt a bit sad as she wondered how well she really knew her friend. But then she brightened as she realized that since he was learning the art of cheese in Stormwind, they would be able to spend time together. All people changed–she had changed. She could get to know him as he was now.

Laila told them of her wines and the rebuilding of Westfall, and what had become of all the folks they had known there. Eric had been able to reclaim his family’s land and had married a young woman of Elwynn Forest.  They already had a babe who looked like she would be a strapping lass that took after her father, and another on the way. Keegan had opened an ale house in Moonbrook that was quite popular with the local lads and was well on his way to doing his family proud as a successful merchant. Lorell had moved on somewhere in her wanderings and Laila had heard nothing of her since. When they arrived in Stormwind, it was full night and they were all tired. Elsharin would show Laila to her new quarters and Edmond had to wake up early to start with his cheese, so he was going to go straight to bed. They made a plan to meet in the afternoon and take supper together, however, and Laila was pleased to see that it seemed their friendship would easily resume, as naturally as ever.

Before she and Elsharin moved onward towards the Mage District, Laila stopped at the top of the walk and looked out over the sea, back towards Westfall. She wondered if she would ever truly have a home. It seemed just as she had found one, it was ripped away from her. But she knew that deep down she hadn’t been ultimately satisfied with that simple life. It had made her happy, but she still had dreams that were unfulfilled and she was young enough to continue to hope for them. The upheaval had set her back on that road and she couldn’t help but be excited at the new possibilities lining up before her.

Cataclysm

Posted in Laila, Westfall on January 18, 2011 by lailagreenwalker

Laila's home in Westfall.

After the events within the Deadmines, three years passed in apparent peace. As far as the greater world could tell, Laila was honorably discharged from the military and given a pension in recognition of her extraordinary service. Gryan Stoutmantle gifted her a parcel of land out of the abandoned holdings in Westfall. Laila settled down on her own and began her own vineyard. By the second vintage made with her grapes, the vintner had established an exclusive contract with her, for the wines made with her grapes had become sought after quickly, as the sea air they were grown in imparted a unique yet subtly complex aroma to the wine.

The truth was not so different from how it appeared. For the most part, Laila was now nothing but a country farmer, tending her vines and riding her solid pinto farmhorse, Patch, into Moonbrook for the weekly market. In truth, however, while she had been honorably discharged from the military, Stormwind had not given up her commission altogether. Her services had been transferred to the mage council, where she served as a liaison between them and SI:7. Her duties at present were few–she mostly served as a messenger, receiving and delivering reports between various parties. She had been given the keys to open portals to various locations so that she could travel instantaneously and discreetly from her own home, to a far off city or even another continent without having been seen to go anywhere at all.

She recognized, of course, how lucky she was. The upper echelons of magery were reserved for the wealthy and an orphan of low birth like herself generally only had two options: the military, as she had originally chosen, or to become a hedge witch or wizard, practicing small magics in little villages for other humble folks. Now she was a part of the mage council, and even though she was merely an errand girl for them, she now had relationships with powerful mages and they of necessity had to teach her more. She was torn because she loved the life she had now and knew if she continued as she was, this could be her life from now on, never advancing, but remaining peaceful and happy where she was. But she also knew if she could manage to distinguish herself once more, somehow, then perhaps she could advance farther still. Perhaps she could one day see Dalaran. But that was an almost impossible hope, so for now she had kept to her path, happy as she was.

She and Edmond saw each other regularly, for their duties often intersected. For a time, they became lovers, as was perhaps inevitable, but as it became clear their time together would be confined to fleeting, stolen moments, they returned to being friends. They had realized that their existing closeness would not allow for a casual romance and their different duties and lives would not allow for anything more serious. Laila had been heartbroken at first, but had soon come to see that it was best. If they were meant to be together, it would eventually come to pass. And if not, well the chances of the first boy you meet being your one true love were awfully small. She would surely meet someone else eventually. As a matter of fact, more than one Westfall lad had put in his cap for her, as her farm was perhaps even more enticing than her youthful looks and health. She had let them all down gently, for although she loved her farm, she was not yet ready to accept being a farmer’s wife and of course her duties made that impossible unless she developed a much more close and trusting relationship with anyone than she had now.

It was perhaps, a good thing she had not time to get too settled into her pastoral life, for soon enough it was ripped away, quite literally. Just had Westfall seemed to have thrown off the shadow of the Defias and had once more settled into a thriving farming community, the earthquakes began. Laila cashed in whatever credit she had earned to receive information from those in the know. What she learned was troubling, for the very faction leaders had acknowledged that something was very wrong. Laila passed on a message to Gryan Stoutmantle that the peace may soon be shattered, and he made sure that Sentinel Hill’s defenses were shored up and that it was once again able to receive refugees, should it become necessary.

When Deathwing shattered the world along with his bonds, Laila was prepared. As the earthquakes worsened, Laila moved herself and her essential belongings into Moonbrook’s inn, making trips out to maintain her farm. When the world broke, her farm broke with it. The cliff where it sat crumbled and her home collapsed. It was with a heavy heart that she next reported to Gryan Stoutmantle, ready to come to the aid of Westfall once more. She threw her energy into helping get those whose homes had been affected resettled. She gave no thought to what she would do, for something inside told her that this was a sign that it was time for her to do something else. She was too young to settle into the life she had been living and somewhere within she knew she had more to do.

As if the Light had seen into her heart, she soon received a message from Stormwind.The mage council had received the report of her situation, and Stoutmantle must have reported her unwillingness to attempt to rebuild, for she was invited to the capital to stay. Her former superior, Elsharin, had prevailed upon the mage council and they now offered her a scholarship. She was invited to come study in the tower and continue her training as a scholar. It was not Dalaran, but it was a step in that direction. Such an opportunity was normally only reserved for young lordlings and ladies. She would have access to finest equipment, libraries and teachers that this continent had to offer, since Dalaran had been uprooted.

It was a bittersweet day when Laila trotted out of Westfall on Patch, who was laden with what was left of her possessions. She had made Gryan promise that a patch of land near the sea would always be hers, for she had been happy here and she wished to return. She smiled sadly as she rode across the bridge into Elwynn Forest, remembering the girl that had crossed the other way. She was now 22 years old, and though she knew that was still very young, and that she would be laughed at if she ever said it out loud, she felt so old now, she could barely believe her life was still in its beginning. She felt as if she had lived a lifetime already. Reviewing her last thought, she laughed aloud at herself. She knew she would look back at this moment many times in the future and feel very foolish.

Victory

Posted in Laila, Westfall on May 24, 2010 by lailagreenwalker

Laila kneels victorious before Gryan Stoutmantle

Laila slowly came awake, but didn’t move. She just lay there, letting the sunlight warm her and luxuriating in the feel of a real bed with clean sheets. Heather’s beds were not a lord’s bed, but even busting at the seams and creaky with hay instead of feathers, they were the most comfortable thing she had slept on for a while.

An enticing smell reached her nose and she sat up sleepily. Heather rushed to her side. “Oh Miss Laila, you’re awake. I’ve made you the biggest breakfast.”

“Oh Heather, you shouldn’t have. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this smells wonderful and I can’t wait to eat it, but I don’t need anything special from you.”

“Oh, it is nothing. This meal doesn’t even begin to thank you for saving Westfall!”

Laila laughed, but then grew grave. “Oh Heather, I wish I had. Not only did I barely do anything, but there are still many Defias out there and now they have no leader and will be desperate to grab what they can for themselves. It will be some time before Westfall is safe, I am afraid.”

Heather sighed. “Yes, I know, dear, but the worst seems over to me. We have the Westfall Brigade to stand strong against the remaining Defias and in time I am sure it will be safe enough for us to reclaim more of Westfall. In any case, the main thing is that I have this wonderful breakfast waiting here and I would love for you to eat it. Do you accept?”

Laila laughed. “How could I refuse? It smells way too enticing.”

As she sat down to eat, Elsharin walked in. Laila beckoned her over. “Please help me eat this breakfast, there’s far too much of it.” Elsharin looked as if she were going to refuse but the smell in the room was irresistable. She sat down and began to nibble on a small oat and honey cake.

“After breakfast, you are to go see Gryan Stoutmantle. I do believe this is not work but merely a congratulatory meeting. All of your superiors, including myself agree that you’ve earned a bit of a rest. After that it is your choice what you do. Your time in service is completely voluntary, but if you wish to continue training as a mage and you leave the service, you will have to find some way to finance it.”

Laila smiled. “I have no intention of leaving at this point. I’m not even sure what I would do! It is true that I have a bit of reward coming to me, but it is not so much as all that. I have also been promised some land here of my own as I have some ideas for a vineyard, but I personally am not the farmer type. It will be nice to have a home, but I would like for this to remain my occupation.”

“In that case, there is another offer on the table for you. SI:7 had already had their eye on Edmond, but they were quite impressed with you as well. They are not prepared to induct you into their organization, but they do have people they use as operatives out in the world. People who appear as ordinary folk unconnected with the world of espionage and secrecy. The powers that be in SI:7 have made it known to me that they would welcome you in such a role. If you chose it, you would remain a part of the mage council and could probably soon expect a promotion. Your training would continue albeit in a somewhat different way, and you would settle down to live where you chose – here it seems. From time to time you would receive certain requests for information and temporary assignments couched in innocuous tasks, errands, and meetings. Potentially you could in the future be involved in larger operations as well, much like the one here in Westfall.”

“That sounds … like exactly what I would like to do. But what about you, and what about Edmond?”

“I am returning to Stormwind, but I will remain in contact with you and we will meet regularly and I will continue to provide training to you. Edmond has been asked to join SI:7 officially.”

“But … he was training to be a paladin.”

“He was. But his past, his personality and his talents and abilities make him particularly well-suited, and as I hear it, he was all too happy to accept. Being a paladin is … one generally has to be called to it, simply choosing it is not always enough. But that is something you can discuss with him yourself. If you accept SI:7′s offer, I am sure you will still work with him in the future.”

“Oh yes, I fully intend to accept. It sounds like the perfect combination of occupation and freedom for me.”

“Very good, I will relay the message and someone will contact you. Since you are choosing to remain here, I will have you appointed as the Mage Council’s representative to the People’s Militia. You will work with them to help secure the area and begin reconstruction.”

“I would like nothing more.”

“Now, we must make haste to see Gryan. He is waiting for you.”

Laila soon found herself kneeling before Gryan Stoutmantle.

“What is all this,” he laughed. “It is I who should kneel to you, child.”

“I really didn’t-”

“Yes, I know we’ve all heard it all. Whether you did or didn’t anything, we are grateful.  Now, come inside and sit with me a while.” They retired into the watchtower, where Gryan sat at his rickety camp desk and Laila pulled up a stool. He poured some strong dark coffee to warm them, as the early morning chill penetrated the tower.

“Tell me, child, what are your plans now?”

Laila told him of what she and Elsharin had discussed previously, and she thought Elsharin must have known this was coming.

Gryan smiled widely at her. “Good, good. I am glad to hear you are staying. I was going to offer you a place in our militia, but this will be much better for you. We have plenty to do and could use capable help such as yours. I hope that once it is safe for you to get settled in your own place, we will still see you around Sentinel Hill often.”

“Why of course, I shall need to meet with you regularly and I am sure there will be much to do for a while to come.”

“Good, good! Now off with you, I am sure you have a lot to do today!”

“Sir!” Laila saluted the commander before taking her leave. He merely winked back at her. As she left she thought she could really get used to this type of military organization.

Deadmines

Posted in Laila, Westfall on April 29, 2010 by lailagreenwalker

The juggernaut in the Deadmines

Laila sat in a small dark room. An oil lamp burned dimly and she was scrunched up as close to it as she could, black leather spilling over her lap like oil and a small, neatly folded pile of more black leather stacked next to her feet. The room swayed gently and she shuddered a bit, remembering the size of the behemoth in which she sat. But her mind couldn’t help wandering to the thought of how high she was and whether, if she walked outside, she would be able to peer down over the walls of Stormwind when they reached their destination.

A chair scraped in the next room and she looked down, frowned and concentrated over her work. She pressed her feet to the floor as if to seek some sort of connection to Edmond, who labored far below. Neither of them would ever have imagined the vastness of the secret these mines hid. Larger than anything she had ever seen, this ship was truly a devastating weapon and she feared if it could not be stopped all life as she had once known it would be destroyed. She wondered if the men who had created this ship — most of them builders by trade, creators–new how much destruction their creation would bring. It should be abhorrent to a crafter to destroy so much honest labor in one fell swoop, much of it their own. But no one here was rational anymore. Things had long since descended into madness along with the leader of the Defias.

As if her thought had disturbed him, she heard Van Cleef clear his throat next door. He shuffled some papers, made some pen scratchings and then she heard him leap from his chair and begin to pace. She could tell he grew impatient. He was not the type of man who liked to be idle. All his life he had worked and now no less so–but he was a leader and he could not labor with his underlings. He had to show his men that he was in charge, that he was supervising and making decisions. But he was not a thinker and each day he grew more unable to sit and think and plan. She hoped that meant his guard was down.

Edmond had more freedom than she did. He had become well-trusted, for he had proved himself and he had a past. In all respects he seemed dedicated to the Defias for most other boys in the situation he claimed probably would have run off, taken a job and abandoned the Defias. He had seemingly stuck with them and made his way back and he had set to work earnestly with a convincing fervor. His father had also been well-known and was considered a hero, for he had died at Northshire. Laila was an unknown quantity so she was required to stay close to Van Cleef during the day, mending his clothes and those of his personal guard. At night she was escorted straight back to the inn to be watched over by Old Bernie until Edmond returned.

This freedom had allowed Edmond to get information to the SI:7. He hadn’t been able to tell her much, but it was a quick business. Short meetings in the dead of night, as Edmond made his way back to the tavern. He didn’t dare write anything down so they could only hope that the information would be enough and that action could be taken before it was too late. Most recently he had delivered the most important piece of information: the location of a secret entrance to the mines that led directly to where the juggernaut was being constructed. Now they could only hope the Stormwind forces could find a way to use this information before the giant vessel set sail toward Stormwind Harbor.

But time was passing rapidly, and each day the ship grew nearer to completion, and they heard nothing more from SI:7. Laila felt very alone, very small, and very frightened. Her hand faltered for a moment, but then she took a deep breath and concentrated hard on her sewing. Watching each stitch progress neatly, one after the other like little soldiers marching step-by-step in straight lines. She imagined it was an army, marching toward her, ready to do battle.

At that moment there were bangs and clatters from the next room. She heard shouting and a commotion far below. She heard cursing from Van Cleef and heard his footsteps pound out of the room. She did not hear his bodyguards, but knew they had followed silently, disappearing into the shadows. She sat still, frozen. Suddenly the footsteps came rushing back. Van Cleef stuck his head into the room, his eyes blazing. “Stay right here,” he commanded. “Do not move. I expect to see you sitting right in that spot when I return. Do not make a sound. Do not do anything. Just keep at your work.”

And then he was gone again. For an eternity, Laila did as she was told, although there was no way she continue with work. She flung the leather aside and flung herself on the floor on the corner. She closed her eyes and made herself into ice, forcing herself to calm. As she entered into her battle-ready mode she was a snow queen–quiet, pale, and still and listening and concentrating hard, her awareness drifting out of this room and into the next seeking to know what happened.

She heard shouts and then she heard a voice she knew as well as her own. Edmond. She could not hear the words but he was just outside. She stood up slowly and edged her way into the outer room, then flattened herself against the wall. Painfully slowly, she edged towards the door, straining to see whatever she could outside. Finally she reached the threshold, and she peered outside. Edmond and several people dressed in the black of SI:7 were in pitched battle with Van Cleef and his guards. As one woman swiveled, she recognized her old roommate Keryn. They were struggling, but they were holding on, when Laila noticed something. One of Van Cleef’s sneaks was slithering up behind Edmond, having hid herself behind a stack of crates. her knife was raised to stab him through the back of the neck. She knew full well who had betrayed them.

Without even stopping to think, Laila’s hands raised, almost of their own accord. In an instant, the rogue was encased in a block of ice, and in the next instant, ice and rogue burst apart in blast of arcane energies. The recoil from the blast that emanated from her palms knocked Laila back against the opposite wall and she slid to the floor, gasping and fumbling at her side. She raised a flask to her lips, shaking so violently the water flowed over her chin and dribbled onto her gown. She closed her eyes as fire and ice ran through her veins and retreated into herself, chasing it down and calming her boiling blood little by little.

As she returned to herself, she heard footsteps. She kept her eyes closed for one more second, waiting for Van Cleef to yank her off the ground and slit her throat. When nothing happened, she opened them, to see a most welcome sight. Edmond and the SI:7 operatives stood over her. One of them held a cloth bundle that dripped something dark. She stared and tried to feel something. At first there was nothing and then it hit her like a wave, toppling her back against the wall again, limp. It was relief. A relief so strong and deep that it overwhelmed her. Something uncoiled in her. A knot of resentment and anger that had been with her since she was still a baby it seemed. It was strange to feel it unravel and flow away. She had thought it was just another part of her and she would have to get used to it being gone.

She smiled at Edmond, suddenly sleepy. “We did it?” she asked.

“It is done,” he replied. “The head has been cut off and the monster will be flailing for some time. It will take a long time to scour this place clean but that will be up the king. As for us, it is time for us to go home.”

Laila laughed. “And where’s that?”

“Where would you like it to be?”

Laila smiled so big she thought her face would crack, and then she let Edmond pull her up and lead her out into the fresh air at last.

Infiltration

Posted in Laila, Westfall on March 28, 2010 by lailagreenwalker

Laila shivered nervously as she and Edmond strolled down the road.

“I still think this is an immensely stupid plan that will get us both killed.”

Edmond sighed. “All joking aside, it very well might, Lai. But this is our best chance. Now that we know where they are holed up, it’s pretty plain that the only way to stop them is to get inside. And the only way to successfully get inside is this way. Even if every last man, woman and child in Sentinel Hill stormed the Deadmines we would be lucky to get farther than the first excavations without getting slaughtered. This Van Cleef has chosen his base well. There’s no getting in there except with a massive army and everyone knows our army has been spread thin for years.”

“I know that, Ed. It just seems … we are so green. This SI:7 must have people who would be better at this than us.”

“That could not be more true. But what we have on our side is credibility. I have been in the Defias, and no one there has any way of knowing what became of me. I’m sure no one in this lot even knew I ever existed, except that I can prove it with what I know of passwords and procedures from my old camp. It’s a plausible enough story that I seduced you and when the chaos came we ran away to be together and now have come to Moonbrook to hook up with the Defias in a place where you will not be seen and taken back by Elwynn Forest folk. If anyone tries to check our story, it will check out. All the background is already there.”

“I suppose,” she replied. “Still, I feel like I’ve no idea what I’m doing. But all the same, if something is going to be done about the Defias, I want to help make it happen. They changed the course of my life forever, and I can never forgive them for that. Look, we are almost there.”

As they rounded a bend in the road, the ramshackle buildings of what used to be the thriving market town of Moonbrook came into view. At one time, Moonbrook had been as prosperous and busy as Goldshire, its market square providing a meeting place for folk from all over Stormwind come to get the freshest fruits of the famous Westfall farms. Now it looked all but abandoned, the buildings fallen into disrepair, the harvest threshers rusty and squeaking as they slowly attempted to carry out their duties. Two bulky guards in ragged and torn leather and mismatched iron armor stodd at the entrance where the road branched off to enter the town.

They stopped at the guards and Edgar lifted a red bandana from round his neck and touched it to his chin as if to slide it over his face. The guards gave a quick nod but one of them said, “Hang on there, lad, we haven’t seen you here before. Who are you here to see?”

“Ay, brothers, I’m not from these parts. I was over in Northshire, but I’ve stolen this lass here from the abbey and we can’t stay there anymore. Jake Half-Toe gave me a right thrashing, then sent me here with my girl, said he’d heard you’d be needing more strong hands here anyway. I’m told to ask for Old Bernie.”

Jake was a real person, although he was languishing in a prison cell now. If anyone grew suspicious however, Edmond was prepared to be completely shocked at what had happened to the Northshire Defias, given that he and Laila had been on the road for months, working at farms during the harvest season to save up to get to Moonbrook. Old Bernie was the name they had been given by the young man they had caught. He was the tavernkeeper and he was also the kindest soul among the bandits. The prisoner had been sure he would be a foot in the door for them.

The men whispered and muttered among themselves for quite a while, then finally agreed to let them through. “Go down to the end of this street and make a right turning, then follow that until it branches again and you will find the tavern at the crossing there.”

Edmond thanked the two guards and then took Laila’s hand and pulled her along. She kept her head down and her cloak pulled forward over her face, though she had allowed them a look at her face when they first walked up, just to show there was no deception. But here she was playing the part of a runaway scullery maid – one who had been used to serving all her life and had known a quite different life than this. She had to act the meek little mouse, following wherever her love took her.

They followed the directions and came to the tavern, a beacon of light and warmth on a dingy street that was rapidly going dark as the twilight fell and no one came to light any lamps. They hurried out of the closing dark into the room. Laila rubbed her hands together. It had started to grow chilly as well as dark. A large hunk of a man came out from behind the bar. “Who is this then, coming into my tavern, but never seen before by the likes of me?” Old Bernie was just he had been described. A giant of a man, both tall and wide, with a shiny bald head and a shaggy beard. He had a face only a mother could love – a crooked nose, a jagged scar underneath one eye, and what teeth he had left barely hanging on for dear life. But there was something friendly in that face and Laila found she liked him already, despite not even having met him truly yet.

They introduced themselves and told their story. The prisoner was right that Bernie was a softie. As soon he heard about their young love, passionate enough to throw away their old lives, he was won over. He brought them into the tavern and sat them down by the fire, pouring them bowls of thick stew with chunks of dark brown bread and mugs of ale, which they ate eagerly.

“So you see,” Edmond finished. “I’ve been telling Lily here our story, how them nobles in Stormwind did us wrong and she sees the right of things now. She’s as eager as I am now to aid us and see that we get repaid.”

Bernie looked a bit troubled, but he said nothing. “A good lad and lass ye are,” he said instead. “I will talk to some people tomorrow about getting you set up with an assignment. What be your talents? I know they be needing miners and as for the lass, well … it wouldn’t hurt for me to have a bar maid here, although not sure you’d be wanting her subjected to the attention that would bring. Don’t suppose you can cook, can you lass?”

Laila looked shyly at the ground. “I’m afraid not, sir. Cook was most possessive about the food preparation. I sure can peel potatoes, and in time she’d have taught me to cook, but at the time I left I’d not touched a pot or pan yet. I am very skilled at sewing though – I used to do mending for extra coins at the abbey. I also know a bit about herbcraft and can make simple poultices and tinctures.”

“Ah well, a cook would have been nice, but I am sure that a good sewing hand could be put to use. To tell the truth, we don’t have all that many womenfolk here and what ones that are here ain’t so much the domestic type. And you young master? You look like you’ve got nice strong arms, you’ll probably go to the mines.”

“If need be, sir, I’ll do what’s needed. Although if I may say, my real skill is woodworking and carpentry, and if there’s any need of that I’d much prefer it.”

“Hmmm … is it now? That’s a good skill indeed. I think you might be quite in demand just now, then. Here now, I’ll make you up a bed by the fire and you’ll sleep here tonight. Tomorrow I’ll see to getting you placed and you’ll be assigned quarters as well.”

The two thanked the kindly old man profusely, and Laila felt a pang of remorse that she had to use him this way. It would all be worth it in the end, but that didn’t dull the sting now. Blushing, Laila crawled into the bundle of blankets on the floor beside Edmond. She’d never slept quite so close to a man before. Even though it was Edmond, it felt … strange and wrong. She hoped someday to share a bed with a man she loved, and this fakery made her feel as if she betrayed that future love, as silly as that was. Edmond courteously bunched up a blanket barrier between them and for a moment Laila bristled. She remembered back to the night in Stormwind last year that had triggered her disappearance and felt a wave of heat and anger flow through her. Why should she care? Edmond was only doing what was proper. Why did it upset her so? Bitterly ashamed by the resurgence of these old feelings, she flounced over in the bed so that her back was to him and tried desperately to clear her mind for sleep. She remembered that she was a frost mage and envisioned a cool barrier of ice surrounding and containing the hot bitter jealousy and anger that festered within. Slowly, she grew calm and serene once more, until she finally drifted into unconsciousness.

The Traitor

Posted in Laila, Westfall on March 4, 2010 by lailagreenwalker

Capturing the Traitor

Laila yawned as she trudged down the road next to Elsharin. Behind her, the rest of their quadron marched sluggishly. I had been weeks since they had caught sight of anyone on their patrols, and even before that, if they had seen anyone, it was usually a lone person or group of two who vanished as soon as spotted.

“What do you think is happening?” Laila asked Elsharin, “Surely the Defias aren’t simply …. going away. But then, where are they?”

“I don’t like it at all,” said Elsharin. “Either this is a deliberate move meant to lure the people into complacency, or all hands are needed elsewhere. Either way, this is not a good thing.” She turned and reminded everyone to stay alert. Suddenly, their hunter, Lorell, paused and spit out in a harsh whisper, “Wait!”

They all stopped immediately. Lorell was an excellent tracker and when she gave an instruction like that, it was best to follow it. The group quietly and quickly moved into their ready stances. “There’s something just ahead, in that little stand of trees. Let’s go quietly, if you can’t follow without making noise, stay here.” She glanced pointedly at Erik, who was strong and a good fighter, but he was huge and clumsy when he tried to move softly. He cracked an embarrassed grin and crouched down to keep a rear guard where he was.

The party inched forward, the size of their group requiring them to make only miniscule movements in order to advance silently. As they approached the stand, they saw a party of two young men and a stringy middle-aged woman. They were ranged around a small campfire, drinking something out of a leather pouch and eating bits of meat they roasted on sticks. They were laughing raucously, but the woman suddenly shushed them. “Something’s out there, do you hear that?”

The young men stopped and listened. Lorell’s boar, Spiney, went crashing through the underbrush, running past the camp and then out of sight. The two young men laughed at the woman and went back to their japes. She relaxed too, but the frown never left her face.

Laila had been curious at first, why Lorell had chosen such a strange beast for her pet. Lorell had explained that she had other pets, but if she decided to stay in a place and to get involved in local dealings as she had here, she tried to choose a pet that would best suit her purpose there. Since working in Westfall required subterfuge it was important for her to choose a local creature. She had chosen the boar, because it was an animal that would not alarm people on sight. The boars of Westfall generally left humans alone unless they were attacked or felt they were in danger, whereas something like a wolf could cause a dramatic reaction in a situation that was all about subtlety.

“This could be an opportunity,” Laila whispered. Elsharin cocked an eyebrow at her.

“We outnumber them, even with our small group, and they won’t be prepared for us. We can take them prisoner and find out what is going on around here.”

Elsharin became thoughtful. “You’re right,” she replied. “We’ve become too complacent. Something like this could be the key to moving forward.”

Softly, she relayed the plan back to the others, Lorell drifted back to let Erik know. They melted into their positions, and then Elsharin stepped into the light of the fire. The bandits immediately leaped to their feet, drawing weapons.

“We don’t want to hurt anyone,” she said pointedly. “We are just looking for information. We have a lot to offer anyone who can help us. A full pardon, hot meals, an occupation.”

The woman spit on the ground in front of Elsharin. “That’s no more than we’re already owed.” she hissed. “We won’t be satisfied with that anymore. We’re going to take back our due and then some, no matter what you say. We’re going to-”

“Hush, woman,” said one of the men, a short stocky boy who looked something like a bulldog. “There’s no need to talk to this bitch, but I’ll tell you what, she’ll make a fine prize for Van Cleef. If we bring him something like this, we’ll get far more reward than her little gang over the hill could give us.” The three bandits suddenly looked at the exotic and deceptively delicate-looking elf speculatively. As one they began to close. There was a loud pop and arcane energies imploded the air, sending the three flying.

The rest of the quadron appeared out of the shadows. The youngest of the bandits tried to run. Laila turned toward him and flicked a wrist. The air shimmered and there was a rush of cold from her toward the boy and thick blocks of ice coalesced around his ankles stopping him in his tracks. He looked at her and fear suffused his features. She took a step toward him, “Don’t struggle, it will be more painful for you.” She turned to the others. The group was trying hard to subdue the two other bandits, but they were not prepared to give in at any cost. At last, they were taken down, the woman screaming with two of Lorell’s arrows in her legs and the stocky man bashed on the head with a club by Keagan. As they started to secure them, however, the woman went crazy.

“You won’t get anything from us. Never!” she screeched and pulled a dagger from her bodice and Laila could only imagine that she must be running on pure adrenaline because she hesitated only a moment, despite what must have been immense pain, turned to the unconscious young man sagging in Erik’s arms and threw the dagger. It sliced through the top of Erik’s arm and buried itself in the stocky man’s thick throat. Then with an animal scream, she ripped an arrow from her thigh and plunged it just below her sternum and then up.

The members of the quadron stared in shock. Laila couldn’t understand what had happened. “That woman …” she gasped.

“Was insane,” Keagan said shortly. “She had the strength and purpose that only madness can convey.”

Laila heard a soft whimper behind her and remembered the other boy. She turned to him quickly. “Listen, their fate does not have to be yours. If you help us, no one will know. I will see to it that you are taken care of. I know someone … someone who was just like you, once. He can talk to you and tell you his story. He can help you.”

For a moment, the boy tried to be defiant. But she could see the memory of what the woman had just done wash over his face and it crumpled. “I am a traitor,” he said, even as he slumped and accepted his fate.

“No,” said Laila. “You think you are, but you have been lied to. I can see in your face that you know that the cause you signed up for is no longer the cause you are a part of. You know it has gone too far. You have wished to get out before now, but you knew that if you tried, you were a dead man. You don’t have to worry about that anymore. I promise you. You must speak to my friend, and you will see.”

Sighing, he nodded and Laila released him. It was clear to all that he would not fight or try to run now, so no one bothered to put him in bonds, although they placed him in the middle of their group as they began the walk back to Sentinel Hill.

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