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.
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.”
“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.”