Part I: Preparation Edit
Dim candlelight flickered in the small dormitory room as the young mage bustled about the shelving, selecting different spell reagents from various jars, vials, and ceramic bowls. She carefully tucked each into an inner pocket of her violet robes, the pale rose eye symbol representing the Violet Citadel embroidered on the left breast. No longer was she considered apprentice, for in her work with Cilandra Felbane, she'd been able to remove the block that prevented her from casting to her utmost potential. Confidence had replaced anxiety; determination replaced fear. With a passing glance at the small, hand-held mirror that sat under a thin layer of dust upon a forgotten shelf, she removed the spectacles perched upon the bridge of her nose and cast them aside. She was no longer simpleton Anika Sartienne. She had become something much more powerful and much more deserving of respect. Her violet eyes shimmered in the dusty mirror with enough intensity to cut through the gray film.
She raked her slender fingers through unruly auburn hair, murmuring an incantation that instantly tamed her thick, tangled mane. Sweeping a few choice items into a leather satchel she draped across one shoulder to rest upon a hip, she finally gave the dormitory one more penetrating look, as if to mark the sight indelibly into her mind. She remembered the moments of passion she had shared with her new-found mentor upon the narrow bedding; she remembered the endless nights spent studying the thick, worn tomes that sat nestled upon her shelves over the desk. She remembered her painstaking inscription work to improve upon the incantations she had already learned, marking glyphs that kept her awake and away from the nightmares that so often plagued her sleep. She remembered looking over her shoulder fondly to find Cilandra's flawless, beautiful ivory face in the peace of sleep, tendrils of long spun-gold hair caressing the slope of her jaw and her swan-like neck. For the first time, Anika knew she had something to lose.
But she knew even more deeply that there was something to be gained. She could never become a whole person if she allowed her purpose, the purpose for which she had trained all these years, to falter. She could not simply allow her elder sister free of her crimes. Justice failed Anika and her family in every way, and she had shaped herself for this battle since the day they had buried their father. Her love of Cilandra could only come second to that desire, so long as Elisia remained free. And in Cilandra, she had only found more reason to make Elisia pay, to defend the honor of her love, though she was counseled to release the burdens of her anger by her very love. She knew in her heart, though, that she would never be a whole person until this battle took place; it was simple destiny.
She wondered if, on some level, Cilandra knew that her agreement had been to placate her lover. She had not lied, not exactly, but she had not been forthcoming about her dedication to the cause after accepting Cilandra's guidance. Elisia destroyed at her whim, and, thus far, everyone in authority had been rendered powerless to stop her. She had destroyed their family. She had destroyed Cilandra's heart and countless others before, during, and after their tryst; and she had manipulated Anika's employers and the Academy itself. She reminded herself of each reason, strengthening a wall of resolve that had few chinks to be strengthened to begin with -- save for the image of a graceful, beautiful face reposing against Anika's pillow. She stashed the thought in the back of her mind and steeled herself, straightening her back and throwing her chin upright with all the grim determination of a soldier preparing for war.
Part II: Insomnia Edit
Nikajah could not sleep. The silver-wrought tea kettle whistled over the fire, breaking her reverie. She had been thinking about the headstrong young mage in her employ, the girl Cilandra had agreed to instruct. Cilandra had also discussed Anika's desire for vengeance against her elder sister, the now-infamous Elisia La`Roche. Even passing thoughts about the sorcerer caused a sharp pain to pulse at the back of Nikajah's head. So embroiled the woman had become with the company and members of the Silverleaf clan itself that the tangle of threads had become forever knotted. It seemed Elisia would forever be a thorn in the elf's side; a thorn the foolish young mage was convinced she could remove. Elisia was slippery and very clever; the mage vastly underestimated the power of her opponent -- and not just her magical talents, but perhaps even greater powers in manipulations.
As Nikajah poured herself tea, her long, sensitive ears perked at the sound of rustling robes descending the staircase in the main hall. The soft padding of slippered feet grew closer until the double doors peeked open to admit the blonde mage, Catinan, that Nikajah had accepted into her fold. Purplish bags tugged at her lucid blue eyes, and her face sagged with exhaustion. The little one was bound at her breast, a squirming, blue linen-wrapped bundle that smacked hungrily. Nikajah had thought she had heard the infant's shrieks earlier, but she had been too caught up in her own thoughts to notice. Not only that, it was a regular occurrence for the new mother and Nikajah and her family had grown used to a newborn in the estate again.
"A new mother rarely finds herself with enough sleep, but the infant will soon grow and let you rest. This is not forever. Enjoy him while he is so small, for he will soon grow large and fat and wish to toddle away from you and get into all sorts of mischief!" The elf swept her jade mane out of her face with the flick of a wrist and offered the young mother a reassuring smile.
Catinan nodded sleepily and shifted the baby's weight from one arm to another. "I think I am ready to sleep at night and chase mischief-making with the sun."
Nikajah laughed, remembering each time she had been equally as convinced that her child would never sleep the night through. Her face sobered, though, as she recalled the tightening at the back of her scalp.
"Cilandra fears for her new student. Although she seems to have accepted that she should be diverted from chasing her quarry, Cilandra is not convinced she has given up her quest for vengeance. Cilandra has admitted that her feelings for the young girl go beyond that of a mentor for her student; and she worries that Elisia will destroy her heart yet again. I am afraid that even Cilandra's love cannot convince the young mage to put aside her life's purpose."
Part III: Marching to Battle Edit
Anika maneuvered her pinto mare through the portal she had created into the city of Stormwind's Mage District. The horse, used to the sensation of arcane flows, stepped through with nary so much as a whiny or a dancing step and her hooves clopped along the cobblestone street toward the gates. Anika pulled the cowl of her violet cloak down over her face, eyes scanning the crowds through the Trade District as they made their way. No one paid her any heed, and she passed largely unnoticed through the gates of the city and into the Elwynn Forest. She swallowed the knot that bubbled up in her belly at the thought of her childhood home, to whence she was bound, for Elisia now controlled the old Sartienne Manor. She did not push the mare into a trot, for the journey would still take some time and she would not push the animal past its limits. She had decided against a gryphon, favoring the longer journey, for fear that Elisia monitored the comings and goings of gryphons through Darkshire. Even had she taken the gryphon, the journey on foot to the Manor was arduous, and all manor of things unholy loomed in the Duskwood, not to mention highwaymen waiting to rob the unwary. She planned to hitch herself to a trade caravan bringing supplies out to the Westfall settlement of Sentinel Hill from Lakeshire, nestled into the foothills of the Redridge Mountains. But first, she had a long way to travel through Elwynn, which was still largely protected as it encircled Stormwind City proper. Guards often passed through on their assignments to the outposts in Lakeshire, Redridge, or Darkshire; and trade caravans often traveled the circular route as well. She would check for a trade caravan coming out of Goldshire, the town nearest the city proper, but known for its seedy clientelle.
The clink of a blacksmith's hammer announced her arrival into Goldshire, only slightly elevated above the general din of voices. There were often fights and duels that spilled out of the tavern and into the street with passersby stopping to place bets or cheer on the often drunken brawlers. Ladies of the evening - if they could even be called ladies - of every race of the Alliance hitched hips this-a-way and that, crooking a finger and thrusting out her ample bosoms barely held in by a cinched, low-cut dress. Heavy makeup tried to hide their careworn faces, each line a testament to their hard-earned living selling their bodies. Painted lips pursed in blown kisses, ringed by hard lines where the paint bled. Music drifted out of the tavern accompanied by the scent of beef stew and the racket of gamblers and drinking men.
She deposited her mare at the stable with a few coins for the stable hand, which would see Mist wiped down, watered, and fed properly. She picked her way through the raucous crowds to the entrance of the inn, brushing past leering men with as few teeth in their faces as hair on their head. Pipe smoke rolled about the commons room like a fog. She refrained from covering her face with a kerchief and marking herself out of place. Travelers like herself did stop by, but there was no reason to point herself out as a potential victim to cut-purses. She adjusted her cloak to show the Violet Eye, a further deterrent to any criminals hoping to make fast work of her. She drifted her way through the crowded tables and to the innkeeper, a stout graying man with a sharp, hooked nose.
"When is the next caravan heading out to Lakeshire?" She accompanied her question with a few silver. The innkeeper's round, greedy eyes landed on the coin and did not draw themselves back to her face.
"Tomorrow, I hear tell. Them men over there." He pointed a stubby finger at a table of men. There appeared to be a few merchants and the rest of them sell-swords for guarding the goods. Night was quick falling and they would venture out with the first light of the morning, most likely. She edged her way to the table.
One of the merchants, whose embroidered woolen vest was stretched tight over his protruding paunch, leaned back to study her. Thinning black hair peppered with silver draped down his back in a leather-bound tail and was cut short on the sides. Slivers of his scalp shone through the strands combed over his pate. Beringed hands laced over his belly as he leaned back to peer up at her. Thick mustaches fell down the corners of his mouth to his jaw.
"What can I do you for, little missy?" He asked, his voice gravel scraping over paving stones.
"I wish to ride out with your caravan on the morrow. Ten gold for accompanying me safely to the foothills of the Redridge Mountains on the edge of Elwynn." She paused to consider the merchant a moment. "I'm under orders from the Violet Eye," she added, throwing her cloak off her shoulder to display the embroidery at her robe's left breast. Perhaps the added protection of a magic-user would cause the merchant to be more likely to take on the single woman, and make him and his sell-swords think twice about anything other than the journey west.
The fat merchant steepled his fingers under his second chin and narrowed his glossy-black eyes at her over his wide nose. Bushy brows lifted and lowered as his gaze landed on the Violet Eye. "Aye, lass. We will take you to the edge of the forest. But I require half up front."
"Agreed." Anika fished out five golden coins.
"And we leave at first dawn," the merchant added. The mercenaries around him, clearly bored of the conversation, resumed their dice game. She knew they had been hoping for something more exciting from her, a mage of the Eye. She bowed her head politely and turned to secure a room for the night. She knew she would need her sleep, and the hours before it to go over her spell repertoire once again.
Part IV: Considerations (by Catinan) Edit
Catinan held in a small sigh as she heard Nikajah begin to voice aloud the worries that apparently had kept her awake at the late hour. Upon hearing mention of Elisia, the magess' eyes moved down to her son, Jareth, watching the small child resting gently in her arms, happily feeding. Despite the child's apparent contentedness, Catinan couldn't help the slight frown that creased her brow as her eyes took in his fel-created... irregularities. The most noticeable of which were the small fel-horns poking up from the baby's forehead and the pointed tail sticking out of the blankets wrapped around him.
Catinan couldn't help the small flash of anger that surged through her, none of which was at all directed at the small life she currently held, instead it centered around the warlock that was responsible for his... differences. The same warlock that she knew was at that same moment creating worry in the woman that had taken her in and cared for her and her son. The woman that had given her a home and a family. The magess looked over at Nikajah, tension and worry obvious in her face and voice. It only made Catinan hate the warlock even more.
Elisia. Damn her. I have half a mind to join Anika on her quest.
"I think you're right," Catinan said once Nikajah had finished speaking, "Anika has built everything in her life around getting her vengeance on her, she'll never be truly satisfied until she's achieved that. And while she is an exceptional mage, I'm afraid she underestimates her far too much. We both know only too well the damage that... Elisia can cause." Her eyes flitted back down to her son once again for a moment. "Only too well..."
Catinan gritted her teeth as her thoughts continued to linger on the warlock, and, as happened every time she thought too long about her, a small flame began burning through the icy blue of her eyes for a moment before her shoulders sagged. Finally releasing the sigh she had held in as another wave of exhaustion hit her, she gestured at the kettle resting over the fire. "Enough left in there for me to make a cup of my own?"
Nikajah nodded as she took a sip from her own tea, handing the magess a cup.
As Catinan went about making her tea, she glanced back toward the druidess. "Do you think Anika will go directly after Elisia? And if she does... what do we do?"
Part V: Accosted Edit
The sway of Mist's steps lulled Anika into a half-dream state, nestled between two wagon-loads of goods and surrounded by sell-swords who had sent men to scout the road ahead. Waning sunlight filtered through the forest's canopy of leaves, dappling the well-trodden path into a cacophony of light and shadows chasing one another with the slight breeze. She couldn't be certain what, exactly, brought her mind into sharp focus, except that it had been something. Her fingers automatically grasped the staff looped through her saddle, the violet sphere that adorned the top emitting a dull shine.
A whistle, sharp and piercing, the cry of some bird, marred the silence of the growing twilight. The mercenaries guarding the caravan tightened into formation, drawing weapons and crouching about the wagons, scanning the thick boughs and wild tangles of undergrowth. The horses pulling the carts drew up, snorting as they sensed the tension crackling through the very air, their reins drawn tight by their white-knuckled handlers. The fat merchant drew his cloak around his generous paunch as if to shield himself, his head swiveling back and forth toward his hired men.
Anika spoke a single word and the sphere perched at the end of her staff flared, sparking to a fierce glow. The staff was an enhancement of her abilities; an amplification of the threads of magic flowing through it. The smooth, spiraled wood of the shaft felt comfortable in her hand. Her free hand sharply reined Mist, who danced with a nervous whinny.
Something whizzed over her head, missing her by mere inches, to thump, quivering, in the tree at her right side. Mist reared back, throwing Anika from the saddle. The caravan erupted into chaos. Men darted for the trees from whence the arrow had been fired, only to meet a volley that caught one in the thigh and downed another man. The experienced fighters wove themselves into the trees, forming a circular formation at the rough bark of a grizzled veteran. But the sounds reached Anika's ears as though it were filtered through glass, far away and muffled.
Shaking her head to clear the daze, she found herself toe to toe with a leering cut-purse, red bandana swathing his head. Twin daggers protruded from his fists, as notched as the pockmarks that pitted his face. Her free hand slid into a pocket in reaction, crushing a reagent between a pinch of fingers as she shouted an incantation. She could barely hear herself above the rush of her blood in her veins, but she had trained herself for these situations, and the words came tumbling perfectly from her lips. A lick of flame engulfed the man, who screamed in agony as his flesh melted, rolling around upon the ground in a desperate attempt to snuff out the flames.
Anika's violet eyes seemed to respond to the violet sphere at the end of her staff, taking on its fiery intensity. With the utterance of another word, she simply vanished from her previous, vulnerable position to the rear of the wagon for cover. Bolts of offensive magic sliced through the air into the chests of the highwaymen, sending half running in fear. It wasn't long before they all fled, leaving their dead comrades for the carrion birds. Men appeared to crowd back around the caravan, the merchant hollering and shaking in fright, frantically checking his precious goods. Two bodies were dragged through the underbrush, gathering fallen leaves and a soft bed of pine with them. Despite the merchant's ire, the two bodies were stacked into one of the wagons, a piece of canvas covering their blank, lifeless stares.
Anika gathered Mist and hauled herself into the saddle, brushing the dirt from her robes with the fastidiousness of someone who needed to cling to that simple chore in order to control the loss of adrenaline that left her shaking. She shook her hair out with a sharp flick of her head. Silently, she congratulated herself -- pointedly avoiding a glance at the man-shaped mounds beneath the wagon's canvas -- for her efforts and reminded herself that what she could expect from her sister would be much more of a trial. Absently, she stroked Mist's thick neck to calm the wild-eyed mare; but she did so as much to calm herself. The wagons rolled out once more, the guardians doubly aware and alert as they moved east toward the blood-streaked mountain ridges that rose above the thick of the forest like sentries.
Part VI: Rush to Interception (by Ceridith) Edit
With a turn of a key, the door unlocked, and the door to Anika's room slowly swung open. The warlock Cilandra Felbane stood at the other side, removing the key from the door and placing it away in the folds of her robes before stepping into the room. A gentle smile had found it's way upon her face, as it usually had since since she had taken the young mage Anika under her tutelage. Cilandra peered around the room curiously, expecting to find Anika studying, as she usually was at this time, almost like clockwork. Perhaps Anika was off in the library, or practicing one of the more difficult spells elsewhere, she had thought to herself.
It did not take long for the warlock to realize that she would not to be expecting Anika anytime soon. The room was amiss. A missing trinket, a misplaced tome, a lost reagent. Most of Anika's arcane paraphernalia was missing, most notably the powerful reagents. The smile that had made its way onto Cilandra's lips had already washed away in the warlocks concern as her expression iced over. Without another moment of hesitation, she quickly made her way out of the young magess' room, and quickly locking the door before hastily making her way out of the compound.
Storming out of the entrance of the Arcane Academy, she made her way over to her steed at the hitching post, quickly mounting it. As she did she uttered a demonic incantation, dropping the guise which hid the true nature of her dreadsteed, freeing it from the hindrance of the illusion. The warlock's dreadsteed let out a demonic whinny as Cilandra urged the fiery beast forward. The sight and sound of which caught the attention of the many student congregating outside of the academy, resulting in gasps and murmurs as they gawked at her. Cilandra did not care about the illusions, not now when there were much more important things at stake. With a kick of her heels, her steed powered forward with demonic speed, leaving a blaze singed cobblestone in it's wake.
"She's finally decided to do it," Cilandra thought to herself as her dreadsteed weaved past startled onlookers, to the front entrance of Stormwind. Her insides began to churn with worry for Anika, fearing for the girl's fate. She knew that she had trained Anika well in the arts of the Arcane, but she knew deep down that Anika would never heed her words against the girl's desire for revenge against her sister. For as much as both Elisia and Anika thought each other were different, Cilandra had seen that quite the opposite was closer to the truth. Most noteably was that they both shared an unwavering determination to obtain what they desired.
Anika knew full well where to find Elisia, likely even without Cilandra's input about such in the odd moments when the topic of the girl's sister came up. Without a doubt, Elisia would be locked away in her manor indulging herself. If not there now, it would be an eventuality that she would soon return to lavish herself in her vices. She knew undoubtedly where the young magess was headed, and it was ultimately her destination as well. And so Cilandra rode on, encouraging her dreadsteed to plow forward, headed towards Duskwood, and the La'Roche Manor.