Mallory paced quietly back and forth in a dark station, the distant hum and occasional clicking and clacking of gnomish machinery providing the soundtrack to her thoughts.
A seed and a fire. Separate but united through some twisted magic. That terrifying thing in the case…there was one embedded in Emma too, draining energy and mana from her.
One thing Mallory couldn't wrap her head around, though, was why her attempt at dispelling magic from the creature and the seed caused such a strong reaction. The creature was virtually crippled by it, and the seed finally separated from its flame when faced with the dispel attempt.
Why? Mallory asked herself as the clanking grew louder and closer, and the Deeprun Tram finally glided into place in front of her. She stepped forward and took a front-facing seat, touching her knuckles to her chin. The dispel wasn't an attack. Why would the reaction be so strong? It seemed to sting the creature. And the seed… Koryander had struggled for a while to separate the flame from it, in vain. She was no weak-willed woman. And Mallory had made it look easy. Truthfully, she realized, it WAS easy. Mallory knew she was a prodigy, though she would never make that claim to anyone else, even if she did have the academic scores to prove it. So why couldn't she figure this out?
Back to basics, she thought. The dispel, at its heart, is an attempt to remove a beneficial magical effect from the target, usually arcane in nature. But she knew this was druidic, not arcane.
Hmm… Her head perked up as the tram lurched forward, the air whipping her hair about her face. Was it actually druidic at all? Druids essentially use nature magic, Mallory reasoned. The druid of the flame is a perversion of that natural element. Arcana is typically viewed the same way in kaldorei society…as a perversion of nature, or at least, unnatural at best.
She threw up a hand in the air. "So what?" she asked herself out loud, the sound getting lost in the wind. So what if the magic was arcane and not druidic? Would that change anything?
The oceanic windows came into view, great sea monsters lazing about through the waves overhead. "Water doused the creature's flames," Mallory mused aloud, gazing upward. "If the seed were…dispelled again, separating the fire, could we eliminate the fire if it was done in the middle of a large body of water?"
She had no way to answer this without experimentation, and so moved on. "What exactly am I dispelling? The link, the bond, that holds the seed and flame together? The fire nearly died out before returning to the seed… Maybe it WANTED to be separated from it, and the unnatural magic is the bond keeping the two together… Which means it's an enslaved elemental…so the magic could even be shamanic… I wonder if… Nah, he'd never come to help, even if Rann did know him…and I'm not sure she did…"
She felt the tram climbing closer to the surface again, and grabbed onto the bars nearby for steadying herself. The tram slammed unceremoniously into its place on the outskirts of Stormwind, almost throwing Mallory into the seat in front of her, despite the handles.
Mallory righted herself, straightened her hair in a huff, and stepped off the tram and into Stormwind, planning to take the boat back to Darnassus. On her way through the city, she stopped and eyed the castle keep for a moment, silly and desperate ideas flitting through her head.
We've only met once, she scolded herself silently. I'm sure Anduin doesn't even remember me. It's been two years. And anyway, I'm probably a more talented priest than he is. What I could really use is a shaman…to analyze the elemental's role in all of this. But barring that, the next best thing would be…
* * *
Mallory browsed the titles available in the Mage Tower's library, contemplating a trip to Dalaran in the back of her mind. The thought grew closer to the forefront with each title that seemed irrelevant to her investigation.
"Technology and You: Understanding Engineering From an Arcane Perspective… Advanced Elemental Summoning: A Treatise on Interplanar Portal Creation. Hmm, that might have something…if I can understand it…"
"You don't look much like a mage, miss," came a distinguished woman's voice. Mallory turned to see an approaching high elf. "Can I help you find someth–" She paused, and they both recognized each other at once.
For a moment, all professional pretense was gone and the two came together in the warm embrace of good friends who had experienced much together.
Rann Dawnbringer, a frost mage trainer and member of the Kirin Tor, King Varian Wrynn's point of contact with the blood elves, and the woman whose life Mallory saved, leading to her exile. Rann had formerly associated herself with the blood elves, and provided the avenue through which Wrynn had entered into secret negotiations to bring the blood elves back to the Alliance. The negotiations had been very nearly successful, until Jaina Proudmoore's outburst in the middle of Dalaran turned relations icy again. Despite the blood elves remaining with the Horde, Rann herself defected to the Alliance, thanks in no small part to Mallory's influence, and had her eye color changed to that of an ordinary high elf using a process she rarely discussed.
Rann straightened her Kirin Tor tabard and regained her professional composure. "It's good to see you again," she said with a cordial, but genuine, smile.
"You too," Mallory answered, glancing around. Their brief burst of excitement had attracted a few stares in the library, but others promptly returned to their own business. "How have you been?"
At the moment, Mallory was too consumed with her mission to really care how Rann had been, but elves valued custom. It would be improper for her not to at least ask.
"Honestly I'm bored to tears," Rann answered quietly. "Nothing happens here. Dalaran's been quiet lately too. I used to like the quiet, but…" She shook her head. "What about you?"
Mallory didn't waste a moment, and related all that had happened so far.
* * *
Emma winced as some of the pain returned. She had awoken from her procedure in relative comfort, but was told she had been numbed. The fire seed should be isolated, for the time being…cut off from draining energy to send to its masters. But it was only a temporary fix. Those who had come to her aid at Mallory's request had only bought her time. It shouldn't be too much longer that she should at least be able to stand and move around a bit.
She reached her hand up to touch her face. It still felt numb, but was unnerving to touch. Something felt…crispy. She shuddered, feeling absolutely certain she didn't want to see what she looked like right now. Running her hand up to her hair, she felt that it seemed to still be there, though she could tell where it had suffered from the effects of the onslaught. She would have to get a shorter haircut for a time until it regrew. Right now, it felt wiry, not the silky smooth texture she remembered.
Approaching footsteps. Emma wasn't supposed to be moving yet, so she put her hand back down and pretended to be asleep.
"So the human in Four is Priestess Everley's sister?"
"Can you believe it? I didn't know she had any family." Both voices belonged to night elf women.
"You think she's as…you know…"
As what? Emma wondered. As crazy-gifted as my sister? No, not really… I tried to crawl out from under her shadow and got my face handed to me on a platter… Heh… That man I practiced with DID say there's always someone better… Fel, was he ever right…"
"Nah, from what I've heard she's probably more grounded than Priestess Everley."
Grounded? Do they mean Mallory's…
"Right, she's got her head in the clouds with her silly theories. Elune being a naaru…right, and Kil'jaeden's just a satyr."
The other woman suppressed a snicker. "Such a shame, right? I mean, she's obviously a genius, but she just doesn't get it."
"Well, Tyrande's patience will only go so far. I'm sure Priestess Everley will be asked to leave the city if she keeps up her disturbances."
There were so many things Emma wanted to say and ask…she had to fight to keep her eyes closed, even more to keep herself looking naturally asleep as the two women entered her "room." With minimal conversation, they changed her bandages, read her temperature…up half a degree since last time…and left.
"Pretending to be asleep doesn't help you heal any faster, you know." The soft voice seemed to come near the head of her bed, just far enough off to the side to be out of the way. But when Emma's eyes flicked open, there was no one there.
And suddenly, Artemis was there when she clearly hadn't been a moment before, looking at Emma. Her faintly glimmering blue eyes watched the paladin calmly, occasionally flicking in the direction of the "door."
"Who…who are you?" Emma asked weakly.
"My name is Artemis. I'm a friend of your sister's." Her soft answer would not carry far, but was loud enough that Emma could hear easily.
Emma's eyes registered recognition. "So you're… The one who took her in when she was exiled… I'd love to shake your hand, but…"
"Don't worry about it. You are lucky to be alive. I've seen few survive wounds as bad as your burns are. My old commander was one of them. You've a very long road to recovery, don't push yourself yet."
"Thanks… You know anything about these seeds?" Despite Artemis' warning, Emma turns her head towards her a bit more.
"Only what I have overheard. I'm a fighter, not a healer. I have been curious about you, ever since your sister mentioned you a while back. The only reason she's not here right now, is she is searching for a solution."
"I know… She'd bring all Azeroth together to help if she could. For all I know, she's probably searching for Elune and planning to bring her here in person to heal me…" Emma chuckled at her own joke, which quickly turned into a cough and groans of pain.
Artemis looked towards the door, before taking a step closer, and rested a cool hand on Emma's arm. Emma drew in a gasp. "That…feels really good."
"I was in the area," Artemis finally said. "I've been thinking about looking to meet you anyway… Your sister, though my friend, presses me on some things."
"What do you mean she's pressing you?"
"Ever since I woke to unlife… millenia ago… I had no memory of what i was before. While it is not a bad thing that I am remembering again, and though she means well and I do not really object, Mallory does press me to remember… both who and what I once was."
Emma smiles weakly. "I know. She thinks she knows already. She doesn't want to tell you, though, and fill you with false, imagined memories."
"She very well might know. It must be interesting to have, or think you have, that sort of knowledge. A part of me wants to know what she thinks. A part of me would prefer remain in the shadows. The Wardens still watch me. There's two I see every time your 'door' opens." Her eyes flicked over as a slight breeze blew the curtain aside.
Emma chuckled. "Now that I meet you, I think she just might be right about you." She picked up Artemis' hand and placed it on her stomach for the cold.
"Time will tell," the death knight answered. "I may never remember everything… But I do know I was once one of them. That's why they still shadow me, even though they do have orders otherwise." Artemis moved her hand back to an extremity after a few moments, seeming to smile with just her eyes as she did so.
Emma's eyes showed some surprise. "Oh, so you know? Well…that's about the extent of her theory, I think."
"I know that much, and precious little more. They defy Lady Whisperwind's order to keep watching me as closely as they do, though it is not as bad as when I first walked these woods."
Emma smiled. "Sounds like she trusts you."
"At the very least, she believes me when I say I am no danger to this city." Artemis looked to the side sharply, and took a pace back to where she appeared originally. "To be honest, this city is more of a threat to me. I see ghosts wherever I look." And she vanished as the healers returned to the room, having heard Emma's voice.
"Talking to yourself?" one of them asked.
"No one else to talk to," Emma answered flatly. She did appreciate their work and constant watchfulness, but knowing what they thought of her sister left Emma undesiring of much conversation with them.
"Well, we can stay if you'd like," the other answered.
"No, that's okay," Emma replied, trying not to sound forceful about it. "I…need to think through what I know about this seed… If Mallory doesn't find a solution out there, maybe I can find one right here. Just…let me think."
"I know it must be hard for you," said the first woman, genuinely sympathetic. "Your head must be spinning. Rest, though. You still need it. It's only been a day."
As soon as the healers left and were out of earshot, Emma asked, "what's their problem with Mallory? Do they all view her like she's a kook?"
"Many of them do," came the answer from the invisible Death Knight. "If she remembers to keep her theories relatively quiet, and not push it, she won't get thrown out as some of the healers might wish."
"I'll be sure to pass the word along next time I see her…" Emma grimaces. "I'm not sure that's her plan though. She talks about wanting to make her mark on history. But… I think she'd have to do no less than trot Elune herself out for all to see if she wants to accomplish that."
Artemis made a noise somewhere between a scoff and a chuckle. "If she wants to leave her mark on history, she stands a decent chance of doing that with her healing powers alone. Who knows where those are leading her…"
Artemis settled again closer to Emma, staying just far enough away that if Emma wanted more than Artemis' hand on her arm, she would have to actually rise out of bed.
Emma seemed to relax. "You're right… That girl can do anything she sets her mind to." She settled in and seemed to be drifting off, and then groggily asks, "Artemis? You fought off the orcs, didn't you?"
"When I woke up… Lots of tiny orcs dancing around…"
Artemis smiled softly, and brushed Emma's forehead gently before stepping back. "Yes, I chased the dancing orcs away." She folded her arms and leaned against a support, and for a moment, a second suit of armor seemed to overlay her death knight platemail — armor in green and black and gold.