Emma laughed. The sights of Talador were breathtaking, but it was Mallory’s gaze of wonder that kept drawing her attention. She wondered how her twin kept from getting dizzy, constantly turning to look this way and that as they walked the picturesque road toward Shattrath.
Signs of conflict dotted the landscape, but unlike the devastation that was Outland, Talador’s bright colors had not yet been marred by the evils that threatened to rage across it. Mallory, slackjawed and making gasps and sounds of wonderment, often turned complete circles, seemingly unable to take in all that stood before her. The priestess, clearly, was in heaven.
Aertemis exchanged a wry and knowing smirk with Emma as they both took in the sights and guarded Mallory on her sightseeing tour.
“I never imagined it would look like this,” Mallory kept saying, her voice sometimes failing her and the words coming out as a squeak or a whisper.
“Me neither,” Emma said for the seventh time, but she still meant it. Talador really drove home how thoroughly Outland had been ravaged by its destruction. The landmarks were new to Emma, but every now and again Mallory would see something she recognized.
“Light, that’s Tuurem!”
Emma had heard the name, but never been there before. The buildings were glorious, but the place currently seemed overrun with Iron Horde forces. Too many for just the three of them…even if Aertemis was the nearest thing to invincible they could conceive of.
“We’d better steer clear,” Emma warned. “Keep your guard up.”
As they passed to Tuurem’s north, just south of a recently routed Iron Horde lumber operation, Aertemis darted ahead and looked up at a high rock formation.
“I think we can climb this,” she said, her sibilant tones echoing. “It should give us a decent view of Shattrath.”
This caught Mallory’s attention, and before Emma could suggest the “normal” route, the priestess was hot on Aertemis’ heels as the death knight made her way up the slopes. As it got steeper, Aertemis helped Mallory to reach the rocky outcroppings. Emma plodded her way up the steep slopes as well, firmly gripping the rocks along the way.
She was still staring at the stones in front of her when she heard Aertemis say, “E’lune… Mal, you are going to love this.”
Emma picked up the pace, clambering up the last few rocks just as her sister did right next to her. They climbed to their feet at first atop the grassy plateau, the massive city of Shattrath sprawling before them. Emma had seen it a few times in Outland, but didn’t remember it being so enormous, so incredibly majestic. A chill of awe swept over the paladin as she surveyed the area. She immediately recognized the large dome where, in Outland, A’dal resided. It had been the place where Mallory studied, sometimes under A’dal himself. But the rest of the city… she couldn’t quite place.
Mallory’s hand went to her mouth and she fell to her knees. Looking over at her sister, Emma realized there were tears in the young priestess’ eyes.
“Mal, what’s wrong?” Emma asked, alarmed. She looked out over the city again, but didn’t understand. It was pristine. Absolutely breathtaking. Near the harbor were signs of conflict, but the buildings still stood. Draenei dotted the city below. The laughter of children running through the streets reached their ears. The city pulsed with the sounds of life.
After a long silence, Aertemis too asked, “Mallory?”
Mallory was visibly trying not to cry, but the sobs came anyway. “It just hit me,” she managed. “I understand now…what they lost.” She looked straight at Emma now. “Do you recognize it?”
Still confused, Emma looked again, and then returned her attention to her sister. “I… no. I’m sorry. I recognize the dome, but that’s it.”
“I recognize a little more,” Mallory said, climbing to her feet, “but not much.” She pointed. “There, that’s the Aldor Rise. Over there, that district above the trees? That’s the Scryer’s Tier. Can you see where the Lower City would be?”
Aertemis looked, and finally said, “I see it.”
“The river ways,” Mallory finished. “When our Draenor shattered, the rivers must have drained into the sea, which had emptied. The rest of the city was just…gone. Leveled by attacks. But this…is what they remember. This is what they lost. This must be why the draenei always have that quiet sadness behind their polite faces. This must be why they all paused when we realized Draenor was still intact on this side of the portal. All the…the pain and the memories of the ghosts they buried must have come right back.”
She blinked, seemingly staring at Shattrath with new eyes. “I never understood why the draenei I met in Outland’s Shattrath always seemed so sad. I thought the city was nice. Not amazing, but nice. I knew it had seen better days. Soon, I knew the history. But it was just that: history. Empty words and facts recalled without emotion. But this…”
She shook her head. "Let's get in close."
Aertemis took a knee and transformed into her winged panther form that Rann had accidentally granted her months prior, and the Everleys hopped on. As they made their way down the hill and into the city proper, Mallory grinned. "Giddy up," she teased. The panther growled in response. Mallory giggled back, and Emma thought she could just see the panther smile.
Beneath a tree on an island in the waterways sat a couple enjoying the idyllic serenity of the city. Nearby stood a building that had openings on four sides, with all the nearby roads leading straight into it.
"This is something like 'downtown' Shattrath," so that must be their city hall," Mallory guessed. "Like a public pavilion, easily accessible. Something like that. I don't recognize it… It must have been obliterated in our timeline." They nodded to a pair of city guards as they passed through and came nearer to the building. The Everleys gently dismounted from their gracious host and stepped inside.
The scene within was heartbreaking. Healers scurried to and fro, tending to injured draenei from the Iron Horde's siege. Men and women, some still in their armor, others out of it and wrapped in bandages. Some looked to be in better condition than others… Some seemed to be waiting to die. The city hall had become a makeshift infirmary. By the time Aertemis had shifted back to night elf form and come inside, Mallory was already jumping into the fray, asking Elune to heal the wounded as she tended to them herself. The healers gave her only the briefest of looks, then nodded, seemingly accepting all the help they could get.
It was some time before Mallory returned to Emma and Aertemis. "I can do some good here," she announced, as though it hadn't been evident. "I'll have to come back later and give them a full shift of work. Some supplies too, I expect."
Emma smiled. Jealous as she could sometimes be of Mallory's success and seeming golden touch, one thing was constant: she was always proud of her sister. She could become queen of the universe and still think only of how to help others with every resource she had. She looked fondly at the little building as they moved on. Something told her Mallory would be spending a lot of time there.