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Rann mumbled an oath under her breath as her kite dipped yet again, diving at the ground. Kageseji nearly snorted with laughter… when she suddenly fell silent, her own kite flying off on the wind, the string forgotten as she froze, purple eyes huge, fear evident in every line of her small figure.
With a few effortless flourishes of her hand and wrist, Rann slowed the descent of her kite, froze Kage's kite so it too began to fall, and slowed its drop too. "What is it?" she asked as she cast her spells.
Kage shook her head slowly, and sat down. "Something's wrong with Mom."
"Wait, you mean… That connection you have? What's wrong?"
"I don't know." She blinked and shook her head, her voice cracking as she spoke. "I don't know! I… she…" Kage's eyes welled up as she looked up at Rann. "I feel her soft whisper in the back of my mind, most times. I… I know this sounds strange, but it's reassuring and quiet and calm." Her face contorted slightly as she searched for the right words. "It's not so much a whisper anymore as a… a silent scream."
Rann blinked, her eyes wide, but trying to remain calm. But on the inside, she panicked. A scream?! What in the world?! Okay, Rann… Time is of the essence. We need to find her, first of all… "Can you tell where?" She immediately began making motions with her hands to open a portal…
She's probably still stationed at the Timeless Isle… Paw'don Village should be the closest I can get by ley lines…
Kage shook her head, tears quietly escaping to trickle down her cheeks. "It's not really like that, exactly… but she's… it's like she's no longer in control of her mind, screaming because she doesn't know where she is…" Rann's heart skipped a beat, and wild terrifying visions flitted through her mind. Then Kage asked the question Rann had been trying not to ask herself since Kage had uttered the words "silent scream."
"What could do that to Mom?!"
Old Gods and the senior lords of the Burning Legion flashed through Rann's mind, as did the Sha of Fear. "I don't know," Rann said grimly, "but we have to find her." The portal opened with a shimmer and Paw'don Village came into focus.
Kage shakily stood and nodded, one hand going to the hilt of the sword Sage had given her, white-knuckled with worry and fear. "What happens if she's really hurt?"
Nice one, Rann. Need to think that through.
Rann slammed the portal shut with a flick of her wrist. A second later, another portal yawned open, this time with her own home in Stormwind just a few feet away. "If that's the case, we'd better get Mallory. Just to be safe."
And a very large army to deal with whatever did this to Sage, she thought sadly to herself, but certainly couldn't risk the time or the additional worry on her apprentice and friend.
Kage nodded, shaking and worried, but determined as the two stepped through the portal. Rann unlocked the door to her house and opened the door to find, somewhat predictably of late, Mallory munching on leftovers from the pandaren Reissa's enormous "appetizer" of a few days ago.
Mallory narrowed her eyes at the worrisome look on Kage's face and set down her fork, turning from her dish. Before she could ask, Rann said simply, "Mallory, we need your help. Sage is in trouble."
Mallory's eyes grew wide in alarm and she leapt to her feet. "Trouble? How?" She immediately headed for a corner of the room where her gear was neatly folded on a cabinet.
"We're not sure," Rann admitted. "But Kage can… feel it."
She knew how odd that would sound to anyone else, but the connection was there, and the fact that they had rescued Kage alive was a testament to the connection Shadowsage shared with her daughters.
"Mom's… Mom's not ok," Kage struggled to say. "Where she's usually a calm, warm soothing presence in a corner of my mind she's… she's…" As Mallory threw on her deep violet robe over what she was wearing and fastened her belt, Kage broke down in tears again. The high elf buried her face in her hands, shoulders shaking hard with her sobs and her panicked fear and worry. Rann pulled her close and she leaned into her mentor's shoulders.
Mallory tucked her Darnassian tabard into the belt and paused for a moment to exchange a worried glance with Rann before donning her shoulderguards. As she grabbed her staff, Rann saw Mallory's knuckles turn white with her grip. She looked, to Rann, ready to kick somebody's tail.
Mallory moved across the room to comfort Kage. "It'll be all right," she assured the young apprentice. She put her hand on Kage's arm, some Light energy transferring to the young elf with the intent of calming her a bit… But as much as Rann wanted to hold Kage and tell her it would be all right, she knew she'd be lying if they didn't keep moving. With one hand, she cast a portal, and Paw'don Village opened up before them a second time.
Kage nodded her thanks to Mallory, knowing what the priestess had done, and looked at Rann even as the portal opened. "Where?" she asked, still struggling to get her tears under control.
Rann was already on the other side of the portal, and gestured to the area around her as she spoke through it. "Well, the last place we know she was is the Timeless Isle. I figure that's the best place to start. I can't open a portal directly there, with the time distortion, but Paw'don isn't far. So…"
Kage nodded as she stepped through, still shaking, but getting determined, even if she could not keep control of her visible fear. "If nothing else, they might know where she went if Mom's…" A pause as Kage took a breath. "If Mom's not there."
Rann nodded, taking several paces away from Kage and Mallory, and then knelt to her knees. "Exactly," she said, focusing on her next spell. She closed her eyes, and knew it was working… Everything about her felt heavier, larger, and far, far stronger. Her hands reached out in front of her and dug into the ground with their great claws. She felt a strange sensation in her back as her spine lengthened, coming all the way out of her to form a tail, and her shoulderblades shifted as her wings formed. As she felt the scales form, she opened her eyes and saw, despite the gravity of the situation, a grin on Mallory's face, now a full foot below her instead of at eye level.
She saw the two approach her side, and was beginning to turn her eyes eastward, plotting her flight path and gauging the winds. She felt Mallory plop down on her back. "Come on, Kage," she rumbled. "Climb on."
"I am on, Aunt Rann," came Kage's squeaky voice.
Rann blinked. "Maybe Reissa had a point," she said. "Hang on!"
With that, she took off and streaked across the skies of the Jade Forest, ferrying her two passengers across the straits to the Timeless Isle. She flew low as she approached the temporal disturbance, holding her wings out steady. In that stillness on the wind, she realized that while she couldn't feel Kage's weight, she could feel Kage's shaking. The poor mage hadn't stopped trembling since she had dropped her kite… Rann braced herself. She knew it was coming, but temporal disturbance still jolted her as she glided low across the waters and landed on the beach.
There was the usual odd person here and there hunting the various creatures and testing themselves against the Isle. As they walked along, Mallory and Kage still atop Rann's back, Rann imagined that Kage must be glancing this way and that searching for her mother. Aside from the shaking, it did seem she had composed herself admirably, given the situation.
As the trio headed inland, they happened across the Celestial Court. Mallory seemed to sit up a little straighter on Rann's back as a small group came into view, gathered around a table in discussion. Among the group, clothed in regal attire, was Prince Anduin, speaking with Wrathion and Kairoz. While Kairoz may have known of Sage's whereabouts, Rann preferred to save him as a last resort, not wanting to intrude on whatever business had brought that group together. "Better not interrupt that conversation." She said it as much to talk Mallory out of flirting with Anduin as to avoid Kairoz.
As if sensing Mallory's thoughts, Anduin looked up and briefly made eye contact with Rann's riders. Out of the corner of Rann's eye, she saw Mallory wave with a girlish little smile. The Prince of Stormwind furrowed his brow, but then nodded once and returns to his discussion. Wrathion turned his head and gave Rann a glance, narrowing his eyes with a frown, then continued his business as well.
Kage looked between Mallory and Anduin, confused… until a commotion broke out just across the walkway. A large, spectral tiger guarded a lithe, red-headed hunter from three Timewalkers with their weapons drawn — provoked, clearly, since the sin'dorei in question had a fourth Timewalker pinned against a pillar with a dagger at her throat.
"Then WHO THE FEL DOES KNOW?"
Kage blinked, now looking in disbelief. "….T-Tris?" Apparently it was not the commotion that had caused Kage's head to snap in that direction, but the angry, raised voice of Trisahna Wolfrider, Kage's elder sister.
"Did you say Tris?" Mallory asked. Rann needed no more, and started in that direction. If she was to meet Trisahna again, she would need to be recognizable to her. Without a word, Rann began to shift back to her high elven form, the shift becoming immediately noticeable to her riders, who hopped off.
The event became more clearly audible as the trio approached, the reluctance of anyone to interfere with the huntress clearly due to the spectral tiger, whose keen eyes seemed to watch them all at once, and pierced them as if they were looking at Xuen, who himself stood mere yards away.
"I don't know who'd know where she is!" Trisahna's apparent hostage cried. "Jeez, why do you have to threaten…"
"Because she is my family, and she is in danger!" Trisahna snarled back. "Now who do I ask?!"
The Timewalker Trisahna had pinned had her hands up as Tris lowered the blade from her throat ever so slightly. "I can find out if you give me some time," she pleaded.
Tris snapped the dagger away from the Timewalker's throat. "I will give you five minutes," she growled.
A nervous look. "Five minutes until what?"
Does she really have to ask? Rann had to consciously restrain herself from covering her face with her palm.
"Five minutes to find an answer, or someone who knows the answer, or you will see what happens when I am not trying to be calm." Trisahna took a pace back, gesturing with her wicked-looking dagger before sheathing it.
Kage stepped forward now that Trisahna had stepped back. "Tris!"
Trisahna almost snarled until her eyes met Kage's, and in a lightning-quick shift, her eyes went wide. "Fel! Kage?"
"Sounds like you're one step ahead of us," Rann said, glancing at the Timewalker who was now sprinting away.
Trisahna looked past her sister, recognizing Rann easily, and nodded. "I know something's very wrong, and frankly, the world of people I care about is pretty frelling small."
The spectral tiger growled and moved aside to let Kage through. Kage stood there, visibly shaking again. Trisahna walked over to her and hugged her close, murmuring something soft in Kage's ear. At the girl's nod, Trisahna's eyes turned to jade-colored steel. She looked at Rann. "You know about the… family connection, I take it?" Rann nodded in reply. "Sage doesn't know the meaning of the word 'fear.' Not that she's stupid or anything, but she approaches everything with a level of calm I have seen in vanishingly few individuals." She paused and looked at Rann grimly. "The level of dread I felt before silence from her is beyond unnerving."
Kage buried her face into the silvered scales of Trisahna's mail top, the older elf holding the young mage close, hugging her fiercely in a very protective manner.
Rann tapped her chin with her thumb knuckle, her mind racing with myriad worries, but trying to focus on this mystery. "I don't know if there are any remnants of the sha left," she muttered. "It sounds like something the Sha of Fear could do… Except it's…"
"Defeated," Mallory finished. She nodded in the direction of an approaching Timewalker — a different, tougher-looking one than she whom Trisahna had threatened. "Let's hope this guy has some answers."
Trisahna looked at him with a snarl. "You're lucky my sister showed up…"
He held his hands up, though he glared back at the huntress. "She left here early this morning on a personal errand. She took a kite to the Vale, and told none of us her travel plans or destination. She's due back in three days." Trisahna nodded, and visibly dismissed the man. "Good day. You have my word no one here is under any further threat from me…" Her eyes flashed. "Unless I find out someone lied."
Rann sighed as this Timewalker carefully stepped away. "The Vale… A portal hub. And she'd have gone to the Horde side. I'm decidedly unwelcome there these days."
"She could be anywhere then," Mallory mumbled, apparently hoping that Kage wouldn't hear.
Trisahna nodded at Mallory. "At least she's alive. It's not much… but alive, she can be found. I was traveling with Hukari. He is checking the Caverns of Time on the off chance that she went there."
Rann nodded, gesturing with her hands as she focused on the next step. A portal to the Vale yawned open before them. "Good thinking. I can get us to the Vale, and you can head to the Horde shrine through here. We'll meet you back in the middle between the shrines if you find something."
Trisahna nods. "There's the remains of a pond beside the Mogu'shan Palace. Above the sha lines, just a trace to the east. There."
Rann stepped through the portal, then extended her hand back through it, her calm and inviting smile disguising the panic that still hadn't left her. "Come on then."