Originally written April 10, 2013.
Morning came to Stormwind different than other cities Arialynn once knew. Gilneas at sunrise and sunset bore the same overcast and dawn in Theramore often began with a fitful sea squall. But Stormwind’s Spring morning seemed to always arrive with a trumpeting call. The call sounded swiftly, with the sun’s flame lighting the top of the city’s sprawling spires then descending into the roof tops, paned windows, and cobbled streets below. Its citizens were no different and awoke with the same fervor.
The lady knight herself awoke as she had always done in either Gilneas, Theramore, or her current dwelling. She reflected briefly on the endurance of Stormwind and how easily an outsider could misinterpret its citizens’ zest: it was not ignorance of the world that likely drove the city, but a recent, scathing memory of it. The scars the Destroyer still marred the cityscape, even as the city’s craftsmen celebrated the completion of the main gate repairs. One district still remained wounded and collapsed, and the very district Arialynn lived within was razed only decades ago. Both thoughts were always kept close in her mind: as other cities she once knew, this one, too, could fall.
It was this thought that drove her to wake this particular Spring morning. The humble household came to life with duties that were still fresh to the lady knight’s routine, but not unfamiliar. Her child called to her with a growing eagerness as she approached the crib, and cried as she donned her armor and prepared to leave him in the arms of his Pandaren caretaker, Lei Lah. His distress stilled her and she paused to console him, the hard plate of her gauntlets and mother’s grasp notwithstanding. With a departing kiss to her son and farewell Lei Lah, Arialynn left.
He sat on the steps of the Cathedral of Light, appearing much like a beggar. Perhaps if his face was shaven or hair better kept, the man would have appeared within the true realm of his age. But his unkempt appearance made him look older, along with a notable pause in his voice each time he spoke and a strained gaze in his eye.
“Arialynn,” he greeted her informally. He sat with his arms draped over his knees, with one hand lifting only enough to wave in the smallest of gestures.
“Odin,” Arialynn inclined her head once in greeting. She kept her own gesture slow and with a lingered pause; one of respect. “I did not expect you so soon. The task has either failed, or there is other news to bear.”
“Neither. I have a gift for you,” his accent carried a hint of Lordaeron, along with a touch of other northern influences. “The catch is that you can’t keep it.”
“If it is the gift I think it is, then I do not intend to. Where is he?” she replied, offering a hand to help Odin rise.
He took the hand and did not hesitate to lean on her heavily as he returned to his feet. His age was a clear cause of the brief, pained wince that crossed his face, but he made no other outward notice or needless exaggeration. He straightened himself into the matter-of-fact look and posture of a man past his prime, but long before he would ever admit it.
They spoke as they walked the morning streets, the destination unspoken between them, yet their steps remained in tandem.
“The city plans to take him, but it was my group that brought him in and you’re also a key witness,” he said. “ It was hard for them to make too much of an argument after those two carefully delivered points.”
“I am grateful that you kept to honesty. That was not the path you preferred in the old wars,” the lady knight replied.
“The younger ones can afford to be reckless and think they can get away with it. The older and wiser realize that all that does is leave a trail and reasons for others to follow it and bash you in the head,” Odin grunted.
“My father said something similar. Who was the mentor and student, Odin?”
“Neither. We fed off each other as all young imbeciles should.”
“If they change their mind at the door,” Odin began, adopting his version of a grin, it fractured the lines on his worn face into innumerable wrinkles. “The captain on duty just so happened to marry my niece recently. I will dutifully remind him who paid for the wedding.”
“Keep that threat at bay. It should be enough that I need to properly identify him and his crime.”
“Arialynn,” he warned her. “He won’t be in the cell for too long before the first inquisitor arrives. Stormwind likes to keep everything ahead of schedule these days.”
“Understood,” she nodded once, and their conversation ended for the remainder of their walk.
The dungeon appeared dry and swept clean, but a damp smell persisted. Odin escorted Arialynn swiftly, exchanging few words with the guardsmen when pointed glances did not suffice. Their descent halted at the steps of a cell occupied by a sin’dorei whose gaze seemed fixed upon them long before the pair turned the corner into his line of sight. He said in the corner of his cell, cloaked in shadow and unmoving.
Odin partly withdrew and leaned his back against the wall across the cell. The lady knight drew herself up to bars, her gaze set on the pair of eyes within. Neither wavered, but the green gaze intensified as she came closer.
“You recognize me,” Arialynn spoke plainly.
The figure said nothing, but a momentary flicker of his stare gave a reply.
“You are due for a Stormwind interrogator within the hour. I give no guarantees to your safety or your fate, but you will spare yourself torture over one question if you speak now: why did you seek me and my child?”
The sin’dorei remained silent, but minute shifts in his position betrayed his unease. Finally, he spoke, releasing a string of Thalassian that Arialynn could not translate, but its intended meaning was well understood.
“You will know my mind, sin’dorei,” she told him steadily, her voice metallic in tone. “Your actions nearly led to our death and your silence now gives you nothing. What is it that bought you?”
“What, you seeking to name a better price?” The sin’dorei spoke, sneering in Common. From the strangled sound of his voice, it became apparent to the lady knight that his neck was likely shackled as well.
“What was the price to kill an unborn child?”
“You are trying to buy a dead man. Not going to work,” he sneered a second time.
“Whoever bought you still has a hold on you now,” Arialynn observed.
“Hardly. I just know I will be dead in a few days. I want to be remembered kindly by old friends,” he replied. It was difficult to tell whether his voice carried true sarcasm, or was rendered dry by the discomfort of his chains.
“Odin,” the lady knight turned to her older companion. “Bring us some more light.”
The elder man obliged. Retrieving a torch from the wall, he bought it close to the bars and cast a bright orange haze into the cell within. Arialynn studied the sin’dorei in full detail for the first time: his hair draped limply over his shoulders, his arms were bruised, his hands, feet, and neck were shackled, and his eyes continuously stared at her own.
“Why did you seek us?” Arialynn asked him.
“Not my business.”
“Who is your buyer?”
“Who is your buyer?” she repeated.
“No one,” the sin’dorei spoke with a flash of gritted teeth.
“The interrogator comes,” Odin announced, looking to the far end of the hallway. “Let’s leave a professional to their work. You’ll be a bit more obliging when niceties leave the room,” he told the sin’dorei, withdrawing and returning the torch to the opposite hall.
The sin’dorei stared hard in return, silent.
The pair departed, passing a man cloaked in an incongruous white robes unfit for the dank halls who entered the dungeon hallway. Recognizing the attire and the gruesome profession associated with it, Arialynn quietly took the stranger aside.
“Torture is meaningless. This one is only an accomplice; the one I seek is still at large.”
“Stormwind will be the judge of that,” the interrogator replied brusquely, and brushed her aside.
After the white robed man walked a safe enough distance, Odin spoke. “Still bothered by it, are you?”
“It is necessary in war time, kiddo.”
“It is unnecessary. He knew little.”
“And how do you make this guess?”
“One with information would have used it for leverage and a coward with nothing would have begged. He has nothing and is no coward, he will give little else under torture. Your men found a pawn, not the rook or bishop.”
“Logical,” he noted.
“Truth is likewise difficult to hide from a paladin.”
“So I know,” he noted a second time. “Patience,” he told her. “They all will be found.”
“Aye,” Arialynn nodded as the two were greeted by the fresh air outside the dungeons. The breeze stirred her hair and fluttered the edge of her tabard. “But I leave this quest again to you for now, Odin. Call me when another piece is found.”
“You will receive word as you did last time. Farewell again, Arialynn. Let me see you son before this chase is over.”
“You will see him. But for now, Light’s blessing, Odin.”