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Originally written January 8, 2013.

Dawn woke in a different way to Pandaria that the Eastern Kingoms, or at least it seemed to Arialynn Dawnfield’s mind. From her window framed with a molded serpent scale trim, the lady knight took note of the rising morning. The light of the sun brilliantly shone through the round dew that clung to the silhouette of a golden leaf tree like tiny, shining baubles. There were few words to describe the sight other than beautiful. The private vista unfolded silently, but the light was no less radiant and bright.

 

However, she finally drew herself away from the window pane and returned to her desk. It was dim and dull in comparison, notable only by the tea cup with a curved jade handle in the shape of a serpent. The remainder of the desk was easily dismissed save for three identical letters arranged flat across the table top.

 

She took time to read them, her eyes finishing each written line more than once. It was after the third time for each that her brow knitted fully, and she sat with her gaze fastened on the letters in intense thought.

 

Her study was interrupted by the wooden rap of a knock and cheerful greeting.

 

“Hey, there you are,” Koryander Emberstone flashed a smile as she freely entered. Though average height by most standards, her height was belied by wide set shoulders, a thickened, muscular middle, and a tendency to stroll in head-to-toe thick plate armor with apparent ease.

 

“Gotcha something. They’re gearing up for a celebration out there, and they were more than happy to give out free samples,” Koryander deposited a steaming bag on the table. “Not sure what I ended up getting, but it smells good. Hard to turn down any food here, huh?”

 

“Aye, Taldrus and I are especially fond of the dumplings.”

 

“Mm, I think I got some of those, too. Consider this breakfast on me.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

The armored woman sat, sitting in complete opposite of Arialynn in many ways: armored, with fiery hair and an equally fiery grin. In comparison, the lady knight was dressed in cloth predominantly white but with gold trim, her long hair loosely bound in a bun, and hands folded before the swell of her lap.

 

Though first making the motion to drive straight into the meal, Koryander paused and studied her companion.

 

“You holding up okay? I know being cooped up all the time isn’t your favorite.”

 

“There are more pleasures in it than I would have known,” Arialynn replied. She then leaned forward to pour a second tea cup. “But aye, there is a part of me that is ready to explore the land outside the window.”

 

“Soon,” Koryander said in tone of a promise, accompanied by a smile.

 

“Aye,” Arialynn replied, then turned her attention to the three letters on the table.

 

The letters were thoroughly unremarkable save for multiple post markings on their outer corners. Only one of two was directly addressed to the shrine in which Arialynn currently lived, the others and their markings told tales of traveling to Ironforge, Stormwind, Hearthglen, and even Theramore before finally coming to rest on the table with their lesser-traveled third brother. The date of each letter succeeded the other, the eldest dating back to four months prior, the middle two, and the most recent within recent weeks.

 

The contents were similarly catching. Their author, much like the wandering nature of the letters finding their final mark, rambled and appeared thoroughly lost in what to do. His words spoke of hardship, of political maneuvering around him and others, waning friendships, and growing threats. His letters were increasingly desperate appeals, each requesting different forms of diplomacy, asylum, or – oddly – clemency.

 

The lady knight relayed these findings over breakfast.

 

“Looks like he went to desperate lengths to find you,” Koryander observed, leaning back in her chair.

 

“So it seems. My location has changed often in the passing months.”

 

“With good reason.”

 

“Aye.” Arialynn nodded once.

 

“So what now?”

 

“He is a sin’dorei, which ends the possibility of a meeting that is easily arranged. He claims to be a Tear, which makes some of the means simpler, but I do not recognize his name.”

 

“It’s not like we know every Tear,” Koryander replied, arms folded over her chest.

 

“Aye, but it is strange. Relations were sundered and remain so. It is safer for the both of us; but to reach out in this manner invites much personal risk.”

 

“That’s four months of this guy being desperate and maybe even a bit stupid. We should try to find him before someone else does. See what’s wrong with the Tears, too.”

 

“I agree. But let us also be cautious. I will write our Blood counterparts and see if they can track him. These letters likely traveled far due to having no return address.”

 

“That hints that he’s smart enough not to get caught by the Horde and Alliance postal service,” Koryander said dubiously.

 

“There are eyes everywhere, Koryander. As much as that may have been a jest years ago, I am less certain that we live in such times now.”

 

Koryander darkened. “Yeah. Then how to get a letter to the Bloods without putting eyes on them, too?”

 

“I have given thought to that. The Golden Lotus welcomes either banner, perhaps they will host a brief letter exchange. Kory, would you -”

 

“On it. It’s not like you can go walking around without waddling,” Koryander chuckled as she rose.

 

“You think that is humorous,” Arialynn also rose, but with a hand resting on the back of her chair for assistance.

 

“Cheer up, it’s a good thing. Now, knowing you, you’ve already made up your Light-damned mind and have a letter to deliver. So I’ll be taking that and enjoying a little private field trip,” Koryander extended an expectant hand.

 

With a brief delay, Arialynn removed a letter from within her desk and offered it. The parchment was crisply folded and the golden seal freshly pressed, finished that morning. Koryander grinned in triumphant response and took the letter. “Thought so.”

 

“I will accompany you to the terrace,” Arialynn offered, turning to retrieve a white cloak. “The Pandaren are among the most accommodating of hosts, but even the most gracious cannot replace fresh air and sunlight.”

 

“You know gnomes or goblins will find a way to bottle those two things in the future,” Koryander joked as they departed. “And I bet the goblins will find a way to sell it for more than a gold or two.”

 

It took some time before the pair reached the outside terrace. For whatever festivity the Pandaren prepared for that morning, each hall and foyer was filled to the brim with preparers and revelers. Koryander found herself acting as an unwilling wedge diverting the crowd’s flow right and left, with Arialynn kept close behind. As they finally reached open air, they exchanged a look of relief.

 

“They know how to party,” Koryander quipped as they took in the morning sun. Then her expression became serious. “I’ll be back in a few. Don’t hang around out here too long.”

 

“I could perhaps be here for a full hour and not be bothered,” Arialynn replied. “Between my husband and his brother, there are enough eyes to watch five of me and still be largely underwhelmed.”

 

With a smile and clap on Arialynn’s shoulder, Koryander shook her head: “They’re just worried, is all. It’s good to know that Taldrus is shaping up to be a protective father. As for Calithos – well,” she paused, her eyes briefly blinking in memory. Her nose scrunched up in a wrinkle and an eyebrow quirked.  “He’s always been a paranoid son of a bitch.”

 

“In times such as these, perhaps Blyde has finally found his place. Light’s blessing, Kory. I will see you within the hour.”

 

“Less, if I’m really charming. Think the Lotus will be won over with some sweet pork buns?”

 

“Kory.”

 

“Yes, yes. I’m going.”

 

The Marshal of the Rose departed, leaving the order’s Justicar to attend to the terrace. The lady knight lingered long, enjoying the moments of sun and wind, her eyes held captive by the way the rising sun’s rays painted the land below in parallel stripes of gold, gray, and red.

 

Finally, she withdrew. Wrapping her cloak about her, she returned to the entrance and the clamor within. The ornate halls echoed in excitement, the laughter and cheers were pockmarked by cracks, whizzes, and pops of hand-held fireworks. The lady knight took in the sight of the festivities and had the brief mind to join them, then an afterthought and the need to rest cautioned her that time was best spent elsewhere.

 

She attempted multiple times to navigate through the din, finding most Pandaren accommodating and even apologetic, but it was their numbers that cluttered the path and muddled the difficulty. Just as Arialynn belatedly stepped aside of an unexpected, gaily twirling Pandaren child with ribbons in her hair, a firm hand clasped on Arialynn’s shoulder. She turned to look at its owner.

 

“M’lady,” the hooded agent spoke to her. “We have other routes we can take you through and see you to safety.”

 

“It is mid-morning, is it?” Arialynn inquired as the man gently but firmly began leading the way down a new corridor. The crowd began to thin. “It must be you then, Thomas. How was your Winter’s Veil leave with your wife?”

 

He didn’t reply right away, his eyes remained locked on navigating the halls ahead. “It was noisy.”

 

Something about his answer caught her attention, but before she could raise an inquiry, they abruptly turned another corner.

 

As their walking path finally cleared, Arialynn resumed her questioning. Aside from her voice, all that could be heard between them was the sound of water from a nearby fountain and the distant sounds of clamor down several hallway twists.

 

“You said she was on bed rest,” she began.

 

“Did I?”

 

Again, something about his answer caught her attention. Twisting her wrist, she sought to break his grasp on her arm and turn him around. He compiled on the latter, but wrenched her arm till she was roughly drawn with her back against his chest. In the same motion, a short blade withdrew and pressed against her belly.

 

At the sensation of the blade, she immediately went still.

 

“So glad to finally meet you, Lightbearer. It only took four months of letters,” he breathed into her ear. A flash of green eyes flickered then faded beneath his hood. “Thank you for finally showing yourself somewhere where I could find you. Now, if you please,” a hand pressed against the small of her back, urging her forward. “After you.”

Author Ari
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