OOC: When Patch 6.0.2 hit, I was traveling. This created an awkward in-character moment when my paladin’s absence from the battlefield couldn’t quite be explained. So I got to brainstorming a reason why the battle-hardened Arialynn was curiously absent when the Templars — an order she’s bled and would die for — abruptly went to war.
There are fleetingly few reasons why she wouldn’t drop everything and immediately respond, especially to something like orcs pouring from the Dark Portal. Thinking deeply about it and tapping into Warcraft history and her psyche, I think I found them.
Autumn stood just poised to take Stormwind for its own. A crisp, deadened chill took residence in the streets at night and a frigid dew clung to every leaf by morning. Dusk drew the day’s curtains quicker and the overhead moons cast the starkest shadows of any season. Fallen leaves scraped like crumpled, dry paper across cobblestone streets. Autumn stood alone, singular from its peers. The season of harvest; the season of death. A time of plenty yet the threat of ruin, arriving together in a fiery palette of golds, oranges, and reds.
Justicar Arialynn Dawnfield took in the mornings at Cathedral Square, and for this season with a broom in hand, sweeping the dead, fragile leaves from the cathedral steps. She undertook the task quietly and with no fanfare, leaving her armor and all decorations of war at home. The task was mundane, rhythmic and yet undertaken with appreciation of its humble charm. As early-morning risers commuted by, there was only the barest of glances. For its welcomed peace and quiet, there was also simplicity and anonymity in dutifully sweeping the Cathedral of Light’s steps.
One morning marked a particular occasion when, at the final sweep of the task, the Justicar was visited by her young son. Autumn brought not only leaves to sweep but annual occasions to attend, and Taran Dawnfield was brought bundled and gleefully excited to the cathedral that morning because a community-minded cleric planned a pumpkin-painting session for the city’s children. However, Taran lacked a pumpkin and therefore was missing the crucial piece to the arts-and-crafts puzzle, and so his mother and caregiver, a Pandaren woman by the name of Lei Lah, resolved to take him pumpkin picking that morning.
“Morning dear,” Arialynn greeted her toddler son with a kiss atop the head. Taran grabbed for her, ready to transfer from one set of arms to another. Being nearly two, he babbled in equal parts Common and gibberish, understandable to few except those closest to him. However, his excitement of the day was palpable.
“I have brought two bags,” said Lei Lah, holding said parcels in her clawed, yet soft and furred hands. “So if you decide to bring pumpkins for yourself and the husband, there will be plenty room to spare.”
“My thanks, Lei Lah,” Arialynn replied, looking to Lei Lah as she expertly shifted the babbling toddler to more comfortably settle on her hip.
Their Pandaren nanny was a woman trustworthy beyond doubt and never missed an opportunity to be considerate, yet she was also an enigma. Grey streaks of fur admitted her age along with a crack in her voice and speckles of dark color in her golden eyes, and yet there were instances that belied such an age. First was how she moved — seamless, practiced, and above all fluid. Second was the company that occasionally visited the Dawnfield door step: Shado Pan warriors, who bore themselves with keen regard toward Lei Lah. One jokingly remarked in passing that in her youth, Lei Lah saved the whole of Pandaria. As joking as the warrior seemed, the somber look to his eye and reverent nod of his head hinted otherwise.
Upon this possible knowledge, neither mother or father Dawnfield felt a single qualm or drop of trepidation keeping her to watch their son. Safe in Lei Lah’s arms, there was little a parent need worry about.
“We should not be long,” Arialynn continued, walking with Taran in tow and Lei Lah in lock step behind. “Unless, of course, Taran is picky about his favorite pumpkins.”
Lei Lah smiled, her face with the uncanny ability to express it not only with her mouth, but brows, ears, and eyes. “It is a fine tradition. It is not something back at home, but pumpkins are indeed harvested this time of year,” she tousled the toddler’s dark curls fondly. “Just not painted.”
“Pumpkin!” Taran mimicked, punctuated with a breathless, bouncy laugh.
“Pumpkin indeed,” said Arialynn, and the trio departed the square, crossed through Stormwind streets, and arrived at the quaint farmsteads that tilled the sliver of earth between the city and the steep hills that framed it.
There, Arialynn released Taran from her grasp and allowed him the chance of the best pick of the patch. Being a toddler, he couldn’t wander too far without chancing looks over his shoulder, his eyes searching for his caregivers. There was no visible leash that linked them yet the youngster walked as if an invisible tether was wrapped about his waist.
The Justicar took delight watching her son test each pumpkin of every row. Size didn’t matter to him as much as shape — the more bizarre, the more fascinated he was. Lei Lah took to chatting with the farmer and though their conversation was out of ear shot, the Justicar had no doubt the nanny was working on more fresh groceries for her dinner shopping list.
An abrupt chorus of voices interrupted all of them. It first began as a shout of dismay from a pair of nearby city guardsmen, who stood a few lengths from the patch and up till then, exchanged furtive words between one another. The cacophony continued as whatever words exchanged between them spread through a nearby crowd like an anxious fire. Then an abrupt bugle called over the city stone walls, its tune far from celebratory and put even the least informed on edge. And through the budding panic and chaos, the Rose guildstone within the Justicar’s pocket crackled to life with terse reports by Templars.
Keying her own guildstone, the Justicar spoke with her eyes and jaw set in stone: “Templars, what news?”
A rush of responses overtook the stone, but the common theme was clear enough.
“Ari, you’re not going to believe this,” the voice of Koryander, the Rose’s second-in-command breathed into the guildstone. “The Dark Portal is open. They’re saying orcs are pouring out. Not green ones. Brown and grey ones. And they’re armored; armored to the teeth, and they’re not stopping. They’re pouring out endlessly.”
Arialynn had a momentary skip of breath. Orcs, the Dark Portal. These were objects of nightmares told by the most veteran soldiers, of a hell that broke onto Azeroth thirty years ago as an unstoppable crash of a tide; all in its wake left a smoldering ruin.
Could such a thing happen again? Is such a thing happening again?
Her breath returned, her voice speaking evenly and every word deliberate.
“Send word to the fleet. They are to set sail immediately and begin bombardment the moment the enemy is in range. Rally the Rose and get Templar eyes on the ground immediately. We need intelligence now.”
Privately, the Justicar spoke into a separate channel to Koryander only, the Rose’s right hand but in what felt like another lifetime, her wedding’s maid of honor. “Kory, I am taking Taran north, now. Stormwind was razed by such orcs. I will not chance it again.”
“Do it,” said Koryander. Arialynn could hear the sound of rushing wind as Koryander spoke. The warrior was clearly in transit. “We got it from here.”
“Send regular reports,” even as she spoke, Arialynn was already moving, bending down to pick up her son.
“You don’t even have to ask.”
“Now, that one could be a toughie.”
“Not a joke, Marshal Emberstone. Those are your orders.”
“Aye,” and with that, the guildstone clicked off.
Taran gasped as his mother so suddenly took him into her arms. The pumpkin he recently took into favor slipped from his grasp and split open as it hit the ground. The toddler screamed in surprise, a cry which quickly joined the shared fear that overtook the crowds all around them. Calling Lei Lah but finding the wizened Pandaren already glued to her side, Justicar Arialynn Dawnfield pressed her lips to her son’s tears as she cut through the Stormwind and called her hippogriff for aid.
With no time wasted or belonging gathered, the trio left the frenzied city far behind, one among them promising to return with weapon and shield in hand.