Elli looked down at the invitation again and closed her clawed hand around it. Dinner party. Formal dinner party. With human nobles and officers. Officers she could handle. They�d all talk about casual events in their lives, complain about the nobility, and discuss military concerns. Nobles on the other hand � She didn�t realize she was snarling until she saw her reflection. Not good. If she went anywhere near anyone she knew had caused Ace problems earlier, she�d have issues not gutting them right there on the dining room or dance floors. She stepped closer to the mirror and examined her worgen features – lips curled to expose lethal fangs, ears pinned back against her head, hackles and mane raised fully. You�re a better huntress than that. You don�t warn your prey before you attack and give them the chance to escape. Let them think they�re safe, then you spring. Tilting her head, she relaxed and looked at herself again. Still too threatening. She couldn�t help it. She just was without any real conscious effort. Subtleness. Stay downwind. Give them no reason to suspect you�re watching them, stalking them.
Her features wavered, became indistinct, before settling again. Silver, canted eyes resting in the smooth pink skin of a Kal�dorei looked back at her from the mirror, the face that had been a mask for the world to see for so many years until her true self was acceptable. This is your true self as much as the other is. It may not feel as good, as natural as your other skin, but it is just as much you as the other. Long, delicate fingers moved to a drawer, sliding it open to reach inside. Closing her hand around what she sought, she brought it out into the light, glancing from her reflection to the metal insignia resting in her palm. An older style, different from the newest ones, different from the one she currently wore, one that hadn�t been used in years. Her eyes lifted to clear glass again. She raised her free hand to touch the soft, pink, unmarred flesh of her cheek. A sigh escaped her lips. The tattoos earned but never wanted came back to haunt her for a moment. Very few Kal�dorei women are unmarked. Still, the older military men might remember her or remember hearing of her. The lack of tattoos would work to her advantage in this case � since most elven women were tattooed, those that weren�t were easier to remember. Between her old Knight-Champion�s insignia and her unmarked face, perhaps she could fool them all, give them no reason to think Ellinde Feralsong was Etsiyona Bearwalker.
The leather armor covering her body caught her eyes. Can�t wear this. That elicited another sigh. To say her wardrobe was sparse would be generous. She had neither a desire nor need for clothes most females wanted � which meant she�d have to go shopping. Another snarl escaped her lips, not as deep sounding, but just as threatening as the one from her worgen form. Shopping. For human clothes.
Lifting her eyes to note her appearance in the mirror again, she tilted her head. Why human clothes? Wouldn�t Kal�dorei do instead? Wouldn�t a Kal�dorei be expected to dress as a Kal�dorei rather than a human even to a human function? Not that dresses or dress clothing of any sort had any appeal to her, but at least the Kal�dorei didn�t make formal clothes so restrictive you couldn�t move freely. Even if Kal�dorei clothing was a valid choice, that still left the problem of finding something appropriate to wear. Sighing yet again, she closed her eyes, concentrating on moving her body through space and time to Dalaran. Surely someone there could help her with her decisions.
Elli flew over the buildings in Stormwind, still unsure as to what she should do. She just wished Ace would�ve asked her to go as his bodyguard rather than his date. Being a bodyguard she understood; being a date was a completely different matter. Fortunately, one of the few people she trusted also seemed to know about dresses and fancy clothes. It seemed rather odd even to her that she was asking a death knight for help. A Draenei death knight. But, Aunne certainly knew more about dresses and dressing up than she did and Aunne wouldn�t steer her wrong.
Her form shifted as she landed, feathers and wings disappearing to be replaced by fur and legs. Aunne smiled brightly as she approached, the happy smile at odds with her nature. �Come!� The Draenei didn�t take long to open the little shack she and the human mage Ygraine normally shared. Inside there was more than a bit of dust and disuse, but, that said, the �hope chest� in the corner was still there from the last time Elli visited. She rubbed her muzzle and wuffed, trying her best not to whine anymore but not succeeding very well.
Aunne headed straight for the �hope chest�. �We will look here first, yes? And if there is nothing, we will go and to look. I have a little money too but � we will see? I am as tall as you. It is something, yes?�
Elli couldn�t help but think Aunne was a bit too happy and excited to be doing this. �Where�s the little one? Ygraine?�
�Oh. She is being at the Chapel, while I am not being here much. It is … safer. Much safer, if Victor’s stupid continues.� Aunne actually growled hollowly. �If I see his demon, I will to end her. She will not find out about Ygraine, yes?”
Now this was ground on which Elli definitely had better footing. Her expression became very feral and she rumbled. �Blackwald’s pushing my trust. As soon as I see this demon I’m ripping her heart out.�
The Draenei hmph�d. �Not if I am seeing her first.� Colorful fabric – three or four or five collections of it – end up pooled on the floor next to Aunne. None of them were new, but all are very well-kept. �You are being as tall as me, yes? Thsay was better than me at seeing pretty things. They are hers – she would love to see them dancing, I am thinking? If they suit. But I do not know. You should -feel- pretty, yes?�
Elli shifted back and forth on her back paws as she eyed all of the material, trying *and failing spectacularly* not to whine more.
“It will be good, yes?� Aunne smiled up at Elli. �It should not be a bad thing. You are being pretty – so it is just part of showing.”
Eyeing the dresses, the worgen whined again. �I can�t fight in those.�
Aunne�s eyebrow lifted slowly. �Why are you thinking you will to be fighting?�
�Because I have to protect Ace from female that want to dig their claws into him and drag him back to their dens. Or make him take them to his.�
�� Oh. I do not think humans have claws?� She turned to settle on the floor, pulling fabric into her lap, sorting through it.
Elli�s ears drooped and she looked down, rubbing her muzzle as she whined softly. “Seella’s gone. They think without her he will need one of them. They won’t really love him like she did.” She caught sight of the fabrics and eyed them like they were poisonous snakes. Well, worse than that. Snakes she could handle.
Continuing to sort through the fabrics, Aunne considered Elli�s words. �Humans are odd. But Acele will just to tell them no, yes? I do not think you will have to be hurting anyone. You will just need to be beautiful, which will not to be hard.”
“But that’s why he invited me. To keep those … covetous females away from him.” Elli rubbed her muzzle and shifted her face to look at Aunne. Fortunately, she managed to correct the word describing those females in her head before she spoke.
�Yes. This is being what he told you, I am certain.� Aunne lifted some green fabric then shook her head and set it aside. Frowning, she sorted some more. �… do you know which you it is being you will take?”
Elli looked down at her fur covered worgen body and sighed. �Kal’dorei would be better for this. For Ace. None of them will know it’s really me.” Wrinkling her nose, she shifted to her elven form. �This.�
Aunne nodded, thinking. �… if this is what you are choosing… ” She tilted her head. “Blue, yes? I am thinking it should be being blue.”
“I don’t know anything about dresses. Just armor.”
�I am not knowing.. .much. Thsay… ” She shrugs. “Thsay taught me only a little? But it is your hair. I think it should to be blue. With flowers.”
�Flowers?� Elli perked a bit at that. �I can do flowers.� She tilted her head. �Can they be living flowers or do I have to wear dead ones?�
The whisper of soft cloth interrupted them as Aunne pulled out a swath of shimmering blue fabric – like the sky and wind made into simple cloth � and nodded. She held it out to Elli. �You should not… have dead things, Elli. I have many, yes? You do not needing gold – but flowers, always.�
Crossing her arms over her chest, Elli grumped. “People pick flowers and put them in glass to look pretty for a while instead of growing the whole plant.”
A guilty look settled across Aunne�s face. �… I do not know how to make them grow everywhere. I am sorry, yes? Sometimes… I do this thing.�
“I’ll make them grow for you. Just need to make them sprout roots. I can show you how to set up the glass to keep them alive and growing.”
The guilty look vanished to be replaced by a pleased one. �I would like this, yes?� She still held out the cloth Elli had yet to touch. “Here. This, I think. You will try it, yes? Let us see.”
Elli pinched the cloth between her thumb and forefinger, holding it at arm’s length like it was toxic. “I need to put this on?”
Aunne nodded then stood, easily. “I will to help. It is not hard – but until you are wearing? It cannot be known if it is right.” Defeated, Elli sighed and pulled the dress over her head. Aunne started adjusting, carefully – hands deft, even in gauntlets. Tucking here – tying off a bit there, looking … somehow wistful. “I was being right, yes? You could to wear anything – it is easy for you to being pretty.”
“I had nothing to do with the way I look. That’s my mother’s fault. Besides, you’re pretty too.”
Aunne shook her head. “No. But it is kind to say, yes?” She smiles, finishing one last adjustment, then stepping back. Nodding once. “… Thsay would to be very proud.”
Tilting her head, Elli remained motionless otherwise as Aunne poked and prodded. �Who is Thsay?�
�She was my first friend.” Aunne smiled. “She was a human, yes? Before even when Kanta and Arialynn were knowing me. She was the first to think maybe I was not very awful. She died when the Earth Warder came.”
Forgetting she was in her elf form, Elli whined softly and leaned over to lick Aunne�s cheek. �I�m sorry.�
Aunne shrugged and reached up to touch Elli’s cheek, taking the licking in stride, apparently. “It is alright. I keep her grave, yes? There are many flowers.” She smiled at that. “And she will not to rise. It is good. Now.” She grasped one of her face tendrils, unclipping one of the older silver rings fastened there and wandered behind Elli. �Hold still, yes?� Elli stood perfectly still, completely trusting Aunne. She applied that cuff to Elli’s right ear, near the base; it didn’t pierce, but did clamp down enough to be noticeable. “Ygraine will have to be doing your hair? I am not so good.” She smiles. “It is for luck. When is it you are going to be dancing?”
Cautiously, Elli reached up to touch the ring. �What is this? And, yeah, Ygraine can do my hair. I can grow some vines with flowers for her to braid in it.”
�It is a gift, yes? It is very old. So you are not alone when you are with all of the humans and Acele and the dancing.� Aunne grinned and took a step back. “I know it is the feeling, yes? When you are different, and everyone else is being understanding what you are not? It is very lonely, sometimes. Now you will remember, you are are having friends, and these humans will not matter so much. You will not be being alone. It will not being so scary then, yes?�
Elli caressed the ring. “No one’s ever given me anything before.” She turned around and uncharacteristically hugged Aunne. “Thank you.” Releasing her, she tilted her head again. “Why will I need luck?”
Aunne blinked and hugged her back. “Because it is never bad, having luck?” She grinned. “Do you wish to see how you are looking?”
Shuffling her feat uncertainly Elli answered, “I guess. I don’t look at this face much.”
Aunne smiled and gestured toward the lake. “Come. It is good, yes? I think it is very nice – Acele will think it is good.”
Reluctantly, Elli looked down at the water and wrinkled her nose. �I look bare without fur.�
A soft laugh left Aunne�s lips before she gestured towards the water. Cold issued forth from her, forming a sheet of ice slowly along the surface making a far better mirror. �This is fine, yes. But you should see you.�
�This face is almost a stranger to me.� Elli�s words were spoken softly, quietly as she stared at the silver eyes looking back at her.
�You do not wear it much. I have seen it only once before, yes?�
Glancing at Aunne, Elli nodded. �This form is weaker. Less able to protect Ace. I was forced to use it for most of my life because …” She shook her head to get rid of those thoughts. “Once I could be worgen without too much fear, I’ve mostly stuck to it.”
Aunne regarded her, for a long moment. “… Elli? I do not know, really, what ‘pack’ is. But you are being my family. Maybe it is the same.” She raised a hand. �I know it is odd to say? But I think it is a thing you are needing to hear. To me… you are always Elli, no matter which form you are taking. I do not know if it is a thing that makes you sad, to be wearing this face? But I still am seeing you.�
�Yes. Pack is family,� Elli answered softly, giving Aunne another hug.