((The Scarlet Dawn is the title of a derivative piece of fiction set in the WoW universe, written by Krizzlybear for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). As per the word count demands of NaNoWriMo, all spelling and grammar errors, continuity problems, and failures to adhere to canon, are unintentional, and will not be attended to until the end of November. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy.))
In the depths of a wooded area to the east of Auberdine, the Night Elven port village, a meager squirrel scampered its way up and down an oaken tree. One by one, nuts were carried up to an enclosed area towards the top of the tree’s trunk. Mindlessly going along with its instincts as the world’s winter drew ominously near, the squirrel continued obliviously until it had met its fate.
Midway through the seventeenth trip, the tiny critter was interrupted by a fatal swipe of a rabid bear’s claw. In nature, this particular grizzly would have minded its own business as it made its own preparations for the colder months. Instead, however, a force unknown to both the predator and its prey had caused this sudden change in behaviour.
The grizzly intently stared down at its dead victim, instinctively proud of its catch, yet at the same time clouded by its sudden burst of primal rage. Soon, that rush of aggression had returned, and the bear thirsted for more violence.
Then it fell asleep.
As if under some sort of spell, a spiritual force beckoned to the animal’s most basic nurturing instinct, pleading with it to regain a hold of its natural role in the forest.
No, it had said. Never will you do that.
The voice had spoken with a somber tone, and ragged the bear’s brain with a calming aura. It drifted off into nothingness and ceased to be a physical threat to any living being within its vicinity.
Meanwhile, the druid who had cast the spell wiped the sweat off her brow as she took out a tiny dart from a pocket of her simple brown tunic. Confident that she had successfully subdued the bear, she neatly stuck the dart into the hide of the hibernating animal. She tensed herself in anticipation of the bear possibly emerging from sleep in primal rage, but the effects of the dart had done its job.
The druid closed her eyes, and sensed the serenity of the bear’s spirit, as if it were freed from an unseen evil grasp. She accepted its thanks, and quickly disappeared from the spiritual realm that she had entered.
Minutes later, the druid appeared once again amidst the other inhabitants of Auberdine. She sneaked up to another Night elf, and handed to him several darts that were left unused during her chore.
“Your service is deeply appreciated, Leyola.”
She nodded. Leyola Swiftwillow was a helpful druid, well-known to the working people of Auberdine. Even without her valued service, her pale, purple-grey skin and mysterious visage highlighted by long, wavy silver hair stood out amongst her kin. She was very tall for a Night Elf, yet her curves were apparent from her fitted tunic and thin, jet black cloak. She was an intriguing sight, and that alone may have had merit free passage from Auberdine to her home in Darnassus, a mere boat ride away.
But these were troubling times in Kalimdor, the Western island continent of the world of Azeroth. Auberdine, a town developed on the northwest coast of the continent, was no exception. Leyola was summoned to the presence of her druid teacher during the middle of an independent training exercise aimed at strengthening her mental and spiritual focus towards her own abilities.
She had meditated for hours, but a voice of concern from her master had undone all of her work, but justifiably so. If she was interrupted in such a way, it was probably due to a very troubling situation. Because of this, she was anxious to return to her home. But despite this, she did not anticipate having to pay a boat fare to get back to the Night Elven capital.
“As a servant of Elune,” Leyola Swiftwillow jested in a manner that did not suggest a strong allegiance to the moon goddess, “I had figured you to grant me passage so that I could hastily fulfill my duties.”
“I apologize miss Leyola,” the patron said, “but I didn’t know who to turn to at the time. Perhaps you can report the situation in the forest to your shan’do.”
She had observed the obscurity of the behaviour of the local fauna, and attributed their radical changes to some external agent that threatened the natural balance within the woods surrounding Auberdine. Leyola acknowledged the Night Elf’s plea, having sensed the disturbance, and was determined to bring up the topic with her teacher when she had the chance.
A boat pulled up to the docks closeby, large enough only to carry a few passengers and a limited amount of cargo. The architecture and build of the boat was clearly of Night Elf origin, which indicated that the female druid would be able to take her leave. With a wave farewell, she inwardly worried for the man, hoping that the Mother Moon would protect him and his town of Auberdine during this trying time.
She boarded the vessel, tightening the wrap of her cloak around her slender body.
The boat disappeared into the mists, the evening fog surrounding Leyola as she leaned unassumingly onto the portside rails. She contemplated her future amongst the Night Elves. One part of her considered that her success as a member of the Cenarion Circle was undeserved; as a child of two veterans of the Third War, their clout amongst the Cenarion Enclave was apparent, and Leyola’s favor amongst her instructors was apparent. Regardless, she worked hard to become as skilled as she was, and she had vowed to put forth an effort in her work, despite what others thought.
She kept abosrbing herself into her thoughts as the boat was into the mist. Several hours passed before she arrived in Darnassus.
Darnassus was a bustling city, and the Night Elven Capital. It resided miles above the sea, nestled in the boughs of Teldrassil, the last World Tree of Azeroth. Above the clouds, the city comfortably nested its inhabitants, who scuffled about their business in the same manner they had done for as long as it had existed. Amongst its citizens, an uneasy social tnsion could be felt between both the Druids and priests and priestesses of Elune, the moon goddess worshipped by the Night Elves themselves.
The boat finished its trip, its captain tying the vessel to a rickety dock, several yards away from solid ground. Leyola, not one to take chances on the structural integrity of the makeshift port, hurried her way onto dry land. Once she had done so, she had finally reached the World Tree, standing on its very roots, thousands upon thousands of feet below the canopy where the capital lay.
She stepped into a chamber near the base of the tree. It radiated with a magical lunar pink energy, perhaps powered by the Moon Goddess Herself. As soon as she had entered, she was instantly in Darnassus. Amongst her was the chatter of passers-by, and immediately she sought the tranquility of the more rustic scenery of the Cenarion Enclave.
The Cenarion Enclave was an open, grassy sector in Darnassus that catered to all Night Elf Druids. Compared to its neighbouring district, the more commercial Craftsman Terrace, its structures were carved into the trees themselves, rather than made of its material as the numerous shops and inns were in the terraced sector. Here, the druids lived in harmony with the flora, which were merely extensions of the world tree itself.
The tallest and most grandoise tree in the Enclave housed the Archdruid Fangren Staghelm, leader of the Druids. It also served as the training center for up and coming Druids. A recent alumnus of the program, Leyola no longer visited the training center, and preferred to have her meetings with her mentor out in the open, amongst the trees themselves, rather than within.
She arrived at a spot to her liking, and sat down with crossed legs. Closing her eyes, she opened her soul to the nature around her. Her breathing settling into a slow rhythm, she emptied her mind, and a spiritual aspect of her seperate from her body. The world around her new form faded out of color into a dim, faded monochrome. She was now floating above and amongst the the clouds. She felt that she was still in Darnassus, but somehow she had returned to a time before the World Tree itself, before the separation of the contents.
The Emerald Dream. The refuge of druid meditation. She had finally perfected control over herself as she soared through it, thanks to the teachings of her teacher, who she now knew was observing her physical form.
“My child, you have come a long way.”
A deep voice swirled through her from without, as if spoken from the wind as it blew through the foliage of Teldrassil itself. Having found him, she prompted herself to return to her earthly self.
Her eyes opened, revealing pupiless, silver orbits, characteristic of her race. In front of her was the form of her mentor. “My shan’do. What is it that you called me for?”
Leyola’s Shan’do, or beloved teacher, Valfare Stormsong was a master of the restorative druidic arts. With great authority, he wielded the power to heal and nourish those that suffered. He channeled the power of the trees with such command, to the extent that he took the form of a tree himself. A treant, his body features mimicked that of the forests themselves. His legs curled around themselves as roots, but was capable of walking like any elf. His arms stretched out sideways and in front of himself like branches. His skin was literally bark, hardened to protect him against the harshest environments, and wrinkled around his face, making him look older and wiser than his years.
“My child, I apologize for calling you here on short notice.”
Leyola stood up slowly and respectfully. “Shan’do, there is something wrong with the balance of nature?”
Valfare sighed, the features on his stonelike face drooping with slight subtlety.
“It is as you fear, dear Leyola. A dark force threatens to not only encroach on the balance of nature, but the laws of life and death itself!”
Life and death itself, the thought sent a haunting chill down Leyola’s lengthy spine. Whether or this unseen evil was related to Auberdine and the rabid bears, she did not know. She never even bothered questioned Valfare about Auberdine, considering that this threat was of greater concern.
“What can I…” She lost herself mid-sentence. “…How can I be of any use? I’m just a novice!”
Leyola bowed her head apologetically, as if she had failed her master in some way.
Valfare let out a deep chuckle, one that ruffled the leaves on his own branches. He turned at the waist, looking around for something or someone.
“Novice? You don’t think highly enough of yourself, my child. Your reputation reaches further than you would expect!”
Leyola’s face darkened, akin to a blush. She was quite aware that she drew attention to herself unwillingly wherever she went. Partly she thought it was due to her uncommon appearance by Night Elf standards. In another way, she remembered that her parents were war veterans, and that the Swiftwillow household had a nobility due to their contribution to the third War, and their efforts at the Battle of Mount Hyjal.
In fact, she had begun to notice that her surname took on synonymity with Hyjal itself, according to talks between her former druid peers and instructors.
She shrugged. “I suppose just a bit. But I still want to earn my praise, teacher.”
Her shan’do smiled. “Yes. It is as you say, Leyola. Your parents were fine warriors.”
He shared his reminiscence with his student. Having fought with her parents at Hyjal, he knew the elder Swiftwillows as if they were siblings. He even took pride in bringing the two together romantically. Returning the favor, his closest friends entrusted their only daughter to his care, hoping that he could help her walk the path of the Cenarion circle.
Leyola smiled regretfully whenever her teacher told her that story. She missed them dearly, and hoped that they would return from their duties in Outland, the dreaded place beyond the Dark Portal of Azeroth.
She shook off her sudden wave of emotion, replacing her saddened face with a stern look at Valfare. “I am at your service.”
Valfare shot a look of disappointment.
“I’m sorry, Leyola. There’s not enough time for me to teach you. You’ve learned a great deal from me, I can only hope that your skills would be of best use against this looming darkness. I suppose that you know about the Argent Dawn?”
Leyola curled an eyebrow in slight misunderstanding. “Yes…I suppose I have.”
The tree sighed with relief. “Great. Go to them. They’ll be waiting for you in front of the Temple of the Moon.”
Leyola acknowledged his request and began to make her leave. She barely took two steps before she was grabbed by a branch. Instantly, she was caught in a warm embrace.
“Take care, my child.” He smiled. “You were taught by one of the best healing druids in the Cenarion Circle. You will do well.”
Leyola smiled, her skin darker once more. “Thank you.”
She proudly walked away, heading in the direction of the temple, a short distance south of the Enclave.
Mother Moon, watch over my student. Valfare prayed to himself. She just might have what it takes to become the Tree of Life.
((Running word coun: 5162))