Halduron drew Toriah tighter into his arms while she cried, the months of disappointment and despair finally coming to a head. Outside, the last glimpses of golden summer sunlight faded away. A swift breeze picked up in the cooling air. Enchanted lamps around the room flickered to life on their own as darkness closed, filling the office with the violet-tinged glow of arcane flames. Outshining it all, however, was a warm light that emanated from somewhere above their heads. The elven general craned his neck to see its source: a sliver of crystal, so transparent it could be mistaken for a shard of glass. It rested against the inkwell on the desk.
“It’s a purified remnant of the naaru M’uru,” Toriah said into his puzzled thoughts, her voice rough from emotional exhaustion. “When M’uru reignited the Sunwell, what was left of its physical manifestation also became cleansed. It… brings me comfort.”
“You never lost faith in the Light, did you?” Halduron asked. “After Arthas, after we had to destroy the Sunwell, even our most devout priests and priestesses turned away— but you never did.”
“I had no reason to because I could still sense its presence.”
“But not anymore?”
Toriah didn’t reply immediately. She had never liked the idea of siphoning arcane magic and using the fel crystals; she liked it even less when the subdued naaru was dragged in to help create the Blood Knights. There was no denying that the sindorei wouldn’t be where they were today if not for Rommath and his magisters returning from Outland with the prince’s “cure.” But a tainted cure was no cure at all. That mistake had nearly cost them their lives and homeland again.
Her eyes had turned green all the same, just by simply being in the crystals’ presence. And as they did, she felt herself drifting— no, let’s be honest now. Hiding. She hid from The Light because she no longer felt worthy. Striking against the Legion in Outland; the campaign in Northrend to bring down Arthas; the fight against Deathwing for the sake of Azeroth herself; standing up to Garrosh Hellscream and bringing him to justice. All of it was a desperate path toward redemption forged from blood and sweat and service.
Then, ironically, she was nearly killed by demons and made to sit out the Legion’s fall. The universe certainly had a sense of humor.
“I keep the shard of M’uru there as a reminder,” Toriah finally said softly.
“My mistakes, and the work I have ahead of me.”
The crystalline sliver seemed to shine brighter in response to her words. She reached up for the artifact and cupped it in her hands. Had it always been this small, so fragile-looking and breakable? It was, she mused ruefully, not unlike the thread of hope and optimism she typically hung onto when things went awry in the field. And it had always been enough, then. Why couldn’t it be enough now?
It’s time to stop hiding.
“Help me up,” she said suddenly, tucking the shard into her tunic pocket, “and grab my walking sticks. We’re going on a field trip.”
She was grateful for Halduron’s assistance, for his quiet presence. He was the most steadfast of her friends and had remained so over the years— which was impressive by itself. It just hadn’t occurred to her that his actions were driven by anything other than the usual mix things that defined him: loyalty, honor, respect, skill, compassion. That he applied those sentiments toward her and not just their people or homeland…
Toriah didn’t know what to do with that thought, so she focused on the current task of getting out the door.
Silvermoon City’s streets were sparsely populated at this hour. Aside from the regular patrol of guards and spellbreakers, the city looked deserted. The ranger-captain took a deep breath, savoring the fresh air. Aside from going back to her apartments across the way and checking in with the medics, she rarely went outside anymore. It was sobering and, she now realized, had likely exacerbated her current mental state.
A rustling of fur heralded the arrival of another companion whom she had sorely missed. Orion bounded to his mistress’s side, carefully leaning his massive head against her for ear skritches. He shot a brief look at Halduron before settling his bulk of fur and muscle firmly between the two elves, purring.
“I missed you, too, old friend,” Toriah said, smiling. Orion had originally resided with the beastmaster on the outskirts of Silvermoon, but became too unruly once it was clear his mistress needed to stay home for a much longer term than expected. While she lay in an infirmary bed, Toriah had ordered Orion to go ranging in Eversong Woods as her emissary and promised to call for him once she was well enough again. He would visit regularly, but always departed in disappointment. Tonight would be different. His glowing yellow eyes and large ears were piqued with anticipation.
“Where are we off to for our field trip?” Halduron asked.
“The first place I should have gone to for healing,” Toriah said. “I’m going to the Sunwell.”
There was a hint of steel in her voice that made Halduron smile; it was something he hadn’t heard in nearly a year.
She moved along the street at a steady pace toward the infirmary. The attendant in the infirmary’s antechamber choked on his drink in surprise when the ranger-captain and ranger-general entered. He hurried to summon the head healer without a word, bowing as he went.
It was a brief wait. Once Leva Dawnbreeze arrived, Toriah quickly explained her idea. At first, the chief medic shook her head, begging the younger elf woman to reconsider and take more time with her healing. It wasn’t until Toriah held up the naaru artifact that Leva finally understood what her patient truly needed.
“I’ll take you there myself,” the elderly elf said. “Times like these, I wish we had a high-ranking priest in our midst again. I’m a master at mending flesh and bone; not souls and spirits. I only wish I had noticed your predicament sooner.”
“I didn’t even know it myself,” Toriah said. “Someone very wise and very dear to me helped me figure it out.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flicker of surprise cross Halduron’s face. He quickly bent his head, trying to hide the smile he couldn’t quite suppress.
Master Dawnbreeze found the nearest magister and pressed him into service. After a moment of grumbling and the swirling magic of a conjured portal, Toriah and her companions stepped onto the Isle of Quel’danas. She gratefully inhaled the salty breeze sweeping in from offshore. Even this far outside the Sunwell’s chamber, she could feel the harmonious intermingling of holy and arcane essences. The song they wove soothed her anxious mind. It’s been too long.
When they finally reached the inner sanctum, Toriah’s breath was coming in short, ragged gasps; she had set a quick pace and refused to take any breaks along the way. She tossed her crutches aside, collapsing at the Sunwell’s edge. The chamber was deserted at this hour, save for a few guards and attendants. Most of the pilgrims and visitors were gone for the day. In the quiet, far removed from nearly everything and everyone else, she could truly savor being in the Sunwell’s presence.
Toriah looked around the room with renewed appreciation, gazing in amazement at the high vaulted walls and the stars far above them. Then, she realized there was battle damage carved into the walls— damage that was far more recent than any of the skirmishes she knew about.
“What happened here?” she asked, pointing at the damage.
Halduron grimaced. “You undoubtedly heard about Alleria Windrunner’s return to Azeroth,” he said, “and the… changes… she underwent. When she visited Silvermoon City with a message from the King of Stormwind, she also desired to stop by here. Lor’themar was angry enough about that. As she got close, void creatures attacked and attempted to capture the Sunwell.”
“And ended whatever chance we had at reconciliation,” Toriah said. Had she been more mobile, she would have tried to talk to the former Farstrider captain— for whatever good it might have been. Given the words of warning in Baine’s letter, however, it was probably best she had missed the opportunity.
“The Nightborne delegation was present at the time and helped stop the attack. They are one of our newest allies to join the Horde.”
“I had heard that, too. It sounds promising, and I look forward to learning from them. Their plight is one I can certainly empathize with.”
Toriah turned her attention back to the Sunwell, lost in thought. She admired the nightborne’s tenacity and willingness to stand up against their former leader. That they were willing to trade comfort and ease for what they believed was right was a good sign. Too many good people had been lost under the heels of so-called leaders like Kael and Garrosh. She hoped, albeit dimly, that Sylvanas wouldn’t be added to the list.
Her hands clasped the crystal shard tightly. For the first time in a very long while, the ranger-captain of Quel’thalas closed her eyes and prayed.
Standing at a distance, Master Leva Dawnbreeze and Halduron Brightwing kept silent vigil. Orion laid down at the general’s feet, content to wait. It was as close as they dared without crowding or hovering over Toriah. They watched her pray hunched over at the Sunwell’s edge. Suddenly, a brilliant light burst from her hands and engulfed her prone form. The Sunwell flared in response, its subtle song shifting rapidly into a dangerous crescendo. Then, just as quickly as it had happened, the light receded again.
Blinking away the afterimages that clouded their sight, they realized Toriah was gone.