Imaya keeps her secrets in a wooden box. She can’t remember when she picked up this habit, but it has long become second nature to her. Even now that the box is full to the brim with her dusty memories, she remains a collector: A crimson red feather she found on Falconwing Square, a day after her arrival in Quel’ Thalas. A seashell necklace she bought from an overzealous vendor in Orgrimmar. A tiny wax bead, splintered from the seal of a mysterious letter. There’s always another moment to capture, another proof to collect. At the end of the day, when her duties are done and night’s stillness makes room for uninvited thoughts, she clutches to her treasures as if her very life depended on it. As if running her fingers over an old toy or through her mother’s favourite beads would somehow keep her breathing.
“They’re like ghosts”, Imaya whispers in one of those nights when no one but her moody cat Adele is around to listen. “You keep them locked away, but they still come back to haunt you.” And she smiles and shakes her head over the sentimental fool she has become.
Something borrowed, something blueEdit
There’s a blue ribbon sash at the very bottom of her box, buried beneath the less painful memories. Once it belonged to her wedding dress, a little accessory to create the illusion of a waist, but it lost it’s silky shine and started to fray. When Imaya brings her face close to the cloth, she can still smell the scents of their old house – lavender to keep the moths away and the dried herbs that hung from the ceiling, beeswax candles and the antique books her husband used to collect. All these things are gone now, burnt to ashes by the war, and only the blue ribbon sash bears witness that they ever existed.
“You should have bitten your tongue”, said Kedris. It was a stormy evening and they were sitting in the only living room of the cottage they called their home, now that they were fugitives. Or, how Kedris put it, guests of Theramore’s generous community. “I’m sure these men meant not to offend you personally. They were just doing their work.”
“You should have seen them, Ked!” Imaya didn’t take her gaze off the sewing work on her lap and furiously punctured the cloth with her needle. “These bastards seemed to enjoy pushing me around.”
“Well, you knew there were daily patrols on that square. You are lucky they just took the weapons from you and did not arrest you on the spot.”
“Every peasant in this awful town carries a knife in his pocket! Shall I go unarmed, so they can slit my throat more easily? This lady I got into an argument with, she really had it coming. She wouldn’t let me enter her shop, and she even had the nerves to call me donkey ear. I should have broken her nose when I got the chance!”
The needle tore through the calloused flesh of her thumb. A bead of blood dropped on the embroidered silk cloth she was working on, and Imaya hissed a curse. “Ever since we arrived here, I feel like a convicted criminal”, she went on. “Don’t you notice how they look at us, the high and mighty citizens of Theramore? As if they’d expect us to jump at them and leech them dry.”
“You’re generalizing, Ima. Like you always do. I don’t argue there are rather…simple minded individuals in this community, but their numbers are few. Have a little patience! This city is ruled by wise and noble-”
“We owe them nothing! We only got on that damn ship because one of your students owed you a favor. And guess what? I’d rather hide myself in caves and barns again than go on with this borrowed life. I’m so sick of the curtsies I have to make for every table scrap they throw at us! You and your delusional friends, you're like dogs – you wag your tails while you wait for the nex blow.”
Imaya’s eyes sparkled with anger, and her fingers trembled so heavily now that she had to put the needle down. Since the Sunwell’s destruction, she suffered from tremors in her left hand - a numbness that sneaked all the way down her arm whenever she got too tired or upset to stay alert. It was unbearable for Imaya, who needed to keep her hands busy at all times. A needle, a drawing pen or a garden shovel – it didn’t really matter as long as it helped her focus on the more mundane and practical sides of life. However, with her hands trembling like willow branches, it became increasingly harder to play pretend.
Kedris watched his wife with a sorrowful frown. Illuminated by the soft candlelight, his face seemed unnaturally pale. The wooden chair he was seated in creaked as he shifted his weight. “You cannot really blame them for their mistrust, can you?”, he said with his ever gentle voice, almost a whisper now. “How shall they know the difference between us and the enemies of their kingdom? It’s our duty, Ima – yours and mine and that of the whole High Elven community on this island – to earn the trust of our human hosts. Not the other way round.” And with that, Kedris got up and walked out. Imaya found the calmness in his stride unnerving.
“Unwordly idiot”, she growled . Part of her wanted to run after him and apologize, like she always did after she had crossed that fine line between a heated discussion and a fight. She knew how he clung to his hopes for a bright future on this island, and surely her scorn had hurt him deeply. But in a twisted way, her anger seemed righteous, and she felt no regret. During the last overturning months, something had died between them - a bond they once shared, an intimacy they had relied on - but with so much death around none of them had noticed the loss. Maybe, Imaya thought, maybe another chapter of her life was going to end soon. And in the great scheme of things, it did not even seem to matter.
There’s a silver pendant on a leather cord, blackened by time and the touch of too many hands. It’s a poorly crafted dragon, with a red eye that glares at the beholder and claws that hold a chunky heart. Initials are engraved to it’s back, “D.A.” in the coarse letters that the humans and dwarves of the Eastern Kingdoms use. They reveal that this particular memory is a stolen one, someone else’s charm against the dangers of this world, and Imaya keeps it deeply hidden between her cluttered belongings.
Twenty years had passed since she last killed someone, twenty years in which the soldier in her had lain in a merciful sleep. How strange it was, Imaya thought, that her body remembered what her mind had long forgotten. It still knew all the steps of that deadly dance of blades and shadows. Maybe there was still a fighter’s heart beating in her chest, despite the bad shape she was in. Her enemy, however, was now of a different kind. The broken bundle to her feet resembled in no way the brutish orcs and trolls she had struck down as a soldier of the Ranger Corps. Those had been little more than animals to her, too dangerous to be left alive and yet not to blame for their mindless rage. Never before had she felt such a turmoil after a kill, and a slight nausea tainted the victory rush.
“Don’t even think about it”, Imaya growled at the Forsaken woman that cradled the dead body in her arms like a mother and hungrily licked her tattered lips. The woman, a bruised, spindly creature that called herself Arilie, sneered and narrowed her cattish eyes. Imaya had no doubt that if it wasn’t for the sack of silver that she paid this abomination to guide her through the woods of Hillsbrad, she would have attacked her. Instead, Arilie shoved the body from her lap and got up with a rattling wheeze.
“There’s no meat on that one anyway”, she said in the raspy Common that Imaya found so hard to understand. “And we better get moving, little elf. If you meet one of these farmers on your way, there’s usually a whole nest of them just waiting around the corner.”
“We can’t just leave without Sorrowsight – without him, I’ll never get into Silvermoon in one piece. He has the reputation to be reliable. I’m sure he’ll show up any minute.”
“Whatever you say, girl. But maybe your friend is late because his pretty head sticks on some human’s hayfork.” Arilie tapped the dead man with the tip of her haggled boot. “Silver or not, by sunrise I’m out of here.”
“That’s only fair, I guess”, Imaya sighed. Her gaze wandered restlessly over the nocturnal landscape that stretched below her. She knew it was madness to stay any longer. It had been her own foolish idea to meet Evran Sorrowsight on Thoradin’s Wall, the once majestic barrier between Hillsbrad and the Highlands. She had chosen this place because it was the only thing she remembered about this area, because she knew she could find it even if she got lost. It had not occured to her that the people of Southshore were frequently patrolling this place in their merciless hunt for undead and criminals.
Maybe the cruel hand of fate had sent the young man up here, so many hours after nightfall. If only Sorrowsight had shown up on time, this human would now lay safely in his bed and not in his own blood on a cold stone floor. At first it had even looked as if a fight could be avoided. Like so many times before on her journey from Kalimdor back into Elven territory, Imaya had tried to talk her way out of it. Her petite frame and girlish appearance tricked many into believing she posed no threat, and this human had been no exception. After Imaya had greeted him in his own tongue, his steps grew hesitant and his nervous stance seemed to relax. But then his gaze found Arilie – the deformed creature that lurked in the shadows, as stock-still as only the dead can be and yet not invisible. With a raging howl, the man swung his sword at Imaya, who swiftly reached for the blades on her girdle. Her instincts took over, and the world started to spin.
You shall pay for this. Do you hear me? You’ll pay for this!
Those were his last words, the hoarse, desperate threats of a man waiting for his death after Imaya had struck him down with half a dozen dagger stabs. Words he repeated over and over again, like a chant, a magic spell, untill he finally drifted into unconciousness. And it was then that Imaya realized she would now have to live with the memory of this night, and she wasn’t exactly sure whether this was a blessing or a curse.
Evran Sorrowsight, the elven mercenary, arrived in the morning, only an hour after the disgruntled Arilie had disappeared into the woods. One could tell by his scratched up face and dusty clothes that he’d been into a fight.
“Welcome to Hillsbrad, Mrs. Brightsong”, he said with a wide smirk on his wolfish face. “It seems you have already made a friend in the time you were waiting for me.”
“I suppose you could put it that way.” Despite the poorly disguised anger in her voice, Imaya felt that the presence of another elf had a soothing effect on her, and for that she was grateful. “Let’s not waste any more time. If I remember correctly, it’s at least a day’s walk to Lordaeron City.”
Sorrowsight raised an eyebrow and burst into laughter. “Lordaeron City, eh? I haven’t heard that name in quite some time now. You’re in for a big surprise, girl!”
He winked and motioned her to follow him, and with a sigh Imaya shouldered her knapsack. Many hours later she would find a dragon-shaped pendant in one of it’s many pockets, the very same pendant that her human opponent had worn, and by then she would not remember how it ever got there.
There is a shiny golden coin, the kind you'd find in every purse and bank safe in Quel'Thalas. Like so many things in this wonderous magical kingdom, the coin is almost a piece of art - skilled hands have minted the omnipresent Phoenix into the metal. From the claws to the prideful gaze of golden eyes, the whole creature seems almost real, as if it would spread it's wings at any moment and fly away. The other side of the coin shows a portrait of the late Prince Kael'thas, saviour and debaucher of the Blood Elven people. He is surrounded by his trademark magical orbs; three golden suns to crown the monarch. The Prince stands with his hands raised, his palms turned upwards, a smile on his perfectly chiselled features - a leader inspiring hope in the hearts of his people, a preacher spreading the good news to his followers.
They stopped minting this kind of coins in Quel'Thalas.
"I must say, I'm thoroughly pleased with your work lately, Miss Flamesong. To think we nearly lost you to the traitorous high elves! Keep this enthusiasm, and you'll amount to much in our glorious nation. Rest assured you'll be rewarded generously once we are done here."
Knight-Lord Sunwrath laid a plated hand on Imaya's shoulder and squeezed it gently. It was a strangely intimate gesture, like something her father would have done, and Imaya tried not to flinch under the touch. Her cousin Lyandrir, clad in the black robes that marked him as a Medic of the Blood Knight Order, gave her an encouraging nod. Once more, she noted how young he looked; like a boy playing pretend with borrowed regalia of power.
"Thank you, Sir, I appreciate your kind words. But I have only done my duty, as any loyal citizen should."
She inclined her head and smiled, hoping she would not blush like a silly little girl. Imaya owed much to the Knight-Lord. The stern soldier was sponsoring her integration into Blood Elven society. He had given her a home, a job and access to enough mana to keep her trough the day. It was important not to ruin the first good impression she made on him and his men. Her diligence and evident patriotism would make them forget that she had spent the past two years among the high elf traitors, that her eyes still glowed with a slight blueish hue.
"Your modesty is charming as usual, Miss Flamesong, but in this case quite uncalled for. Without your help, these...insects would still live among us undetected! Certainly they would have continued to scheme against our great nation. But worry not - now that we drove them out of their filthy hideout, they will be crushed!"
Sunwrath removed his hand from Imaya's shoulder and gestured at his men, who rounded up the elves that had been hiding in the chapel's underground tunnel system. Imaya had to admit that none of these supposed "dissidents" looked particularily intimidating - most of them were either elderly or very young, one of them even carried a crying child on her arm. But she was wise enough not to judge a book by it's cover. And had she not witnessed with her own eyes the crimes these insurgents comitted against the regime? Had she not read their pamphlets full of lies and the foolish beliefs of a lost past? Sunwrath was right - as harmless as they looked, they were a thorn in the flesh of the new society.
There was a sudden noise coming from behind the chapel. Imaya turned her head, and saw two Blood Knights with impartial miens drag a young man out of the building. His face was swollen and bruised and he seemed to bleed from a wound in his leg, yet his spirit was unbroken. He stubbornly clutched to a tome in his hand - Imaya suspected it to be some kind of religious scripture - and kept muttering the same words over and over again. She was too far away to make out their meaning, but the monotonous sing song of the young man's voice made it sound like a prayer. These people certainly loved their empty rituals, but whatever greater power he was calling upon seemed not too care much about his fate. Suddenly, without so much as a warning, one of the Knights raised a plated boot and slammed it right into the young man's chest, silencing his murmurs. His body went limp and slithered to the ground, and was merely left there by his tormentors.
"You don't have to stay here until the end, Ima", Lyandrir whispered to her, his expression strangely compassionate despite the circumstances. The arcane torch in his hand was burning with a fierce magical flame; it was an almost beautiful sight, like a little firework to celebrate their victory. "You have done your part. I'm sure the Knight-Lord understands if you leave now."
"I'm fine, cousin. I don't want to leave." Imaya forced a smile. She was not lying. There was something strangely exciting about all this; a feeling of righteousness, of justice. "Just like you, I have come here to watch this chapel burn, so a new society can be built upon the ashes. Now, hand me that torch, will you?"