Featuring: Aishen Thornewood

While the World Tree of Teldrassil was still only a few years old, to Aishen, it still held a certain comfort, a certain reassurance. Created as a new home to her people, the Kaldorei, its branches held a secluded world, one that seemed a haven to them from the pressures of all that was outside. Their lives and society had changed drastically and irrecoverably in the last decade after millenia of stability; yet she shadowy forests that had sprung up within its branches had created an island of peace.

But to Aishen there was more then just that. There was something else that drew her back here, something beyond just the peace and tranquility that it offered. It was that one thing that had called her here today, giving her a mission that was, in some ways, more important then anything else she had done on Azeroth or Outland.

She stopped her Stormsaber just outside the Dolanaar in, dismounting the massive beast and walking it towards the stable master. Anyone who knew the young Huntress would have been surprised by her appearance; rather then the mail armour that had become her signature (Aishen seemed to not wear anything else. FJ had once commented that she'd wear her armour to her own wedding), she was wearing a light purple dress, the colour of the fabric matching her hair. It was a very different image to the one she usually presented; however, for today it would be perfect.

Giving a cursory nod to the stable master, she walked past the inn to the open area that formed the center of Dolanaar village, looking around at the handful of people present, smiling to herself. This place held so many memories for her, and almost all of them were pleasant ones, recollections of days past.

And the hope of what is to come she mentally added. Her smile broke into a grin as she saw one man, a green-haired Kaldorei talking to a Sentinel. He was the single reason why she had come here, but, for now, she knew she could wait a for him. He saluted the Sentinel, then turned away, immediately smiling as he saw her.

Blushing a little, self-consciously brushing a stand of hair back behind her long ear, she slowly approached him. "Hello again, Lleyras." She began, trying not to stumble over her words. Unlike in past, it was not finding what she wanted to say that was a problem; this time, it was more her own nerves at what she was going to say.

"Hello again, my love." He replied, gently putting his arms around her.

She let herself be drawn close to him, gently kissing him on the lips. "It has been far to long since we last spoke.... since we last saw each other."

"I know." He nodded. "I understand your life, and what you must do. But I have missed you so."

"As I have you." She glanced down for a moment. "But the thought of returning to you makes that time so much easier to bear. Even in the midst of battle against the most dangerous of foes, just thinking about you gives me a certain reassurance, a respite of sorts."

"Thank you, my love. It means so much to me to hear you say that. In truth, it can be agonising, waiting for you to return"

Aishen knew what he meant. The two had been together for several months since their first meeting, and had fully embraced their feelings for one another. However, Aishen's life made it difficult; they would spend maybe a few hours together, or a whole evening if they were lucky, before she had to leave, departing back to Outland. She had come to treasure those brief moments of respite, but also knew that she wanted more.

"There's something I wanted to talk about, my love." She finally spoke up. "Something that I think might change things, for both if us."

He raised a brow. "Is something wrong?"

She shook her head. "No... quite the opposite. But... I think we should go somewhere a little more private."

He laughed a little, looking around. "You're right. In the middle of the village is a little forward."

"It's never stopped us before." She replied with a chuckle. "But you are right."

The pair of them had a favorite spot, one just outside of the town that they went to when they could find time together. A large tree root (Or maybe it was a branch of Teldrassil that grew into the root of a smaller tree; Aishen was never sure how such things worked), it grew out of the ground, overlooking lake (name). It was a pleasant spot, one that the pair of them liked to go when they had their time alone, as infrequent as it was. It was here that they sat now, watching the lake.

"So how have you been?" Aishen began, gently tracing across the palm of his hand with her finger.

"Things have been mercifully quiet here." He replied. "The tree itself seems to be a lot calmer then it used to be. Certainly, it seems that those threats that were looming for so long seem to have... retreated. Or, at the very least, are far quieter then they used to be."

Aishen nodded quietly. She'd first met Lleyras when she was delivering information for the druids of Teldrassil, information that they hoped would help stabilise the new World Tree. "The same here. Thing in Outlands are slowing down; both the Legion and the Illidari are in retreat."

"I heard about the fall of the betrayer." He commented.

Aishen blushed a little and nod. "The stories are true...."

"However, I am guessing that's not what you came here for, Aishen." He continued. "Is it?"

"No." She shook her head.

"There was something you wanted to talk about, beyond just the latest occurrences both here and beyond. I can tell that it's bothering you, however." He turned, looking her in the eye. "Is something wrong, my love?"

"Not at all." She blushed further, flattening her hand on top of his. "My love... its just that, well, It is hard for me to find the words for what I'm trying to say."


She giggled again. "This is so strange... I used to be like this years ago. I would fumble around, unable to find the words I wanted. Most poeple would just figure out what I was saying, then say it for me, with me merely mumbling a confirmation of my own words. I was so shy and awkward."

"You, shy?" He raised a brow. "I would have never imagined that from you!"

"Oh you!" She squeezed his hand, laughing out loud.

"Especially after we-"

"Anyway!" She deliberately cut him off. "You've forced me to say it, if only to stop you from telling everyone-"

"-its just you and me-"

"-who might be listening-"

"-if they were listening in on us, they'd know already-"

"-about..." She waved her other hand in the air. "Anyway. Lleyras... as I said, things are calming down. Outlands, certainly, is not the battlefield it used to be. This means that I no longer have to spend as much time running across that blasted land, fighting whatever threat it is that has emerged."

"I am glad to hear."

"It ties into what I wanted to ask you... there are two things, Lleyras, if I may."

"Allways." He smiled back.

"If things stay quiet, I would like to, well, to spend more time with you, my love." She managed. "Not a few hours, not an occasional short night like we have had in past. I mean... I could be with you. I could stay with you, spend our days and nights together. We wouldn't need to find the time; we would have all the time we wanted. I wouldn't have to run off... I could stay here. With you."

She paused, swallowing loudly and nervously, finally glimpsing over at him. Though she was trying not to show it, she could feel the apprehension in her voice. Her hand, lying on top of his, trembled.

"That..." He paused, then sighed, a warm smile spreading his face. "That... would be wonderful, Aishen. That you would be willing to spend your time..." He stopped jsut short of saying 'your life', but she could hear it "...with me is wonderful, I am deeply honoured and, well, flattered by your wishes, my love."

He gently raised her hand to his lips, kissing it, then squeezing it again. "And I would love to. It would be wonderful."

"Thank you." She nervously managed, the relief clear in her face. However, at the same time, she knew that the hardest part was yet to come. "This means so much to me. It's... its not easy for me, really."

"I can tell." He nodded. "You've struck me as a very capable huntress, one who knows her abilities and limits rather well, yet is not afraid to take on the most dangerous of prey if needs be. Yet, at the same time, you always seem so ill at ease when dealing with your personal matters."

"Inexperience, I guess." She didn't want to talk about the string of disasters her personal life had been nor the reasons why she'd had the few successes. "I had to grow up fast; more to the point, I had to learn to rely on my skills as a Huntress first and foremost. My personal life had to take a hold."

"Well, it seems that you are improving."

"To say the least." She nodded, knowing full well that he was one of the main reasons why. Since she had met Lleyras, she had become so much more open and a lot better at expressing herself.

Breathing deeply, she paused, then started, feeling confident that she knew what to say this time. "There was something else, if I may."

"Please do." He replied, a hint of anticipation in his voice.

"If... if things go well, if things stay quiet..." She began, sounding overly cautious. "And I can spend more time with you, then there is something else. It's a very big thing and, well, if you say no to me, I'll understand."

"Go on." He nodded again, his voice soft.

She bit her lip for a moment, the nervs briefly crawling back up. "If all goes well, and, well, you wish to stay with me... maybe we could try and, well, try and have a child. I mean, I know its a big step, and its not something that-"

Aishen was cut off as he reached over, grabbing her shoulders and passionately kissing her before she could react. She let out a surpised gasp, which settled into a contended moan as she pressed her lips to his, holding him close as she wrapped her own arms aorund him. Eventually, almost reluctantly, she broke the kiss, looking up at him. "Um?" Was all she could manage.

"Thank you." He whispered back, his eyes wavering. "This... this is what I always wanted."

"I know." She nodded weakly. "I... I just wasn't sure if this was the right time or the right thing to do..."

"I understand, but you did the right thing by asking me." He replied. "Having a child... achieving the immortality we both lost, if after a fashion... yes, these are all important things to me. But how could I ever refuse the woman I love?"

She blushed deeply. "Thank you so much."

He shook his head. "No, thank you." He stated. "Thank you so much. This... this is one of the happiest moments of my life."

Aishen manged a weak smile. "Thank you, my love. Thank you."

"Aishen, get your arse out of bed now!"

She blinked awake to see FJ standing over her, clad in armour and her sword over her back, a scowl on her face. "Wha?" She asked as a reply as she sat up, looking around. She'd crept back into the Inn in Aldor Rise only a few hours ago, and was trying to snatch some sleep.

"Stormwind is under attack by the Scourge." FJ continued, being surprisingly matter of fact about it. "Everyone is being called to the city to help defend it. So get going." As if to emphasize the point, she picked up Aishen's bow, dumping it on her lap.

"Right." Aishen shook her head, blinking awake. "Give me a moment."

A few minutes later, she was armored and ready for battle, joining FJ outside the in. All around her, she could see members of both the Alliance and Horde mounting up and heading for the Terrace of Light, the heart of Shattrath. "What's going on here?" She asked as she walked over to the stable master to collect her Netherdrake.

"No idea." FJ replied. "From what I heard, a necropolis just appeared over the city, and started sending Scourge forces down into the city itself. The king is calling for everyone who can fight to go to the city and stop them." She glanced around. "Story is that something similar is happening in Ogrimmar."

"And this just happened last night?"

"Pretty much." FJ yelled back as her Hippogryph took off. "See you there!"

It took them longer to get to the Terrace then it did to cover the immeasurable distance between the two worlds; the portals that the Sha'tar maintained allowed them to arrive in Stormwind in an instant, landing inside the Mage's Sanctum set up in a corner of the city. The place seemed normal, but as soon as the pair of them stepped out of the sanctum, however, it became clear that things were not right.

Heavy, dark clouds dominated the sky over the city, with the sound of thunder rolling in the distance. Their source seemed to be the massive Necroplolis that was hovering over the city, looming like some giant predatory bird over its prey. Squinting, Aishen could see at least one other Necropolis in the distance, while flashes of violet lighting occasionally lit up the sky.

As if to underscore the point, the city itself was reflecting the situation; there were pillars of black smoke rising form several points over the skyline, while bells were ringing all across the city. She could hear shouting in the distance, a mixture of battle cries and screams of panic and terror.

"Yeah, I'd say this is big." FJ casually commented.

Aishen blinked, looking over the city, suddenly fearful that this may be happening Elsewhere. What about Darnassus? she asked herself. What about-

No, focus. You have a job to do

"You okay Aish?"

"Fine." She replied as she stepped out of the tower. "Hopefully we can-"

"They're at the harbour!" Someone called out as they ran past. "The King's rallied the guard, but we need more forces to hold them back."

"Right then." FJ Replied, hefting her sword. "Let's get down there and kick some undead arses."

"Yeah." Aishen replied, blinking, her mind suddnely thousands of miles away. "Lets go."

One month. Aishen thought to herself as she boarded the ship, Zaber dutifully following her onboard. The Nightsaber didn't seem to be any happier about being here then she did, but his loyalty to her was unquestioned. She smiled wryly at him, looking back on the Stormwind harbour. One month ago, and I was free of all this. Why did this all have to happen now?

The attacks on Stormwind had been just a part of a larger, worldwide campaign by the Scourge. There had been attacks all across both the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, with Scourge forces taking and holding large swathes of territory before being repulsed. There had been an attack on Ogrimmar which had apparently succeeded in all but raising the Orcish capitol, something that many in the Alliance seemed to almost approve of. Finally, there were stories that the Scarlet Crusade, one of the few forces holding the Scourge in check in the Plaguelands, had been decimated by the appearance of a massive Necropolis and an army of Death Knights.

While Stormwind itself had not been too heavily damaged (the fighting being largely confined to the waterfront thanks to its defenders), the invasion had been profoundly disturbing for many. King Wrynn had stated that the Alliance had become complacent, allowing the Scourge's numbers to grow while they were focused on Outland. He had called for a war to end the Scourge for once and for all, the Alliance taking the battle to their homeland in Northrend. By all reports, the same was happening with the Horde, the Orcs in particular demanding blood for what happened to their city.

As a result, the Alliance's armies were mobilising; the forces of Stormwind and Ironforge along with Darnassus and Exodar were shipping north, establishing a beachhead in Northrend. Other forces were following up, pushing forward towards Icecrown, the home of the Lich King. Many of these were what were deemed as "irregular" units, those adventurers who were not formerly a part of the alliance military, but none the less worked alongside it and aided it as needed.

And she was one of them.

Her worst fears had been allayed; she'd found out that Lleyras had survived what had happened; he'd fought aginst the small Scourge force that had besieged Darnassus; escaping unharmed. However, that left her with another problem, one that gnawed at her. A month ago, she had made a pair of promises to him, ones that she she knew had changed his life, ones that had filled him with joy beyond imagining.

But she would have to break them. Her promises were dependent on things staying how they had been; a growing sense of peace and security, the winding down of existing conflicts and her not having to throw herself into battle again. And that was what it had seemed like at the time.

Now there was a new war, and she had her role to play in it. She knew that she couldn't afford to opt out; to do such would be not only selfish, but it would be incredibly negligent and a betrayal of what she believed in. She knew her duty, she knew her mission. She would restore balance to the world, making things as they should have been.

She just wished that she didn't have to.

"Damn it!" She snarled, slamming her mailed fist into the railing of the ship. "Why now?"

"You okay there, Aish?" FJ asked as she turned around. "You seem a little angry. Like... me angry."

"I'm fine." She snarled. "I just want this damn boat to get moving."

FJ nodded, a knowing look on her face. "Well, if you want to talk about... the boat, I'm here."

"Right." She snarled back, not even looking at her friend.

I'm sorry, Lleyras. She said to herself as she watched the harbor shrink into the distance, the ship heading out into the open sea. I wish it could be otherwise. However, regardless of what happens, I will always love you.

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