Saturday, July 4, 2009
The Isle of Quel'danas
Austere draenic hymns rang out from baroque Sin’dorei spires as our vessel, the Dawning Glory, docked at the Isle of Quel’danas. The elderly elven Magister standing next to me bowed his head in reverence, though the woman next to him narrowed her eyes in disgust. I cannot imagine it easy for the elves to accept the continued draenic presence on Quel’danas.
Few scars remain from the fierce combat that raged in the boulevards less than a year ago. Designed as a vast garden, Quel’danas is a picture of summer idyll. Paved white paths wind through elegant greenery, connecting to rotundas and tea houses of white, red, and gold. Artfully trimmed trees cast shadows over narrow streams, and the light of the sun glints off the water that arcs forth from the myriad fountains. Generations of gardeners, architects, and magisters, called the danasarei, worked to perfect the Isle of Quel’danas, their efforts surviving the devastation of recent wars.
With a low hum the hymn fell silent. The passengers made their way to the outer buildings of Sun’s Reach, traditionally (along with neighboring Dawnstar Village) the home of the island’s tenders. Many died or fled during the Third War, leaving the village empty until the reestablishment of Silvermoon City. In a surprising concession to tradition, Kael’thas had held the maintenance crews as captives during his short-lived return, but did not harm them in the slightest.
“The Sun King promised us the chance to shape entire worlds in the manner of this blessed isle. A tempting offer, yet said with a demon’s tongue,” recalled a gardener named Pyrios Springleaf. One of the first to return to Quel’danas, Kael’thas (whom many Sin’dorei still call the Sun King) had made special efforts to bring Pyrios to his side.
“You feared the demon influence?”
“That, and more. We served Quel’danas and House Dawnstar for thousands of years. I could not abandon that, certainly not for some demon world. Had the Sun King ordered me a few years before, I’m sure we all would have accepted. Yet to actually see his wasted form, ravaged by fel poisons, inspired only fear.”
Kael’thas only barely survived an attempt on his life in Outland and returned to Quel’danas a shell of his former self. His wounds and corruption also damaged his mental acuity; the Kael’thas of old would never have been so easily defeated. His remaining Sin’dorei, though well-trained, suffered from poor organization in the Battle for Quel’danas.
The Shattered Sun Offensive still holds Quel’danas. Sin’dorei and draenic troops (from the Scryers and Aldor) keep watch over the sacred site, though in fewer numbers than before. Nearly every blood elf with the means to do so has made the pilgrimage to the renewed Quel’danas, along with a fair number of outsiders from the Alliance and Horde.
“Quel’danas is truly a fascinating case study,” said a draenic sorceress named Dasaaya, visiting all the way from the Exodar. “We initially thought the Sin’dorei to be a radically fractious society, loyal more to families of ancestral renown than to any greater ideal. Yet the encoded symbolism seen in every inch of this island suggests a more unified cultural loyalty than we suspected. The Sin’dorei may perhaps be closer to a holy society than we first imagined, though there is still much work to be done.”
“What sort of symbolism do you mean?”
“Look the line of red-leafed trees over there. They grow quite tall as you can see, and they act as a symbol for longevity and perseverance. The line placement indicates the continued progression of elven society in this land. Since they lead towards the Sunwell itself, it suggests elven aspirations to greater things. This is a subtle example of the longing for true holiness known by all non-demonic races.”
Most Sin’dorei pilgrims stay in the Shattered Sun Harbor, an airy tower overlooking the docks. Though lavishly appointed by Scryer funds, it is no place for merriment; many of the guests have lost relatives and loved ones in the Battle for Quel’danas. The momentous nature of the conflict confers supreme honor unto the deceased. Few Sin’dorei on Azeroth have truly recovered from their king’s betrayal, and the heroic dead fill the gap left by Kael’thas.
The Monument to the Fallen commemorates the battle in the square outside the harbor. Statues of a draenei and a blood elf share a base but face in opposite directions, symbolizing the increasingly complex relationship between the two races. At the balmy evening’s descent, a line of Sin’dorei pilgrims emerged from the Sanctum, each carrying a candle engraved with the crest of a dead elf’s house. Heads bowed and silent, they proceeded to the elven statue, one by one placing candles at the figure’s golden feet. The burning candles soon crowded the base, and those in the back of the procession had to place theirs on the flagstones.
No equivalent for this exists for the draenei. Communally minded as always they honor the dead as a group, content that they perished in service of a greater good. I found one person who objected to this, a blood elf magistrix named Telessera Dawnleaf.
“I cannot imagine what it must be like, to die without anyone caring,” she fumed, her eyes blazing through her tears. A participant in the battle, she had come through without any physical scars.
“The draenei do care; they simply express it in a different way,” I said.
“Do they? You would not say that if you knew Akostos. He was a warrior, one of the greatest I ever witnessed. I was never a religious woman, but his words and courage inspired faith. Yes, I know, they say all draenei do that, but that’s a damned lie! The draenei aren’t all alike.”
“You agree, but you do not understand.”
Akostos is a known name among the Shattered Sun veterans. Charismatic and formal, many Sin’dorei found him an admirable figure. While many Scryers showed reluctance to follow Aldor leadership, Akostos was something of an exception.
“Akostos never talked down to us,” said a farstrider by the name of Kasaleon Morningmist. “The draenei never deliberately treated us as inferiors, but their words revealed their true feelings. ‘As you learn in the cohesion of training, so too shall you better understand the unity brought by the Most Holy Light,’” he mimicked.
“Akostos did not do this?”
“Precisely. What truly endears him to us is the fact that Akostos saved the lives of a dozen Sin’dorei during the battle. This took place in Dawning Square, just over there,” he said, pointing to a still-withered garden plaza just south of the monument. “I saw him do this; the other farstriders and I provided support from this spot while the warriors pressed forward. Akostos’ skill with the blade was the stuff of legend!”
“What happened to him?”
“Demons overwhelmed him and his troops. He distracted the fiends long enough for everyone else to make their escape.”
I do not mean to trivialize Akostos’ real heroism; even so, self-sacrifice is common in battles. I found it hard to believe that Akostos was the only draenei to behave in such a manner. Indeed, I learned that other Aldor and Scryers had also died so that their comrades might live. Why then, the emphasis on Akostos? His name is very nearly a rallying cry for the elves on Quel’danas Isle, and not just for the Scryers.
Kasaleon admired Akostos for not displaying the unwitting condescension that he detected in other draenei. However, the Sin’dorei generally expect admiration; I am not sure that a non-patronizing attitude from a draenei alone would receive much acclaim. Perhaps the Scryers were willing to take what they could get in regards to the Aldor. Certainly the Scryers are more accepting of outsiders than the average blood elf.
The Aldor are well aware of Akostos’ near beatification among Scryer troops. I discussed the matter with an Anchorite named Leeotolus. We met in the Shattered Sun Sanctum, a small arcane laboratory near the monument.
“Yes, this is a very perplexing issue. We have told the elves many times, but they do not seem to understand that Brother Akostos would not want to be remembered in such a way. That is not how the draenei commemorate their dead. I know that his mourners have only the best intents, but they do him a disservice.”
“They do seem indifferent to draenic tradition. Was Akostos regarded as particularly remarkable among the Aldor?”
“Certainly Akostos was a great and pious warrior; none would dispute that. However, heroes are not born from vacuums. He is the product of a society dedicated to the Most Holy Light.”
“But not all draenei achieved his level of greatness.”
“I think you might misunderstand me. Akostos could only became a great and holy warrior because of the other draenei. Priests taught him, mages and smiths forged the tools he used, and so forth. A good man, but only good in a larger societal context. Many blood elves have difficulty realizing this.”
“Akostos also contributed much to the creation of the Shattered Sun Offensive. The Scryers found it somewhat easier to speak with him than to some other Aldor. I am not sure why this was the case, but the reason is ultimately irrelevant.”
“Would you say he had friends among the Scryers?”
“As a follower of the Infinitely Holy Light, Akostos was a friend to all thinking beings. Certainly he was close to the more progressive Scryers, like Telessera, who seems to be the founder of Akostos’ unfortunate cult.”
Telessera’s relationship with Akostos, combined with Akostos’ heroic actions, as well as the draenic discouragement of his following, combine to birth a strange phenomenon. Many of the Sin’dorei who admire Akostos never actually met him, having been won over by word of mouth. In a sense, admiring him allows the Sin’dorei to show themselves as more open and understanding. They are better able to distance themselves from the intensified xenophobia of the recent past while still distinguishing themselves from the draenei and the Alliance.
Ultimately, all politics are personal. The political advantages of admiring Akostos are incidental. At its core, it is a story of friendship and death. Telessera feels that she owes Akostos special commemoration, that to do less would insult him. The draenei think that her actions constitute an insult. I doubt that Akostos would approve of Telessera’s actions. However, this is not something that most of the blood elves are currently willing to acknowledge.
I visited the Dawning Square late in the day, sunset coloring the sky with the Sin’dorei colors of red and gold. A fel legacy still festers beneath the grass. Standing there, I saw a fresh bouquet of blue flowers lying on the blackened lawn, not marking any spot of obvious note.
“Keep close to me; Quel’danas is mostly safe, but threats still lurk in the deeper areas.”
Dalkeron Whisperlight surveyed us with doubtful eyes, disguised by a plaster smile. Mounted on a crimson hawkstrider and garbed in leather, he looked the part of a farstrider. I cannot imagine he looked forward to the task of guiding pilgrims on a tour through Quel’danas. We pilgrims numbered nine: six blood elves, a human, a gnome, and myself.
“I toured Quel’danas once as a child,” said a young Sin’dorei woman named Elevadra Dawnweave. We spoke shortly before being introduced to Dalkeron. “I almost fear seeing it again, knowing what happened here so recently.”
The prevailing mood was one of thoughtful reflection. Each of us riding a hawkstrider, we passed Dawnstar Village and set out across the golden woodlands of northwest Quel’danas, Dalkeron at the lead. We moved at a brisk pace, the hawkstriders supremely adapted to the forest environs.
“The Sin’dorei here already know what happened here,” declared Dalkeron. “I will enlighten the rest of you. Arthas slew nearly every gallant defender of Quel’danas. Those few who survived went completely mad upon seeing the Sunwell’s corruption. They gorged themselves on trace residues of pure magic, becoming that loathsome breed known as the Wretched. In this state they haunted the forest for many years. Only recently could the Shattered Sun truly thin their ranks. Now, a mere handful remain.”
I remembered the hungry eyes of the Wretched I’d fought in Eversong Woods, well over a year ago. Wretched are the elven victims of magical addiction, dangerous and crazed.
Our party paused at noon, dismounting and eating packed lunches of fluffy white bread and magically preserved fruit. The pilgrims made quiet conversation under the boughs. I talked again with Elevadra, who seemed more open than the other blood elves.
“The Shattered Sun no longer kills the Wretched, except to defend their own lives,” she said. From her tone, I could not tell if she approved or disapproved.
“Few of the Wretched are still violent; most are confused. I can’t imagine any will still be alive at the end of the year. Only the abundance of fruit trees and dulled animals ensures their survival. Besides, the draenei wish to save them. The Aldor now maintain a facility for that purpose in Dawnstar Village.”
“How many have they cured?”
“Not a single one.” Elevadra gave a bitter smile. For the first time, I noticed how tired she looked. “Wretched do not live long in captivity. Now the draenei keep a little graveyard for the Wretched, reciting prayers for their poor souls.”
“You do not think the draenei should do this?”
“Actually I wish them the best of luck. Ironic, don’t you think? That the only people willing to save the Wretched, most of whom were once loyal members of retainer bloodlines, are the draenei? Many say that the Sin’dorei weak enough to become Wretched have no right to life, but I wonder. What do you think?”
“I agree that an attempt should be made.”
We soon reached the western beaches, white and pristine along the Forbidding Sea. Our hawkstriders trotted across the sands, the riders enjoying the cool ocean breeze. Nearby, the ancient parapets of the Sunwell Plateau bear their signs of fading grandeur. The sheer immensity of the complex defies all attempts to repair it and entire wings lie in moldering ruin. Only the areas around the Sunwell proper remain in good condition.
Today, vines crawl up the faded alabaster walls, sneaking into broken windows and headless spires. The place does possess a sort of magnificence, like what one senses in the ancient troll temples. The Sunwell is again pure, but Quel’danas still feels like a ghost from the past.
The rotting Scourge armies tore through the elven nation during the Third War, leaving the Dead Scar in their wake. This vein of corruption runs through the entire nation, even the Isle of Quel’danas. Here, the scar begins at the southern shore line where Arthas’ ships landed, and goes north into the Sunwell Plateau.
The Dead Scar is necromantic womb, recombining the flesh and bones of those who die on its surface and birthing them from the dirt. It can even reconstitute fallen minions. No friend to the Burning Legion, the armies of the Dead Scar constantly harried the demonic forces. Some even say that the distraction provided by the Dead Scar allowed the Shattered Sun to gain a foothold on the island. I think this is an exaggeration, but there is no question that the Dead Scar helped.
Today, powerful sorceries keep the Dead Scar in check. While Sin’dorei Magisters have pacified the Dead Scar in the Eversong Woods some time ago, its extension in Quel’danas proved more difficult. Now, the Sunwell’s renewed energies make some degree of safety possible. Even so, Dalkeron warned us not to stray from a path near the water, demarcated by floating golden lanterns on each side. The Sin’dorei in our party lowered their heads as we passed, affected by memories of war.
We spent much of the afternoon riding along the eastern coast as it drowsed in an unreal summer’s heat. A curious remnant of the invasion force still lives in the form of Greengill Village. Kael’thas’ naga allies offered an anemic contribution to the Battle for Quel’danas, sending a small complement of warriors bolstered by murloc slaves. Only the murlocs remain, accomplishing something once thought impossible for their species: peaceful coexistence.
Hissed Thalassian cut the air as we rode past the stilt huts on the shoreline, inflection and harsh looks revealing the elves’ opinions. Bad enough to suffer the shame of foreign soldiers on Quel’danas, but a murloc presence goes beyond mere insult.
Dalkeron decided to make a short stop at a cluster of squat tents on the hills above Greengill Village. These tents shelter the Greengill Research Institute, a gnomish organization dedicated to better understanding the murlocs. Institute is perhaps too grand a word for what consists of a mere three researchers, but they hope to grow in size.
“The Shattered Sun broke naga control over the Greengill. From what I hear, the murlocs were none too happy with their masters, not one bit,” explained a diminutive academic named Vilna Cogsflare.
“From what I’ve seen, the Sin’dorei do not appreciate their presence. Do you think this will pose a problem?”
“Actually, no. Those rebellious murlocs saved the life of some important noble’s son in the Scryer ranks. Say what you will about the blood elves, but they never forget a debt of honor. The Greengill Tribe is under the protection of House Summerdawn, and I gather that they’re pretty big movers in Silvermoon.”
Spindly murlocs, the sunlight glinting mottled rainbow hues on their scales, probed the shorelines for fish and crabs. One of them, diminutive even by murloc standards, turned to us, not facing us but keeping a slight angle. Its slack mouth emitted a guttural croak.
To my surprise, Vilna responded, offering a low ululation in response. The two of them went back and forth for a while, before the murloc turned and walked away.
“That’s Glorg,” she said. “Glorg’s one of the more accessible murlocs.”
“You can speak to them?”
“Only in the most rudimentary sense. Murlocs speak a language called Nerglish, which isn’t really designed for a mammalian vocal apparatus. I can only approximate the sounds.”
“What did Glorg say?”
“She asked if I had found any available food; that’s pretty much how murlocs say hello. I told her no. Talking with murlocs is strange. So far, we haven’t detected any emotional content to their language. That doesn’t mean none exists, mind you; it may just be too subtle for us, or be expressed in different ways. The Greengill seem to be entirely pragmatic.”
“There’s no emotional aspect to kinship?”
“Like I said, we’re not really sure. It seems like the Greengill—by the way, that’s our name for them, not their name for themselves—see themselves as part of a large single organism.”
“Like a hive?”
“Not exactly. There’s no queen. They simply work together to get food and shelter. Please keep in mind that this is mostly speculation. Until we improve communication, we won’t be able to learn much. I’m sure having full on conversations with them will bring up all kinds of neat challenges!”
“Most assuredly. Is there much interest in this among other gnomes?”
“Actually, yes. The Greengill Research Institute owes its existence to the efforts of Clopper Wizbang. He found some interesting data on the murlocs living in Bloodmyst Isle, which enabled us to make some headway with the Greengills.”
“Is Clopper here?”
“No, he’s in Ironforge. The political situation with the Institute is a bit dicey. The Greengill are under House Summerdawn protection, which technically makes them a part of the Horde, at least in the eyes of the Explorers' League, who sponsored Clopper’s expedition to Bloodmyst. The league refuses to sponsor the Institute, so he’s appealing to the Gnomish Academy of Sciences. Now the academy likes what we’re doing, but they’re tied at the hip to the league, so there is a legal problem with funding us. It’s all very complicated.”
“How do you get funds?”
“From the private sector.”
I recalled the murloc cave I’d seen in Redridge, and the grisly totems within. I mentioned this to Vilna, wondering if it indicated artistic (and emotional) qualities.
“We’ve seen the same kinds of things here. The murlocs get agitated if we go too close to their huts; not violent, but we can tell they don’t like it. We did get close enough to see some very colorful art objects: shells and fish bones and all that. However, those seem to be shamanistic, designed to appeal and commune with spirits. Since spirits unequivocally exist, the intent is utilitarian rather than artistic.”
“Utilitarian and artistic often intertwine,” I pointed out. Her description of murloc shamans suggested that they filled a role similar to troll shamans; more like a professional class than a religious one.
“True. I’m not ruling anything out. At this point, however, evidence suggests a very limited emotional scope. Not nonexistent, mind you, just limited. I think that’s why the draenei don’t have much interest in them.”
“Do the draenei support your efforts?”
“Not as much as I’d like; they seem pretty lukewarm about the murlocs. I’m not sure if they’re convinced that the murlocs are fully sentient. That and House Summerdawn doesn’t like the draenei interfering with their new murloc vassals. House Summerdawn magisters worked pretty closely with us gnomes during the Second War, so I guess that’s why they don’t mind us being here.”
“Do the murlocs conduct any rituals? Births, marriages, funerals?”
“We don’t see anything like that, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Doesn’t seem to be anything like a murloc funeral though. Once a murloc dies, his neighbors... well, they eat him.”
“Possibly, though they don’t seem to bother with the ceremonial part. The village just gathers around the dead murloc and feasts. It’s tough to watch,” she shuddered. “Still, there might be some cultural cues we’re missing. Honestly, nearly everything I say here is theoretical and apt to change at a moment’s notice.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
“Thank you. I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea.”
Dalkeron gathered us up for the journey’s final leg. We reached the village a bit past sundown, the weary pilgrims retiring to shaded lounges and soft divans.
Eredun voices drifted up from the ground floor at an unnatural cadence, the ancient words tinged with fear. Already half-awake, I got dressed and walked down the ramp to the first floor as dawn’s light reached over the island.
Five draenei stood in the parlor, talking and gesturing as a trio of Sin’dorei looked on in confusion. Finally, one of them managed to interject.
“I beg your pardon, but we cannot understand what you are saying.”
“My apologies, Sister Evenna. Sad to say, there is little we understand about the situation. We were performing the morning rites when Shattered Sun soldiers ran out of the Sunwell Complex, I daresay at least twenty,” said a pale, bald draenei.
“What did they say?”
“They told us to get away from the Dawning Square. We obeyed, but would like to know what is happening.”
Other elves joined the scene, blinking in drowsy confusion. One blood elf came in from outside, suggesting that the soldiers were training for something, though he sounded less than convinced.
Slipping out from the harbor, I went past the Shattered Sun Sanctum as the sun rose into full view, golden light bathing the streets and gardens. Sure enough, a sizeable number of troops stood outside the gate, poised and watchful. Either the draenei had underestimated their number, or more had joined them; I counted at least 40, about a third of the garrison. Nothing looked amiss within the gilded Sunwell Complex.
“You should not be here. The Shattered Sun Offensive is undergoing training,” warned a voice. I looked behind me to see a stern-faced magister.
“My apologies. No one at the harbor is sure of what’s happening.”
“No harm done, just stay in the harbor. Surely you do not wish to disrupt the training exercises?”
“Of course not.”
I looked behind me as I went back to the Shattered Sun Harbor. I did not believe the magister; his demeanor was too tense for it to be a mere training exercise. Something was afoot, but I could not tell what.
Not wishing to start a panic, I relayed the magister’s words to the crowd. This calmed them, though doubt still darkened their thoughts. The harbor staff began preparing breakfast and some of the elves entertained themselves with games of chess and backgammon.
Taking a porcelain cup full of tea, I stood at the doorway. A crowd of soldiers kept guard at the Sunwell Complex. For a training exercise, I could not see much in the way of activity.
Morning turned to noon, the guests interrupting their idling with occasional glances to the south, where the soldiers continued to do nothing. Discussion revolved around the nature of the event, most participants attempting to reassure themselves with the official explanation. A pair of Scryer magisters came by every hour or so, telling us that nothing was amiss, but that we were to stay in the harbor.
A visibly flustered draenei hurried up to the harbor shortly after the luncheon. He wore the robes of an anchorite beneath his Aldor tabard.
“Brothers,” he said, “Sisters in the Most Holy Light! I am sorry to inform you of an unexpected political incident, which is the reason for your internment. There is currently no risk to any of you, but it is best that you learn of what happened.”
All eyes settled on the anchorite.
“A splinter group of rogue Sin’dorei infiltrated the Sunwell Plateau last night. They took several Shattered Sun officers and foreign dignitaries as hostages. Only a few soldiers stood guard in the plateau, and no one anticipated such an event. No blood has been shed and we pray for a peaceful resolution.”
Gasps went around the parlor, followed by a barrage of questions. The Anchorite raised his massive arms to calm the crowd, though with limited success. A look of confusion passed over his face.
“Please make your inquiries in an orderly manner, we shall not accomplish anything by shouting all at once!”
“Who are these rogue Sin’dorei?” asked an older elven man.
“We can only identify their leader, one Firiol Silvertree.”
“I know the Silvertrees. They are retainers for House Eversong, a fine and noble stock.”
“I see. Do you know Firiol?”
“I have not personally met him.”
“Firiol objects to the presence of non-Sin’dorei on Quel’danas, sadly unable to recognize the spiritual bonds that unite all peoples—”
“Quel’danas is for the Sin’dorei!” affirmed a woman sitting at a table next to me. Murmurs of assent went around the room, and the anchorite’s jaw dropped in surprise.
The two magisters who’d previously checked on us ran back into the Harbor, shouting at the anchorite.
“Anchorite Skoan! What are you doing?” demanded one.
“I am telling them of what occurred—”
“You shall do no such thing! How could you be so foolish!” The magister looked around the room, obviously at a loss. He went back to scolding Skoan. “This is a delicate political matter. Are you trying to start a panic?”
“Brother Pellastrian, many of these people do not understand why we are here.”
“I do not care! Why are you announcing this?”
“They have a right to know. There is no need for secrets in the Infinitely Holy Light,” thundered Skoan, regaining some of his confidence.
“You fool. You know nothing of the Sin’dorei. House Eversong is a Great House. Does that not mean anything to you?”
Pellastrian turned towards the crowd.
“I am sure that Firiol misunderstood the desires of his liege. House Eversong is loyal to Silvermoon, and is known for its wisdom and restraint. Wisdom and restraint not shown by Anchorite Skoan.”
“I am confused, Brother Pellastrian.”
“I am under no obligation.”
Striking quickly, the magisters grabbed Skoan’s arms and forcibly led him from the building. Too shocked to protest, the anchorite offered no struggle.
“Please stay where you are,” ordered Pellastrian.
A human crowd would never listen to such an order. However, the Sin’dorei suppressed their natural curiosity, remaining in the parlor. Whatever their opinions, they knew that the elven soldiers opposing Firiol also served their own Great Houses. Open squabbling, especially in front of outsiders, could only lead to embarrassment for their lords.
I tried to analyze the events as best I could. I doubted that House Eversong would claim responsibility for such an act, unless Firiol somehow succeeded in expelling non-elves from Quel’danas. In that case, Eversong could reassert the power of the Great Houses, which had rapidly eroded after the Third War. House Eversong would never admit complicity if Firiol failed. Perhaps House Eversong never made such an order, and Firiol acted on his own in order to impress his masters; unlikely, but not inconceivable.
Covering up the incident is a natural course for the Sin’dorei to take. An esteemed Great House like Eversong could not be allowed to bring shame onto the nation as a whole. However, House Eversong is too powerful for the government to move directly against it. House Eversong’s support proved instrumental in weakening the influence of Sun King’s loyalists. Furthermore, many Sin’dorei obviously sympathized with Firiol’s cause. Anchorite Skoan’s clumsy revelation threatened to destabilize all of Quel’thalas.
Day passed into evening, the Sin’dorei refusing to say a word about Firiol. Pellastrian made another appearance before sunset, apologizing for the inconvenience and commending our graciousness. Only the draenei spoke of the situation, huddling together at the base of the stairway.
For witnessing such a momentous event, I can relate very little beyond the tense boredom we all felt. No guards stood outside, the Shattered Sun well aware that keeping face is everything to the Sin’dorei. This is not to say that they were completely incurious: each elf spent at least some time at the top of the harbor, hoping for a better view. I spent some time at the top myself, unable to really see anything of interest. While gladdened by the lack of bloodshed, a more elemental part of me hoped for some kind of climax.
Lord Eversong himself landed on Quel’danas two days later, his sleek vessel cutting through the waves. Alderremar came running down from the top level, telling us about the noble’s arrival, and the top balcony quickly filled with onlookers.
From where we stood, we saw a quintet of elves depart from the ship, escorted by eight mounted soldiers. Lord Eversong’s speedy arrival did not actually give cause for suspicion. As a Great House based in Silvermoon, he’d have easy access to Quel’danas.
Fascination soon turned to disappointment as he disappeared from sight, and we resigned ourselves to more waiting. Bottles of overly sweet wine were passed around that evening, inebriation soon claiming most of the guests. One of the friendlier blood elves gave wine to the draenei, saying that political distrust was no reason to be rude. Most of his kin were too drunk at that point to care. The draenei thanked him, but only took a small amount.
A visibly relieved Magister Pellastrian returned to us at noon the next day.
“The wisdom of Lord Eversong has ended the Quel’danas Crisis. Firiol has relinquished his captives and returned the Sunwell to Shattered Sun control. On behalf of the Shattered Sun, I thank you for the restraint that you demonstrated during this most trying time. You are free to go where you will.”
I could find little in the way of detailed information. Most elven officials repeated what Pellastrian said. I did learn that Firiol acted after misinterpreting a directive from his liege. What that directive was, no one would say. Firiol’s fate proved more controversial. Lord Eversong apparently decreed that, since he had harmed no one, Firiol’s only crime was impetuousness. For punishment, Firiol would go to the still-troubled Ghostlands and work with the farstriders to reclaim the lands of the late House Dawnwhisper, once a close ally of House Eversong.
Alliance visitors reacted with fury. How could Firiol, whose actions had threatened a full-scale global war, receive such a light punishment? Service in the Ghostlands is odious, but those who do well in such an environment can expect an increase in their social status. More than a few regarded this as proof of Lord Eversong’s culpability. While I do not actually think Lord Eversong planned the incident, I consider the Alliance’s anger justified.
Firiol’s act also revealed the deep-seated xenophobia still present in elven culture. I do not think this reflects well on the blood elves; a Shattered Sun garrison also occupies the Black Temple, once sacred to the draenei, and the draenei do not mind the elven presence.
The sun set into glory that day, pulling blood-red streamers across the sky. I watched from the top floor, the darkening sky an omen for Northrend. A pair of Shattered Sun officials stood next to me, an elf and a draenei, arguing about recent events.
“I agree that Firiol behaved rashly. Yet the political situation in Quel’thalas is fragile and complex. We cannot afford to alienate House Eversong. Their support is instrumental to Silvermoon,” said the elf.
“But what support is this if they go against Silvermoon’s wishes? I do not think Lor’themar wished this, but many in the Alliance will think he did. I foresee much chaos if the Horde is unable to control its own people.”
His warning proved all too prescient.