Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Dalaran: Part 1
A single eye stared at me from its place on a narrow blue window, framed by hands frozen in the motions of a spell and the roots of a crystalwood tree. Around me were other windows imbued with soft blue light, illustrating age-old magocratic symbolism: open books and blazing suns.
The entrance to Dalaran is a domed room where dizzying flourishes climb up the walls in a display of expert stonework. I’d never seen the room before, though the images on the stained glass windows offered a reassuring familiarity. As always, the Dalaranese saw themselves as the chosen proponents of knowledge and enlightenment. Theirs the way to reveal, to illuminate.
“Excuse me, sir? I must ask that you leave the Violet Gate.”
Startled, I looked to see a thin human in voluminous blue robes standing at the entrance, an ingratiating smile on his worn face.
“Simply a practical matter, you understand.”
“Of course, my apologies,” I stammered.
I left the Violet Gate, wondering if I was truly in Dalaran. The purple stone opened up to the airy style most often associated with the city’s interior spaces, tan walls covered in abstract ornamentation and floors of fine purple tiles, gem-like in their luster. Dalaran’s aesthetic combines human utility with elven elegance, incorporating the best aspects of both traditions.
Sunlight flashed in the streaming waters of the spire-like fountain in the grassy courtyard, bathed in summer’s heat and light. Dressed in light robes and shirt sleeves, the people of Dalaran walked on cobblestone paths, singly or in groups, faces alight with hope and chatter. No one paid me any mind, the Forsaken being a common enough sight in the city.
“Runeweaver Square,” I said to myself, looking again at the fountain. I’d gone by it a hundred times in my last year there, when I had cause to be on the Violet Citadel’s grounds. How little it had changed, even though I doubted that anything from the original survived. It looked the same: the flowering hedgerows, the alabaster buildings with roofs of purple slate, the ring of blue crystals floating over the fountain’s top like the points of a crown.
I sat down on the fountain’s rim, trying to take in the sights. I knew that the Kirin Tor had done everything they could to recreate the old city, but I never thought they’d take it to such an extent. I shut thin lids over empty sockets, hearing the sounds of conversation and feeling the sun’s warmth on my bony shoulders. I was alive again, in a world where the Scourge and Burning Legion never existed, their evils no more than a bad dream. Around me breathed a world of peace.
It could not last, and I opened my eyes. Something kept me rooted at the fountain, the morning hours passing by in an impressionistic blur. Only when it neared noon did I at last get to my feet, following the cobblestone paths wherever they led.
The sights became less familiar beyond Runeweaver Square, which I found oddly reassuring. Dalaran lost some of its dreamlike quality in the newer buildings, convincing me I still walked in the here and now. Among them stood a few near-perfect facsimiles of my youthful memories, strange and unapproachable.
Quite by accident I found myself in front of the Violet Hold, its copper-sheathed granite walls a sharp contrast to the rest of the city. I felt a chill seeing it, aware of its reputation. Mages often find themselves dealing with beings of terrible power who can be contained but not easily killed. The Violet Hold’s first residents were the largest of the demons that poured into Dalaran thousands of years ago as the city first tested the bounds of magic.
No prison can go unfilled. Perhaps seeing its massive edifice, the Kirin Tor thought it a shame for it to hold so few inmates. Soon, even those without great power found themselves within its walls, sharing space with infernal entities and dark spirits. Some of these mundane occupants were criminals, others were those too critical of the Kirin Tor or the arcane arts.
However, the people of Dalaran bear no love for cruelty. A conclave of lesser mages took a stand as the Kirin Tor grew ever more callous towards the city’s citizens. Surrounding the Violet Citadel with powerful warding spells, mage and citizen alike forced the Kirin Tor to end their abuses. The Kirin Tor never expected mages, even low-ranking ones, to side with commoners against them.
At the end of the Seven Days of Justice (a week-long holiday commemorating this is still celebrated in Dalaran), the Kirin Tor agreed to step down and the organization underwent radical restructuring. New laws made the leading mages accountable to elected civilian bodies, and released most of the political prisoners. Even so, the new Kirin Tor still found ways to avert or circumvent the law. Studying there, we all heard rumors about nosy investigators or rebellious mages who simply disappeared, thought to be thrown in the Violet Hold. I never believed these rumors, simply because so many rabble-rousers walked the streets in freedom, sometimes with tenure.
The Violet Citadel maintains a dark reputation, symbolizing the cold myopia that one can still find all through the city’s power groups. Kael’thas was a recent inmate, and his escape is still the subject of much study.
I moved on from the Violet Hold, observing the ebb and flow of the streets. Humans predominate in the city but there are also large numbers of Quel’dorei, many of them recent arrivals from the waning Stormwind community. Beyond that are members of races one would have never seen in old Dalaran: orcs and trolls, night elves and draenei. Light gleamed from a darkened doorway as an alien ethereal stepped out into the street, its glowing form garbed in robes of subdued elegance.
On some level, the cosmopolitanism of old Dalaran had been little more than a pretense. The Kirin Tor never forgot the suspicion in which the other nations held mages, and returned the favor with a degree of isolationism. While Dalaran took in students and scholars from around the known world, other foreigners found it difficult or impossible to enter. These restrictions loosened somewhat after the Second War, and became even more permissive after the Third.
Still confused, I decided to visit the Horde embassy in order to reorient myself. I smiled at the thought, appreciating the irony of the situation. A shopkeeper told me that I could find it in north Dalaran, in a palatial estate called Sunreaver’s Sanctuary. He spoke its name with tell-tale distaste.
The bright maroon domes of the Sunreaver’s Sanctuary stand out from Dalaran’s customary purple. The Sanctuary is the personal property of Lord Sunreaver, and hosts the Horde embassy. Going past the gate, watched at all times by armored Aegis soldiers, I walked down a cobblestone path lined with junipers and flowering bushes. Skinny walkways branch off from the main path, heading to bubbling fountains and rotating circular bookshelves. Every inch of the sanctuary displays its owner’s wealth and influence.
I resisted the urge to laugh when I saw a scarred orc warrior carefully resting his massive frame on a delicate-looking wooden bench. He glanced at me with his one good eye (the other hidden by a leather patch), obviously discomfited by his surroundings.
“Hail, Forsaken,” he mumbled.
“Good day. Are you with the embassy?”
“Ha! My skill is with the ax, not the pen. I am only visiting this peculiar place, resting from my bloody and heroic venture into Zul’drak so that I may seek battle in Icecrown. I am called Parag, an independent warrior who’s tasted combat on near every front.”
“The honor is mine. I’m Destron Allicant. Is there a hotel here?” I asked, doubting that the embassy would offer room and board.
“Hotel? There’s a place called the Filthy Animal. We don’t call it a hotel; that would give people the wrong idea. It’s a dirty and noisy dining hall, barely a step up from a barracks, and that’s how we like it! Come on, I’ll show you. I came out here for some fresh air, but it’s a bit too fanciful here for my taste.”
Parag got up and started walking, a limp in his right leg. He explained it as the result of an abomination scoring a lucky hit, breaking the bones in five places. Parag went on to describe his exploits in Zul’drak, where his ax had cleaved through Scourge ranks on the first tier. He’d fought alongside the Knights of the Ebon Blade, and admired their prowess though he admitted to being disturbed by them. Parag clapped me on the back when I told him of my own time in Zul’drak, the force of the blow nearly knocking me over.
“I’ll be damned! All my boasts of fighting the Scourge in the toxic death-forests of the first tier, and you went all the way to the icy heights of that rotting kingdom!”
“I didn’t do much fighting.”
“Impressive all the same. I’ll have to go back there and fight the Drakkari king sometime, to keep up with you,” he chortled.
He also explained a bit about life in Sunreaver’s Sanctuary. The Sin’dorei, he said, insisted on doing all of the diplomatic work. Parag conceded that they were well-suited for the task, but resented the fact that the Warchief had to work through so many mediators.
“I am not at all sure that this Sunreaver cares a whit for the Horde. I think he just wants to grow his own influence. The blood elves are a dissembling and untrustworthy lot, never saying what they mean. We orcs used to wonder about you Forsaken, but your kind proved themselves to us.”
“So may the Sin’dorei, in time.”
“Pah! Not as long as they make awful gardens like the ones here. Why can’t they see that nature is beautiful because it’s wild? Forests aren’t arranged in neat little patterns, with flimsy benches for your convenience! Say what you will about the night elves, but they at least understand that much,” snorted Parag.
From the outside, the Filthy Animal looks like any other building in Dalaran, boasting marble walls and decorated eaves. The door takes one to a vastly different place, a hall of rough stone lit by a roaring hearth, the low-lying ceiling exuding a sense of grime and shadow. Torn banners and hunting trophies cover the walls, a testament to the ferocity of the Horde. Warriors rest at tables through the day, conversing in a low and guttural murmur. Most of the patrons I saw were orcs, though there were some of every Horde race, even a few Sin’dorei.
Parag took a seat at a squat round table near the fire. Wordlessly, a lithe troll woman placed a tankard of bloodmead in front of him.
“One for Destron as well,” ordered Parag. “He may not look it, but he’s a warrior in his own way.”
The troll nodded and walked over to the bar, returning minutes later with another tankard. I thanked her, wondering if I could finish such a heroic quantity of the stuff.
“You haven’t met Uda yet. She runs the place; Uda the Beast, we call her. She’s a Mag’har, as fierce as Outland itself! We all love her after a fashion, you can’t help but love something that strong, even if her face looks like a kodo’s,” he joked.
“I’m surprised that a Mag’har would set up an establishment in Dalaran.
“Plenty of Mag’har live in Azeroth now, teaching us how to be true orcs. Good teachers, for the most part. You ever meet Garrosh?”
“Not face to face?”
“By the ancestors, he’s a hero for our age! My heart’s glad to see him leading our war in Northrend. I only regret that I can’t be at the Wrathgate right now.”
“You’ve not heard? As we speak, the warriors of the Horde and Alliance stand together at the gates of the Lich King’s frozen hell, ready to shatter his army of meat puppets! I’d go, but my bad leg would only slow them down. No matter: there will be greater battles still once we break through.”
“Good,” I said. I hadn’t known that the Horde and Alliance were cooperating so closely on the matter, and the news enthused me.
Looking around the tavern, I noticed just how drunk many of the patrons were getting. They slurred words and staggered up from tables though it was only midday. Orcish culture frowns on excessive drinking. I asked Parag about this.
“Destron, many of the warriors here fought in the Outland campaigns. Now we’re braving this icy ruin to fight rotting armies. I think we’ve earned the right to drink as we please. Besides, we know better than to start a fight here. Uda’s very strict about that. Speaking of drinks, do you know that Garrosh gives his troops twice the bloodmead rations of any other orc commander?”
“I did not.”
“He trusts them, knows they’ve earned it. I hear some goblins bred a more resistant bloodbee, so now they can set up hives in Durotar and the Barrens, making the bloodmead much easier to come by. Used to be we could only get it from Stonard.”
“Are the Mag’har more accepting of alcohol?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think they ever had that much of it. Anyway, trying to keep people from drinking themselves happy is really more the Warchief’s idea. Don’t get me wrong, the Warchief is a wise man. But even the wisest can make mistakes.”
“A good point.”
“I’m a warrior who can’t fight until his leg heals. It’s either drink with my fellows, or sit around thinking about that damned abomination. Easy choice if you ask me.”
I spent the better part of the afternoon in the Filthy Animal, the tavern growing steadily hotter and noisier. Parag’s friends came around, mostly orcish and trollish Outland veterans. Parag’s jovial demeanor remained constant, even as he talked about gutting Alliance mercenaries in Zangarmarsh. At his urging, I told stories of my own time in Outland, though I tried to gloss over the combat.
As Parag had said, the Filthy Animal did not tolerate violent drunks. Parag even intervened in the case of one excitable orc, he and his friends grabbing the would-be combatant and throwing him bodily out of the tavern.
“Let the elves deal with him,” slurred Parag, to laughter from the crowd. One of the main reasons behind orc culture’s disapproval of inebriation is the sheer amount of damage an angry orc can inflict. That element, at least, survived in the Filthy Animal.
Parag lost all semblance of sobriety towards the late afternoon. He announced, in barely understandable words, that he was ready to sleep it off and staggered upstairs to one of the hammocks on the second floor. I went with him long enough to make sure he slept on his side before making my escape.
A cool evening breeze washed over me as I stepped out into the gardens of Sunreaver’s Sanctuary. Night’s velvet blanket crept across the sky, dark save for a few bright stars. The magic lights of Dalaran make it difficult to really appreciate the night sky.
I walked for a while down shaded paths, glad to be free of the tavern’s crowds. Something about Parag had disturbed me. A warrior through and through, he seemed at first glance an admirable (if somewhat intolerant) example of the orcish race. The orcs enjoy combat to a perhaps unhealthy degree, but their enjoyment largely stems from the challenge it brings to life. Judging by Parag’s stories, he preferred the killing. So did many of Parag’s friends.
Despite a well-organized start, the armies of the Outland campaign quickly foundered in the alien world’s harsh terrain. I knew that entire units (from both Horde and Alliance) spent years cut off from command or reinforcements, operating with little oversight. The influence of zealous partisans further confused the matter, their daring (and often bloodthirsty) actions never really condemned by their governments.
A commentary on this subject came from Hulla’tak, an older orc shaman who worked in the embassy. I met her while exploring the embassy’s halls that night. Adjoined to the Sunreaver manse, the embassy follows the Sin’dorei aesthetic. Vermilion rugs and drapes create a feeling of restrained decadence in its vast halls. I met Hulla’tak by alerting her to a sheet of paper that she’d dropped. She asked who I was, and we exchanged introductions before she invited me to join her in the small embassy cafe.
Hulla’tak was a true survivor. The misogynistic Old Horde treated its women like chattel, and Hulla’tak endured terrible brutality at the hands of her husband, a vicious grunt whom she refused to name.
“Some say that the spirit of a dead man feels joy when he hears his name uttered by the living. I will not give any succor to that wretch. Suffice to say, a human knight killed him. I bear no love for humans, but if I ever find that knight I shall offer him my deepest thanks.”
She was one of Thrall’s most enthusiastic followers, and participated in the rediscovery of orcish culture. I mentioned that I’d just come from the Filthy Animal, and she rolled her eyes.
“That place attracts a bad crowd, warriors who love blood more than they love honor. A sad state of affairs.”
“How did it come to be that way?”
“When the Warchief allowed for independent warriors, he never expected them to become so many. We all thought most would give up and join one of the War-packs instead. Those who proved their strength would be valuable, but not numerous. We never counted on the people singing tales of the independents’ exploits.”
“They became popular?”
“While the War-packs defended the cities of the Horde from minor threats, the independents carved a trail of blood and honor across Kalimdor and the East. Their savage breed cleared Ragefire Chasm of demons, and helped the trolls slay their wayward god. Scores died, but the ones who lived inspired others.
“The shamans of the War-packs sooth the spirits of the warriors, and remind them of honor. Many of the older independent warriors heeded the words of unaffiliated shamans, but the younger ones plunged headlong into more bloodshed, hewing limbs and ending lives until that was all they knew.”
“Do you think this is a major problem for Orgrimmar?”
“Not yet. But young orcs fill their minds with stories of these independent warriors, seeking to emulate them. Even some of the shamans praise the more savage independents, saying they make the ancestors proud by acting as orcs should.”
“Do you dislike the concept of independent warriors?”
Hulla’tak drew back, looking somewhat offended.
“Do not take me for some effete shirker, Destron. Many of these men are truly heroes, and well worth emulation. Would that we had a thousand more of great independents like Soluk Bloodrage and Bekkra Steelthorn! As I said, I am only troubled by those who love blood more than honor. The Horde simply never expected that so many would strike out on their own and succeed.”
All orcs are pressured to prove their worth in battle while avoiding the bloodlust that afflicted the old Horde. There is something of a contradiction here. Battle results in death, and if orcs actively seek battle, than they must also actively seek the violent death of others.
Warchief Thrall made several attempts to address this, attempting to institute violent but non-lethal sports as a sort of pressure valve. Sadly, he failed. Preoccupied with matters of state, his ritualized duels degenerated into the heinous gladiatorial combat that still takes place in arenas across orcish lands.
As Hulla’tak mentioned, the War-packs take great pains to address this issue in their own warriors. Unfortunately, the unexpected number of independent warriors creates a new cultural problem that will prove difficult to address. Nor is this problem unique to the orcs. Most nations in Azeroth must find ways to deal with those partisans hardened in heart.
I left the Sanctuary early the next morning to explore Dalaran in a clearer state of mind. My initial daze of fear and nostalgia was gone. Street vendors set up shop in tents and wagons outside of well-appointed stores, some of them already selling to the other early risers.
My first visit was to the Antonidas Memorial in north Dalaran, not far from the Sanctuary. A statue of the fallen archmage floats at the center of a spiral path that winds through a trim lawn. Cast in stone he appears as a figure of wisdom and power, more god than man.
The statue is a marvelous work, but it does not capture the warm humanity of the real Antonidas. I cannot make any claim to have known him well, though I did speak with him once, just before my fateful journey to the north. One of my patrons, an old woman named Avida Corsenn, introduced me to Antonidas. She believed I had great potential as a mage, an opinion shared by many of my instructors. Just as they praised my talent, they lamented my diffidence. Whatever my skill at magic, I preferred history books to arcane tomes.
I think that Avida hoped to inspire me, and in a sense she did. Antonidas shared my interest in history and politics, and we spent the better part of the afternoon talking like old friends about the subject. Part of me suspects that he was tired of being asked about magic, and was grateful to discuss something else. Antonidas knew more about orcish culture than perhaps any other human at the time, and imparted some of that knowledge to me.
Not many are aware that Antonidas was also a deeply pious man. Mages tend to be less religious than other segments of the population (though not as aggressively irreligious as popular belief sometimes suggests). Antonidas, however, believed that magic was a curse if not restrained by the Holy Light. Accordingly, he fought the exclusionist tendencies rampant in the Kirin Tor, though with only limited success.
I did not stay long at the memorial, soon moving on to the Magus Commerce Exchange. Dalaran has always been a city that prided itself on the latest in everything. It is a foundry of ideas, where new products are tested in the city’s wealthy markets before spreading to the rest of the world.
The Magus Commerce Exchange promises to continue this fine tradition. Every shop there is whimsical and outlandish, sometimes incorporating its product into the architecture. For instance, the Agronomic Apothecary is an alchemy shop where the round door is flanked by glass tubes that take the shape of a flask, and is filled with bubbling blue liquid.
People packed the streets by mid-morning, almost too many for such a small city. The most influential mages in old Dalaran sometimes lived in lavish pocket dimensions, and the same applies today. Creating a pocket dimension for oneself struck me as absurdly extravagant, though the lack of space in modern Dalaran makes this tactic slightly more reasonable.
As the center of Dalaran’s economy, the Magus Commerce Exchange is also home to some of the most skilled enchanters in Azeroth. Enchantment has long been a cornerstone of societies throughout the Eastern Kingdoms, even if many take it for granted. The actual history of enchantment goes far back into ancient times, and was first developed by pre-Sundering elves.
The Quel’dorei brought enchantment to the Eastern Kingdoms after the Sundering. Their enchantments strengthened by the Sunwell, the Quel’dorei utilized the skill in the creation of their fantastic realm. The Magisters of Quel’thalas never imagined the extents to which humans and gnomes would take the profession. Enchantment in the human kingdoms started off as an amusement for wealthy Dalaranese mages, who used it to beautify their city. From there, it spread to the other nations in the form of enhanced weapons given to warlike nobles and their retinues.
Enchantment forces refined mana to follow a circuit imbued into the body of an object. This circuit determines the effect of the enchantment, and can range from simple to complex. The circuit is typically invisible to the naked eye, though the effects it creates may be quite obvious.
Dalaranese experts claimed that enchantment was the province of mages, and that outside of magic-rich areas like Dalaran or Quel’thalas, mana was too rare for anyone but the wealthiest to use. As is so often the case, the gnomes proved them wrong. A woman named Litta Manafusil discovered how to extract refined mana from previously enchanted objects, and use it to create more. Not only that, she was able to use this extract to enchant a greater number of objects. Before this, the mana had to be drawn from ambient sources like leylines, a process requiring a fully-stocked ritual chamber.
The leading citizens of Dalaran might have dismissed it, were it not for the fact that Litta wasn’t even a mage, a fact that sent shivers of outrage through the Kirin Tor. Within years of her discovery, laypeople around the Eastern Kingdoms busied themselves creating their own enchanted items. There was a great deal of trial and error; the process was rather more complicated than she made it seem. Nonetheless, the new field of utilitarian enchantment created longer-lasting tools, vastly more efficient means of production, and even improved health.
Percolating from the bottom up, this new discovery caught the governments by surprise. Stromgarde, Alterac, and Stormwind all made moves to forbid the practice, while Lordaeron and Gilneas dithered indecisively. Only Kul Tiras encouraged it, which resulted in the rise of several prominent merchant houses.
Dalaran was riven between supporters and detractors. The latter claimed that such reckless use of magical energy endangered the entire world. Their argument was somewhat weakened by the fact that utilitarian enchantment was considerably safer than normal magic. Confusing matters further was the huge number of professional enchanters already working in the city, most without any academic background. Dalaran was already considered the heart of human enchantment research, the profession enriching the city immeasurably.
Dalaranese still celebrate the date of the Guild Riots. This rhetorically fierce (though thankfully bloodless) confrontation began when gendarmes tried to shut down the Enchanters’ Guild. Thousands of prominent citizens rallied to the guild’s cause, filling the streets in an hour. More than a few of the protestors were mages themselves.
For two days, the Violet Citadel argued its case, threatening retribution but knowing full well they were outnumbered. Too many people had benefitted from enchantment. Even after the reforms of the Seven Days of Justice, many still saw the Kirin Tor as lacking in moral authority. The leading mages finally agreed to allow enchantment within the city, so long as it followed certain guidelines.
These rules eroded over time, as more enchanted objects made their way into circulation (providing a convenient source for more refined mana). The enchantress Azora convinced the king of Stormwind to allow enchantment (which was already rampant in the southern kingdom’s black market), despite the protestations of the secretive and power-hungry conjurers. Even Stromgarde allowed it, though only under significant government oversight. Stromgarde’s Enchantment Academy eventually grew into a prestigious rival of Dalaran’s. Only Alterac held back, its leaders’ mulish distrust further weakening the already faltering kingdom.
A shop called Simply Enchanting caters to the profession in modern Dalaran. Despite the rather precious name, the proprietors are skilled and knowledgeable. I conversed with an employee named Vanessa Sellers, a human woman hailing from Stormwind.
“A lot of people don’t realize this, because of all the wars and catastrophes, but enchantment is making major in-roads into Kalimdor.”
“I’ve observed this, actually. I live in Orgrimmar.”
“Oh, I was actually talking about the night elves, but I know that Orgrimmar’s become a hub for the profession. Why do you think the orcs and tauren are comfortable with enchantment but not with magic? I have my own opinion, but I’d like to know yours.”
“Hmm, well enchantment is easier to accept by virtue of being contained in a material object. This also gives it a more practical application that appeals to these cultures. Nor is it addicting, since the practitioner does not have mana coursing through his or her body; it’s safely contained.”
“That’s what I thought, but I’m glad to have it confirmed. I do want to see Orgrimmar someday; I’m a Stormwinder by birth, but my citizenship is Dalaranese. Would they let me enter?”
“There wouldn’t be a law against it, but I’d recommend that you wait. The sight of a human would cause quite a stir, and some orcs are very hot-headed about the matter.”
“That’s what my friends say. What about Thunder Bluff?”
“The tauren are much calmer, so if you made arrangements, it would probably be safe.”
“I’ll go there then! Ha, as if I had the time! If I do get the time, I’ll visit.”
“Tell me more about how the night elves react to enchantment.”
“Well, they never really gave it up after the Sundering. See, they had literal tons of magical artifacts just lying around, junk left over from the high elves. Well, not junk, but you know. The night elves didn’t always want these reminders, and some of them disenchanted the artifacts.”
“Much like Litta Manafusil.”
“Their method wasn’t as efficient, though. Anyway, they needed enchanted weapons of their own to fight off the satyrs and monsters running rampant in post-Sundering Kalimdor. Resources and populations were spread thin in those days.”
“Why didn’t they just use the old Quel’dorei weapons?”
“The high elves took their weapons with them; the luxuries they left behind. So the night elves repurposed the old magic divans and whatnot into weapons, and usually handed them over to elite units.”
“I’m surprised that the druids accepted this.”
“It is strange, but you have to remember that the Kaldorei were fighting for their survival. They figured that as long as they only recycled old mana and didn’t open new conduits to the Twisting Nether, their actions were acceptable. Remember how I said that the night elf method was less efficient than Litta’s?”
“That’s because it doesn’t withdraw as much mana from a disenchanted object. In fact, it withdraws much less. On a long enough timeline, it would dissipate entirely. By then, the idea was, they wouldn’t need it any longer.”
“How are they reacting to these new methods?”
“Most aren’t too happy. The night elves really only used enchantment for weapons and armor. They never really needed labor-saving devices since they’re nature’s best friend and can easily get what they need. I don’t think it’s going to expand into utilitarian objects anytime soon. I hear that, in some quarters, magic is no longer as hated as it once was. I could be wrong though.”
“Why would the night elves change their attitude?”
“Do you know how some of the high elves tried to get help from the night elves in controlling mana addiction?”
“I’m familiar with it.”
“Apparently some of the high elves succeeded, and managed to impress people in prestigious positions. I don’t think that any of the night elves are embracing magic, but some may think it less dangerous.”
“I can see how they might become less judgmental of high elves, but wouldn’t the night elves still regard magic as immensely destructive?”
“Maybe. You live in Kalimdor so you’d know better than me, probably.”
“The loss of their immortality is causing some of them to question their traditions, so that may have something to do with it,” I conceded.
“That could be it.”
Leaving Simply Enchanted, I reflected on how little I knew about Kaldorei development in recent years. My travels have not given me much opportunity to interact with that elder race, and their reclusive nature makes it all the harder to keep up with them. There is no doubt, however, that they play a major role in Azerothian affairs, and that their continuing reactions to the Third War will affect the entire world.
Noon came, and the proximity of the Violet Citadel weighed heavy on my thoughts. How could I avoid the place when its soaring towers loomed over every street and square? The more I procrastinated, the more it troubled me. What exactly did I fear? Was it the possible confirmation of Emette’s death? Or my reaction to her if she still lived?
Hundreds of Forsaken were murdered trying to reconnect with loved ones after their liberation. Few have tried since then, and the actions of the Apothecarium and the Defilers only work to justify human suspicion. Yet I must ask myself if such an attempt is even fair to the living. What good does it do the bereaved to see someone they loved return as a rotting corpse?
Freed from the social obligations that bind human societies, the Forsaken are even more naturally selfish than their parent race. Thus, I must take great care when examining my own thought process. I pushed away my own desire to know her fate, to see if she’d lived and found happiness in this new world. Would Emette, if she lived, even want to see me? Would not the sight of me excite pain rather than joy?
My old friend Danner, in Shattrath, had reacted well enough. But a friend is not the same as a lover. Nor can I truly love Emette any longer. With that in mind, the idea of meeting her struck me as utterly selfish. It occurred to me that I could inquire about whether she was alive or dead, and then leave Dalaran when given the answer.
Even then, I knew that if she lived, I would feel driven to meet with her. Could I really justify such an action? Put simply, there is nothing I could offer her beyond memories of the past. I cannot return to my old role no matter how much I wish to do so.
I reasoned that it was entirely possible, even probable, that Emette also wanted to learn my fate. I tried to think about the matter from her perspective. Surely she would also be curious. Knowing (or suspecting) that, could I deny her the truth? Did she not have a right to know?
Matters of the heart rarely go the way we expect or want. I left the Magus Commerce Exchange on leaden feet, desiring and dreading what I might find in the Violet Citadel. Worst of all was the possibility that not even the Dalaranese government knew what became of Emette. Unlikely, given their thoroughness, but far from impossible.
I paused at the broad flight of stairs leading up to the Violet Citadel, mentally comparing it to the grand edifice of my youth. A slender white tower reaches to the sky, a halo of stone and crystal around its pointed top. A host of lesser spires ascend alongside it, ending in violet spear-headed domes interlaced with abstract decorations. Architecturally, the central structure differs little from the original Violet Citadel’s, though the old one had a broader base, like that of a great palace.
In fact, the first Violet Citadel was even bigger than it looked from without, reaching deep into the bowels of the earth and overlapping into other dimensions. The sprawling interior combined artistic and architectural skill with gross self-indulgence, entire wings constructed in pocket dimensions for no other reason than that the builders could do it. To be fair, some of the extra-dimensional labs dealt with dangerous substances, and could not be safely built in the material realm.
I remember students joking about entire generations of wizards living and dying within the Citadel’s endless halls, never seeing the light of day. The laughter tended to be strained, because we could so easily believe it to be true.
The old Violet Citadel was safe enough as far as I could tell, despite its sinister reputation. Maps were placed throughout the structure for the convenience of everyone concerned, and the sun shone through walls of patterned glass windows, lighting the sumptuous hallways with their thick rugs and potted ferns. Magic lamps lit the way in the darkness of the lower floors, the shadows made comforting by the rich furnishings and smokeless hearths.
The design of the Violet Citadel proved instrumental in Dalaran’s post-Third War recovery. Archimonde shattered the Violet Citadel, but the building’s destruction did not extend to the pocket dimensions where the mages conducted their most sensitive work. Many arcanists took shelter in these hideaways, and used portals to return home once the Scourge left. The Dalaranese kept this a secret for some time, perhaps fearing retribution if it were ever let out how many of their greatest minds had survived.
Today, Dalaran considers this survival a point of pride. The city stands in proud opposition to the Scourge and other threats, realizing that their preserved knowledge only makes them more formidable. Even before I set foot on Northrend, I knew that many of the old laboratories were still operating and connected to the new Violet Citadel.
A vast foyer greets visitors to the Violet Citadel, thick shadows pooling at the base of purple walls. Enchanted torches give their soft light, and precious jewels set in the domed ceiling shine as stars and suns. I recalled the arcane symbolism so important to the Kirin Tor. Gentle darkness stands for the borderline between sleep and wakefulness. The light of magic represents their own efforts to reveal the truths of the world.
My footsteps echoed lonely in the grand foyer. I could still see the bustle of the streets through the light of the doorway, but it felt a world away. The sounds of the crowd faded almost to silence.I looked up at a steep stairway leading to a mezzanine, elegant patterns interweaving along its sides. Tall and narrow doors offer entry to the rest of the citadel, so much a city unto itself.
“Sir? Are you lost?” inquired an elderly voice.
I looked up to see an old woman in purple robes standing on the mezzanine. Her lined face, almost gaunt, bore a look of polite curiosity.
“Only partially, madam. I studied in Dalaran when I still lived. I am trying to find out if a dear friend of mine still lives. I thought this would be a good place to look.”
“Was this friend also a student?”
“She was, and continued her studies after graduation.”
A sad smile flickered across her aged features.
“I see. You may be able to find out about your... friend in the records office. What was her name? I may know her.”
“Emette Sera,” I said, my voice wavering.
“That name is not one I recall. This one will guide you to the records office.”
Unraveling a delicate hand, a pale blue light sprang up from her palm and bobbed down towards me.
“Sir, I should warn you that you are not the first Forsaken to come looking for lost friends in this place. Most learn that the person they sought died years ago. Those who do reconnect do not always find what they desire.”
“That does not surprise me. But if she still lives, she has the right to know what has become of me. I am sure she has already moved on; if not, this may help her.”
“Good luck then,” she said, before disappearing into the shadows.
The mote of blue light hovered a few feet to my right, tugging from its place like a dog on a leash. I took a step in its direction and the light bobbed forwards through one of the grand doors.
Beyond that is a hallway where tall doors stand at wide intervals along sea-blue mosaic walls. Lamps of pale amethyst glass, shaped like flowers, extend from the walls on copper stems to give their light. At the end is a circular open area with a fountain, water burbling in a copper basin held high by a pair of stone dryads. A few mages walked past the fountain, engaged in relaxed conversation.
I followed the light to the fountain circle, from which leads two other hallways identical to the first. The light chose the one to the right, going all the way down the corridor to where it ends in an arched green door. Artificial trees made of wrought iron are set next to the door, one on each side, spherical glass lamps hanging like fruits from the metal branches. ‘Hall of Records,” is on a sign above the door, the letters written in an elegant script.
The light shone bright for a moment and vanished with a sizzling hiss, leaving me alone before the office. I had come too far to turn back. All I needed, I reminded myself, was an answer. My earlier thoughts of rights and justifications paled before this singular need, and I felt ashamed.
I needed to know.
The Hall of Records is an office that almost resembles a ballroom in its scope and size. A dozen small chandeliers of glass and metal hang from a vaulted ceiling, countless little desk lamps adding to the room’s brightness. Bookshelves line the wooden walls, and rows of scuffed desks cross the chamber like pews in a church. The office is a noisy place compared to the rest of the Violet Citadel, innumerous robed officials scribbling away at books and papers, or discussing administrative matters in a low and rapid murmur.
Not sure where to start, I approached the nearest desk, occupied by a bald and sad-eyed human. He looked up as I neared.
“Your business, sir?”
“I am looking for the whereabouts of one Emette Sera. I was told I could find out here.”
“I am sorry, but the location of individuals is not a matter of public record.”
“That’s fine. I just want to know if she’s alive. I studied in old Dalaran when I still lived, and was a dear friend of hers.”
His expression instantly became understanding.
“You’re not the first to come here for such a reason. I can answer your question. If you’ll give me a moment?”
The official stood up and strode over to a desk farther back, borrowing a thick stack of papers from its occupant. Returning to his own desk, he set it down on the surface and began searching, his fine fingers running through the sheaves. He came to a stop, pointed at a name, and then smiled.
“Emette still lives.”
The warmth of relief washed over me, years of tension lifted in an instant.
“Thank you very much,” I said to him.
I left the Hall of Records and leaned against a wall, letting out a long sigh. I was free from the memories of my past, knowing that Emette was at least safe and sound. The best part of my life had survived the Third War, even if I had not.
Somehow, I could not bring myself to leave the Violet Citadel.
Hours passed in the timeless dusk of its grand halls. I walked miles under the same roof, past closed doors and down silent halls. I compared it with the Violet Citadel of my memory, the sights only occasionally matching my hazy recollections.
Unaware of time’s passage, I was surprised when the doors opened up nearly as one, loosing a tide of mages and officials eager to return home for the day. Not even thinking, I made my way back to the foyer and struggled up the stairs. I wanted a better view of the people leaving, and in my heart I knew exactly why.
I watched in passive disappointment as the flood turned into a trickle, only a few stragglers making their exits. Realizing my own foolishness, I took one last look around the foyer.
Dark eyes on the other side of the mezzanine widened in shock. The broad and cheerful face was just as I remembered, distinct with aquiline features and the subtle beauty that comes from a strong spirit. Long black hair complemented her olive-tone skin.
She froze in place, tears welling in her eyes. She neared me with trembling steps, until her face met mine. Grasping my shoulder with a shaking hand, she sobbed.
“By the Light... Destron? What did they do to you?” Emette asked in a whisper.