Chapter 1: Sun’s Fall
Leothir Duskfall leaned against the wall in indolent disinterest as the grizzled orc at the front of the room grunted and grumbled about some failed mission on the edge of the Thousand Needles. Boring.
His luminous green gaze skipped around the circular room, noting faces both familiar and unfamiliar and also noting absences. More than a few stared back at him, and he met their looks with vague, polite disinterest.
Tall and lithe, the golden-haired sin’dorei knew he cut an impressive figure in his silken tunic in blue and cream, his open grey vest tailored to his fencer’s form and his clean-lined trousers accented in more blue and decorated with slim silver chains draped along one hip. Even his boots were perfectly coordinated, leather dyed blue and grey with cream piping at the seams clasped by more chain. He’d very much enjoyed the joy on his lovely princess’ face as he’d exclaimed over the new clothes while she’d admired their fit, her soft hands dancing along the lines. Those little touches…
Leo smiled softly at the memory of simple pleasures: Rhoelyn’s kind, smiling blue eyes; the warmth of her fingers on his chest when she pretended to brush dirt from his tunic just to have an excuse to touch him. The thoughts made him miss her all the more, and he rested a hand over the silver pin threaded through the fabric over his heart, its head a flattened circle the size of the pad of his thumb. His touch revealed what was harder to catch with the eye: a crescent moon etched lightly into the metal, its subtle lines filled with graceful swirls. It may have seemed a curious ornament to most, but to him it was symbolic of the newest part of his family: a beautiful night elven priestess and her kin, the kal’dorei clan that had come to mean so much to him in the past few years.
No one else in the room knew of that part of his life, so the pin was one more piece of the puzzle and just another reason he drew eyes. Beyond his good looks and ready charm, Leo knew he had become quite the enigma to his peers. The rumors and speculation constantly swirling about the secretive mage made sure the members of the Veiled Eye were always interested when he was around and curious when he was suspiciously… not.
It was amusing. But also dangerous.
The blood elf dealt with his little bit of celebrity like the well-trained lordling he used to be, seeding their gossip with just enough truth to stand up to some level of scrutiny and just enough lies to protect the truth. The current favorite theory was that he was keeping a new wife and a pair of illegitimate children secret from his Lord brother and the dowager lady, his estranged mother. It was possibly the closest one yet, but nowhere near as amusing as the one a few months ago that had him portaling back to Pandaria to be worshiped at one of the shrines, there.
He raised a slender, lightly-calloused hand to his mouth to cover his yawn, half-lidded eyes attracted to the fabric covering the meeting hut’s rustic doorway as it twitched aside. His attention sharpened when his friends stepped through the door, and he lifted a pair of fingers in a little wave. Nataro looked over at him with dark eyes, his expression a little bit odd, but still he nodded and led his smaller companion, Dakna, over to where the mage leaned.
“Duskfall,” the Tauren shaman rumbled it quietly by way of greeting as they joined him.
The orcish woman at his side grinned around her fangs, her red-tinted eyes dropping down the blood elf’s form and back up. “New duds, again?”
Leothir grinned and ran his fingers over the vest, affecting his extra-foppish tone, “Oh, but of course. One does have a cutting-edge image to maintain, after all.”
Dakna chuckled, her spiked, red-tinted hair bobbing. Nataro shushed them both as the orc at the front of the room tapped the hilt of his huge blade against a wooden support, making a resounding sound that instantly drew every eye.
“Now’t yer all here,” Gulkar Spineblade scowled at the Forsaken rogue slipping through the doorway, and Quaed froze under his singular black eye.
“… what? Been busy,” he rasped by way of excuse, escaping to Nataro’s side and making a shooing gesture at their commander as if to order him back to his point.
Gulkar grunted, his tusks shifting as he ground his teeth. But he did move on, turning his attention back to the rest of the unit. “We’ve been handed an emergency redirect. All other missions are suspended until the new situation is resolved.”
Leo straightened, his curiosity piqued. It wasn’t often that the hard-nosed leader of the Eyes called everyone in, and suspending operations…? Needless to say, his attention was captured, his boredom banished.
A goblin near the front of the hut piped up, saving the blood elf from needing to ask, himself. “An’ jus’ what’s the “new situation”, boss?”
“War,” the grizzled orc growled the word with relish, his lips twisting up around his tusks. “In twelve hours, the Horde marches.”
The mage startled visibly, his eyes going wide. He felt Nataro’s attention instantly, and saw the Tauren’s eyes narrow out of the corner of his own, but he was too distracted to care.
“War?!” Leo exclaimed before he could stop himself. “What, exactly, do you mean by that?”
Around him, the room burst into chuckles until Gulkar rapped on the post, again, smirking. “So yer highness needs me to explain war, does he?”
Scowling and unaffected by the others’ levity, the young man folded his arms across his chest and clarified, “No, of course not, you crusty bumpkin. I want to know what you mean. Where are we going to war and why? Is this related to that new ore the techs have been muttering about?”
Their leader’s levity evaporated like so much smoke, and he snarled at the sin’dorei. “Yer out of line, Duskfall. You’re just here to do your job, so shut yer trap an’ listen to what it is. You don’t get questions.”
Leothir pressed his lips together, unhappy, and did as he was told, glancing aside at his friends. Dakna shook her head at him, amused, while Quaed just shrugged. Nataro’s feelings hid behind his thoughtful brown gaze, revealing nothing as he peered at the blood elf.
Gulkar continued, his bald green head swiveling as he looked from face to face. “We’re finally cutting off the head of the Alliance invasion into our land, into Kalimdor, and that’s all any of you need to know. Get your gear and meet at the zeppelin tower in three hours. The Veiled Eye is going to…” He grinned viciously, an eerie expression on his weathered face, “… soften the turf ahead of the main forces. Now, get out. You all have work to do.”
Leothir wasted no time obeying him, leaving his friends far behind as he stepped into the harsh Orgrimmar sun and strode across the dirty square, his steps long and fast and his heart pounding in his throat.
There was no need for him to be a tactician like his brother to know what the Horde army’s target was: Darnassus, the capital city of the kal’dorei people and the only Alliance capital left on Kalimdor. Once, before he’d known her, it had been the home of the woman he loved. It was still the home of the Temple of Elune, the goddess she devoted her life to.
It was war with more than just the Alliance, it was war on the night elves in particular. On… his family.
The mage narrowed his luminous green eyes, clenching his fists. Rhese and Nysse and those adorable new babies. Kind-hearted Yamiriel, their changeling boy. Stern Celara and warm, amusing Sarren. Even those insane demon hunters, Lash and Mirra, who seemed to find him in the oddest of places on a regular basis. The sin’dorei ran through their faces, all the good, honorable, worthy people who called him friend despite the walls that ran through their worlds. Because of the silver-haired priestess whose heart was more than big enough for all of them as well as a Horde mage who adored her.
Leo scoffed under his breath. War… on Rhoelyn? Never. That he loved her was more than enough to stay his hand, but to add in that he knew what it was to have a home taken, invaded, conquered… destroyed. He could have no part of that. More, he couldn’t let his family have any part in it.
It had been over a week since he’d been to the house he considered his true home, but conjuring the teleport to get himself there was still as near to second nature as he got. He turned down the side street, starting the calculations in his head as magic danced around his palms.
“Leothir.” The sound of his name had the sin’dorei turning when the big, dark fist slammed into his face, and he was sent staggering, reeling across the alley and barely managing to catch himself against a pile of crates on the far side with a clatter. Half-rotted wood snapped under his arm. His head rung, and his vision blurred as he lifted a hand on instinct, magic gathering around his fingers.
“Doin’ t’ink so, mon,” came a voice from a shadow to his right, and a hand clamped around his wrist, shoving his arm aside and sending the gout of flame against the building instead of his assailant. The hut caught fire, but Leo didn’t have time to be alarmed as another punch whipped his head around once more. For one moment, he clung to consciousness, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth, but he was helpless. The third blow slammed into his stomach and drove the wind from him with a burst of sharp pain.
It was too much. The mage crumpled into the dirt without a peep, the thud of his body hitting the ground already overshadowed by the crackle of the burning building beside him. The hearthstone in the pouch at his waist slipped free as he landed, rolling on its edge for a few feet before it fell to its side and settled in a puff of orange dust.
Nataro stepped up to the fallen blood elf, his hoofpoints a hair’s breadth from the man’s slack face. For a moment, he glared down at the golden mage – his friend – feeling the old hurt of betrayal from Pandaria of years ago pile atop this latest affront. He growled and looked over at the troll beside him, saying nothing.
“Y’were right, ‘Taro.” Kiilikai said softly, brushing a thoughtful finger along his streaked tusk. “Ee was portin’ ‘fore we be interuptin’ ‘im.”
“I know,” the Tauren rumbled, his expression only darkening at the confirmation. He crouched down, checking Leothir’s pulse and then wiping at the blood at the corner of his mouth. The shaman sighed as he tugged a totem from his pouch and smeared it with the former lordling’s vitae. “He is as foolish now as he was then. It is up to us to save him from his foolishness… and I take it upon myself to eliminate the corrupting influence in his life.”
The shaman shoved the smaller man’s shoulder to flip him to his back and then grabbed him by the lapels with a powerful hand and lifted his limp form, tossing him across one shoulder.
“Come,” he said, his deep voice rumbling from the depths of his chest. “We do not want to be here when this fire attracts attention.”
The troll at his side nodded, watching quietly as his hulking friend turned toward the back of the alley and strode away.
When Nataro stepped by Leothir’s fallen hearthstone, he paused and glanced down, a scowl heavy on his stern face. There was only a brief hesitation before he coolly stomped a metal-tipped hoof. The fragile stone shattered beneath the force of his weight, blown apart as much by the Tauren’s strength as by the explosion of magic that was released. And then he ground the remains against the hard-packed dirt until all that was left was a pile of silver dust that reminded him of a certain night elven priestess’ hair.
“Soon enough, Silverwing,” he growled at it, not bothering to finish his threat. And then, without another word, he turned with Leothir slung, insensate, over his shoulder, leaving his companion to follow silently along behind.