Stormclaw @sahqoreyth
The War of the Ancients

The War of the Ancients

With the return of the Well's power, and the lack of new reports on whatever was happening to their people, calm heads reigned in Eldarath. Some even claimed that it was a sign that Ravencrest's army had succeeded in defeating the invaders. What word they had received had claimed that the Highborne in the Capital had summoned an army of monsters, and were holding the Queen hostage as they made a grab for power. The people were only too glad to pin these troubling events on Zin'Azshari, for the Highborne there were, supposedly, even more full of themselves then the others throughout their empire.

Those who doubted that Ravencrest had succeeded were few in number, but they existed all the same, and their voices only grew louder as no news arrived. Sure enough, after several more weeks, the feeling of darkness and unease returned, and this time, the wildlife around the city fled. The skies darkened with foul clouds, and what sorcerers remained divined ill omens on the horizon. Nightly watches were posted on the eastern end of the city, more to keep the appearance of readiness, than forming an actual, feasible defense.

Even the Nightsabers, loyal for generations to their owners, very much wanted to flee with the rest of the animals. Word finally came from the front, something none of the citizens had seen or could even properly conceptualize yet, and with it, came many startling revelations. Their enemy was a horde of 'demons', drawn to their world through a portal concocted by the Highborne in the palace of the capital.

The traitors had captured the Queen, somehow, and were now rumored to be using her magic to bring in even more 'demons'. The army had beaten back the demon's initial advance, but even now was being driven directly toward Eldarath after a cunning trap had been sprung upon the defenders. Ravencrest's renewed assault on the demons had turned into a rout. The messenger told them to flee, for the demon's numbers were 'legion', and they were spreading all over the empire with devastating results. The Kaldorei simply did not have the numbers to keep them from rampaging in multiple directions.

The people of Eldarath prepared for the onslaught, fortifying what they could as those who could not fight, fled further west. Those who stayed did so because they had been ordered to be ready to receive the Kaldorei forces. The General needed Eldarath to recover and regroup, and the few citizens who remained, Laronar and his family among them, prepared for war.

At the very least, they knew that their indomitable Lord Reavencrest could turn this rout around once he reached Eldarath. The city was beautiful, but also fortified with large walls, and many now-empty homes for the army. They could hold out here, and push back, or so the messenger had claimed.

He'd bolstered the city's defenders with tales of powerful sorcerers on the front lines of the battle, in the form of twin heroes. The Brothers Stormrage. Alongside them were other, seemingly foreign spellcasters who had, according to rumor, been quite helpful to the Night Elves in their hour of need. The situation was dire, but those who remained in the city could look past their racism if it meant allies. To them, this threat was quickly becoming the largest their species had faced. They had no true conception of just how bad things had gotten, however. This far west, all remained quiet.

Several days later, just as the dark of night was beginning to fall on the city of Eldarath, a woman's scream woke Laronar from his sleep, the pleasant dream he'd been having faded quickly. He blinked his glowing amber orbs slowly, and looked around his room. It was in the topmost part of the tree-house; he had insisted the shapers make it so when he was small.

The young Kaldorei sat up as he heard another scream and the sound of flames outside his window. Fires were rare, but when you live in a society of mages that take residence in mostly wooden houses, they happen. As the boy climbed down off his bed and stepped towards the window, a horrible roar echoed through the air. It sent a chill up his spine. Whatever creature had made that was mad with rage.

It wasn't a Furbolg, or Tauren roar, and it certainly wasn't a sound the boy had heard any saber cat make before. Curious, he went to his window, climbing on the windowsill, and leaning against the glass so he could see the town. They lived west of the Well, and mainly produced food for the realm of the Night Elves. Some even said their food was given to the Queen herself.

Eldarath, considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the entire Kaldorei Empire, save Zin-Azshari itself, was now on fire. But this fire was different, in some places it burned green instead of red-orange. The young boy looked out in horror at the city. A pang of fear shot through him as he realized his mother, a Priestess of Elune, was probably out there. From this vantage point, the Temple of the Moon had already been hit by whatever was rampaging outside.

Hard steps pounded on the stairs leading up to his room, and as the boy turned, he saw his father. Without a word, his father plucked him from the windowsill, and carried him down and out of the house.

Once outside, he finally spoke, "Take my hand, and no matter what you do son, don't look back." Tears welled up in the boy's eyes, and he said in a shaky voice, "B-but what about mom and Alaria?" Grabbing his hand and forcing him to run with him, the boy's father replied, "Laronar, your mother and sister will be fine. They're going to meet us at Lord Ravencrest's camp, which is still heading our way. The demons beat him here. Now come! We must flee."

The two raced down the city streets towards the stables, which had not yet caught fire. A large crowd had gathered outside the stables, and the stable master was desperately trying to calm them. Laronar looked at the stables as they began to run past, and in half a second, he decided to disobey the only order he'd been given, and let go of his father's hand. He crawled through the legs of the people in the crowd as his parent tried futilely to stop him.

Once he reached the stable master, he skillfully rolled past her, and ran to the back. Inside a smaller pen was the young Stormsaber the boy had found as a kitten. He hadn't been a runt, but he was odd in that he had a mane of dark blue fur on his upper neck and shoulders, almost like a lion's. Upon seeing his master and friend, the young cat, who was five feet tall on two legs, scratched at the door, eager to get out. Laronar grabbed his collar, attached it, and opened the door. As he ran back out the stable's front with his pet, the crowd let him pass, and seemed to grow even more rowdy as they watched him run off, presumably to safety.

On the far edge he saw his father with his arms crossed and a sour expression on his face. "You have the cat." He said flatly, "Now let's go."

"His name is Storm!" the boy replied, sounding younger than he was.

He tugged on the saber cat's rope, and Storm followed him. As the boy, his father, and his loyal pet ran out of the city and into the forest, a loud boom, followed by a roar, echoed behind them. The same roar the boy had heard back in his room. The wooded area in front of them was lit in an eerie green light.

His father started to sprint, and shouted "Run!" While Storm picked up speed, fueled by his fear; he managed to break free of Laronar's grip before the young Kaldorei could jump onto his back. Running as fast as his legs could carry him; the boy soon began to tire. That's when he heard the flap of wings.

His father disappeared into the trees in the distance, as did Storm. Neither seemed to notice he was falling behind, and Laronar lacked the breath to yell for them. Turning his head to see what chased him, despite his father's orders, he beheld a sight that caused his legs to freeze instantly, making him trip, and his forward momentum sent him flying into a nearby bush.

The creature he beheld was enormous, winged, hoofed like a Tauren, and on fire, its terrible outline was made even more terrifying by the green flames that blazed where the stable had once stood only minutes before. The crowd of people was almost certainly dead. The demon, for there was no other creature he knew of that could cause this kind of destruction, had eyes that blazed an eerie green, but that wasn't what the boy's eyes were drawn to and fixated on as he examined the creature.

In the demon's hands, impaled upon an impossibly long lance, was his mother. Her silver eyes were open, as was her mouth, and her stomach now had a lance tip protruding from it. The white gown that had marked her as one of Elune's chosen was now stained with her blood. She had been caught from behind. Of his sister, there was no sign.

Noticing where the boy's eyes were staring, the creature let out a dark laugh. Then, it spoke to him in broken elvish, "Know her do you? Ahahah! I killed her while she tended to fallen ones! Foolish mortal…like her, you shall be burned from this world! For Sargeras!" The demon raised the spear, effortlessly, despite the corpse still hanging from it.

Laronar did not clearly see what happened next. He had closed his amber eyes as the demon brought his lance down in an arc towards his head, sure in that moment, he was about to die. He was strangely okay with that, for the sight of his dead, beloved mother had shaken him. He didn't want to imagine a world without her in it. Without his sister in it, for he knew she had likely suffered the same fate.

If he had kept his eyes open, he would've seen his father jump in front of the blow while Storm lunged from the bushes, and tore out the creature's throat. Realizing after a moment that he was not dead, Laronar opened his eyes, and gaped at the form of his father, not an inch away from his mother, cut and bleeding from the enormous gash the lance had left in his right shoulder.

"Run…son…" was all his father managed to say before his last breath escaped him. It was the sight of the two people he loved most dearly in the world, dead before him, that caused him to finally black out. Storm, who had since spit out and wiped the creature's burning blood from his muzzle, managed to get his friend onto his back, and carried him off into the woods, hoping to find civilization far, far away from the burning city that had been their home.

For the rest of the night, the loyal Stormsaber carried the young Night Elf, who was delirious at best. Other creatures might've abandoned their masters, no matter their loyalty, but the bond between Storm and Laronar was unbreakable. The cat, though he was young, sensed potential in his master, though he couldn't identify what sort of potential it was.

He knew his friend was training to be a fire-tosser, like his cruel elder brother who had often liked to make the young Stormsaber dodge bursts of moon-flame when he was a kitten, but his master wasn't like his brother. He was kind, shy, and reclusive, different from the other elf children the cat had encountered. His friend lacked their haughty attitude of superiority, and deluded sense of power.

Storm knew his young friend had natural power, and lots of it, even if he had no idea how to tap into it yet. It was this same power that attracted the attention of a being far more powerful than both of them as they wandered aimlessly through the forest. When finally the young cat knew it could walk no further with such a burden, his ears suddenly flicked up, and the cat looked around. They were not alone.

The forest around the young Stormsaber shook, and a mighty wind blew the leaves and twigs on the floor up and around. The cat eyed the twister with suspicion, and as it formed the outline of a creature five times taller than him, the young cat snarled low. Only once the form coalesced completely did it stop, gazing at the figure before it. He felt a large hand on his head, and the cat lowered his ears back, purring even, as this being, with such natural power that it made his master's look like a flea by comparison, scratched his ears.

Storm couldn't have struck the hand even had he wanted to. It went against his instincts. "You two have traveled far…" the being's voice rolled like soft thunder through the cat's ears, though he didn't understand the words entirely, he grasped their meaning. "But you are heading away from where your destiny lies…"

Energy filled the young cat, removing his weariness. He suddenly felt compelled to run in a certain direction, and knew that this newfound strength would last until he reached it. "Go on." The antlered being spoke softly, rising onto four proud legs like those of a stag. "Run to your people…we shall meet again."

And as the young cat did as he was told, he ran with renewed strength towards the growing refugee population of what remained of the Night Elves' civilization. It was arguably one of the safest places for an orphan. Once the cat was out of sight, the being who had re-energized it turned his mighty gaze to the shadows. "I have done as you asked. Will you now join us?"

There was a low, but pleased purr that came from the massive, ash-furred form lurking in the shadows.

The forces that tore through the world were only now being diverted back to deal with Ravencrest's Night Elven resistance, but that had not saved Eldarath. Not all of it, at least. Many still survived, and among them, were Laronar's siblings, though they too had headed in a different direction, toward the city of Loreth'aran.

Surely dragon riders would be able to hold back the monsters they had seen so far. That had been their reasoning anyways, but as their paths diverged, the Stormclaw siblings knew not the fate of their family.

The eldest did not care overmuch, though he was proud of his sister. The middle child was unconscious, deep in sleep that he did not want to wake from, and the youngest, who had watched her mother die before her very young, impressionable eyes only wanted to find their father and their brother…but Vehlar had decided on Loreth'aran…and to Loreth'aran they would go.

The trek was long, but eventually Storm was found by the sentries guarding the backmost part of the Night Elven lines. Mount Hyjal loomed in the distance, and although the Night Elves now pushed forward again, the refugees had been ordered to remain behind where they were. They weren't a very long ride from the battle though, which raged now just past the other side of Suramar, and many soldiers rested amongst the tents, exhausted.

An entire night and half of a day had passed since the horrifying encounter with the winged demon, but Storm had not been the only one to benefit from the encounter with the Forest Lord. Laronar's nightmares had turned into more pleasant dreams, but he was still wounded and concussed from flying headfirst into a tree.

The shock of what he'd seen had only helped keep his self-induced coma going, but as he felt his bruised head and scratched limbs being tended to, he opened his eyes wearily, which brought a soft gasp, and an end to his healing. It resumed almost immediately, but the face of the priestess responsible for it only now came into focus. Her mind was clearly elsewhere as the young elf saw her, like so many others, staring at his eyes, and Laronar did not recognize her, or his surroundings for that matter.

"W-where…?" His voice cracked. So close to puberty, and having gone over a day without water, it was obvious. He hadn't spoken often prior to his rushed escape either, which didn't help.

His cracked voice brought a giggle from somewhere behind the priestess healing him, and once that was done, he sat up, seeking its source. A small female perched on the back of the white Frostsaber that, he assumed, belonged to the priestess. She was his age, or around it, and as he took in her features, he did not find them unpleasant. It might have been Elune's warmth filling him and healing his head and the several scratches he'd gotten from riding unconscious through the woods, but he found himself smiling at the girl, despite the horror that lingered at the edge of his memory. She smirked, as she tossed him a water skin.

Once he had drunk his fill, the priestess caught his gaze. "We found you unconscious, riding in atop a saddleless Stormsaber young one…how did you come to be here?"

With effort, Laronar described his escape from Eldarath with his father, and he continued spinning the tale until he remembered something he shouldn't have. His voice had faltered as he described the demon chasing him, but the priestess seemed to assume what had happened next. That didn't stop Laronar from tearing up however, but then he blinked as he realized who must have saved him.

"Where's Storm?" he asked, sounding very young.

His voice was still soft, but his question earned another giggle. "You named your Stormsaber …Storm?"

"Hush, Shandris…" the priestess said, turning. Her gaze fell back on the young orphan. "He was taken to the stables with the other Nightsabers…he's too small to be properly ridden in war, and should still be there."

A slight smirk graced the priestesses' lips as she turned to her small companion. "Go with him, and help him find his pet, Shandris." That got a groan from the younger female, but she hopped off as the priestess mounted up, and moved on to heal someone else.

"Come on…" Shandris groaned, as she dashed through the crowds towards what Laronar assumed were the stables. He ran after her, shaky at first, but eventually matching her pace. Once he caught up however, she would dart off in another random direction, smirking.

Though he got lost twice in the crowd, his guide managed to find him again with ease. More than one person had stared at him longer than normal because of his eyes, and it was their glow that made him an easy target, or so Shandris had said, in a bragging tone. The young male would've started to like the female had she not been so brash. And bossy. And rude.

On second thought, he decided, she was as bad as every other girl his age. His juvenile thoughts were swept away however, as he saw the stables. Or what passed for them. Never had he seen so many of the giant cats in one place, and before Shandris could stop him, or warn him that these were war panthers, and did not appreciate strange elves in their midst, Laronar had dashed in anyways, just as quick as she was, when he wanted to be.

Though several of the beasts had hissed at him, none had struck. They had seen battle, and knew on a primal level that they needed as many two-legs as possible to drive back the monstrosities that should not have existed in this world. Several minutes later, he returned with his pet, riding on his back. It was his turn to smirk, for he knew that children his age rarely knew how to ride the great cats. He offered a hand to his reluctant guide. "Come…let's find your priestess."

With that, the trio set off into the crowd again, searching fruitlessly until they spotted the figure Shandris had named Tirandee. Or something similar to it. Laronar hadn't been focusing on her name, just the faces he passed. The pain and suffering was evident on all of them, and slowly, it dawned on the young Night Elf that this war was quickly becoming less about kingdoms and territories, and more about their very survival as a species. None, not even the Zandalari, had ever driven so many of them to such poverty, and in so short a time.

Once he'd found and thanked the priestess, which wasn't all that hard, once they sighted the glow surrounding her, he turned Storm to the woods surrounding the refugees. They were both hungry, but luckily, they could both subsist on meat. That had been another factor that separated him from his mostly vegetarian people, and though some did enjoy meat, it was typically seen as luxury food, or food for their mounts. Grown Nightsabers ate hundreds of pounds of it, so naturally, their riders had opted to subsist primarily on what the large cats did not eat.

Storm had grown fond of having his cooked however, and Laronar hadn't minded the taste. They had hunted together before, though Storm did most of the hunting. Laronar always cooked what he brought back by way of Moonfire, and now, it was no different, save that this time they ate to survive. With no parents or family, or even friends, the young elf knew that he and his friend were dangerously alone. Only together could they survive.

Months passed, and the refugees eventually became separated from the soldiers. Only a small guard had been left to defend them, but each refugee had been given a weapon. A testament to just how many had fallen in the battle. Laronar did what he could with the glaive he'd traded his shortsword for, but much preferred his dagger when hunting.

Hunting was mainly the focus of his efforts as well. Between him and his pet, the pair brought back many deer, rabbits, squirrels, and other animals that had fled too far to be properly hunted by the refugees anymore. Since he was the only one around with a Nightsaber, he could range further than anyone else, and often did so. Mostly because he couldn't stand berries and mushrooms, but also because he hated the looks he got from the other refugees.

Even here, his eyes marked him. He even had a rumor surrounding him, that his eyes were the reason he was the only known survivor of Eldarath, and he was even more isolated because of that absurd notion. Still, he kept his Highborne roots a secret, for the adults around the nightly campfires often railed against them, blaming them entirely for reducing the proud Kaldorei to such squalor.

It was during those long months, that stretched to over a year when he turned twelve, that he learned the lower caste was not all that much better than the higher one. Where Highborne sneered, commoners complained. Where nobles made grand, insulting gestures of dismissal, commoners started pointless fist fights. Where the upper crust sniffed powder and burned special weeds grown on the shores of the Well, commoners indulged in wine, and other crude, foul tasting drinks stolen and refined from the dwarves. Laronar had tried them, but stopped when it became clear that his body was rejecting the foul liquid, and telling him not to imbibe more. He saw no sense in willingly drinking something that made one a fool, and made one's body and mind throb with pain. He could not fathom why some refugees subjected themselves to this almost constantly, or as much as they were able, though after what he'd seen, he imagined being able to forget in painful blackout bliss was some kind of relief.

So it was that Laronar eventually stopped seeing himself as a noble among commoners, but as entirely casteless altogether. In a time where survival meant sticking with the group, one would think this would be a bad thing, but the young Kaldorei both fended for himself and his pet, as well as those who had nothing, not even the strength to forage. Those people, noble and commoner alike, were the ones he helped the most when he brought back food to their giant camp. They understood what he did. There were no castes anymore. Their society had been utterly shattered. Most simply did not seem to realize it. Most still clung to the hope that the host of warriors would drive the demons back, save the Queen, and restore their empire.

The elders did not only complain about the upper castes, but also the living conditions, which were poor compared to what many of the elves were used to, they also tended to place blame on the other races one of the pale outsiders aiding the cause had brought in against Stareye's orders for their lack of progress. Many however, saw the sense in gathering the other races. They had all seen the demon horde, and they were painfully aware that their own race was nowhere near numerous enough to stop them. Not alone, anyways. The odd trio of outlanders responsible for these desperate alliances, or so the stories from the wounded soldiers sent back to recoup went, aided their cause much, and after the fall of Lord Ravencrest by way of assassin, Desdel Stareye had taken his place.

The word from the front lines was that he was incompetent at best, though he hadn't managed to lose the war yet, in no small part thanks to the races that now aided the Night Elves. After hearing that Furbolgs, Tauren, and even Dwarves had come, Laronar had grinned privately to himself, glad that his assumptions about the beast men had been true. He hoped the Furbolgs would survive this as well, and wondered if the village that lay far outside his former home had been one of the ones to join the fighting.

Eventually, it was decided that the refugees would stay closer to the host of soldiers as they regained even more ground, to avoid having them end up as prisoners used as leverage, and keep them all safe. They were forced to camp in the parts of the land that the demons had not yet ravaged, only because so much had been focused on fighting the defenders. It did however, mean that they were once again reduced to eating berries and mushrooms, for no animals remained that far east, no matter how far Laronar rode to look for them.

Their out of the way camp did not prevent them from seeing the arrival of the dragons, however. Many cheered, praising the Moon Goddess as on one cloudy, grim night, thousands of the legendary beasts, in five variations of color, flew over the ravaged lands, and eradicated the foul mist that had settled over much of them.

The black one leading the thunder of dragons looked especially strong, and for the first time in months, the Night Elf people felt hope. Hope that was, not more than a half hour later, utterly dashed as the black behemoth leading the flights turned on them, eradicating many if not all of the blue ones, and scattering the others with unimaginably powerful wind. Even the one red that had stood up to him, had fallen.

To top all this destruction off, the very elements themselves began to roar not long after the dragon fled. Wind tore through the region, and rain fell for the first time in weeks, but it fell hard on the refugees, and even harder on the soldiers and demons. Still, water was water, and much was gathered from the deluge before it moved eastward towards the fleeing demons, chasing them across the ruined land that the black dragon had created with his rays of power. The whole display had astounded Laronar, though he understood little of it. He no longer wondered if magic other than elven sorcery existed, but he had no earthly idea of how an elf like him would go about attaining power that literally raised volcanoes.

He was suspicious of the rain, though. Weather did not usually move that quickly or with such direction, and that left the young elf puzzled as to why it had done so. He had felt a hint of magic in it, but it was not the kind of magic drawn from the Well. His brief study of Cenarius had suggested the Forest Lord had such power, but surely if that legendary being was among them, there would be word of it. So far, the Ancients the elves had given places of honor to amidst their worship of Elune had remained absent.

Several days passed, and things seemed to be returning to normal…until the young Kaldorei was once again reminded that there was a war going on outside of the empty woods he roamed in. His only alert was Storm's snarl, which had once or twice warned him of approaching demons. Those encounters had been brief, but lucky. Together, the young caster and his pet could handle a few of the demons.

His pet especially, since he had grown even more, much to Laronar's distress. More than one soldier had tried stealing the cat in the blinding gleam of day, only to find that Storm was wild. Wild enough at least, to strike out at those who would armor him up and march him to his death. He did not intend to leave his friend, nor did his friend acquiesce to giving his pet up 'for the greater good'.

He was more than a mount to the young elf, but that didn't stop his reputation from receiving a blow because of his refusal. As the Kaldorei turned to see what had interested his friend, for he had not heard the roar of battle or sound of demons, his eyes widened in shock. An enormous panther with fangs as large as he was tall now seemed to be communicating with his Stormsaber. Laronar continued to watch for a moment, before the great beast's head jerked up at him, and eyed him with far more intelligence than he would've thought possible in a cat. Not even his loyal pet and friend showed such. A voice echoed in his head as the great panther turned, and walked into the woods.

"You will do…"

Having no idea what that meant, or what they had just encountered, the pair followed the great cat's trail, and gasped again. A procession of creatures the likes of which neither of the young beings had ever seen now marched through the woods, seeming to restore the forest's vitality wherever they stepped.

Even an untrained fool could recognize that they were guardians of nature itself, and at their head, was an antlered being striding along on a pair of four strong stag legs. Cenarius, for it could be no other legendary figure, grinned widely, and winked at the pair as he walked by.

The females who resembled him turned their heads as they passed, smiling, waving, or simply examining the pair their lord had noticed. Laronar for his part simply stared with his mouth open as figures from legends and stories his parents told him strode past without so much as a glance at the two.

The great panther appeared again briefly from behind them, for both Laronar and Storm had turned to gaze at where Cenarius was leading these beings. The panther, clearly female, purred as she brushed against Laronar, who blinked in surprise, not fully recognizing the panther until she had strode past and tapped his cheek with her tail in passing. He glanced at his pet, noticing what he could've sworn was a grin on the Stormsaber's visage.

"Come on you…" he muttered, still shaken by the sight he'd just witnessed. "Let's get back to the others…they'll want to see this."

And see it they did. The refugees peeked out from their hiding places in the trees, watching in awe as Cenarius talked and then kneeled before the latest commander of the defenders, Jarod Shadowsong. Those who had until that point wondered at his competence after Stareye's untimely, and yet not entirely unwelcome demise, now stared at him in awe. After more conversation, the great beings made their way back towards the refugees, who cautiously came out to meet them.

Laronar felt the Stag Lord's gaze upon him for a moment as they approached, but soon it turned on the elder who spoke for the refugees. After rejecting an offer of food or water, the demi-gods settled down in preparation for the battle ahead, and once more, the devastated land under them reacted to their presence. It was no longer black and burnt, but nor was it green and lush. It would take real effort to heal such devastation, and that effort was being saved for the coming battle.

Eager to greet the demigods of legend, the refugees began to set up their camp around the great beings. Those who were amiable to such displays of friendship greeted them eagerly, if only to satisfy the curiosity of the Night Elves, and perhaps rid them of their ignorance or arrogance. Cenarius had the largest group around him by far, and it was he who was recounting exact details of the events leading to the demon's arrival, for he had been the first of the defenders of the world to meet them in battle. The others listened in rapt attention, but Laronar hung by the back edge of the fire, listening intently of course, but having most of the names and events mentioned go completely over his head.

Once the story was over, he suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise, and he whirled. Melting out of the shadows came the great panther he had seen earlier. He bowed low in the Highborne fashion as he'd been taught when greeting members of other noble families, finally recognizing her as an Ancient just as legendary as Cenarius, though he did not know her name, which elicited an amused growl from her.

A voice echoed in his head again as she turned, and looked back at him with amber eyes, so much like and yet not like his own. "Come…" she said, and the young Night Elf obeyed. They made their way directly to where he and Storm slept, and he began to wonder just how much his pet had told her about him.

He stared at the ground as they sat, trying to recall if he had ever mistreated the cat. Unable to recall any particular incident, and unwilling to remember his former life in detail, he looked up now at the Ancient. Her form had shrunk considerably, though she looked no less dangerous, and still was much larger than Storm.

"Your friend has told me much about you, young Night Elf…" the Ancient's voice echoed in his skull, sounding almost how he recalled his mother had sounded. Or maybe, he just missed her. The panther continued, "I am Ashamane, she who rules over the great cats of Kalimdor. I am all that they are, were, and will ever be. You, young one, have shown an affinity for my kind, and a kindness to this one in particular I intend to repay."

That made the young Kaldorei start. Those blessed by such beings tended to never be heard from again. Ashamane seemed to smile, as if she read his thoughts, and he replied, "W-what do you intend to do with me, great one?"

The panther stared directly into his eyes now, sending a chill down Laronar's spine, the likes of which he had seldom felt before, and never noticed. Not to this degree at least. He found himself smiling at the great cat, though he did not know why.

"You have proven yourself a friend to the Nightsabers, and a friend to nature itself. When the time comes, call upon me, and you shall receive my gift in a manner no other elf ever has." Before he could ask her to elaborate, the great panther vanished into the shadows, her eyes held his until they too began to disappear.

He glanced at Storm, who seemed to eye him expectantly, and he reached out to pet his friend. The Stormsaber purred in response as he so often did when those he liked scratched behind his ears. Laronar was, of course, among those, but so was Shandris, even though they had not seen her for some time.

Exhausted, the young Night Elf settled in to sleep…until he heard the clatter of hooves behind him. He leapt up, dagger in hand as he turned, expecting one of the Doomguard.

Instead, he found himself staring at the lower half of the Forest Lord. As the young elf lowered his weapon and looked up, he met the ancient's gaze, and then bowed. The tone of the Stag Lord was serious however, as he spoke, "Ashamane spoke to you?"

It was a question he clearly already knew the answer to, but the Night Elf nodded. At that, Cenarius stroked his beard. "Be sure you do not upset her…Laronar Stormclaw."

With that, he turned and headed back towards the campfires. The young elf blinked, feeling worn out from seeing and speaking to so many legendary figures. He settled down, too tired to ponder whether the fact that Cenarius knew his name was a good or bad thing. Given what had happened to the other beings he'd named in his story earlier; he had a sneaking suspicion that being involved in this unfolding tale would be either a path to fame, or a path to his untimely demise.

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