Episode 11: At Amberpine
When I first departed from the Howling Fjord on my great march to Zul’drak, I had not expected Northrend to be so… large.
A frozen continent to the north. I was thinking a desolate wasteland with nothing but some ice and rocks. Instead, I found that when I wasn’t on a large grassy flat, I was usually marching over jagged cliffs and long winding paths of doom.
As I pushed north through the mountains, I was almost certain I would freeze to death during the long nights. If I hadn’t been a fire mage I imagine I might have died long before I had made it this far in my journey. According to the last travelling merchant I had seen, the mountain pathway I was on would soon give way to the Grizzly Hills, an area of Northrend that was considered to be almost comfortable. I had already promised myself that my time here would be short. I had a destination now and I couldn’t waste more time trying to run errands for other people. My wounded heart wasn’t healing and my dreams still echoed with my lost love’s voice.
I had just solidified my resolve after another near slip on the ice when I heard a loud scream in the distance. Without hesitation, I pulled on Surfal’s reins and rushed to aid the one in danger. Surfal had just hit a solid stride when we hit another piece of ice. The horse instinctively started to fold over and I was thrown free in the process. I hit the edge of the narrow trail and disappeared over the edge. I hoped the horse was okay, but soon hoped I would be okay when I hit the ground with a thud and started tumbling down the hill.
I tried to cast a slow fall spell, but before I could finish the final words I crashed through a rotten tree log and came to rest on the hard ground.
“Oh, hello there.”
I rolled onto my side, in slight agony, and saw a young woman dressed in ornate gold and silver armor. She wore no helmet, and long braided hair flowed down her back. At first I thought she might have come to my aid, but then I looked down and saw the yellow colored ooze that was firmly holding her in place.
It was slowly creeping up her armor and was almost to her knee by now.
“Hi,” I said through a gasp for air. “Wind… knocked… out.”
“Yeah, that was a big tumble,” she said cooly. “You going to be okay?”
“Sure,” I said, forcing myself to sit up. “I’ll be fine.”
“So, since you’re here anyway,” she said with a smile. “Think you might help?”
“Oh, yeah, totally. Just hang on a second.”
I lifted my arm and blasted the ooze with some fire. The creature squirmed a little bit, but it did not release the woman.
“That didn’t work,” she said flatly.
“No,” I agreed. “It didn’t.”
I was about to try a more powerful spell when I felt something like ice slip over my foot. I gave as manly a scream as I could muster in front of the lady and then looked down and saw that the ooze had grabbed me as well.
“Well that’s not good,” I muttered.
“Wow, seriously?” the woman asked. “This stuff moves like a slug. How did you get caught in it?”
“Okay, calm down,” I said with a wave of my hand. “Slight setback. It’s not the end of the world. I just need to figure this out. Not many things are resistant to fire.”
“Hmm, I wonder,” the woman said lowering her mace so that it touched the ooze. The creature grabbed hold almost instantly. The woman waited for a second and then whispered an enchantment. The mace burst with blinding light and the ooze monster was suddenly evaporated into thin air.
“Ha!” she said proudly. “I did it.”
“Seriously?” I asked. “You could free yourself the whole time?”
“Looks like it,” she said, stepping over helping me to my feet. “My name is Christine. I’m a paladin.”
“Hi,” I said. “Thanks for the save.”
“You’re welcome. You can repay me you know.”
“For saving you. You can repay me.”
I looked at the remnants of the ooze on the ground and then sighed. “Sure. How can I repay you?”
“Come with me to Amberpine Lodge.”
“Oh, I don’t think I have the time…”
Christine frowned. “Oh, right. I understand. Let me just put that ooze back on your foot and see how long it takes for you to escape.”
I gave a nervous smile. “Okay, point made. Lead on.”
Christine smiled. “First, let’s get your horse.”
Surfal. I had forgotten about him in the chaos. I rushed back up the hill where I tumbled and thankfully found the creature waiting for me just a short ways up. He didn’t look injured and I gave a quick blessing to the light for that.
Once I was back on my horse, I followed Christine through the pines without speaking. Of course, I wasn’t sure what I would say if I decided to strike up a conversation anyway.
“You doing okay back there?” she asked loudly. “I don’t bite if you want to ride up here with me.”
I nudged Surfal slightly and the beast rode up parallel to match the pace of her own mount. It was at this point that I got my first good look as Christine’s face. She was young, maybe thirty, and she was, without a doubt, beautiful. When she noticed he was staring, she seemed to push her hair aside and let him drink it in.
“Listen, thanks for saving me back there,” he finally said. “I made a mistake and I’m glad you were there to get me out of it.”
“No worries,” she replied with a smile. “That’s what we do out here. We help each other.”
“Maybe so,” I said, “but some people would have walked on without a care in the world. So thank you.”
Christine must have determined she couldn’t shrug off my compliment because she finally said, “You’re welcome.”
Then, with a smile on her face she stopped her horse and said, “We’re here.”
I stopped Surfal and looked up to see a large building, larger than most single structures that I had seen in Northrend. There were several armed guards with Stormwind insignia coming our way and I slid off Surfal so that I could speak to them without looking like a jerk. They walked right past me, however, and came to Christine’s side, helping her down from her horse and then leading it to a stable.
“Who’s this?” one of the soldiers asked as he started back to the lodge with the woman.
“He’s a friend of mine. He’s here to help.”
“Help, huh?” the soldier asked through a sneer. “We’ll see. He probably just wants something from us.”
Christine laughed loudly. “You’re probably right, but I did make him come here with me so it’s my own fault.”
The soldier lightened up when he heard this and then headed back to the lodge.
“Come along, Sionis,” Christine said as she too started to head toward the building’s entrance. “There is someone I want you to meet. I’m sure she’ll be looking forward to talking to you.”
“Me?” I asked. “Who’d want to talk to me?”
Christine didn’t respond, instead she walked into the lodge my curiosity dictated that I follow. The warmth of the building was the first thing that I noted, and then I caught sight of someone I had never expected to see again.
“Haelenai,” I said slowly. “It’s been… years!”
The woman smile. “Ten years to be precise.”
Magistrix Haelenai was one of my first High Elf underlings when I was a mage in Dalaran before the Third War. The last time I had seen he was just twenty-two. Now, with ten years behind them, the fully grown and clearly far more powerful Haelenai stood in the room looking at him with a thin smile.
She stepped forward and wrapped him in a tight embrace, a rarity from a High Elf.
“Hello, Sionis,” she said quietly. “How have you been all these years?”
“I’ve been fine,” I lied. “How are you? What in the world are you doing up here in Northrend? Are you working with the Kirin Tor?”
She shrugged. “Yes and no. I have access to Dalaran if I need it, but I’m not actively seeking a career in the ranks of the magi.”
“Did you have a falling out?”
“No, not really,” she said. “I just grew away from the order. I have actually taken steps to avoid all of my magical studies. I know that probably sounds strange to you.”
If only she knew. “No, that doesn't’ sound strange at all. I spent two years sending ships across the ocean with my staff locked in a closet. I know what you’re seeking, and if Amberpine Lodge is where you’ve found it, then that’s fine with me.”
Suddenly Haelenai frowned. “I would be lying if I said I had not heard about you and Keaira,” she said rather bluntly. “I’m sorry for that.”
I tried not to show any emotion, a struggle to be sure. “I’m not sure that you should be sorry for any of it.”
“I’m not going to lie to you Sionis,” Haelenai said. “I can still peer into people’s minds. It’s not really something I can control.”
“So you know what I wanted to ask.”
“I can’t send you to Dalaran, not without knowing your intentions.”
“So you accidentally read my mind and say you’ll only do what I ask if you can see it all?”
I wasn’t sure if I should feel offended or not.
I defaulted to offended just to be safe.
“You’ve got a wall up around your true desire,” she explained. “It keeps it hidden from my accidental peering, but I could see it if I tried.”
I knew Haelenai had the power to send me to Dalaran, but I couldn’t risk letting her see what I intended to find in the library of the Violet Citadel. With a grin and a pat on her hand, I dismissed any chance of getting to Dalaran with her help. Still, if I was close enough to be transported by someone who wasn’t practicing their magical powers, then I was much closer than I had originally assumed.
On the other side of the lodge, Christine was tearing into a freshly cooked meal and it looked very delicious from where I was standing.
“Haelenai, I know you guys have things under control here, but I was wondering if you’d want some help?”
The young magistrix nodded encouragingly. “We’ll have to introduce you to everyone. I’m sure just about every soldier at this lodge could use your help.”
“No doubt,” I replied.
“Hey,” Christine said as Sionis was being escorted away, “Are you staying here a while?”
“Yeah,” I replied, thinking that I might be due a small break. “Are you?”
She smiled. “I suppose I could stick it out for a few days.”
“Excellent, I’m glad you’ll be here to save me if needed.”
“It’s what I do,” she said as she crammed a turkey leg in her mouth. “It’s the way of the light!”