Already there was another Holiday around the corner, it had seemed not long ago they all had been celebrating Hallow’s End, perhaps that was just life when it was busy, time passed without one truly noticing until the world around them had changed and the decorations of the Holidays came around. Of course, Argus hadn’t helped that as it had taken weeks away from home, now everything felt like it was going by too quickly. The thought of Pilgrim’s Bounty was...for the most part a Holiday that Diane never got to celebrate as it was one of merely food and games in her time in the orphanage, the idea of gratefulness never lasted there. No, in the orphanage it was feigned for good treats and temporary praises, it would not even be early in the next morning and the orphans of a foul temperament would return to entropy. But even with her own sister, Valerie Abrams, gratitude had become something she showed every day, a Holiday unneeded for Diane to show such an emotion done daily.
She sat at one of the tables in the Perch, watching the staff begin to prepare the Inn for Pilgrim’s Bounty and making it look fitting for the Holiday. She held a cup of hot chocolate in her hands to warm them up as she pondered things, however, this time it would be different for her. It wasn’t just her and Valerie to be thankful for, no, it was more than just the two of them. The Eagle’s, her father, her dearly held friends and family; she was thankful to all of them. She took a sip of her hot chocolate as she pondered her childhood; at least, what she could remember of it.
As her mind wandered to the past they settled onto her parents. Conor Emmandel and Taliine Embersorrow; both of which caused an amount of sting in the regards to a sense of loss. She had remembered that her father had been a former soldier of Lordaeron and her mother a sorceress. Despite Taliine’s psychotic tendencies, she had fallen in love with Conor and him with her. Though she held a high disdain for her own mother, she had to believe in some sort of way, Taliine had loved her and her father. She longed to remember the times when they were a family; to feel complete. For perhaps then, she could have a more compassionate heart for her mother even if in due time, her mother will pay the price of her crimes. Though some part of Diane, no matter how hard she fought it, felt sadness over her own hatred of her mother. Though her mother’s acts were awful and cruel and worthy of punishment, Diane still held the vaguest wish and prayer that maybe she might change. That there might be a spark of light in her mother’s dark soul.
Day of the Dead
“Diane, I know you hold such a great disdain and hatred for your mother and I do not claim that what she has done to be right or valid. But - I have seen what such hatred that you bear, does to people. My baby girl...Find it in your heart to find compassion for her, even if she will face punishment for her crimes. I don’t want her to tether you to the darkness of hatred…” Conor said as he looked down at his daughter. “Diane, my beautiful girl, I wish I could be there with you everyday for as long as I could have lived. But seeing you now, and seeing where you are going as a Knight of the Silver Hand…” His blue eyes sparkled with pride. “I could be no prouder of you than if you had managed to bring peace to the Alliance and Horde...Nor could I ever think of a place more fitting for you than this…”
Diane looked up at her father, ears perking upwards softly. “D-Dad…” She said softly, tears forming her eyes as she sniffled. “How can I? Mother took you and….cursed me and took my memories...How can I have a compassionate heart when all she has done is hurt you….hurt those I care about and threaten those that I hold dear now?” She slumped her shoulders. “I’ve tried, but I can’t find the emotion to have compassion for her. I want to, but I can’t…” She blinked as she wiped at her eyes. “I wish you were here...I wish that...things had been different...I-If maybe...maybe I had said no...to her teachings o-or...Or….if I had warned you….Maybe you would be! M-Maybe I…” She looked away a teardrop falling from her cheek. Sniffling.
Conor shook his head. “No, my dear, there was nothing you could have done..” He knelt before Diane to look at her straight on. “I know you can, in some way, because you have a good heart and always find something in someone to have compassion for. You don’t have to bear hatred or any sense of atonement for me, Diane, I don’t want you to. Taliine will be brought to justice one day, but that isn’t now or in the near future. Let this not trouble your heart until you’ve solidified yourself. Find your ground, stand firm with those you have with you now....Trust their guidance and council.” He said as he was slowly fading away. “I know that one day, you’ll be a shining light in the darkness and your mother will help you to be such. Even if you don’t realize it, she has served as an inspiration for you to be who you are…” His voice grew quieter and quieter. “You are everything that she has not been to you or others…” He smiled at her. “Take strength in that….and in the friends you have with you…” Then it was over, Conor had disappeared with those final words and left Diane to ponder them and take them into consideration.
Diane leaned back in her chair, everything her father had said to her and her own feelings of the situation. Perhaps he was right in the regard of her mother, she strived constantly to be everything opposite of her mother. In its own way, Taliine did serve as an inspiration for what not to be. Even if she knew that deep down that had not been the case of her childhood, she shuddered at the thought that she had been willing and enticed by the magic that her mother practiced. Had things not turned as they had, she would not be the same person she was at this moment. She looked over at the fireplace as she wondered how she would have turned out, would she have turned out worse than Taliine? The idea chilled her to the very core of her bones.
She couldn’t recall much of her childhood aside from the things her mother had shown her of Dark Magic; and its gruesome rituals.She thought back to such lessons and the acts that her mother showed her, there was a strong look of disgust upon Diane’s features, but part of her could remember the curiosity she had held at the time. Afterall, how could a child know that such magic was bad? Her own mother had been very charming with her serpent tongue that wove its lies so easily and without faltering that she had been convinced. However, she no longer believed such lies, nor would she ever believe them. She had seen the costs of such magic’s, specifically in the one person she shared a house with: Jolaini Reneigh. She recalled the one form that the woman had taken, it wasn’t the form itself that had chilled her to her soul. Rather, seeing the cost of the magic scared her and pained her at the same time. Could she have turned out similar to her? She was thankful that question would never be answered. At least to her hopes. For once, Diane recalled her memory of being at the orphanage in a more positive way.
She recalled the moment she had woken up at the Orphanage, unsure how she had gotten there or who had brought her there. She remembered how much of a haze she had been in and how confused she was at the time. She didn’t remember that her own mother had abandoned her after she had killed her father and perhaps, for a time, that had been a blessing in disguise. However, it hadn’t taken long for the other children there to tease and prank her for being a half-blood; that she was neither human nor elf. It would never take time for the feelings of not belonging would take hold of the young girl and becoming an outcast that lingered near the edges of a flock of sheep. She watched for years in a bittersweet manner as many other children would be adopted through the years, but not once did she come close to having a family again.
However, Diane remembered the kindness that the Matrons did show her; perhaps they were one of the few things in her time in the orphanage that helped brighten her outlook. Feeling like an outcast she would spend her time by herself either in the orphanage or upon the Cathedral steps of Stormwind. It would be here that Diane would remember meeting the knight who would help push her onto the path of Knighthood, who gave her the start towards becoming a Paladin. Diane hadn’t taken long to latch onto him as he had been the first to show compassion and care outside of the orphanage. He had promised to take her under his wing to train her to become a Paladin when she was old enough, but in an effort to help stop the Twilight Hammer, she would not see the Knight again.
Prior to the Twilight Highlands
They stood on the docks as the various ships were preparing to leave for the Twilight Highlands. The Knight turned back to look down at Diane, his armor reflecting the rays of sunlight and obscured his features. “Young Emmandel, I will be leaving soon, but the I have seen the Light’s graces upon your life, young one, and I know it will use you in a powerful way. If I do not return, do not mourn for more forever, young one, for we are all one in the Light.” He smiled down at her. Kneeling as he placed a gauntleted hand on her shoulder. “It may not be in my path to teach you the ways of a Paladin, but if you continue to strive out of the goodness of your heart, the Light will lead you to where you are meant to be. I have faith in you, young Emmandel.”
Diane looked at him. “S-Sir...Please, don’t go, I...W-W-W-What if you don’t come back? I-I-I-I...I don’t know where to s-s-start...S-Sir…” She bit her lip, fidgeting.
The Knight chuckled as he smiled warmly at her. “Have faith, young Emmandel, let us not worry over the future and have faith in the Light. Let us deal with today’s problems first…” He kept his hand on her shoulder. “I will always be watching over you, be strong and kind, live faithfully and with courage.” He would hear his name being called as he gripped her shoulder one last time. “Until we meet again, Diane, I look forward to seeing your progress.” He smiled widely as he picked up his helmet and headed down the docks. “Light Bless and guide you, Diane.” He called over his shoulder as he moved to one of the ships with a large pole-arm on his back.
Diane would watch and listened to his words for they brought comfort and encouragement as she stood there on the docks and watched the ships leave for the Twilight Highlands. “Light Bless….and keep you, S-S-Sir…” She said softly.
Sometimes, she could still feel that firm hand upon her shoulder and a knight who held such strong faith in her. On the days where she felt doubt in her qualifications, separate from the support of her friends, she reminded herself of what he had said to her. Of course, she missed his counsel on things and how easy it was to talk with him about anything; something that she knew she struggled with among the knights. She knew it was not out of personal gripes with any of the knights, rather, it was a fear of looking like an embarrassment and how much she looked up to them. Nevertheless, she knew that time and life were short and never danced together forever. The knight she had looked up to was gone before he could take her as his squire, and the same would happen if she let her anxiety rule over her in the regards to the wisdom of the knights around her.
Despite this, she had had the courage to venture out of Stormwind to Dustwallow Marsh with Valerie. The swamp had been the first clue to her own past that she had remembered; yet some part of her had held an apprehension already. She remembered how much it had hurt to remember anything under the effects of the curse that her own mother had placed upon her. This fact made worse when they had approached the ruined inn which all that remained was its foundation. There was nothing that could describe the chilling feeling that Diane had felt at the time. Despite the years, a darkness had clung to the ghost of the building. Voices had rang through her mind, fragments of the truth of what had happened that night all those years ago. Though she had known that her parents were gone, it had been world breaking for the young girl to remember watching her father be murdered. That night at an inn on their way home, Valerie consoled Diane through her newly revived grief and her tears.
To this day, Diane could recall not a similar day to that one. The horror and sadness that coursed through her was on par with nothing. She looked at her unfinished cup of hot chocolate as she shook her head. To this day, it was something that was a solemn subject to discuss. How little she had known then! How fragmented the memory truly was as she could now fully remember the night that everything had changed. The night her mother had taken revenge on her father and left Diane to spiral out in life.
Eight Years Ago
It had been raining, pouring even, in the swamps. Diane sat close to the fireplace as she traced a finger along the ground of a rune her mother had shown her. It wasn’t similar to that of an arcane rune as it resembled to something a cult would etch and upon seeing this, Conor would speak. “Diane, we talked about this…”
Diane would stop as she hunched slightly. “S-Sorry dad…” She said softly, she didn’t know the true consequence of such things. They were simply lines to the young girl, lines that bore no consequence for her. She looked out of one of the various windows in the quiet inn. There were no patrons there with them apart from the barmaid that helped her father with the business. Lightning flash and there was a loud crash and then silence before being following by the sound of the rain on the roof and windows. She shuddered softly.
Conor sighed gently as he ruffled Diane’s hair as he moved to the barmaid. “As soon as the storm passes we shall leave, for good. I will not have us remain here in Dustwallow with my...wife...here…” He shook his head. “I’ve secured the three of us safe passage out of here, we just...need to make sure that this goes smoothly until then.”
The barmaid nodded. “Yes, of course, do you think once we leave she will stop?” She wondered out loud. She looked at Diane and spoke softly. “And will the child be free of the taint?” She looked at him with her brown eyes.
Conor slumped into a chair, his blue eyes lingering on Diane. “I can only pray and hope, I can only pray and hope…” He rubbed his face. “Light curse Taliine’s soul, teaching a child Dark Magic...I just pray that I intervened soon enough and that this does not come back to haunt her…” He looked at the barmaid. “I’m sorry for how things have turned out, I truly did wish for this business to succeed-”
The barmaid shook her head. “No...I understand, your safety is more important than this business. Please, let us take this one step at a time.” She nodded with a soft smile.
But as they spoke the air chilled and the fireplace darkened. In a reflex, Conor grabbed Diane and had her hide under a table out of sight. Already he had his sword in hand in another moment after. The barmaid moved to hide under the table with Diane, wrapping her up in her arms. Diane stayed there in silence, wide blue eyes watching the scene before her as the door would open. Steam came off of the dark clad figure as she came in. She tugged her rugged hood down, Taliine gave a devilish smile at Conor.
“Oh, hello husband, dear.” She said in a particularly cold tone of voice. “Or should I say: thief?” The smirk turned into a frown with an intense death glare.
“Taliine, stop this madness!” He shook his head as he adjusted his grip on his sword, but his voice broke. “Taliine, you and Diane are my world! Please don’t do this! I had to stop you! What life would your magic have given our daughter? It would consume her soul and heart!” He stood in front of the table.
Taliine eyed him, pacing in front of him as her eyes flared a fel green. “Madness? No no no, this is revenge….You took our daughter from me, my prodigy….You left me for a wench and you expect me to believe that you care?” She laughed maniacally “How humorous...My magic? My magic would ensure she would never have to suffer under the foolishness of mortals! She would never have to let her heart be led astray by the whims of men.” She glared at him as she stopped pacing. “The life my magic would have given her would have been a secure one!” She growled, runes forming around Taliine in a pulsing fel green.
Conor sneered; having recovered from his heartache. He growled once. “Then I see that this magic of yours has twisted your mind and your perception of reality. It is you who is the monster, not I! You would be the one to end our daughter’s life!” He growled as he charged forward and moved to slice into Taliine’s abdomen.
Taliine hissed as she barely missed the sword, it cut into her side slightly. “Lies! I seek to keep her from the pain that I have had to endure! Tsk tsk, Conor, you are so much like my own parents. Straight as an arrow, but blinded by your ideals!” She hissed, but a smirk came over her features. “Which is why I killed them...Heh, it felt good too….Either way, the seeds have been sown, you can’t undo them. Even if I don’t live to see the day.” She cackled as she tossed a fel fireball at Conor who took the brunt of it into his shoulder. “But because of you, I will have lost any relationship with the only one I’ve truly cared for in all of my years!” She growled, her eyes glowing ever brighter. “You took my own flesh and blood, the only one I’ve had mercy on!”
Conor would growl not bothering to answer as he charged her again, using his uninjured shoulder to slam her into a nearby wall. He brought the hilt of his sword into her abdomen but would be engulfed in felflames as he did so causing him to scream in pain. Meanwhile, Diane would struggle as she saw her father being burned alive. “Daddy!” She cried as she wiggled out of the grasp of the barmaid who would have tried to get Diane back under the table, exposing herself. It would not be long and Conor would slump to the ground unconscious and Diane would speak again with her mother’s gaze upon her. “S-Stop this! Please...mom…” She said with pleading blue eyes.
Taliine eyed her daughter as she stepped over her husband, grasping Diane’s chin in her hand. “Diane, my beautiful and talented girl...Your father must pay for his crimes. He chose his fate when he stole you away from me....If he remains he will only be a hinderance between you and me…” Her features softened as she knelt before Diane. “You don’t want that, do you? We were happy, we had fun didn’t we?” She rested her hands on Diane’s upper arms. “If I don’t do this….You’ll only get hurt by his teachings...I don’t want that for you….” She smiled softly.
Diane sniffled. “But why does he have to die? Can’t we just go...Mom? I...We can go somewhere w-w-where it's just the two of us...Daddy won’t bother us…” She pleaded with her light blue eyes.
Taliine sighs gently. Giving Diane’s arms a squeeze. “Your father wouldn’t let us live in peace...This must be done...Shh, I know it’s going to be hard...but it’ll be okay...Mother is here…” She nodded. “You’ll see one day that this is for the best-” Taliine would not have been paying attention as the barmaid had stepped away and returned to stab Taliine in the back. Which caused the elf to scream and fling the woman back against the wall with a spell that held her there. Fel eyes glaring as she pulled out the knife from her back. “You...bar wench...What does a mother have to do these days to talk with her child?!” She howled. “I could turn you to ash, torment your soul for all eternity...I could carve your flesh however I wanted…” She smirked. “Yes….a fitting fate….For a harlot such as yourself…” She smirks as in a quick motion she would stab the woman in the chest opposite of her heart.
The barmaid screamed and Diane paled, unable to move. Taliine laughed as she held the barmaid’s hands by the wrist above her head as she would continue to torment the woman. The strain would prove too much from her many injuries by the knife and the barmaid’s life would fade from her eyes as she slumped; held only by the grip Taliine had on her wrists. Taliine let go as she looked at the blood that dripped down her hand with a cackle as she moved over to Conor who stirred. “M-Mom! N-No!” Diane cried as tears streamed down her cheeks as Taliine straddled Conor’s chest and gripped his head by his blonde hair and his chin lifted out of the way.
“Diane..” Conor groaned out as the knife slit his throat, he gurgled on his own blood as the life left his eyes. Leaving Taliine to chuckle at her work.
Diane covered her mouth as she fell to her knees sobbing at the sight before her. Tears leaking from her eyes as she shook her head. “N-N-No….I...W-Why..?” She sobbed as she looked at her father’s lifeless eyes. She covered her face as she sobbed. “No…” She could feel a hand be placed on her shoulder which caused her to shakily look up to see her mother there.
“There, there….It's over now…No need for tears, my child.” Taliine gave her a twisted smile.
Tears streaked down Diane’s cheeks as she shook her head. “You killed them...I...You didn’t have to! Why?!” She shook her head, a new emotion came over her. “You’re a monster! Father was right about you! I hate you!” She stood up and tried to move away.
Taliine’s gaze turned hardened, yet hurt. “Don’t...do this, Diane...Please…” She whispered, her voice shaking gently. “Don’t follow your father….Don’t make me do this…”
Diane shook as she glared at Taliine, fists shaking. “I will never be like you! I would rather die than be anything like you!” She growled, hatred boiling in her.
Taliine’s ears lowered as she held a pained look. “Then...you’ve made your choice..?” She mumbled. Taliine would step over to Diane, closing the gap between them as she pulled Diane close to her and held her tightly even as Diane struggled against her. A hand moved to the back of Diane’s neck, where a simple marking had been made on her neck that did nothing. Something inside of Taliine wouldn’t let her finish the act of ending Diane’s life as she hesitated. There was something that pattered against the struggling Diane’s head, something wet. Taliine would cast a spell that bound itself to the marking. “Forget thy pain and sorrows, forget thyself, cursed forever to question thyself.” She spoke in a foreign tongue. “Thou shalt lay thou weary head once and for all. Let thy eyes never open again, but let thou step peacefully into death’s embrace.” She finished as the curse was laid upon Diane and caused the girl to collapse into unconsciousness.
Taliine rested Diane gently on the ground as she stood up and pulled up her hood and disappeared into the darkness of the night.
She sniffled lightly as she wiped at her eyes; it still rubbed her raw. For a time she hadn’t known why the sadness had been overwhelming, but though her mother was cruel and evil, she had lost not only her father that night but her mother as well. She had lost her entire family in one night and it would be something that she’d strive to fulfill in every regard. Even if it never truly filled the void that was there. Diane struggled to make sense of everything that had happened, how could she grateful over losing her own family? Such thoughts plagued her that there was nothing to be grateful for and to become bitter over it. But there was another thought that fought back, that what had happened had led her to Valerie, her sister, it had led to down the path that would lead to the Eagle’s. Hard as it was to say it, she knew it was worth the pain and longing to what she had now. The day that Valerie had pulled out the adoption papers was only the first step to what she had now.
Thinking about that day, Diane brightened, how happy both of them were and would be was something she took great comfort in. She remembered seeing Valerie’s smile and the vow she made to her. No matter the circumstance, she was always grateful to Valerie; sometimes it stirred so strongly in her that it felt like her chest would burst. Diane would take up her cup of hot chocolate again as she sipped it as she pondered further on her life. Diane remembered being in the streets of Stormwind, several times had she spotted the orange clad Eagle’s. They appeared relaxed, friendly...happy, something that was different from the other organization she had witnessed in the square. For weeks and months, Diane would gather the courage to speak with a few of them. It would be in her friendship with one of them that she would meet the Matriarch of the Citrine Eagle for a brief moment, even if at the time she had faltered greatly in her words. Her nervousness showed easily as she spoke, never having spoken with a leader of an order before it had been nerve wracking. But there was a hint of the aspiration within the young half-elf as well that pushed her past her nerves and fears.
Diane chuckled to herself as it had been to this day that she would rarely not don the tabard of her order. Though she bore no heritage, at least to her knowledge, to the Alteraci she would always wear the tabard with some pride. It hadn’t taken long for Diane to develop a sense of family within the order, largely amongst the Silver Hand but also those from the other divisions within the order as well. It had felt like such a daze to her in the developing year and how far she had gone in her training through them. However, in Diane’s desire to learn everything that she could, it would lead her to being reckless at times. Leading to one time of being chastised by the Matriarch which promptly put a halt to Diane’s naive actions. For a time, she was placed in the backlines as a healer on the battlefield. She remembered in that time during her studies as an aspirant, meeting someone she considered her sister, Arlissa Dawson, the two had both been aspirants and have walked the same path ever since they met at the Inn. She smiled as they were pretty much twins and connected at the hip at times.
Diane would lean back into her chair, smiling to herself. She thought back to the times with the Eagle’s, though she knew that at times she came in conflict with some of them, she looked back on the year with extreme fondness. Her thoughts wandered to everyone that she knew, how grateful she really was to all of them as each of them played a pivotal role in who she was and how she was on missions. She knew that it did not come out of herself to have a brave face in front of a terrifying foe. Rather it was those she found herself surrounded by that stirred such actions within her. She would continue to drink her cup of hot chocolate as she thought about the people she held close to her heart and what she wished she had the courage to say from her heart to them.
‘What are you thankful for?’
That was a question that was asked a lot around this holiday. Those that did ask her she would reply with a warm and happy smile and beaming eyes as she was, in the rare times, confidant in her response to the question:
“I’m thankful for the lessons that my father had parted to me before his death, as awful as it was, I hope that I can make him proud of who I aim to be. But nor can I forget the kindness of the knight who helped me see the better side of things in my time of feeling utterly alone and an outcast, or the immense love that my sister had to adopt me and take me into her family. Every single one of them, I owe who I am today, but I am a happy debtor, my life would not be the same if I did not owe these debts. But even more to those I have come to hold so closely to me, I am thankful of. The Citrine Eagle, Lady Blackmoore, Arlissa, Daniel, Sir Morsin, Sir Malphur and all of them...Yes, all of them. I am grateful for because without them, I would not be half the squire I am. I could not venture forth to Argus among them and feel or be strong enough to stand against the Legion if it wasn’t for them. I could not have the tenacity that I have if it wasn’t for the promises to my loved one’s. No...I owe none of what I am today, to myself. I have been forged by the passions and care of those around me. If I had to have only one thing said of my passing, my only wish, is that I can be remembered as someone humble. Someone grateful. Someone who didn’t take things for granted. I look forward to spending this Holiday with my friends and family.”
As Diane finished that thought with a faint smile, she’d finish her hot chocolate and stand up. Readying herself to start her shift at the Perch happy to give to others shelter, food, and warmth in the Alterac Mountains.