The sun rose bright over Stormwind - a perfect summer day - blue sky and a light warm wind off the sea, filling the air with the scent of salt. Humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves crowded the capital’s streets, speaking the prime languages of Azeroth, with accented Common chief among them. Some sold wares, some labored, while others went about the monotony of their daily business. To be sure, the crown jewel of the Alliance was heavily fortified, but despite the presence of the guard and the many sellswords that the city attracted, Stormwind felt more a community than an armed camp.
For the recently arrived Lightforged Draenei the peace of Stormwind brought a strange unease. Knowing nothing but war for thousands of years they each lived every moment of their new lives with the expectation of calamity. For this reason Lightforged tended to walk in packs. They turned corners with trepidation. They jumped at loud noises. They seldom trusted generosity. And their bright golden eyes often searched the skies, expecting to see incoming fel or cannon fire.
Vasp, former warmage of the Xenedar, too suffered from these same nervous proclivities, but having made her home on Azeroth many months before her comrades, was at least better at pretending that she did not. It was a matter of compartmentalization when still, nerves tempered whenever possible through battle. That’s what most of the counselors and menders tending to the Lightforged did not understand, peace was the oddity, to feel normal a Lightforged had to fight. To try and purge the killer within was to play with fire.
“You’re late,” snapped Arlan, Vasp’s former commander in the Grand Army of the Light, his face partially obscured by the shadow cast by the awning of the building rising above him.
“I’m sorry,” replied Vasp in Draenic, a scowl on her face at the rebuke, “I am still not very familiar with this city.”
They stood in the Dwarven District, only a few yards from the entrance to the tram that connected Stormwind to Ironforge. In the background the steady tumult of the forge beat as though it were the living heart of the city.
“Now that I’ve come do you intend to tell me why you summoned me so abruptly?” she asked, feeding off her former commander’s obvious agitation.
“There was a time you did not question my orders,” he snapped.
“There was a time when your orders mattered,” she retorted, perhaps too harshly.
“There’s no time to explain,” he said, choosing, it seemed, not to engage her insubordinance. “Come with me it’s not far.”
“And where are we going?” she asked as they began ahead, Arlan in the lead, their hooves echoing against the cobblestones of the street.
“It’s not far, just here up ahead,” he said hurriedly. “We must do something quickly before the authorities realize what’s happened.”
Vasp knit her brows, “Authorities? What are you talking about?” She grabbed him by the bicep. “What’s happened?”
Arlan ripped free from her grasp and said angrily, “It’s a few doors down and it is best if you see for yourself.”
Vasp nodded and decided to question Arlan no further. In the many millennia that they’d known eachother she had seldom seen him this agitated, if at all.
He led her to a small house not far from the canal. A simple wooden structure in the style so familiar in this part of the Eastern Kingdoms. At the entrance stood Mira, a paladin from Vasp’s former unit. She was young but capable and above all loyal. As they entered the house, Vasp and Mira exchanged a quick glance. The latter was clearly upset.
“What’s happened?” asked Vasp again as she and Arlan made their way through the dark confines of the house and up a squeaky set of wooden stairs.
“I don’t know why or how it happened,” said Arlan, his voice seeming more hollow than just mere moments ago. “We found them like this, but there’s no question of culpability.” As they reached the landing he turned toward her and added, “Brace yourself.”
Arlan stepped forward and carefully opened a door at the top of the stairs. On the other side was a large sitting room, simply furnished with wooden furniture and bright textiles, a large tapestry against one wall. But as she entered, Vasp took little notice of the decoration, instead she stared at the bodies on the ground, at the girl covered in blood. Three humans total. A family most like, father, mother, daughter, ripped to shreds by a blade - a blade now laying on a nearby table, clutched in the hand of Tahara, Vasp’s former bunkmate on the Xenedar, and perhaps her closest living friend.
“What…” the words got caught in the mage’s throat as she took in the scene before her. “What happened?”
Arlan shook his horns, the anger in his voice now completely gone, replaced with only anguish, “I don’t know. She had been staying here, boarding with this family. When she was late for training this morning Mira came to fetch her and found...this.” Despite having witnessed untold carnage in his life, the old commander couldn’t help but divert his gaze. “I tried to get her to tell me what happened, but she hasn’t said anything.” He frowned deeply and added: “The bodies are cold. I do not know how long she’s been like this.”
Vasp carefully stepped toward her friend, careful to not trample the remains of the dead.
“Tahara,” she said, “Tahara can you hear me?”
Her friend did not respond. She did not say anything. She did not even look at Vasp. Barely even blinked. Instead, she stared into blank space, sitting upright at the table, her hand clenched around the handle of her dagger, white knuckles and dried blood.
Vasp squatted down near her friend and made to touch her, but then hesitated and got to her hooves again.
“You haven’t told anyone about this have you?” she asked Arlan, the realization donning on her at last.
The other shook his horns, “Of course not, don’t be daft.”
“Of course not?” repeated Vasp with a grimace.
“Do you want to see her in the stockade?” asked the commander. “Or worse?”
“It’s not about that,” said Vasp. “You can’t hide this.”
The agitation in Arlan’s voice returned, “And what happens when the people of Stormwind learn that she murdered a family? What happens when they start to fear us? When they decide Lightforged are too dangerous to live among them? Hmm? What happens when they dissolve our alliance and force us to leave?”
“And what about them?” asked Vasp looking down to the bodies on the floor, to the small girl covered in her own blood. “You plan to toss them in the canal?”
Arlan said simply: “You’re a mage aren’t you? You can open portals.”
Anger, shock, dismay all boiled within her. Never had she hated Arlan or feared for Tahara more.
Vasp turned and carefully sat down in the chair opposite her former bunkmate, sliding her hand toward the other but daring not to touch. “Tahara. Tah, can you hear me? Tah are you there? It’s me. It’s Vasp.”
“You’re wasting your time,” said Arlan. “People are probably wondering about them already. Open a portal and let’s get to work.”
“Tah,” said Vasp, ignoring her former commander, slowly moving her hand atop the other’s clenched fist. “Tah it’s me. Tah please speak to me.”
“You’re wasting your time,” said Arlan again.
“Tah,” said Vasp, her voice as soft and gentle as she could make it. “Tah, I know you didn’t mean to do this. Tah, I know it’s not your fault.”
Arlan took a step forward, “Enough! Open a portal.”
Vasp scowled and turned to speak but it was Tahara’s words that broke in first.
“No,” she said. Simply, no.
For several heartbeats you could hear a pin drop.
“Oh gods,” said Tahara nearly at a whisper, her eyes welling up with tears. “Oh gods. Oh gods. Oh gods.”
Vasp put both hands on the other’s fist. “Tah, it’s going to be all right. It’s going to be all right. It's-”
“No,” said the other, pulling away, her hand letting go of the dagger, the look on her face one of complete and utter despair. “It’s not going to be all right. It’s never going to be all right ever again.”
Arlan took another step forward and said, “We’ll take care of this. It’ll be as though it never happened. No one will know.
Her eyes narrowed as she stood up. “I will know,” said Tahara, her gaze drifting to the bodies on the floor. “I will know.”
Vasp stood and reached for her friend, to hold and comfort her and try to will time backward if she could. But Tahara pulled away, hands, covered in dried blood, raised to them both. Then she backed herself into a corner, where a large bay window met the tapestry and sunk down to the floor, weeping. Quietly at first, but soon in a long sustained wail.
For a few painful moments Vasp watched her friend, agonized by her inability to make things right. Then, letting out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, she began to make for the door.
“I can’t let you do this,” said Arlan blocking her way. “There’s too much at stake. Think about what this could do. Think about how things could change.” His tone turned nearly pleading. “Don’t do this. I can’t let you.”
Vasp glanced back at her friend, then the dead, then to Arlan. She said: “I’m going to go get help, for her and for them.” She raised her chin. “Just try and stop me.”
With a firm shove she pushed her way out of the sitting room and walked down the stairs. As she crossed the dark interior of the house once more toward the front door, she wondered if Arlan would in this moment attack her, whether he would murder her to do what he thought was necessary. As she reached for the handle of the front door her heart skipped a beat. As she turned the knob her heart all but stopped.
“What happened?” asked Mira, as Vasp stepped out in the warm day.
Grimly, the mage replied: “I’m going to summon the city guard, I suggest you go inside. There will be much to answer and you and Arlan may want to, as the humans say, get on the same page.”
Mira glanced down at her hooves a moment, but nodded in acquiescence and promptly went inside the house.
For a few minutes, Vasp stood in the street, watching the melting pot that was Stormwind churn. Despite what she had said she had entertained Arlan’s idea, if even for a second - hide the bodies, say nothing of the crime - but it was never an option. No matter how much she wanted to save Tahara, it was not something they could do. If the Lightforged were ever to become a part of this Alliance, they had to be true to it and that meant being true to themselves. No matter the consequences. No matter the cost.
Eventually she began to make her way to find the nearest guard station. As Vasp walked, tears streamed down her face. It no longer felt like a perfect summer day.