Disclaimer - The world of Azeroth belongs to Blizzard Entertainment. I have created a few of the characters in this fic, but otherwise, everything, including the lore, races, places, and storylines, belong to them. I am merely a visitor in the wonderful World of Warcraft.
I considered myself a pretty girl. I had long honey-colored hair that I usually wore down in a braid that hung over my right shoulder, tied with whatever ribbon matched what I was wearing that day, and amber eyes that shone like the sun. I was tall, even for an elf and my skin wasn't as pale as other elves around me.
I lived in my family's village, Everstone Village, which was small, numbering no more than five-hundred people, and about a day away from Windrunner Village on horseback, so we saw the Windrunner family on a regular basis.
My father, Lord Pellien Everstone, was mayor of the village, so I had always been rather privileged. The youngest of the Everstone children, I had been told that I could do whatever I wanted, because my sister Ravenna, so named because of her silky black hair, was the absolute beauty of the family and had already gotten married to Lord Santoran Ravenblade, and they would look after me if anything were to happen to my parents. My two brothers, Estelien, and Taegan were rangers working under Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner, and were pretty much set, as captains.
However, I had no intention of not doing anything with myself, just because I was the baby of the family. All three of my cousins were worthy tailors, and elves came from all over Southern Quel'Thalas to buy their robes. They even went to Silvermoon sometimes to sell their things. My friends also worked, mostly as hunters, which had been a popular profession back then. My best friend Layana raised dragonhawks and rabbits, which she sold as pets. And I wasn't expected to do anything.
I was a skilled mage, despite the fact that nobody gave it any consideration. There were mages much more skilled than I was in Quel'Thalas and the masters weren't interested in training me because I was so young. So I trained on my own, watching Master Flamestrike teaching everyone how to conjure fires of various intensity. Fire magic had always been something I'd loved, and I started focusing on it at a very young age. Before long, I was able to conjure fires of different colors, the normal yellow and orange flames, a more potent red kind that could actually heat metal, and a white fire that I was able to carry around in my hands or in a bowl on a cold day to warm me up.
Over time, I conjured green, blue, pink, and purple flames, and a few people who liked this said that I had potential as an entertainer. The fires were pretty to look at, but I didn't want to be known as the girl who could conjure colorful fires. It seemed ridiculous. So I started working on other skills, reading every book I could find on our history, and even buying some from peddlers who came from Lordaeron. I bought history books, and books on herbalism, which fascinated me enough for me to make it a profession. I began to gather every herb possible in Quel'Thalas and learned their properties to make various potions for everyone in the village. Because I knew about fire so much, I knew exactly which flames to use to make the potions, and so also became an alchemist.
"Looks like you finally found something you're good at, little Faith," said Ravenna one day as she watched me mixing a simple potion for a sick woman. "And people like it."
I said nothing, focusing on what I was doing. It wasn't that the potion was difficult to make, far from it, but I didn't want my sister's praise. People liked my potions, it was true, but they didn't really take me seriously. The woman who had come to me had been the first one to come to me for something other than a hair and skin potion, and I'd had the feeling that she had only come because she couldn't afford to go to one of the healers in town.
I finished the potion, and went to the woman, giving it to her free of charge. It was a good potion, and I was certain that she'd be okay in a couple of days, no more, and she thanked me for my troubles.
"You're really feeling left out, aren't you?" Ravenna didn't sound mean, just thoughtful. "I guess it's hard for you, what with my being married, with Estelien and Taegan being ranger captains and our cousins being some of the most sought-after tailors in this part of the kingdom. You don't have a place."
"Sure I do. I have a place as the baby of the family who won't ever amount to anything." I smiled, tired all of a sudden. "Don't worry about me, Ravenna, I'm fine."
I left my little store, which my father had allowed me to open, if just to keep busy doing something, closing and locking it behind me as I was fairly certain that my day was over. As Ravenna and I arrived in the main square, a village crier shouted, "The rangers are here! Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner is on her way!"
I started. Sylvanas? Sylvanas was coming? Already, I could feel myself blushing and my heart rate accelerating. Sylvanas Windrunner, the most beautiful creature I had ever seen in my life, a woman I admired, cared about, and, to put it truthfully, loved with all my heart. I could pinpoint the exact moment I had fallen in love with her. I'd been twelve years old, and I'd been playing in our yard in the village outskirts. She had come riding over on her snow-white horse, looking so beautiful that she had made the forest around her look dull. Her hood had been down, a rarity even then, and her gold hair had spilled down onto her shoulders. My heart had leapt in my chest when she had looked down at me and smiled, and from that day on, I had been wholeheartedly hers.
"She's a general, Faith," said Ravenna quickly, as Sylvanas rode ahead of the column of people into the village, amidst cheers and the throwing of flower petals. She was flanked by our brothers, who were drinking in the sight of home. They saw us and made straight for us, their horses recognizing us as well. A second later, Taegan had leapt off the horse and wrapped me in a tight hug.
"Oh, my beautiful sister," he whispered, kissing my cheek. "How are you?"
"Fine!" I gasped, aware that Sylvanas was there, smiling down at us. I hugged Estelien as well, lingering a little because he was my biggest brother, the one I looked up to, my confidant, and I had sorely missed him while he had been away. I turned towards Sylvanas, who dismounted as well. "Welcome back, General," I told her. "It's a pleasure to see you again."
Sylvanas laughed a little. I wonder now if she'd known back then how in love I had been with her. "Faith, we've known each other since you were born. You can call me by my first name." She hugged me, and my thought processes immediately stopped. It wasn't unusual for a female elf to love another woman, but nobody ever spoke of it. I had actually attended the wedding of two elven women in the next village, and everyone had been very happy for them.
Ravenna hugged Sylvanas next, "How long are you staying for?"
"Seven days. I thought it would be nice for my captains to be home for a short while – I know they've been away for several months."
"You'll stay with our parents, of course," said Ravenna. "They wouldn't have it any other way."
My heart raced and I shook in my brother's arms. Stay with our parents? With us? For a week?
Sylvanas stated that she didn't want to impose. "I'd be more than happy to camp with the soldiers not staying in town, or at the inn if it's not full."
"It's really not a problem, General," I said. "We would be more than happy to have you stay with us."
"They'll insist until you say yes, General," said Taegan. "And our parents will be worse."
Sylvanas at least consented to accompany us home, and we all rode there together, me riding with Estelien, and Ravenna riding with Taegan.
To say that my parents were surprised to see my brothers was a vast understatement. My mother shrieked and my father just stood there, shocked by what he was seeing. Before any of us knew it, they'd both launched themselves at them, hugging them tightly. Naturally, they insisted that Sylvanas stay with us, and she had no choice but to accept after my mother threatened to write to her parents, whom we knew very well.
"All right, all right, I give in. Thank you for the offer, Velariel."
Dinner that night was a joyous affair, despite the fact that I was so nervous about sitting next to Sylvanas that I could barely eat anything. Ravenna's husband came as well, enjoying his time with my brothers, with whom he'd always been friends.
"So, Faith, what have you been up to recently?" asked Sylvanas as we finished our first course.
"She's actually been thinking of going to the Academy to become a Ranger," said Ravenna, to whom I'd told this in confidence with the promise that she wouldn't say a word to anyone about it. I glared at her.
Taegan choked on his wine, "You? A Ranger? Little sister, you can't take ranger training."
I felt Sylvanas move next to me, and, a second later, Taegan's face contorted in pain: she'd kicked him. "The Academy isn't just for anyone, Faith. If you really think you have what it takes, then I'd love to see you take the entrance exam. But I thought you were more suited for magic?"
"I am, but I'd like to keep my options open." I didn't say anything about the fact that nobody expected me to become anything but a house wife, which disgusted me.
"It's not easy training. You're not used to such rigor," said Estelien in a soothing voice.
"Neither were you until the Academy whipped you into shape."
He chuckled, "That's true. I was rather wimpy back then."
"You won't make it, Faith," said Taegan to me. I loved my brother, I really did, but he was so blunt with his statements that he hurt me, regardless of what he was trying to do. "The first week alone is designed to break you so that you can be built up again. You won't be able to take it, and you'll scream for us to come and get you before the first hour is over."
"Faith, honey, can you come and help me with the chicken?" asked my mother.
I left the table, seething with humiliation. Behind me, I heard Sylvanas quietly asking Taegan why he didn't believe in me.
"Taegan's right, you know. You're not suited for life as a ranger. It's a noble profession, certainly, but not one you'll manage to undertake."
"And you want me to do what exactly? Sit home and turn to dust, doing nothing of value?"
"You have your herbs and your potions. That's something, isn't it?"
I stared at her, feeling betrayed, "My herbs and my potions, Mother… you sound as though you're talking about the toys I had as a child."
"You are a child."
I was nearly a century old, which admittedly wasn't old for an elf, but Sylvanas wasn't much older than me at one-hundred-and-fifty. Feeling betrayed, I teleported out of the kitchen, landing near the pond not far from the house. I didn't want to cry, but I couldn't help it. Why didn't anyone think I could do anything? I wanted to do something worthwhile with my life, not just sit there as someone's wife. Idly, I toyed with the water, creating a small ball and freezing it, tongues of flame trapped within.
I heard movement behind me and stiffened, letting the ball of water fall back into the pond with a splash.
"It's not easy being the youngest," said Sylvanas, sitting next to me. "Vereesa felt the same way while Alleria and I were at the Academy, and everyone around her also told her that she'd never make it as a ranger. She's supposed to graduate next month."
I wiped a tear off my face.
"It's true that ranger training is rigorous. You'll be in pain more often than not, but if you work hard, I'm sure you can make it." She looked at me before squeezing my shoulder briefly. I closed my eyes at the contact, my breath hitching in my throat. "I can take you out hunting this week, just the two of us."
I looked at her, barely able to take in the sight of her, "You… why?"
Sylvanas smiled, "For one thing, it's my duty as Ranger-General to encourage anyone who wants to become a ranger. For another, just because your family doesn't think you can do it doesn't mean I feel the same way. I think you'd make an excellent ranger with the proper amount of time and training."
I could have burst into tears right there and then. As it was, I nearly kissed her in gratitude. "Thank you."
My brothers were stunned, two days later, when Sylvanas took me on a two-night hunting trip. They wanted to come with us, but she made it clear that under no circumstances were they to come anywhere near us. "Look, you're both rangers, she looks up to you, she's your younger sister and would like to follow in your footsteps. The least you could do is be supportive of her instead of destroying whatever confidence she has."
"But she's –."
"Part of being a ranger, Captain Everstone, is to give a chance to those who have none. This is your own sister, it shouldn't be that difficult to trust her to make her own decisions."
We left that same day, on horseback, making for the deep woods a few hours away from the village. Those woods were darker than the ones I was used to, and I was a little apprehensive, but I knew I had nothing to fear with Sylvanas by my side.
The journey was long, but not terribly difficult. I quickly realized that Sylvanas loved this, riding in silence for hours until she reached an intended destination. I found that I didn't mind it myself, but maybe this was because Sylvanas was right there next to me, which made me feel slightly euphoric.
We stopped riding a little before lunch time. I knew that part of being a hunter meant eating whatever was around, whether it was roots, fish, or game, so we hadn't prepared anything to eat beforehand.
Sylvanas watched me carefully and I slung my bow on my shoulder, along with my quiver of arrows. Compared to what Sylvanas carried, my bow and arrows were nothing more than bits of wood. Her bow was magnificent, carved with intricate Thalassian phrases and leaves, seeming a simple extension of her arm. I had seen her use it before, and she made it seem so easy.
I had worked hard on my shooting skills. It didn't come naturally to me, but I had persevered while my brothers had been away, and I was a rather good shooter.
Sylvanas and I walked for some time. I didn't really know what we were looking for until we spotted a dying tree.
"Can you practice on that for a while? I want to see your aim."
I did as she asked, trying to relax enough to take a shot. But Sylvanas made me nervous, which made my muscles tense.
She watched me struggle for a while before she stepped closer to me.
"You're the best ranger in all of Quel'Thalas," I told her. "Give me a minute to get used to the fact that you're watching me."
Sylvanas smiled, "Relax your shoulders," she said, putting both her hands there and rubbing them gently. "And pretend I'm just a random person."
"You're everything but random," I whispered, maybe with more feeling than I meant to."
She took her hands away and I took a deep breath, feeling the same calm within me that I felt when focusing on a spell. I let my arrow fly, and it hit the tree not exactly in the center, but close enough. I repeated the process several times, my arrows all hitting the tree around the same spot.
"This definitely isn't your first time shooting," said Sylvanas. I wasn't looking at her, but I heard the approval in her voice. "Not bad, Faith."
Twenty minutes later, we'd shot a plump wild turkey and were roasting it. It was odd sitting like this with Sylvanas, an experience I'd longed for over the past eighty years, and it was turning out better than I'd ever hoped. We talked quietly about various things, her training at the Academy and my reasons for wanting to be a ranger. I wasn't entirely truthful with her, not mentioning that it wasn't my brothers I wanted to emulate, but her.
But how could I tell her? I kept quiet on the subject and we ate in silence before erasing any traces of our fire and going deeper into the woods to find a decent spot to set up camp.
I watched her a lot, and several times, I felt Sylvanas noticing me watching her, so I averted my eyes and pretended to be scanning the woods for a danger that wasn't there.
Except it was.
I heard it before I saw it. A spider, enormous in size, came upon us, hissing a warning. I'd always hated spiders, never having felt comfortable around them, but as both of our horses bucked, we fell to the ground, hard. My knee exploded in pain, and I gasped, but Sylvanas hit her head and didn't move, so I did the only thing I could think of, grabbing my bow and an arrow, and murmuring a spell so that the arrow's point turned to flame.
I shot the arrow, and it hit the spider as it reared to attack, right on its soft belly. As soon as the arrow hit, burning ice exploded from it and the spider died instantly, both freezing and burning in places.
Limping over to where Sylvanas lay, I sank down next to her, "Are you all right?" I asked her. My voice was shaking more of worry for her than because of the spider I'd just killed.
Sylvanas sat up slowly, "I'm fine. Are you?"
I nodded, "I just twisted my knee when I fell." I conjured some ice for her to put on her head and watched as the horses came back to us now that the loathsome creature was dead.
Sylvanas turned to look at the body of the spider, "So, what was that you did with the arrow?"
"Just a spell. It makes the arrow flame, then explodes into ice and fire once it's embedded."
"That's one hell of a bit of magic, Faith." She glanced at me, "Let see that knee."
"Oh, it's all right, don't worry."
But Sylvanas would have none of it and nearly forced me to take off my leggings to inspect my knee, which was already turning colors and swelling to the size of a small melon.
"We'll have to go back. You can't stay here with that."
"I'm not as delicate as I look, I promise you." I yanked my leggings back on, ignoring the burning pain that caused me and attempted to get to my feet with no success.
"This isn't about you being delicate, it's about you having possibly torn a few muscles in there. You need a healer, unless you want to injure yourself permanently. See where that will get you then."
I knew she was right, but I hated to admit it. Taegan and Estelien would probably laugh themselves into a hernia if we came home that soon.
Sylvanas seemed to read my mind and shook her head, "You'd make a good ranger, based on what I've seen now. You ignored your pain and took care of the problem. You think quickly in a tense situation, which is something I look for in all my rangers." She stood up, swaying a little, and I realized she'd hit her head harder than I thought. My concern for her doubled and I got to my feet to steady her.
"You shouldn't be standing."
"Unless you want to fend off more spiders, I think we should get out of here. If you weren't injured, I'd suggest we stay here for the night to test how you'd fare under these circumstances, but as I've no desire to die tonight, we're going to go." She looked at me and waited.
I sighed, "All right." I conjured an ice bandage, which I wrapped around my knee before taking a long time to get back onto my horse, after which I summoned a cold headband so that Sylvanas could wrap it around her head, "It should help until we get home."
The journey back took much longer than either of us thought. I couldn't go fast because my knee was honestly in excruciating pain, and I could see Sylvanas blinking frequently, as though trying to clear her vision.
Suddenly, just as night fell, she collapsed, falling off her horse, and lay still.
"Sylvanas!" I cried.
I leapt down, but Sylvanas was only unconscious, possibly with a concussion. Realizing suddenly that I knew what to do, I asked the horses to keep a watch on her while I painstakingly gathered the necessary herbs for a potion. By the time Sylvanas regained consciousness, the brew was ready.
"I'm no great shakes as a healer, but I can make healing potions," I told her quietly. I took a sip first to make sure I hadn't accidentally made poison, but the pain in my knee instantly lessened a little. I nodded, "I just used briarthorn and bruiseweed, Sylvanas. It should help."
"I trust you," she said. I never forgot those words as she drank the draft I handed her. "Thank you, Faith." Some color came back into her cheeks, and her eyes seemed to clear. "You should drink more of that."
I shook my head, "Triage laws dictate that patients with the most threatening injuries should get healed first, and that's you."
"And as Ranger-General of Quel'Thalas, I'm ordering you to take some of this. Now, Faith."
I shook my head a second time and took another sip of potion. It wasn't strong enough for either of our needs, and I knew it, but I didn't dare make anything else, because the herbs I needed weren't readily available in this section of the forest.
"More than that, Faith. You want to be a ranger, learn to take orders."
"Ordinarily, I would, but I don't have enough for the two of us, and I'm sorry, but you need it more than I do, General." I handed it to her, glaring until she grudgingly took the goblet from me and drained it.
"You couldn't duplicate it?"
"My magic's not that advanced, I'm afraid. I can't even conjure food, only water, but it's better than nothing."
"It is. Can you help me up?"
"We need to make camp. I don't fancy us trying to ride in increasing darkness."
"Well, being as you're a fire mage, I don't think darkness will be a problem. Besides, I've ridden before for five days straight, with only a rest for my horse. Now, help me up, and let's go."
I knew it was pointless to argue, so I helped her get back on her horse, and strapped her into the saddle in case she fainted again. We got moving a few minutes later, but didn't reach Everstone Village until dawn approached because we'd been moving so slowly. By then, my knee felt like a veritable nest of exposed nerves, and I knew Sylvanas wasn't doing well either.
"By the Sunwell! Mayor Everstone, it's Faith and General Sylvanas!" cried someone as we arrived, half-conscious at the village. My father had just been getting ready to go to a meeting, and he caught me as I fell off my horse.
"What happened?" he asked as everyone ran out of the house.
Priests were quickly sent for, and as I was carried inside our home, I sank down into a sea of comforting darkness.