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Chapter one: Sunstrider Isle
"This isn't fair," Thoryne Shiranden complained as she looked at the small Elvin tower before her. It was called the Sunspire and was one of two such buildings on Sunstrider Isle, the other being a tiny armory nearby. "Where are we supposed to sleep?"
"You are here to train, not to sleep." Magistrix Erona, the Blood Elf that had been given charge of the Isle answered. She stood beside Thoryne and looked the younger Elf over with disdain. "I expect you to apply yourself Hunter. Otherwise I will be forced to report your insubordination to your father. I'm sure he would be disappointed to know you aren't taking your responsibilities to heart."
Thoryne rolled her eyes but held her tongue. Her stepfather, the Blood Knight Captain Lord Karus Lightreaver, didn't expect her to really complete her training anyways. He had simply agreed with her mother to send her here because he had grown tired of the constant need to drag Thoryne out of the dead scar where she had taken to playing with the Troll Shaman Alana that served as the family's cook.
"Don't worry I would never dream of disobeying father," The reply was filled with sarcasm but the Magistrix chose to ignore the implied intentions. "So my dear Lady Erona how may I serve thee?"
"First off stop being a smart aleck Miss Thoryne," Erona grumbled. "And second you will be training in the art of magic detection before you learn the more advanced forms of the Hunting art."
"You will choose one of the local Mana Worms and focus on tracking its movements with your eyes closed. It's simple enough and once you have become comfortable with your ability to do so you will exterminate enough of them to thin out the cluster around the Burning Crystals. They've been draining energy from them and we can't afford to lose any more."
Bored and slightly annoyed at having been given such an effortless task Thoryne silently turned away from Erona to observe her work area. The Isle was small really. With three buildings and a tiny shack somewhere near the entrance. A Mana crystal burned on the hill to her right with another crystal to her immediate left. A pond with tree-like Tenders infesting it sat on the left as well and on the far end of the land was a Fountain, also brimming with Tenders. There were large cats roaming the Isle and beside the huge building that had once been an Academy sat a shrine Thoryne was pretty sure belonged to Dath'Remar the forefather of the Sunstrider family.
"Fine," The Huntress in training grumbled. "But the next thing you send me to do better be worth the effort."
"If you do well on this task I will be glad to," Erona smirked. "Now get going before I decide on something simpler, such as scrubbing the Tower walls."
With a snort Thoryne left the Magistrix to begin her assignment .Magic tracking was simple. Thoryne had been capable of it long before now, all High Elves who had contact with the Sunwell had the ability and in turn so did the Blood Elves. The only problem was that Thoryne had never tried to use her innate talent on command before let alone in an area with so many possible targets.
Trying not to get overwhelmed Thoryne chose a stray worm that had wandered up the steps leading to the lower path of the island. It was only a small specimen but had enough power that it gave the hunter a focus point. Calmly, so as not to scare the Mana Worm, Thoryne sat on the bottom stair near the creature and closed her eyes.
At first all the Elf could feel was a slight tingling in her stomach that was more annoying than informative. The strange feeling grew, however, and Thoryne found that her stomach had begun to ache as if she hadn't eaten in a long time. Before she knew it the magical hunger had invaded her chest and the cloud of energy that was the worm pulled the Hunter instinctively to the left where the creature floated uncaringly in the Isle's ocean breeze. The pain in her chest grew the longer she followed the small animal and it was only then the girl realized she hadn't used an Arcane Crystal that morning. The contact with the energy rich worm had sparked her minor hunger and sent it into the red zone. Unable to stop herself Thoryne drew the magic inwards. The Mana Worm screeched as it was compressed into a basic mist which settled upon the Huntress causing her to sigh in contentment.
"Thank you," Thoryne whispered as she stood. It felt degrading to steal the life of a lowly worm but the hunger tended to cause such outbursts from even the most controlled of elves.
With her energy somewhat restored Thoryne drew her short sword and headed to the large energy crystal that loomed over the right side of the Isle. There was a fair sized batch of worms here and she could see magic flowing in lightning like streaks from the crystal to the Mana creatures.
Deciding to start at the outer edge of the group the hunter began to cut through the rather weak opponents. Each one that died covered her in a refreshing spray of magic energy and with the boost it wasn't long before the majority of the worms where nothing more than residue on the white tile surrounding the crystal.
Having barely broke a sweat Thoryne returned to Erona's spot outside the Sunspire with a cocky grin. "Now since I don't have a choice of being here can you please give me something better to do?"
"Of course, a promise is a promise."
With those words Thoryne found herself running silly errands for the entire population of Sunstrider Isle. She gathered collars from the Lynx that wandered the Island and thinned out the Tender's numbers. She fetched lost belongings and read the old plaque on the shrine. By the time her running was done and Sallina, the resident Ranger who trained new hunters, had shown her how to track the local animals and to handle her sword and bow better it was beginning to grow dark.
Exhausted to the point she could barely notch an arrow Thoryne nearly burst into tears when Erona approached her on the stairs where she had collapsed.
"You've done well Lady Shiranden," The tone was far too sweet for Thoryne to trust. "I can dare say Lord Karus will be very happy with the effort you have actually put forth, even if it did take you half the morning to begin."
"Why is it that I don't feel as if you're here to say I can rest for the day?"
Erona smirked, "Because, it seems, you've done too good of a job. You see throughout the day you have rid the Isle of many problems we, ourselves, have been unable to deal with properly."
"Been too lazy to deal with," Thoryne muttered.
Choosing to ignore the girl Erona continued. "As I was saying, most of our troubles were dealt with but it seems there is still one small problem we face. As you know Faltrien Academy on the far side of the Isle has been taken over by a Wretched named Felendren. Now you must understand that the once noble Elf has become a mockery of the struggle we all face and refuses to leave the top tower of the Academy. If you would take care of this minor annoyance I would be more than happy to let you return home with a letter of completion."
"I've only been here a day," Thoryne pointed out. "Training takes a week."
"And are you truly willing to stay that long?"
"Exactly," Erona reasoned. "So I supposed it's up to you really. Go after Felendren for me and I will release you to your own devices, or refuse and I will make you run the same routine you did today for a month."
"Why don't you have the trainers go after him? I mean they're more qualified than I am."
"Our trainers are here to teach, not to combat things such as a Wretched! I'm sure you can easily handle the thing. It's not as if Felendren were a fellow Elf any longer. There should be no problem fetching him down from the top. If its any easier all you need do is bring down his head. I can have another trainee clean the mess up tomorrow."
Thoryne pondered the deal for a moment. If she accepted she would have to climb the spire, deal with the Arcane Wraiths that had taken over, and then kill this Felendren fellow. On the other hand if she refused she would have to spend a month in training. There was so many better things she could think of to do rather than be Erona's lackey.
"Fine I'll do it on the condition that you don't tell my father about letting me off early."
"Very well, I will omit that fact from the equation when I write the completion letter." Erona waved Thoryne away with the back of her hand. "Now get going before it becomes to dark for you to see. Even a lowly Wretched can be trouble in the dark."
With a groan Thoryne forced herself up from the stairs. She already knew it wouldn't be easy to reach Felendren in her exhausted state let alone kill him. Perhaps, she thought after a moment, it was wrong to have agreed with Erona. Running errands wasn't really all that bad now that she considered the situation. Not at all bad when she thought of the true danger that presented itself. Erona hadn't said it out loud but there was a good chance that the Wretched could be the one to win their confrontation.
By the time Thoryne had changed her mind Erona had left, disappearing into the Sunspire as the sun set along the ocean horizon.
"Great," Thoryne grumbled. "My tale will end with me getting murdered by a crazy Wretched. Stupid Erona just let the thing keep the Academy."
There was no way around it however and within minutes the Huntress found herself before the magically erected Academy. It was taller than the Sunspire with several floating rooms and spiraling ramp ways that lead high into the sky. The entire building hovered over the shallow edge of the ocean only connected to the Isle by a thin walkway. It was a beautiful building, even Thoryne had to admit that, but it had a strong magical pull that unnerved the Elf. There was something cold and dark about the energy, it was almost as if she stood before a portal into the Nether itself.
With a shudder Thoryne ascended the entrance ramp. The first room, she found, was rather small housing only a broom that swept the floor continuously and a floating table that had a broken vase on it. Without thinking she came to stand at the room's center. It didn't take long for her to realize her mistake as a strong tingling in her stomach announced the existence of an Arcane Wraith.
The creature hovered near the right ramp that lead to the next level. Its body, made up of an almost transparent pink haze, was loosely shaped into a human like form. There was an uncomfortable malevolence about the creature as it began to drift forward. Thoryne was far to startled to think and was taken by surprise as the Arcane Wraith took a swipe at her with a translucent clawed hand. The strangely solid nails scraped noisily across Thoryne's leather armor leaving three deep gashes in the hardened skins. Unharmed, thanks to her chest guard, the Hunter stumbled backwards and grabbed for her sword. She was too slow on the draw however and the Wraith was able to take another swing which sliced the exposed skin of Thoryne's right shoulder.
Cursing her lack of decent gear the Elf tightened her grip upon the swords hilt and stabled her stance. The Wraith had pulled away by now and was floating between her and the exit. There was no way out of the fight and with an injured shoulder Thoryne knew she was at a disadvantage.
"Ok you were right Father," Thoryne growled. "I'm so not ready for this." With a yell she charged forward and concentrated on swinging her blade.
Calling upon her recent training Thoryne turned the blade on its side and swung outward while ducking down. The Wraith, which had blindly slashed at her, missed its target and howled in pain as the sword sliced through the area where its stomach should have been. Rising before the Wraith could recover the Hunter brought her sword straight up as she stood; it too passed through the creature as if it didn't exist.
Stunned Thoryne jumped away from the Wraith as it clawed at her again. There were no visible wounds on the creature that Thoryne could see but somehow the Wraith was slower. Almost as if the injuries she had inflicted were hindering the ghostly being even though she couldn't see them. Slightly encouraged the Elf charged again but this time she swung the sword diagonally, as she did Thoryne switched her primary foot and followed the sword around in a full circle to hit her target a second time. The Wraith's form flickered with her final blow and the Nether being screamed in agony as its body dissolved into a fine powder.
"Darn," Thoryne stumbled away from the dust pile and pressed a hand to her bleeding shoulder. The cut was shallow but seemed to be bleeding at an unnatural pace. It wasn't life threatening, however, but since it was her sword and drawing arm the damage was thrice fold.
There was nothing to be done so Thoryne pulled a small piece of cloth from a hip bag and tied it, rather sloppily, around the wound. Sheathing her sword the Huntress instead drew her bow. Her skill with the distance weapon was far greater and perhaps it would prevent another unneeded injury.
Notching an arrow Thoryne inched her way over a connecting archway that led to another room on her left. There were two Wraiths here, neither acted as if they had seen her. Aiming high, at the area where the head seemed to be, the elf loosed three arrows at each and found that the creatures disintegrated with two. Happier at finding a better way to deal with the Arcane Wraiths she moved forward going up through two more small rooms.
There were black, seemingly, Tainted Wraiths here and Thoryne managed to save a small shard of what she could only believe was dark nether energy. Unlike most magical relics the shard made the Blood Elf nauseous instead of giddy. Perhaps one of the Arcanists back at the Sunspire would be interested in the tiny object.
After pocketing the shard Thoryne looked around to find herself in a grand room that seemed to be the largest of the Academy's floating platforms. There was a ramp that led up to the top room to her right but it was guarded by a very large and very mean looking blue Wraith that made the Huntress sick to her stomach just looking at it.
The foul magic it was forged from was very strong and it wafted off of the creature in waves. Until now Thoryne had been able to stand the assault of delectable magic but the dark pull of this particular Wraith was over powering. Stepping back from the creature the Elf dropped to her knees.
"No," She moaned softly. "I'm no better than that Wretched if I am this weak."
The Elf looked up at the Wraith but didn't move. Something was off about this one. It appeared just like the other Tainted Wraiths but its black sheen seemed no more then a dark blue.
Then the truth struck her and Thoryne wasted no time in hiding behind a nearby pillar. The "Wraith" was a demon. Thoryne had seen one like it when she had visited her Aunt Talia in Murder Row. A "Void Walker" she had called it, a Warlock pet.
Watching the demon silently Thoryne noticed that it seemed to be guarding the ramp. Why she wasn't sure but her curiosity was winning over her common sense. It was decided instantly, she had to get by the Void Walker.
Rummaging in her bag Thoryne located a small Lynx collar with a metal buckle on one end. Using her sword she removed the leather band and put it back into the small bag. The buckle was light and brittle but Thoryne was sure if she could hit the right spot it would draw the demon's attention.
Scanning the opposite side of the platform she found a spot right in between two Arcane Wraiths. Aiming carefully Thoryne threw the buckle and waited for a moment. The metal clanked softly and for a second Thoryne wasn't sure it had worked, but after a small pause the Void Walker drifted towards the sound and was promptly ambushed by the waiting Wraiths who didn't seem to see it as one of their own. Taking the opening Thoryne ran for the ramp.
As she crept upward the Elf realized there were no Arcane Wraiths in her way. In fact she could see powder streaks on the ramp which indicated a recent struggle with the Wraiths. Alarmed at the possibility of a Warlock wondering around the Isle Thoryne abandoned her stealth and ascended the remaining ramp quickly. What met her at the top made the Elf stumble back in shock.
Felendren lay dead amidst several piles of Wraith powder. Near his body stood a woman with blond hair who was dressed in royal purple robes. Dark tendrils of energy were flowing from her towards a ball of black energy at the room's center.
Thoryne knew that the ball of energy was a portal. Her mother had summoned many of the things during her Mage studies and the only difference the Elf saw was that the energy her mother had used had been blue and calming where the portal before her was dark and cold.
"Stop," Thoryne yelled without thinking.
The figure stiffened in surprise and turned towards the Elf. It was then that Thoryne realized that the creature before her was not a fellow Elf but a human.
"My, I didn't expect company," The human said in common with a chuckle. "If you're here for Felendren you're too late little elf. Of course you probably don't know what I'm saying as barbaric as your kind are."
"If you think I can't understand you human you're a fool," Thoryne spat in Common. "I was a High elf once, a part of the Alliance as well. I know enough of all languages to communicate. And to call me a barbarian is self condescending is it not?"
"An intelligent Blood Elf I see," The Warlock smirked. "Here I was thinking that this would be an easy job."
"I don't know what you're doing here but you can't stay," Thoryne lifted her bow and notched an arrow. "Be gone human."
"So hostile," With a smile the Warlock lifted her arm and began to laugh. "I'm sorry but I cannot die today." With a flash the woman was gone through her portal leaving Thoryne standing in stunned silence.
Though the woman was gone the portal remained. Unsure of what to do Thoryne approached the balls of nether energy.
"I wonder," Carefully the elf reached out for the portal.
"Don't you dare," The deep boom of her father's voice echoed from behind the hunter causing her to jump. "You don't know where that portal goes."
Glancing back at the ramp upon which her father stood the Elf narrowed her eyes, Thoryne made sure she had regained her senses before speaking least she insult Karus and he not share any information. "What are you doing here father?"
The Blood Knight walked to the portal to stand beside Thoryne. His eyes fixed on the dark pulsing energy, "I became worried when you hadn't run home by noon."
"You lie," Thoryne stated.
Turning to his daughter Karus snorted, "Tell me Thoryne. What did that woman say to you?"
"A lot of bitter insults but nothing of real importance father, but I suppose you're here because of her."
"Indirectly, yes I suppose you could say that. I had a report of demonic energy coming from the island so I came to make sure you hadn't been injured. It seems I arrived just in time."
A deep red blush crept up Thoryne's collar to stain her cheeks. She looked away from her father and pretended to be interested in the powdery remains of an Arcane Wraith. "I'm fine father."
"Indeed daughter a moment later and I would have found nothing but a portal of demonic energy. You meant to use the portal."
"I was just curious!" Thoryne protested as her father turned away and descended the ramp. "She just ran away and I couldn't let her escape after insulting me!" Karus didn't stop so Thoryne had to jog after him.
"Thoryne, my scouts have been tracking that woman and according to their reports she is associated with a band of Kaldorei that have set up several camps in the Ghostlands. If you had of followed her you would have ended up in the dead center of one of their camps or worse," The Blood Knight had come to a stop at the Academy's base. He handed a sheet of paper to an awaiting Paladin who had obviously been instructed to guard the entrance ramp. The Paladin nodded and left to fulfill whatever orders he had been given. Only after his charge had left did Karus acknowledge Thoryne again. "Go home and do not tell your mother about this."
"But if that portal is leading to a Kaldorei settlement shouldn't you close it?"
"Please Thoryne let me handle this," Karus leveled a stern glare at his daughter. "You're my eldest child and I need you to take care of your mother and siblings. Because of that I agreed to send you to train as a Ranger but I will not risk your safety by exposing you to Night Elves so soon, go home and we will discuss further training later."
"Father," Thoryne began but was cut short by her father's upraised hand.
"I said go home Thoryne."
"As you wish father," Thoryne knew better than to test Karus's anger. "Will you be home for supper or should I tell mother you will be late."
"Tell your mother not to wait up."
Gathering her supplies Thoryne left the Isle, but to the misfortune of many her interest had been peeked.