Disclaimer: I wish I owned Sylvanas, but obviously I don't. Even so, my character Nia can have some fun with her.

Bravania heaved a sigh as the gargoyle slumped to the ground, riddled with arrows. One foot was nearly severed at the ankle, the work of her lynx, Windrunner. The cat trotted back to her now, looking bored. She scratched behind his ears, lost in thought.

As always, she felt nothing. No triumph, no relief, nothing but slight regret that she had yet to meet her match. She blinked, and ground her fists into her eyes. When she took her hands away from her face there were wet streaks on her leather gloves.

She glared at the muddied spots. Of course she'd be a little fragile on this assignment. It should have been a pretty straight forward mission: clear out some of the Scourge around Windrunner Spire. What self-respecting huntress would turn down such easy duty because of a few bad memories?

At that point Windrunner tired of his mistress's inertia and shoved at the back of her knees with his cold, wet nose. Nia lurched forward, turning to scowl at her pet. Typical cat, he responded with an affronted look and twisted around to groom his tail.

The blood elf ran a hand through her tangled black hair and padded over to the gargoyle's corpse. It may well have been carrying something of value, since it was part of a group that had ransacked an estate as ancient as the Windrunners'. She scanned it quickly, noting a glitter around one upper arm. She bent and heaved the creature over onto its back.

A blue gem shimmered on a slim silver chain, twisted around the gargoyle's stony-skinned bicep. Distastefully, Nia extended the arm in question and gently worked the jewelry down and off. She sat back with a little smile to inspect her prize. When she turned it to and fro the jewel caught the light wonderfully. Turning it over to check the silver backing, she felt her heart skip a beat.

There was an engraving, and the words on it sent her reeling to her feet in shock. "To Sylvanas. Love always, Alleria." Nia stood rigid, shaking, for a long moment before crumpling back to the ground. She clutched the pendant convulsively in both hands.

Sylvanas. She never thought she'd hear that name again. Not to mention she'd thought she'd have her reaction much more under control than this. She shivered, throat working, eyes burning. Sylvanas.

A tear splashing onto the dirty letters brought her back to reality—mostly. She staggered upright and moved back toward the main road in a daze. She traced the letters of her former general's name with one shaking finger—and remembered.

She had been one of the youngest of the rangers of Silvermoon. Fresh out of training, Nia had been one of the more enthusiastic rookies. She'd gotten quite a reputation for running headlong into danger—and sometimes into thorn bushes. But as she laughed off the teasing of her elders, occasionally while picking sticks and leaves out of her clothes and hair, the girl had eyes for only one elf: the ranger-general.

She worshipped Sylvanas, leaping to do her bidding when she gave any order, cherishing every compliment, every gesture of approval.

These were few and far between. While there were plenty of trolls, murlocs, and wild creatures to drive away from the tranquil forests of Quel'thalas, there were also plenty of rangers waiting on Sylvanas's every command. She had no reason to take notice of a young, green Farstrider.

Sylvanas was completely devoted to duty—and Nia had become completely devoted to her.

The girl was enchanted by those guileless blue eyes, the sardonic smile, and lithe movements. Such same-gender pairings existed among the rangers. Uncommon, but present. And the girls involved endured just as much teasing and lewd comments as the girls who preferred males.

None had dared to approach the ranger-general. No matter how much the older warriors gossiped no one had proof of where Sylvanas's interests lay.

On one memorable mission, Nia had been assigned to scout ahead into the troll enclave. She had shimmied up a tree and crept out on a limb above the trolls' camp. She had miscalculated; the branch cracked and dropped her right at the trolls' feet. The other Farstriders had no choice but to attack early and sloppily—and Nia could do nothing but curl into a protective ball and wait for it to be over.

When the dust had settled, she had relaxed, and looked straight up into Sylvanas's face. The general said nothing, but smiled thinly. Nia didn't think it was annoyance, but stifled good humor.

As soon as Sylvanas was out of earshot Nia clambered to her feet and made her announcement: she would be the one to crack that emotionless shell. She would earn the general's love.

She was mocked, taunted, of course. But she persisted, training endlessly, always honing her abilities. Within a few months she had more successful kills under her belt than any of her year-mates.

Sylvanas remained unmoved, unreachable.

Nia wasn't the one who'd spotted the Scourge tearing through the peaceful sylvan forests, but she had been one of the first to arrive on the scene. Abominations, their intestines hanging out, were the vanguard of the oncoming horde. Ghouls, skeletons, incorporeal shades—all trampled though the trees. The ground blackened beneath their feet, a blight spreading before them. Gargoyles fluttered overhead, and spider-like Nerubians chittered and hissed. In their midst rode the worst: A living human, done up in skull-motif armor, galloping along on his skeletal horse.

Nia stood in her cover, gaping at the army. A gentle touch on her shoulder made her look up into Sylvanas's worried face.

"Have they done anything unusual?" She whispered. "Still seem to be heading straight for Silvermoon?"

Nia nodded, throat closed, trying to come up with something witty to say.

The general narrowed her eyes at the host. "I'm moving down the line. Catch up when they're past your position. We can move much faster than they can, and they're no match for the full camp of Farstriders."

"Of course not. We'll get them." Nia murmured, and then began mentally berating herself. 'We'll get them? What was that?' But Sylvanas stood, and gave her a genuine, warm smile that took her breath away.

"Be safe," she said, and disappeared back into the undergrowth. Nia was left bubbling with happiness, that not even the gathering dead could touch.

She found the other Rangers hours later, when the tail end of the vast army finally passed. Her optimism had evaporated. This was no skeletal raiding party, but a true invasion.

Sylvanas was bent over a spindly table covered with maps, speaking earnestly to a young male elf. As Nia watched, he nodded acknowledgment and raced off in the direction of Silvermoon.

"Bravania, come here please," she called, and Nia's heart leapt.

"Yes, ranger-general?" She avoided those blue-blue eyes—no one else had eyes that blue, did they?—and inspected the map. Blue ink marked the elves' positions; red ink marked the monsters' trail, their camps, and their projected route to Silvermoon. Nia winced. There was a lot of red on that map. Way too much.

Sylvanas tapped a finger on a location just south of the Elrendar River. "The undead have entrenched themselves here. We're sending sorties, but they've been repelled every time. I've sent three runners to Silvermoon, and no response has come. I need you to lead a band of raiders to this estate." She indicated another spot, east of the main Farstrider camp, and near one of the many bridges spanning the river. "When the main attack comes, you will head straight for that bastard leading them. We will make a frontal assault at the same time, but that will mostly be a distraction. We're counting on you."

Nia looked up, shocked, and met the other's blue eyes through her curtain of golden hair. She smiled again, just for Nia. "Assemble your group and move out within—"

An animalistic roar cut her off. The scourge was surging into the rangers' encampment, slaughtering the few elves they caught off guard. Those who could were scrambling for weapons. Sylvanas flung herself into the fray with a blood-curdling war cry, cleanly striking the skull off the body of a skeleton. Nia leapt beside her, drawing her knife and disemboweling a ghoul. As what remained of the creature's insides spilled to the ground it made another grab for her. She hissed in disgust as she sliced through the ghoul's exposed spine. It folded with a frustrated gargle.

There was no time for breath; she spotted a skeletal mage conjuring a frostbolt, and charged. Out of the corner of her eye she saw others form a protective circle around the ranger-general. Sylvanas pulled her longbow from her back, aiming straight at the heart of the invasion force. Nia took the arms and head off her mage in a single, curved, stroke and turned.

Six or seven abominations held formation around the mounted leader. As she watched, Sylvanas's first arrow splintered the horse's exposed scapula. The horse gave an otherworldly shriek of pain, and its rider urged it forward with a curse. The pair plowed through the battle, trampling over Scourge and elves alike.

Sylvanas dived to the side as her protective circle scattered. "Fall back to the trees!" She called. All the Farstriders who were able disengaged from their current foes and fled, crossing over the bridge into the Eversong woods. They quickly vanished into the trees.

Nia sprinted for her general, twin knives a whirlwind in front of her. She cut down ghouls and skeletons, turning one dagger on a gargoyle that swooped down on her head. The creature fluttered lamely away, one wing shredded.

The older ranger was covering the retreat of two badly wounded women. The pair staggered away, supporting each other, and the ranger-general backed up, jabbing the pointed ends of her reinforced bow at any enemies that came too close.

Nia kicked a ghoul away and sprinted to the other elf's side. Sylvanas drew a knife on a snarling ghoul, and the girl turned, crouching defensively to defend her general's back. Not a moment too soon.

She caught the abomination's blade on crossed knives, grunting as the monstrosity bore down on her with its considerable weight. Sylvanas turned; a blur of movement and the huge arm dropped to the ground. Nia drew back just enough to plunge a dagger into its eye. It roared and staggered to its knees.

"Run!" Nia grabbed at the general's arm and shoved her, following as fast as she could run. They turned on the other side of the bridge, watching as the Scourge turned on the tents and buildings of the encampment. Ghouls crouched over slightly struggling forms on the ground, and all movement swiftly ceased.

The leader raised his sword, and called: "You cannot outrun the inevitable!" Sylvanas snorted. "You think I'm running from you? Apparently you've never fought elves before!" She raised her bow, neatly picked off two abominations from his side, and pulled Nia with her into the cover of the forest.

A day later saw the elves pressed against the gates of Silvermoon itself. The Scourge army was a few minutes away, and Nia looked around with dismay. Barely a quarter of the Farstriders stood in ranks around them. Her own new position, on Sylvanas's direct right, was testament to how depleted their resources were. Nia looked up at the general.

She stared into the forest, eyes hard, mouth set. She had an arrow nocked, and her fingers trembled on her bowstring.

Nia longed to reach out, to comfort her, but quelled the impulse. A glance around showed the same fear in every Rangers' eyes. She swallowed.

Any second now…

With a crash several ancient trees collapsed, twigs and leaves lashing the defenders' faces. Before the dust cleared abominations lumbered through, flinging hooks before them. Two Farstriders screamed as the metal impaled their bodies. Archers raised their bows, coating any visible targets with arrows.

Beneath the flailing hooks of the abominations the ghouls, shades, and skeletons charged. Knife fighters, at a nod from Nia, leapt into the fray. Sylvanas herself raised her bow, sending arrow after arrow into the more forbidding creatures of the host. Nia pulled out her small, wicked throwing knives. She picked her targets, most often sending gargoyles plummeting out of the sky.

She scanned the battle between throws, noting every elf that collapsed, torn apart by claws or singed by spells. Worst were the ones that fell to shades, crumpling without a mark on them but their terrified expressions.

The ghouls plunged into the ranks, breaking them into smaller squads that were shredded by the undead behind.

Sylvanas was faltering with each bleeding body that slumped over.

Only now did the death knight show himself, pacing forward on his warhorse. "Run!" The ranger-general pitched her voice to carry over the battle.

"We can't let them take Silvermoon! They mustn't reach the Sunwell! Hold your ground!" Nia called. The elves wavered, faced with choosing between death and duty.

Sylvanas whirled, physically knocking the girl to the ground. "Retreat! Now!" The rest of the force broke and ran, scattering into the trees. Nia shook her ringing head, clambering to her feet. "Bravania, go!"

The girl shook her head, drawing close-quarters blades and slashing quickly through an attacking corpse. She struggled to place herself between her general and the oncoming human.

"Now, girl! That's an order." She turned, met Sylvanas's wide-eyed gaze. Read the despair there.

Reluctantly she staggered back, and as the death knight approached them, turned and fled. As soon as she reached cover she halted, turning to watch as Sylvanas faced the attacker.

The ranger-general's lips moved—and she lowered her weapons.

Nia's breath deserted her. Her eyes were fixed on Sylvanas, who stood calmly, blue eyes on the face of her killer. Determination was written on her face, and her chest heaved visibly, but she didn't move a single inch. The warhorse reared, and as he came down, the rider ran his great-sword through Sylvanas's unprotected body.

Nia crumpled, gasping, trembling, feeling as if her chest was being crushed in a giant's grip. She couldn't breathe, couldn't even cry. She could hear the undead pressing forward. Masonry crumbling, flames crackling, she could do nothing to stop it. Darkness overtook her vision, and she blacked out as the first screams started.

She awoke much later, coughing on thick smoke. She was surrounded by silence, broken only by occasional rustling leaves. She sat up, eyes watering from the fumes. Was there a forest fire? Had they burned out a nest of trolls?

Pain lanced through sore muscles as she tried to stretch, and memory returned in a flash. She lurched to her feet, breath sobbing in her chest.

The Scourge were gone, leaving a blackened trail through Eversong. Slim bodies were scattered around the shattered gates, all mutilated beyond use even by the undead.

Of Sylvanas there was no sign. A splash of blood, bright red on the paving stones, was all that remained. Nia staggered down the slope, tears running unheeded down her cheeks.

'No. No no no...' She couldn't believe it—wouldn't believe it. She couldn't be dead, she'd never let that happen. Not while she still needed to protect Silvermoon and the Sunwell. Nia collapsed beside the blood pool. Around her the stone was charred. Anything flammable had completely disintegrated.

And with it, Sylvanas's body. Nia looked down at her hands, shaking. 'If I hadn't run, she'd still be alive. I could have saved her and I ran like a frightened child.'

Her grief built up, choking her throat, pounding in her ears, until she threw her head back and screamed. Screamed wordlessly at the unfeeling sky and stones around her. Screamed until her throat felt raw and torn. Screamed until no more sound escaped, just a pitiful whistling whine.

But none of it could ease the pain. Eventually she collapsed, on the spot the woman she loved had died, and prayed for death to take her as well.

Nia was jolted out of her reverie when she stumbled over a loose stone in the road. She had reached the Dead Scar, the horrific wound in the forest left by the undead, seven years ago. Ahead of her the cobblestones were cracked and broken, and mindless zombies wandered aimlessly. Windrunner sat a few feet ahead of her, growling softly at any Scourge that dared come close. Apparently confidant that they were sufficiently warned, he turned his head to shoot an impatient glance at his mistress.

Nia shook herself. She was still a Ranger of Silvermoon, and couldn't let herself get lost in contemplation like that. The town of Tranquillien lay ahead, across the scar and up a long slope. She wasn't going to be clearing out any more undead from Windrunner Spire, that was for sure; might as well go back and ask for a different assignment.

She lifted the necklace, gazing into the blue depths of the stone. It shook slightly from the trembling of her fingers. With a sigh she reached up, pulling the chain over her head and settling the pendant on her chest, over her heart. Then she obeyed her lynx's wordless summons, straightening her shoulders as she clambered over the broken ground.

Please review, I'd love feedback! This is going to be a 2-3 chapter fic, and I will hopefully get the second installment out in a week or so.