Cayssarin Amberstar walked down the main stretch of bridge that was so characteristic of Darnassus; such a grand construction of marble overtop the still waters of Teldrassil seeming so very eye-catching given the dark shades of earth below. It so easily caught her eye, this being the first time she'd seen the great city in quite some time, having been preoccupied across the strait in Auberdine with more trivial matters than she'd have expected, given her particular skills as a Sentinel.
She'd made a career out of her abilities, which she'd honed in the forests of Ashenvale, her penchant for melding into the shadows being a particularly sought-after trait when officers were seeking out Sentinels for reconnaissance missions, which Cayssarin was often selected for, though she rarely accepted, save for assignments taking her back to her home atop the Crown of the Earth.
She was an orphan, left with nothing in the way of parentage as an infant, found only in the forests of Ashenvale by a wily-eyed Sentinel who happened upon her before some fauna could steal her for a meal. The order became her family, and as she grew up a Sister, she soon enough easily forgot about those two people who had so easily left her to be forgotten herself. So indebted was she to her order that she grew into a habit of refusing foreign assignments, until her surrogate mothers within the High Priestesses all but ordered her to take advantage of her unique abilities for the betterment of, not only her people as a whole, but herself.
Her ability to Shadowmeld seemed like such a natural state for her for some reason, possibly because it was; she'd have bouts atrial fibrillation, resulting in an unnaturally slow heart rate, making the unnatural state of remaining inhumanly still particularly regular for her, much to the wonder of her peers. Instead of succumbing to this congenital defect, Cayssarin turned it into an advantage, learning to control her heart rate whenever it suited her, making her rather fierce on the battlefield while also becoming so indelibly frozen in the presence of dense flora. She felt at home in the presence of stillness, left alone with only her heartbeat to keep her company; such a state must have accompanied her in a time unregistered by her mind, lying there alone in the woods.
Her life was that of the most dutiful Sentinels, one of discipline, and rarely did her mind ever stray from her current assignments, and even during her down time, she would often simply practice with varying weapons or find a nice grove to meditate in, sharpening her mind in the same way she would sharpen a weapon, preparing both for combat at all times. Even now, walking through the streets of Darnassus, her mind now only waveringly taking notice of the marbleline structures that surrounded her, instead focusing mostly on finding the Temple of the Moon, having been assured of the ease in hunting it down.
Beneath the mighty tree in the center of the city, it's bear-shaped boughs overlooking Cayssarin as she delicately slipped a bit of parchment from her pocket, the summons she'd received not yet a week earlier, requesting her presence at the Temple in a week's time, signed by Tyrande herself, immediately relieving Cayssarin of any and all duties, save for the task of meeting that deadline. Being two days early, Cayssarin had time to explore Teldrassil, finding it so different from her previous visit from long ago, yet now found herself surrounded by the World Tree's most spectacular of locales.
Standing by the lackadaisically fluid bodies that went to and from the small banking area within the ursine tree's embrace, Cayssarin turned to watch for a moment the few non-elf people that moved along, their presence wholly foreign beyond the entryway to greater Teldrassil, her eyes narrowing in amusement as they appeared so completely reverent to the locals, considering every action being taken in an effort not to offend. The night elves of Teldrassil were still so very secretive, she knew, leaving much of their ways to be guarded from the outside world, even when it came to the Kaldorei of the mainland.
"Cayssarin Amberstar," came the voice of a woman soldier from behind her, the rigid cadence signaling that very fact before Cayssarin ever turned around meet the stranger, "Ah, they said you were named for your eyes; I suppose it was true."
Cayssarin watched her carefully, "I apologize, we must not have met."
"Oh, of course not," the stranger grinned, signaling her not hailing from Ashenvale, "I've spent much of my time fighting the Twilight Hammer down in Feralas; I haven't much of any business up north."
Her eyes widening in surprise, Cayssarin replied, "S-So you're a sister of Feathermoon?"
"Indeed," she smiled, offering a hand, "I'm Elestra Stormoak. Pleasure. And I'm already well aware of you, Amberstar; I never accept assignments without knowing who I'll be serving alongside."
"So you've been summoned to stand in Tyrande's company as well?" Cayssarin asked, legitimately surprised that she might be serving beside a sister that was one of the prestigious warriors of Feathermoon Stronghold.
Elestra grinned, "Surprised? And, please, I must assure you, I remain as much a Kaldorei as you; there's no need to treat me as anything more than your fellow compatriot. Though, if they're calling upon so many diverse Sentinels, this must be quite the assignment."
"Diverse? Really?" Cayssarin asked with wonder, "Who else, might I ask?"
"Eh, just some Sentinels here and there," Elestra shrugged, "There'll be time to discuss work when the time arises. Until then, I was hoping to run into you, actually."
Cayssarin wore a look of pure surprise, "R-Really? You?"
Amused, Elestra crossed her arms, "Now, what did I just request of you? I'm merely a fellow Kaldorei, though, admittedly, one who is fascinated by your line of work. They say you could find a hiding place in an open plain with little more than a bale of hay?"
Cayssarin just barely hid the softest of proud smiles, "Well, people do tend to exaggerate."
"Exaggerate? I read your reports, Amberstar; you were collecting intelligence on the Warsong advance on the daily, literally as they were scouring eastern Ashenvale for any night elf to kill on sight. I've fought the ravenous bands of wolves the Horde employ; you've got some serious talent, sister," Elestra complimented with her own subdued awe.
"I-It wasn't anything," Cayssarin muttered in reply, crossing her arms and shrugging in embarrassment, "I just hate that I know nothing of any of your accomplishments, otherwise I would indeed ask."
The superior of the two chuckled, waving Cayssarin along as she turned to walk away, "Well, we'll be partners soon enough, so we might as well get to know one another while we have time. I trust you're familiar with the Feathermoon Sentinels in general? We're more akin to hunter-warriors than anything, which serves us well enough in the chaotic wilds of Feralas, but Lady Shandris keeps us all rigid in our devotion to any and all skills that come upon any Sentinel. Well, except shadowmelding, which is an ability rare enough already, at least to be decently good at doing so."
The two of them passed beneath one of the domed columns that lined the marble pathways which cross-crossed the waterways of the city, Elestra eyeing one of the communal fishing poles that rested nearby for anybody to partake, a hopeful smile crossing her face as she took hold of it, setting it up to cast, "One of my favorite pastimes, though, is survivalism. I love scrounging and hunting for food, shelter; I love the purely primal nature of it all, you know? Getting in touch with that thin sense of mortality".
"I can't say that I understand the thrill," Cayssarin frowned, watching Elestra throwing the line out into the river that surrounded the central island that sat in the middle of Darnassus, "But I was left alone as an infant, until the Sentinels took me in; the struggle to survive is a bit too personal for me. My mortality is well enough known to me."
Elestra offered a knowing nod as she grinned, "Its not for everybody, true. Still, it's what happens to thrill and excite me; it's a good thing I happen to be pretty good at it. Almost…"
She swung the fishing pole up into the air, sending the fish on the end of its line careening into the air as she whipped the pole around, jerking it from side to side as the fish flew into a whirlwind of movement until Elestra finally allowed it to land into her open hand. By then, the furious swinging had resulted in the fish lying there, dead, leaving Elestra with a proud smirk, slipping a knife out from her pocket and skinning the fish then and there, cutting out a fillet of scales that she tossed back into the water before taking a bite of the pearly white meat.
"Almost too good at," she mused, turning up toward Cayssarin with curious eyes, holding the fish out toward her, presenting the raw bite she'd taken, "Want some?"
"N-No…" Cayssarin answered, her stomach aswirl at the sight of the uncooked meat, "Thank you though."
With a quick shrug, Elestra took another bite, returning with her mouth full, "Suit yourself. Nothing like Teldrassil fish; they taste so pure up here; so clean. Anyway, where were we?"
"The, uh, survivalist instinct," Cayssarin managed behind a queasy voice.
"Ah, yes," Elestra retorted happily, "You specialize in reconnaissance; surely you must depend on the earth to keep sustained."
Cayssarin lifted a hand, rubbing it down her arm, "I often don't. When I do all that, I don't really eat either."
"Shit, girl!" Elestra shouted, forcing a blush from Cayssarin at such language being spoken aloud here in Darnassus, "You really are pretty hardcore, you know?"
Blushing even more furiously, Cayssarin shook her head despite her words, "O-Oh. Th-Thanks…"
Elestra finished up what she could of the fish, tossing its bones and further remains back into the still river to be scavenged by the other water creatures, sliding her hands down her breeches with a satisfied, "Ahh, that hit the spot. You oughta try it sometime."
Cayssarin noted that her warrior's cadence grew absent while she discussed such things, probably in retroaction to her years in Feralas. Cayssarin knew that, for how much of a hard-ass Shandris was known for being, once you earned the loyalty that brought you a post at Feathermoon, she was as much a sister as anybody else, perhaps leading to looser language than might be expected elsewhere, particularly Darnassus. Even now, Cayssarin was just beginning to notice just how ragged this one's armor appeared; she looked positively feral beneath the subtle plating of iron, frayed and tattered edges of cloth peeking out every which way.
As if catching on to being examined, Elestra turned to the side warily, crossing her arms across her bare stomach to guard herself from Cayssarin's eyes, "Hey now, I know what they say about us down in Feralas, but still."
"N-No! That's not it at all," Cayssarin fired back nervously, "Honestly, I was just looking at your armor."
Elestra groaned, surrendering her arms to her sides, "Well, no need to stare. Shandris is intensely loyal, even to her armor. She'd rather take a plate of armor that has guarded her for a century before even thinking about taking some newly constructed thing. She encourages us to do the same, and-"
She patted the plate armor that surrounded her chest, "-Bucky here has kept my heart free from bolts and iron arrowheads, furbolg claws, bear teeth- pretty much anything I could come across in Feralas. I wouldn't throw him to the curb for plated gold to lay upon my chest. He's been as loyal to me as I to him- you see these divots? I'll spend a solid hour working dirt out'a them, and Bucky rewards me all the same."
"Bucky?" Cayssarin inquired innocently.
"Well, you've got to name stuff you've had for a handful of centuries, don't you?" Elestra questioned easily, thinking nothing of it.
Cayssarin frowned, "I mean, I caught that, but 'Bucky'?"
"Oh, that," Elestra spoke with a low voice, averting her eyes as a nervous grin crossed her face, "There was a band of gnomes who were passing by to the south 'n one of 'em was named- you know what, never mind, forget I said anything; nobody names their armor. That's just stupid."
Cayssarin hid a chuckle behind a genuine sort of smile as she watched a blush come across Elestra's face, the more feral of the two suddenly frowning as she sought an escape in conversation, "Look, you've, uh- you have to tell me something embarrassing now to settle the score."
"I beg your pardon?" Cayssarin asked incredulously, "I wasn't the one who muttered the name of some random gnome."
"If we're going to be associates, we need to be on equal footing. I don't need this hanging over my head if you decide to blackmail me or something," Elestra explained with a tad of desperation in her voice.
Cayssarin sighed, dropping her shoulders, "Despite how evil that makes me sound, I suppose I do have some obligation to a future Sister. Look, I do have something- You seem friendly enough, I suppose."
Looking on expectantly, Elestra watched as Cayssarin bent down to the ground, slipping her rucksack from her shoulder and dropping it onto the ground before, rummaging around through it before sighing once again, pulling out a feathered pin, her Alah'ni, a pendant given to the youngest of the young initiates of the Sentinels- their new 'lifestyle greeting', were it to be roughly translated. Normally, they were to be incinerated after initiation to symbolize the Sentinel's acceptance of the life of the Sisters of Elune, explaining the blush upon Cayssarin's face as she carefully showed it to Elestra.
"It was the first thing that ever bore my name," she muttered, quietly, "For an orphan such as me, I don't know; it meant a great deal to me. This thing gave me more than this life- it gave me reason to have been born, it gave me a family, an allegiance to my Sisters; I just couldn't bear to send it to the pure…"
Elestra shrugged, "That's it? Come on, I meant something actually embarrassing."
"This is," Cayssarin insisted with a frown, stuffing the Alah'ni back into her pack, "Especially now; I've been summoned for a task by Tyrande Whisperwind, the Chosen of the Moon, yet I'm still clinging on to something I should have outgrown a century ago! What would it say about me and my abilities if I weren't able to separate duty from the nostalgic?"
Elestra curled her lips unapprovingly, "I can see if you were holding onto a lover that perpetually broke your heart, or something that took up the whole of your ruck sack; that's just a tiny thing, who cares if you find a crevice in there to store it? It doesn't bother me in the slight- Well, it's depriving me of something legitimately embarrassing from you, but hey, if it were to bother you enough should it come to light, I guess it's met my purpose."
Frowning as she collected her pack, slinging it over her shoulder once again, Cayssarin arose to find Elestra having turned to peer over her shoulder, her body trembling with silent laughter as she reached a hand behind her, waving to get Cayssarin's attention as her humored voice broke, "Hey, check it out. You think she's accompanying us as well?"
Cayssarin looked over toward the massive marbleline bridge she herself had strode upon as she entered the city, catching the unmistakeable image of a night elf woman nearly buried in the thick armor of pelt and leather straps, even her legs covered by giant boots and heavy leggings that layered like the feathers of a bird, on the whole appearing so much out of place within Darnassus. Elestra chuckled, shaking her head in dismay.
"I bet she's from Wintergrasp; check out that thick coat," she explained lightly, "I know there was to be a Sentinel from Starfall Village who was to join us."
Curiously, Cayssarin asked, "Is now the time to get more specific about our future Sisters?"
Elestra shrugged, "From what I could gather, mostly on the ears of Shandris herself, we're sort of a hodgepodge of Sentinels from every which way. You know, you being from Ashenvale, me from Feralas, somebody from Wintergrasp. Apparently, there's yet another from Felwood of all places, and then one from here upon Teldrassil- a total of five in our company, should things remain the same."
She stroked her chin curiously, "And yet, even she couldn't get word on what it was we were to be doing… It must be an enticing little deal; were you not also instructed to tell no one of these summons?"
"Only that I was needed in Darnassus. The writing of Tyrande ensured that my superiors would not question my words," Cayssarin answered simply, "Even so, my summons gave nothing in the way of what our assignment would be. Knowing she's called such a diverse group of Sentinels, it worries me slightly."
Elestra gave a triumphant pump of her arm, her hand clenched into a fist as she smirked, "Hopefully we're all to be needed and we're not being weeded out or anything. Group assignments are the best, huh?"
Her gut squirming with introversion runneth over, Cayssarin turned to hide her disagreement, "I mean…"
"Eh, that's probably bad for somebody with your talents," Elestra confirmed to herself, giving Cayssarin a reason to sigh in relief, "Still, I assure you, Sister; were we to partake in such an assignment. I'd be sure to make the entire experience a joy."
Cayssarin's gut sank once more.
"Anyway, if the others are showing up, I suppose we should be heading over toward the Temple of the Moon, wouldn't you say?" Elestra suggested, giving Cayssarin a knowing smirk, "You weren't lost when I showed up, we're you?"
"W-What?! No!" Cayssarin insisted.
"'Cause you had that look, you know, that lost people have," Elestra smirked teasingly, grabbing ahold of her compatriot's shoulder and directing her as the two of them walked along the marble bridge that crossed the shallow straits of Darnassus, "Don't worry, I know where we're headed. Hey, if we hurry, we can catch up to that snow girl."
Cayssarin's head whipped to the side, "Uh, how about no? Let's just not be a bother, okay?"
"Nonsense; she took the same vows we did; she's a Sister!" Elestra chided before raising her voice, "Hey! Sister! You with the pelt!"
For a city as solitudinous as Darnassus, the outburst of the Feralas-borne woman caused quite the rukus, and citizens left and right turned around to figure out who'd been called, inevitably resting their eyes on the one of them dressed to the brim with winter garb, the Sister almost wearing Wintergrasp upon her body. She froze in place suddenly, feeling the weight of eyes upon her now-trembling shoulders before she slowly reached up both hands, grasping her hood and sliding it overtop her head, speeding off in a quickening pack through the crowd, disappearing soon after.
Now miffed, Elestra curled her lips unhappily, throwing her arm across her body with a snap of her fingers, upset at her target having escaped, "Darn it. Oh well; maybe she isn't a member of our troupe after all? Even Shandris wasn't a hundred percent sure. Huh; anyway, the Temple of the Moon is just over there, you see?"
Cayssarin had already constructed a few heated words for Elestra, sympathizing with the quiet Sentinel her superior had unwittingly harangued. She'd spent much time preferring to be seated outside of the attention of crowds back home in Astranaar, knowing such critiquing gazes to be downright distressing on her worst days. Still, Elestra was not only a superior, and a rather glib one at that, but she was a Feathermoon, and that post carried far more weight with it than perhaps anything Cayssarin could have even conjured up in the way of ranks or promotions. It came to her how unsurprised she would be were it to come about that Elestra was the leader of this entire assignment.
At that, Cayssarin remained weakly quiet, simply going along with the flow as Elestra goaded her forward toward the Temple of the Moon, unsure of what to expect if Elestra, alone, were involved. Who else might be awaiting the two? Could they turn out to be as brash as this one?
As the quietest among any of her brigades, Cayssarin prepared herself for the unexpected.
Tyrande Whisperwind stood beside the grand fountain that lay just a few paces within the Temple of the Moon, keeping her eyes cast along the ghostly surface of the water within, allowing a single hand to reach out just above its still waters, the spiritous flicker of cool breaths emanating from atop the liquid trailing in circles around her fingers. Such things often entertained her somewhat, what with some childish enjoyment, something lost long ago, though at this moment, her mind was preoccupied, leaving her attention distant, somewhere outside this realm of reality.
One of her attendants, Wanelle Windthorn, noticed her distraction, a curiously wary glance of her own cast upon her teacher as she silently contemplated Tyrande's thoughts. She'd been rather quiet for the last handful of weeks, which was severely out of character for the woman, particularly since becoming the de facto ruler of the Kaldorei- since then, she was all but forced to become far more extrocentric than she might have been otherwise, particularly due to Fandral Staghelm's wanton claims to the position she held. Wanelle lifted a hand to absently scratch her cheek, too lost in thought to notice Tyrande's mischievous smirk immediately after doing so.
"What ails you, Wanelle?" Tyrande asked quietly, turning to her attendant with a knowing smile.
"Wha-? I- I was- My lady?" Wanelle attempted to reply in a burst of nerves, leading to a charmed sort of quiet chuckle from Tyrande.
She spoke up in reply, "You never allow yourself to move a muscle unless in my service."
Horrified, Wanelle was unable to resist a sudden flinching of her body, "Wh- I did something?!"
Tyrande could only smirk, concealing a more faint chuckle.
The High Priestess held her hands together in front of her body, lowering her head with a cold breath leaving her nostrils, a distant narrowing of her eyes indicating the difficulty she found in speaking, "You'll find out soon enough, my attendant. I did not overlook your own participation in my plans. You've been loyal and good to me, Wanelle, and I only hope I've done to same toward you."
"Oh, by the goddess, of course you have!" Wanelle exclaimed with surprise at having been asked such a simple question, "My Lady, you've done nothing but promote the best of my talents while simultaneously extracting the worst of my faults! I-I'd be nowhere without-!"
Tyrande rose up a hand to quiet the attendant, smiling plainly, "Heavens, child, one shan't handle the praise you continue to offer! I did not mean to ask, expecting such a reply; I ask because-…"
Her voice trailed off, leaving Wanelle noticeably confused, as though still unsure as to whether or not she'd done something wrong, though Tyrande continued soon enough, a soft face meeting her attendant's alongside a gentle voice, "I know you enjoy your place as one Priestess at my side, however-"
Tyrande's lips curled, "It is quite the honor, I suppose, being the only one who has a choice when it comes to the assignment I had summons sent out for."
Wanelle's eyes darkened, "This is-… That assignment has kept you in such low spirits?"
"Well," Tyrande answered easily, "It's a bit more than-"
"Then let me go!" Wanelle shouted loud, her low voice booming and echoing throughout the Temple, earning the ruinous glances of some of the more proper attendants, before the Priestess dropped to her knee, "Allow me the privilege to quell your mind of these concerns, my Lady!"
Tyrande laughed gayly, amused in that same childish way from moments earlier by the woman's naïve zeal, "My dear attendant, I have even told you what this assignment is for!"
"I care not," Wanelle answered with a glacial tone to her words, "Upon my entry into the Priestesses of Elune, I swore my life to defend the lives of my Sisters, and more than anything, the life and soul of our High Priestess. My life comes secondary to the lives of you and my Sisters."
"By the goddess, Wanelle, you'd think I was asking you to pierce your chest!" Tyrande replied amusedly, crossing her arms beneath a smile, "I assure you, this assignment- this…thing that has preoccupied the whole of my mind, it's nothing so- Look, we are to meet the Sentinels I've selected in just a short time; you'll sit in on the briefing at my side, and after all is said and done, you'll be given the choice to accompany them. You're one of my most loyal and trusted emissaries in Darnassus; I wouldn't mind having my own eyes and ears accompanying this…expedition."
Wanelle nodded obediently, turning to catch the figure of the Sentinel entering the Temple, one clad in heavy, snowbound garb, the attendant speaking up quietly to her Lady, "There appears to be a newcomer."
"Then they must be arriving," Tyrande replied, nodding approvingly as she fixed her priestesses gown to appear more presentable, "Come Wanelle. We'll greet her and, soon enough, whomever may follow under the same summ-"
"Well I'll be!" came quite the raucous voice, echoing throughout the Temple, catching not only Tyrande and Wanelle's attention, but the whole of the Temple's patrons as well, curious glances escaping down toward the entrance where Elestra held her face aghast at the sight before her, "Look at this thing! You could fit the moons of Draenor in here!"
Tyrande smirked at her exuberance, betraying the offended flares of most of the other attendants, even Wanelle, though Tyrande always admired such spirited attitudes. Wanelle frowned at the loudness of the newcomer as she and her Lady stride down toward the ground floor, where the snowbound Sentinel coldly turned over her shoulder back toward Elestra.
"Please," she muttered coldly, offering nothing but insinuation beyond that.
Elestra eyes her with a curious glance, "Come on; have you seen this place? It's fantastic! Nothing like what the ruins of the Dire Maul can offer, huh, Cays?"
"Cays?" Cayssarin muttered nervously at such a truncation of her name, "I- don't really…"
"Eh, that's right, you haven't been to Feralas. What about you?" Elestra asked of the snowbound woman, "You don't seem dressed like you've been down south."
The woman reached her head back over her shoulder, accompanied by a quietous finger atop her lips in an attempt to silence Elestra, though it only gave a scowl in reply as Elestra frowned, "Hey, chickie, you have a-?"
"Quiet," the woman interrupted.
Elestra was about to return to her boisterous voice, though Cayssarin quickly grasped her wrist, pulling her back in an attempt to rein her in, leaving Elestra fuming as she turned toward her new companion, complaining quietly, "Hey, you heard how she-!"
"Such energy!" came the gently soft voice of an amused Tyrande, rounding the bottom of the great ramp that whirled up the height of the Temple, a small grin stretching across her face as she examined Elestra, "I see Shandris has kept her penchant for anything apart from formality? I knew some ideas would perpetually remain foreign to her."
At being addressed by not only the High Priestess, but the adoptive mother of her commander, Elestra suddenly tore a furious blush across her face, her eyes wide in surprise as she pointed toward the snowbound Sentinel, "Sh- She-…"
"She started it?" Tyrande asked with a twinge of sarcasm, "My dear, the only activities that Unysa starts, she ends, usually at the edge of a blade. You'd do well not to imply she start anything."
Unysa gave Elestra another glare over her shoulder, the curling of her eyes signaling a hidden smirk, which only infuriated Elestra further, though she remained calm beneath the stare of Tyrande. With wandering eyes, Tyrande smiled as she met the gaze of Cayssarin, who felt a pang of nerves despite such a calming aura, not particularly certain how to address such a high-ranking individual.
Tyrande only nodded, as though already recognizing Cayssarin's hesitance, moving on to Unysa with a critiquing eye, "Unysa Farsong. You should count yourself lucky that your reputation precedes an audience with the High Priestess, otherwise you might have already been engaged in battle, with a Sister of Feathermoon, no less."
"My frostsaber cubs have more fearsome growls than she, My Lady, I assure you," Unysa spoke up, earning her an angry sneer from Elestra.
Tyrande smiled, "Would it change your words were I to tell you that you two were summoned for the same assignment?"
At that, Elestra's eyes popped wide, "What?!"
"Not at all," Unysa answered, "I've reined in insubordinate Sentinels before."
Cayssarin could almost physically feel the angered heat emitting from Elestra as the Feathermoon soldier grit her teeth in hushed fury. Tyrande must have noticed the attitude, since she quickly strode back before the three Sentinels, stretching out a hand in pause, commanding the whole of their attention.
"Now, you three make up the subordinate segment of those whom I've summoned, so don't allow your tempers to overcome you. I assure you, far less gentle hands than mine will be at all three of your reins."
Elestra spoke up, "My Lady, my curiosity begs me to ask, why have we been summoned here? Obviously it's to be part of a group, among some undesirable personalities, but what exactly is being asked of us?"
Instructively, Tyrande raised a hand, "I assure you, once the last two of you have assemble- Ah, here they are."
The three of them, along with Wanelle, turned to find a hard-faced Sentinel walking into the Temple, tugging a strap over her shoulder that held a rugged backpack behind her, forcing their eyes to trail up toward her coarse face, bearing an eye patch covering her left eye. At her side another emotionless face that wore deep eyes, already trained onto the three Sentinels already standing before Tyrande.
"Sisters, to the right is Tyriel Dawnrunner. To her side, your leader on this assignment: Lithea Autumnmane," Tyrande introduced, allowing the two groups to size one another up as the two newcomers came closer, "Tyriel is one of our most impressive Sentinels here upon Teldrassil, while Lithea has spent most of an illustrious career down in the dark forests of Felwood, she has also spent considerable time studying all that may be demonic."
Cayssarin felt a shudder run down her spine. Why would Tyrande explicitly tout such credentials?
Elestra didn't seem to catch the same subtle detail as Cayssarin, instead pounding a fist into an open palm and boasting, "Ah, I've heard tell of how strenuous such a post as Felwood is to manage. Jaedenar, particularly, has a nasty reputation that even spans far enough south for my ears."
This only caused Lithea to shoot a vicious sort of stare toward Elestra, who instantly took herself aback at such a silent reply, crossing her arms as she leaned toward Cayssarin with a quiet voice of her own, grumbling, "What a buzzkill."
Cayssarin took a meager enough step away from Elestra, hoping to not gain any negative attention from the newcomer. She did notice Tyriel's gait was rather strained, even archaic in some fashion, carrying her shoulders in the same regal way of the oldest of elders, though she was definitely not as old as that. Her eyes also seemed tacked on to whomever she was focused on, not breaking that focus even to flash a glance elsewhere for a single moment. These two, Cayssarin could tell, were already the sort of hard women she enjoyed being apart from during her recon assignments.
Tyrande's voice broke the Sentinels' wayward attentions as she stepped into the ring that their bodies had formed, reaching her arms behind her back, clutching her wrist while her eyes dipped low, "Form up, please."
At that, Lithea and Tyriel strode over toward Elestra, Unysa, and Cayssarin, forming a line of five women, until Wanelle also made her way over from behind Tyrande, earning the High Priestesses' stubborn glare only after she'd formed up herself, making the line of six women.
"Wanelle…" Tyrande muttered, as though attempting to remind her attendant to wait.
Against her wishes, Wanelle remained where she stood, albeit with averted eyes to avoid her Lady's accusing glance. At that, Tyrande merely released a sigh, shaking her head as she turned to face the six Sentinels, preparing herself, silently, for what she was about to say. Cayssarin turned her head just far enough to examine the women along either side of her, taking a curious glance toward the newest of them, Wanelle, unable to figure out what had just-
"Sentinels," Tyrande began, biting her lips as she turned her head up to face them, "For the previous four months or so, we've been receiving reports of Kaldorei along the whole of Kalimdor being killed, most often in the dead of night. Not merely murdered, but hunted, maimed…cruelly; sometimes torn to shreds, with nary a defensive wound on any victim. We've only had scant reports from eyewitnesses, though across the continent, the reports remain consistent."
She visibly appeared shaken to an extent, leaving Wanelle's eyes to bend sadly at the sight, though unable to assist her High Priestess while among the summoned group of Sentinels, all of whom remained at attention as Tyrande continued, "They speak of bat-like beings, like demons out of the tales of the wars fought against the Burning Legion. They all say that they see sick, twisted forms of night elves hunting our people down, as though having succumbed to the greatest of evils our world has been witness to itself."
Cayssarin's mind churned. That's why she'd mentioned Lithea's credentials; they'd been assembled to hunt down these fiends, track them down, kill them, in the name of-
"So, what, are we supposed to go out and kill them?" Elestra suddenly spoke up with a snarl, slamming a fist into an open palm, "Such cowardice to not only attack beneath the veil of night, but to take the persona of our own Kaldorei?! Such despicable actions cannot stand!"
Tyrande's lips curled downward into a frown, "My Sister, these are not demons underneath a façade…"
Elestra's lungs pulled back into a silent gasp, leaving Lithea to mutter under her breath, "Demons operate under the authority of pit lords; rarely do they act in squadrons, and even more seldom do they operate as hit-and-run groups."
"Then what are these monstrosities?" came Unysa's voice, unwavered by the news she'd just uncovered.
A cold breath left Tyrande's lips as she felt her mind curling into listless regret, thinking back to those days, such childish times, now so long ago. When it was just the three of them…
"Illidan," she suddenly spoke up, almost in admittance, "The Great Betrayer, as he's now known. Having already betrayed our people, during the Third War, he betrayed his very soul, consuming the fel energy that would turn him into the monster I was forced to witness upon the Broken Isles. I fear, greatly, that-"
She paused, mulling over her words, as though knowing them to be bordering on a curse upon her very people, the Kaldorei, "…I fear he may have taken more into his ilk. Crossing wayward night elves, and taking them into a snare that I dare not imagine, turning them into the very same demon that he, himself, has become."
Cayssarin's heart skipped a beat, "W-We're to…"
"No," Tyrande shook her head, "You are not to kill them. I wouldn't dare order the deaths of our own people, especially without understanding everything to be known. I want you all to track them down. I want you all to study them, understand that which we do not know. Learn their ways, so that we may have an…understanding, should they decide to continue murdering our people in cold blood."
She reached a hand up to her chest, "I only pray that they're not related to the Betrayer. that these are nothing more than random killings of a devilish cult somewhere. All we know is the connection to demonic energy; Lithea, herself, recognized the marks when one of her own perished within the sickly forests of Felwood."
"Correct," Lithea nodded, turning toward the others, her single exposed eye squinting into a serious expression, "These are not beings that will toy with you. They will kill you if offer the slightest chance."
Cayssarin winced, only barely.
Tyrande smiled, "Which is why I've brought together the perfect candidates for such a task. Tyriel!"
The group turned toward Tyriel, who instantly burst forth from their line, dropping to a knee before Tyrande and bowing her head low, steadying herself with a fist atop the cool stone beneath, leaving the High Priestess to explain with a grin, "She doesn't look it, but Tyriel here is the oldest among you. Blessed by the same energies that gave Teldrassil its current state, she became an invaluable asset to us in the way of the Shadowleaves, an elite squad of Sentinels, led by Shandris herself, who put their lives aside for the good of the Kaldorei. Having her here is to bring the name of Shadowleaves back to the fore and out from its sequestration."
She eyed the group of women behind the reverent lady at her feet, "I assume I don't have to ask if any of your loyalties are not to this mission?"
Lithea spoke up, coolly, "My Lady, you don't even need to-"
"Hell no you don't!" Elestra shouted eagerly, smirking with a vigorous wave of her hand, leaving a critical glance upon her from Lithea, "We'll do your bidding, and do it better than any other group could have ever hoped!"
Tyrande gave a knowing grin, "It is often said that studying under Shandris, you become a great deal like her. I see that it is certainly true of you, Stormoak. That spirit shall aid you all if the going grows it's darkest."
The High Priestess bent low to take hold of Tyriel's shoulder, pulling her back to her feet, "Tyriel, I trust you don't mind being subservient to Lithea's expertise in this matter?"
"Not at all, my Lady. We spoke on the way here; she's demonstrated nothing less than an innate ability to lead," Tyriel assured, before shrugging, "I wasn't one to lead, anyway; I've long been much better as a follower."
"Excellent," Tyrande nodded, "Tyriel's rigid tactical knowledge should be of great aid to these new Shadowleaves. Lithea's knowledge of the demonic, Unysa's keen eye for combative measures- she'll be quite astute in learning how they fight and perform in battle. Elestra, Shandris herself recommended you for your willingness to do whatever it takes to survive in any number of situations which may very well arise. Wanelle, while unplanned, her abilities will still assist you all. She's an invaluable priestess, and should there ever be battles, she'll offer up whatever magic is necessary to aid you."
She turned to Cayssarin with a wry smile, "And the youngest among us. Cayssarin Amberstar, you hadn't a family, correct?"
"No, my Lady," Cayssarin assured quickly, a subtle, tinny echo escaping alongside her voice, "My Sisters are my family."
Tyrande nodded, "Then these women beside you may very well be a part of you, should you all need to become closer than family to overcome such a perilous ordeal."
She turned to the others, "Cayssarin's immense talent toward the art of shadowmelding should be of great use to you. Don't be afraid to require her to use that talent to the utmost ability. You are a rather guarded individual; don't be afraid to get close to these fiends if only to understand them further."
"Not too close," Cayssarin nodded in reply, earning a smirk from the High Priestess.
Tyrande crossed her arms authoritatively, shutting her eyes behind solemn words, "On that note, a word of warning. You are meant to trail and understand whomever is behind these heinous acts. Do not become the very evil you are meant to keep in check. Understood? Should that happen, I fear the might of Elune herself shan't bring you back into the light."
The Shadowleaves nodded, with a few of them agreeing in the affirmative vocally.
"You are to refer to one another by your last names only," Tyrande stipulated, "There's tremendous power in a name, and if these are Kaldorei, they'll understand that. You all are to remain as disconnected as possible from these beings. Tyriel will ensure you all remain as professional and unemotional as possible, lest you fall victim to those whom our own brothers and sisters have succumbed."
"And should it come to blows," Tyrande concluded, her voice collapsing into a regretful depth, "You are to use the very strength of Elune herself to ensure that you, and not these monsters, are allowed to continue walking this world."