Year, King's Calendar: 592

Lady Rivendare watched her son as he sat alone in the rose garden, reading. "I'm worried about Titus," she said, at last, to her husband.

He didn't look up from his book, but adjusted his monocle and continued reading. "Why? He's growing into a proper gentleman. What's there to worry about?"

"Thomas, he's six! He shouldn't be a 'gentleman' yet! He's still a child; he should be playing with the other youngsters!"

Titus Rivendare – the boy who would grow up to be the dreaded Baron Rivendare of the Scourge – glanced over his shoulder for a brief moment and then went back to his book, pretending not to hear his parents, brushing his nearly-shoulder-length platinum blond hair out of his deep blue eyes and tucking it behind his ear. Deep down, he knew his mother was right; he wasn't a normal boy: intelligent and refined for his tender young age, and already developing the arrogance of the aristocracy.

"Marian, if you're so worried about him, perhaps you should talk to him. I think he's on the right path in life, but…" Thomas sounded slightly exasperated.

Titus again pretended not to hear. His parents argued like this from time to time. His father was proud of him, but his mother worried. He couldn't please both of them, so he'd long ago chosen to try to make his father happy. He heard his mother approaching, and tried to look deeply involved in his book. He was a very advanced reader for his age – another thing that troubled his mother. He didn't read "children's books". Granted, he wasn't devouring difficult adult books, either, but it was enough to set him apart from other children.

"Titus?" Marian asked, kneeling by her son.

He looked over at her. "Yes, mother?"

"Why don't you ever play with the other children?" she asked sadly, gently running her fingers through her son's hair.

"I don't want to play with the common kids," Titus answered flatly. On the surface – both to the world and to himself – he tried to pretend he was proud of being different, of being a noble. Deep down, he knew it wasn't true. Deep down, he was lonely.

Year: 593

"Marian, run! Take Titus and run! I'll hold them off!" Thomas shouted, brandishing his sword. The orcs roared. Lady Rivendare wept uncontrollably as she began to flee, leading her son by the wrist. He looked over his shoulder, confused and frightened.

"Father!"

"Titus, come!" his mother urged, forcing him along with her. He ran as fast as he could to keep up with her, fueled by his terror. A torch flew past them and an orc gave another battle shout. The torch slammed into a table and an inferno flared up almost immediately. The young noble started crying as he ran for his life from the strange, green-skinned monsters. He could hear his father struggling with them but Titus dared not look. He just ran and ran, with his mother leading him on. He could hardly see through the tears, and he could hear her crying too.

Only when they were far away did he look back over his shoulder. An orc's cry echoed from within the burning remains of the mansion that had been his home for seven years, and the image of the blazing manor seared itself in Titus Rivendare's mind forever.

Year: 600

Melanie Blaumeux eagerly awaited the return of her parents – and the arrival of her new baby brother – Aurius was the name her parents had decided on. The girl, just entering her teenage years, waited by the window, trying to see through the pouring rain, until she saw the glow of a lantern hanging from a carriage. The girl let out a small gasp and practically pressed her face against the glass. Yes, the carriage was coming to her home! Her mother and father and new brother! She rushed to the door. Thunder cracked loudly.

The door opened. Melanie's smile vanished in an instant. Her father, hood still over his eyes, stumbled in, no emotion in his face, cradling the baby in his arms.

"W-where's mother?" the firstborn Blaumeux whispered. Her father just shook his head sadly.

Year: 601

A man wearing a tabard bearing the symbol of a silver fist – a paladin of the relatively new Order of the Silver Hand – knelt by his young son, and put a hand on the boy's shoulder. "I'm proud of you, Zeliek."

The boy smiled at his father. He was only twelve, but he already knew he wanted nothing more than to be a paladin like his father. His heroic father, who fought the orcs and defended Azeroth from the enemies of the Holy Light. And now, he was going to be trained as a paladin. A small pang of sadness touched Zeliek's heart. "Dad? When will I see you again?"

The elder paladin was silent for a long time. "I don't know." He hesitated for a while, then said "You be a good boy – you always have been. Listen to the Thane and don't forget to keep your tabard clean." Zeliek's father patted the boy's head, then stood and tried to shake Korth'azz's hand – the dwarf paladin had to stand on the tips of his toes to reach the human's hand. Zeliek found it amusing that he would be trained by someone shorter than him – actually, the first person he'd ever met who was shorter than him – but he didn't protest. He had healthy respect for all paladins, including Thane Korth'azz.

Later That Year

When the new girl showed up, Zeliek was the first to greet her. She was about two years older than him, wearing dark clothes and hiding her striking blue eyes behind raven-black curls of hair. She was very pretty, but Zeliek didn't notice this. He never noticed if girls were pretty.

"Hey!" Zeliek offered a hand to shake, accompanied by a big grin. Melanie just looked at his hand for a few moments, then gave a half-hearted shake. "What's wrong?" the younger boy asked.

Melanie pulled her cloak around her and walked away. "It's none of your business."

"Hey, hey, hey, wait up!" Zeliek ran after her. "I don't even know your name, yet!"

The girl stopped and brushed her hair away from her eyes for a moment, examining the boy. His enthusiasm and friendliness was certainly a mood-lifter. "Melanie Blaumeux."

"I'm Zeliek," the boy said, grinning. He had ever-so-slightly buck teeth but he was adorable anyway. "Pleasure to meet you."