((NB: This story takes place during the Midsummer Festival, a few days after the Outriders return to Thunder Bluff in the 4th War thread Temporary Heroes))
I knew something was wrong when Domme’s Midsummer care package never arrived.
Midsummer is the closest thing to a religious holiday for sin’dorei. No, scratch that – it is a religious holiday for sin’dorei. We ask the Sun’s blessing, call on it, swear by it, curse by it. We may not have a religion per se based on it – no prayers, no priests, no temples -- but it’s the one sacred thing recognized by us all, even before the Light in many cases. (Blood knights, I’m looking at you.)
So Midsummer is rather a big deal. Oh, of course, there’s the celebrations common among Horde and Alliance alike. But we sin’dorei have other customs. Well dressings, dances, meditations at dawn and noon, bonfires at dusk, troll-stalking war parties, Scourge-hunting forays, nobles’ masquerades and less bloodthirsty parties that take up whole neighborhoods. Commoners and nobles alike go all out, and the merchant shops and stalls are overflowing with costumes, toys, spangles, candies, baked goods, decorations, minor magical doodads and whatnots in honor of Midsummer. I haven’t been home for a full Midsummer in years, and somewhere along the way Domme fell into the habit of sending me the best of the doodads, eatables and whatnot in a single, gold-and-ruby-papered package. A running joke, one appreciated by me. Those boxes found their way to Kalimdor, Outland and Northend without fail.
This year, nothing.
She’s busy, I thought. Noting to worry about. That lasted only a few days. until Naunet returned from her little – um – extended visit with the city’s guards. The story of the riot that filled the cells to overflowing and inadvertently led to our good captain’s release pushed me from puzzled to worried. Granted, our family’s shop wasn’t in the Bazaar, but riots, like so many things, don’t recognize boundaries. So I approached Kiraleen about taking a brief leave of absence.
I had my arguments lined up. Concern about my family, of course. Picking up any rumors about her putative dalliance with the Regent Lord. Checking up on her own staff, too. But the Field Marshal, perhaps preoccupied with settling in our guest, merely nodded and offered the service of a portal.
I accepted gladly, and within minutes I was in Silvermoon.
I always feel a sense of rightness when returning to Silvermoon. I was born and raised here, and no matter how bad things got -- and at times they were very bad indeed, even before Arthas and the Scourge -- I always felt more alive, more connected to the world inside its walls. I've heard some claim Dalaran or Shattrath or even Orgrimmar as 'their' city. Silvermoon was my city. Regardless of where I lived, it was my home.
No aftermath of the riot marred the Court of the Sun’s festivity, or the Exchange’s hustle and bustle. Perhaps it hadn’t been as bad as Naunet had heard. Or perhaps the magisters had gone above and beyond to tidy it up. I made my way to our family’s shop without incident.
Domme was at the counter, waiting on a customer when I walked in. She looked up as the bells over the door chimed. I smiled in relief to see at least one family member alive and well. She didn’t smile back. This must have been the last in a long string of customers, I decided.
I hung off to one side, watching Domme measure and weigh a half-dozen different candies. She had hairsticks with tiny, faintly glowing suns holding her dark brown hair in a bun; she’d let it grow out. The store itself was decorated for the holiday: more glowing suns, garlands of summer flowers along the street display and upper walls, free samples in fancy bowls set on the counter. Next to them was a tray with pastries. Freshly made, because I could smell them. Apple and almond tarts dusted with powdered sugar , our mother’s own recipe. Serve them with ice cream and they’re to kill for. She didn’t make them often.
One of my favorite weaknesses. Domme knew that. Why hadn’t she sent me a few?
“Complimentary of Heartjoy’s,” she said, handing the customer one along with her purchases . The woman left, munching happily.
“Like the new hairstyle, sis,” I said lightly, stepping forward. I set my elbow on the steadiest part of the counter and propped my chin on my hand. “Happy Midsummer.”
Domme looked at me, opened the display case and began refilling the freebie bowls.
Well. Someone was in a mood. No sense in avoiding the troll.
“I heard about the riot,” I said. “Are the folks all right? No one was injured, nothing damaged?”
Domme peered at me mid-pour of the spiced sunjelies, then started on the next bowl.
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’. How are things otherwise?”
Domme topped off the wrapped chocolate nut clusters, pivoted on her heel and started for the back of the shop.
Something was very wrong. I did the unthinkable in our family and vaulted over the counter. “Domme, wait.”
She quickened her pace. I have longer legs, and I’m faster. I caught up with her in three rushing strides and grabbed her arm. “Domme! “
She shrugged out of my hold. This close, I could read the tension in her posture even more clearly. “Talk to me. What’s going on?”
My sister stared at me for what seemed a very long moment indeed. “Meia, why are you here?”
Her voice was controlled. Too controlled. “I heard about the riot,” I repeated. “I wanted to make sure everything was all right.
“ And you didn’t send my Midsummer package,” I added lamely, wincing at the petulance even I could hear.
Domme snorted. “I’m sorry,” she said in her stiffest customer-is-always-right-even-if-they’re-stupid tone. “Help yourself. Good day.” She turned to leave. I grabbed her arm again.
“Damn it, Domme, what’s going on? Is there some kind of trouble –“
She slapped me.
I didn’t see it coming. Stunned, shocked, I could only stare. We’d fought as children do, but we’d never struck each other since our last adolescent row over some utterly forgettable male.
“How dare you?” Domme hissed. She was trembling. “How dare you come here, after you’ve lied to us – to me—for years?”
My face hurt. My ears were actually ringing. “Lie…?”
“You told us you’d joined a group that worked to better the Horde. But you joined them,” she spat. “The Outriders.”
“We are working for the betterment of the Horde,” I shot back. “You think constant war is a good thing? You think –“
“You’re working with [the Alliance!” Domme’s eyes blazed emerald fire. “You’ve made friends with the people who betrayed us and turned their backs on us when we needed them! You have parties together. You think people don’t talk?”
There’s a reason I’d been deliberately vague about my membership in the Outriders, and Domme’s attitude was it. “You’d rather we marched lockstep with Garrosh like everyone else? There are problems out there that can’t be solved by starting pointless wars! Deathwing, for one. The Legion’s still out there, and Light knows what else. ” Furious and hurt, I didn’t care to temper my words. ”There’s a bigger picture than stupid grudges and self-pity!”
“Garrosh can go fuck himself, and Thrall, too, “ Domme snarled. “If it wasn’t for the Alliance being two-faced backstabbers, we wouldn’t be lumped in with a bunch of two-legged animals who mock us and only want what magic we can give them. You might saunter around the world with your head up your ass about your bigger picture but the rest of us poor slobs have to deal with what’s here and what’s now.”
She folded her arms and glared at me. “You asked if there was trouble? Oh, just a bit! Magisters popping in to ‘pick up a few things’ who’ve never graced us with their presence before. More guards patrolling past the shop in the last week than we’ve had in years. The Light- damned Arm of Kalimdor sniffing around since that dent-skulled Captain of yours got tossed in jail. So, dear sister, thank you for dropping in personally. I’m sure that cow stuffing her face won’t waste any time rushing off to tell someone in charge somewhere she saw you. “
“Domme, there must be –“
“Stop it, Meia.” Suddenly my sister looked exhausted, as if she hadn’t slept in days. “I don’t want to hear anymore from you. I don’t want to see you. You’ve done enough. Just go.”
She turned and strode off into the kitchen.
I stood there,numb. After what seemed an eternity I opened the latched half-gate to the front of the shop, in time to see my mother emerge from the office.
We looked at each other. We’re much alike in terms of looks, my mother and I, with the same white hair and green eyes. Temperamentally, Domme is more like her. I braced myself for another tirade.
Instead, my mother came over and hugged me.
“It’s good to see you, snowflower.”
I burst into tears at her childhood pet-name for me. “I’m sorry – I didn’t know – didn’t stop to think –“
My mother stroked my hair. “It’s all right, Meia,” she said at last. We’ll manage. This isn’t the first time we’ve been in a political pickle-barrel. Your father and that nobleman, now, that was bad. But I think it may be best if you don’t visit for a time."
I met her eyes in disbelief. In hers I saw love, yes, but also wariness and fear. Fear I’d see through her brave words? Or fear of me, the further danger I could bring ? I wanted to ask. I wasn’t brave enough to hear the answer.
“Not even for the Hallow’s End rush?”
I tried to make the question a joke. I don’t think I succeeded. My mother’s expression momentarily grew more guarded. “We’ll see. We may not need you this year.”
I nodded, feeling as if the world had just plummeted away from beneath me, leaving me dangling midair, ungrounded.
“Take care of yourself, Meia.”
I left Heartjoy’s Confections. In a secluded and empty alcove between the Exchange and Farstrider’s Square, amid the flags and magical fires of Midsummer, I took out my guildstone. I studied it, turning it over.
Then I used it, to return to a city built by some of those Domme had disgraced by calling them two-legged animals, a people that had been most gracious in accepting a ragtag handful of misfits, political and otherwise.
A city –and a ragtag handful -- that would now have to be my home.