It was just another day at the tavern near the sea. Owls could be heard hooting from their skyward posts, their fledglings calling out in hunger. The late downpour’s passing meant that all crustaceans would soon skitter back into their ocean refuge for another routinely laze; and afterwards, to rummage for edible treasures deep below. Even the elven merchants were performing their rituals—one by one, tailors and leatherworkers alike filed into the main port of their town, readying their wares for the nighttime sales.
This was the place a certain night elf priestess had come to love—not solely for its quaintness, but also for its comfort and familiarity. Here, she helped mother and daughter alike set up shop or tend to their families. When not lugging around carts of noir, she could be found assailing the fevers that so often struck young kaldorei inhabiting the gloomy coast that was Darkshore.
In spite of the dreariness others had regarded it with, Vael’doreth loved Auberdine. Rows upon rows of stars littered the hills beyond the shoreline murk, each a small, window-lit home belonging to a friend, and trees as tall as canyons gave the inhabitants little to worry about in the ways of aerial hostilities. Although the Priestess of the Moon had gone through her own tribulations with the people of the town, she held many of them close to her heart.
The sun was setting rapidly upon the horizon, and the hushed bustle of the tradesmen drifted along the eastbound winds, carrying the priestess’s father’s voice along with it.
“Vael’doreth, the nectar—we are running low.”
“Oh?” She had been resting her arms upon a wooden countertop. “Dusk has only just fallen, an’da
“Yes, but I am afraid your mother forgot to restock last moon.” He sighed.
She nodded. “I shall look for the sweet-blossoms, then; do not worry. Where is min’da
“She is with Nightsong at the docks.”
“Ah. Alright, I shall go now.”
“Vael’doreth, be careful. You know of the bears in the woods.”
“I will bring with me Actaeon, an’da
.” Exiting the tavern, Vael’doreth went looking for both the nectar and the hippogryph, who was just as likely to be found sleeping atop his favorite perch as he was to be found hunting for fruit in the forest. She began to climb up the slope that led to the wilds and, just as she had hoped, Vael’doreth spotted the great stag-bird snoozing high up upon a tree. Swooping down after the call of his name, Actaeon agreed to accompany Vael’doreth only after she had rubbed his antlers the right way.
“Actaeon, let us search for sweet-blossoms. They carry yellow petals with violet hues, and have a fragrant aroma. I know you have fed upon them befo-”
An ear-piercing roar rent the air. The sky was suddenly ablaze with all shades of red and orange, as if the night had begun to bleed out in all directions. The priestess could hear screams being bellowed by her fellow Sister, Irlara Morninglight.
Vael’doreth burst back down the slope towards Auberdine. She fell over a cart, getting herself up only against the will of the earth-shaking tremors. Kaldorei were rushing past her at great velocities—all of the faces were familiar, but never had the priestess seen any of them in such terror. After cutting through to reach the interior of the Last Haven Tavern, Vael’doreth’s eyes fell upon the only thing that she could focus on in the room.
Her father, Taldan, lay spread-eagled against the cold, stone floor. Rocks from the masonry were falling apart and tumbling down the walls. One of them crushed Taldan beneath it. Eyes strung open in shock, Vael’doreth hurried to the body to clear the falling stones from it. Pushing the rocks from her father’s back, she hurled her staff into the air.
“M-mother Moon, I plead for your strength
The airborne staff split in two halves, and from the epicenter of the shattering burst what appeared to be rays of moonlight. The energy circled Vael’doreth—who was huddled over her father—and encompassed the two with a shield.
, you—you will not be harmed….”
Among the screams and voices filling Vael’doreth’s ears, the one that came to her from beyond the tavern foyer was most discernible.
Chills ran up the length of her spine. Vael’doreth crawled towards the docks, thoughts scattered and shaken. Her mother—accompanied by another night elf—was sprinting towards her in utmost dread. Before Vael’doreth could set towards her loved one in return, a great, black shadow engulfed the two kaldorei, trailed by a sea of flames. The bridge crashed and splintered down into the port-side waters.
Vael’doreth bounded backwards from the display, pulled away from the crumbling docks by something that was an elf one moment and a large, towering crow the next. She struggled to wriggle free of its talons—choking from the accumulation of soot in her throat—and watched as Actaeon pecked at her snatcher to no avail.
“SET ME DOWN!” She bit down on the sinewy talons with her sharp fangs—but the crow only proceeded to advance through the night sky, storming the horizon that was now ablaze with fire and fright. “MY PARENTS—TALDAN, ALLYNDIA—THEY ARE BACK THERE!—MORNINGLIGHT, NIGHTSONG, DEWGRASS—RELEASE ME, DRUID
Her orders went unheeded. The druid continued on his trek, the world falling apart around them. Mountains shifted and cracked in torment until they were out of sight; Vael’doreth pushed and pulled along the way—at long last, the two kaldorei alighted at a mountain peak in Ashenvale. The massive crow’s feathers receded into patches of skin that once again took shape to reveal the form of a familiar male night elf.
“We must not return,” he said resolutely. “That burning shadow in the sky—it was a dragon, one like I have never seen.”
“Obscuro, it is you
—Actaeon, we have abandoned them!—Arynda Dawnshine, she was running—they—”
“Peace, Vael’doreth! It would do you well not to panic during this time of pain. All that we can do now is pray for Elune to be at our backs.”
Tideraiser moved her head to stare directly at the druid, blood trickling down her countenance.
you suggest there is no hope for the others?! We shall return to Auberdine at once! Why did you—”
The druid lay forth his palms, inviting a gentle breeze. Even with the night crying out in supplication, Vael’doreth could not resist the druid's spell. She slumped to the floor, victim to a profound lethargy.
And then the roosts in the sky fell quiet. Small track marks left by fleeing beasts eroded Darkshore’s coast—and now, an accretion of lifeless kaldorei lay sprawled here and there; everywhere that one looked, only to be accompanied by the ruins of what had been a humble and unassuming town mere moments before.