From the Shadow
Owls fluttered and cooed in the trees around her as Tyrande strolled through the gardens behind the Temple of the Moon. It was a cool spring night and Elunes face beamed a silvery glow over the marble walls of Darnassus.
Tyrande was attempting to let her temper cool before returning to her duties, having just spent an aggravating hour with the so-called Archdruid, Fandral Staghelm. As usual he was obstinate and condescending, and it took all her patience to deal with his sneering demeanor.
She stretched her arms above her head and sighed, turning her face into the blessed moonlight as she tried to regain her inner calm.
She dropped her arms and turned around to see who had spoken. It was a young night elf, an acolyte in the temple, judging by his greenish robes. Males were seldom interested in or accepted by the Order of Elune, but since that know-it-all idiot StaghelmTyrande again pushed back that negativitysince females had begun to train as druids it was becoming a more common occurrence.
As the newcomer approached through the shadows of the trees, Tyrande recognized him by his high ponytail and slightly down-turned nose. "Maeldan," she greeted warmly. "A lovely evening, isnt it?"
"Yes, Priestess. May I er, may I speak with you a moment?" The boy looked troubled. No, Tyrande reminded herself, no longer a boy. As difficult as it was to believe that so much time had passed, Maeldan was a man now, ready to face the rites of adulthood in mere weeks.
"Of course," she said, gesturing at a marble bench nearby. She sat, her white gown flowing over her legs like a silk waterfall. "What is on your mind, young one?"
Maeldan stood uncertainly, then finally lowered himself onto the opposite end of the bench. "I I wish to know about my parents. I have reason to believe that you know something about them."
Tyrande studied her hands, her heart thudding anxiously. She had always known this day would come but that didnt make her any calmer about its arrival.
"I mean, Ive been in the temples care as long as I can remember, and I assume Im an orphan, but Ive heard whispers, and rumors, and I need to know, Priestess. Please, tell me what you know of who I am and where I came from."
Tyrande inhaled deeply and looked up into his golden eyes. "You " She sighed and began again. "You have kept up with your history lessons, I presume?"
"Youll recall then, the tale of the second invasion of the Burning Legion, and the rise of the Lich King?"
"Yes, although I need no history text to tell me about it. I was but a child, but I remember those terrible days."
"And you will also remember how Illidan the Betrayer fled in exile to Outland, yet even then was still pursued by Warden Shadowsong and her Watchers?"
"Your mother was one of those who followed Illidan. None have been heard from since they passed through the portal. Warden Shadowsong and the rest are all presumed dead."
Maeldans brow creased as he digested this. "So my mother was a Watcher But I was in the orphanage long before that."
"Yes. Your mother left you with the Sisterhood shortly after your birth, being unable to care for you while fulfilling her duties."
"I see." He thought for a moment, then turned back to Tyrande. "And my father?"
"Your mother refused to identify him."
"Oh." He frowned more deeply. "And that is all you know?"
Tyrandes expression hardened, reminding him of her rank. "That is all I am certain of, yes."
"What was my mothers name?"
"I " She pursed her lips, sizing up the young man beside her. He was old enough for the truthor a part of it, at least. "She instructed us not to tell you, but as she is most likely dead I suppose there is no harm in telling you now. Your mother was Maiev Shadowsong."
Maeldans eyes widened. "The Maiev Shadowsong? The Betrayers warden?"
"You knew her."
"Unfortunately," Tyrande muttered before waving a hand in front of her mouth. "Im sorry, I shouldnt speak ill of her to you, but she was not the most agreeable person Ive met."
Maeldan nodded, his gaze toward the moonlit gardens but his thoughts obviously elsewhere. "Thank you, High Priestess. Thank you very much for telling me."
She put a motherly hand on his shoulder. "Do not let this knowledge trouble you, Maeldan. You are free to shape your own destiny. Your mother left you with the Sisterhood because she wanted you to have the best future possible, something she was unable to provide."
He nodded again.
"Once, long, long ago, she was a priestess of Elune herself. Im sure she would be proud of the path youve chosen."
"And you really have no idea who my father was?" His tone was respectful but his skepticism was clear.
Tyrande opened her mouth to say "no" but as she looked at his features she found nothing to refute the conclusion she had come to all those centuries ago when Maiev left him, and the lie refused to pass her lips. His eyes, his nose, his hair even his chin, somewhat Perhaps the resemblance was simply more noticeable to her, having known his father since her earliest childhood memories.
Yet one glance at Maeldan confirmed all the rumors and suspicions that had been swirling around him since his birth, theories that Tyrande had tried to quiet but which doubtlessly had reached his ears somehow. She had done her best to remain in denial, but the strangely familiar expression of desperate curiosity on Maeldans face made it impossible.
"You know," he said, studying her conflicted expression. "You do know!"
"I know nothing for certain," she said as much to convince herself as to satisfy him.
"Please, High Priestess. Please tell me. I wantno, need to know where I came from. Youve no idea how I lay awake and wonder, and imagine the possibilities, both good and bad. Ive heard rumors, just whispered comments when people dont realize I can hear them, but I cant rely on that. If you know the truth, Mistress Whisperwind, please tell me."
"I have strong suspicions," Tyrande said at last. "But you must trust me when I tell you that you are better off not knowing. Besides, if my hunch is correct, your father is no longer in this world."
"Probably. Or at the very least, beyond all possible hope of communication. Your mother and I seldom saw eye-to-eye, but we were in agreement on this matter. It would be best if you remain ignorant of your fathers identity."
"But why? Whats so horrible about him? Its not as if I was sired by a demon or, or, I dont know, a furbolg! Look at me, Im a night elf just like everyone else. I dont have horns or anything strange like that!"
His manner was flippant and he was clearly giving hypothetical examples at random, but Tyrandes eyes widened and she inhaled sharply.
She stood. "Maeldan, I am sorry, but I cannot tell you any more. You will be a full adult soon and you should be looking to the future, not the distant past. Whomever your parents were, they are no longer with us and there is no point in looking into the matter any further. Now please excuse me; I have duties to attend to." She headed back toward the temple with quick strides, leaving the young elf alone in the gardens.
Maeldan watched her go and sighed in frustration. So close to the deeper truth and yet not quite enough to sate his curiosity.
Still, he had learned the identity of his mother, which was half the equation and far more than he had before.
Maiev Shadowsong: a name well-known to every night elf. The Warden who spent ten thousand years guarding Illidan the Betrayer, only to end up losing her mind when he escaped and she was unable to recapture him. She became a betrayer herself by leaving Tyrande for dead and lying to Shando Stormrage in her single-minded determination to hunt down her former prisoner. She had been disgraced but fled to Outland on Illidans heels before she could be punished.
So the history texts said. For the first time, Maeldan wondered if there was more to the tale.
He stood and wandered through the gardens, down to the edge of the lagoon that surrounded the front of the temple. Moonlight danced across the waters, rippling in a light breeze. He sat down on the grass at the edge of the pool, slid off his sandals, and dipped his feet into the clear water.
Maeldan liked Darnassus, although he knew better than to voice that sentiment too loudly around the High Priestess. Tyrande made no secret of her reservations about Teldrassil. Creating a second World Tree without the blessings of the dragonflights was not the best idea, but regardless it was a magnificent sight. He still remembered his first glimpse of the immense tree as the ferry carried him and the rest of the Astranaar orphanages residents away from Auberdine.
A large toad suddenly jumped out of the water, disturbed by the elfs feet. Startled, Maeldan blurted out a defensive spell without thinking. Dark purple light flared around the toad, and it contorted in agony. Seconds later it gave a final strangled croak and fell still.
Maeldans golden eyes widened, and he carefully nudged the toad with his foot. Dead.
Looking around to make sure no one had witnessed the incident, he kicked the body out into the pool where, if he was lucky, no one would notice it. The last thing he needed was another scolding for a spell gone awry.
It wasnt his fault he had a far greater aptitude for destructive spells than for healing ones. His tutors had tried again and again to guide his magic through more beneficial channels, but Maeldan found it easierand, he admitted privately, more funto twist the spells just a bit. It wasnt difficult, really. Light and dark were two sides of the same coin, after all, and Elunes domain was the night, a time of the deepest shadows. Yet the priestesses who taught him insisted that such magic was only to be used to defend himself or others from bodily harm. It all seemed like wasted potential.
But there was something else, some other reason why they tried to steer his talents away from darker avenues. He caught whispers sometimes between his teachers and elders that seemed to point to another factor. Remembered fragments echoed in his head as he wandered down the garden path.
" dont want him ending up like he did "
" to watch him closely, to stop him in case history repeats itself and "
" you suppose it could be hereditary?"
" such strong exposure to the Well could have "
" wise to place such temptation before him?"
" just as stubborn as his mother "
" disgrace, what she did. I cant imagine "
"If he really is his son "
" we dont have any demonic artifacts lying around so I wouldnt worry."
"At least he hasnt tried to drain mana from anyone else to amplify his own spells, unlike certain other sorcerers I could mention "
His entire life, Maeldan had caught snatches of conversation behind his back, often alluding to his father having been a practitioner of dark magic. Was that why Tyrande refused to discuss him? Had he killed someone? Sided with the Legion and become a satyr? Summoned a demon into the temple? What horrible thing could he have done to deserve such erasure from history?
Or had he been erased? Could it be that he was right there in plain sight the entire time, and Maeldan simply hadnt realized it?
He frowned, picking at a piece of tree bark as he pondered this. If his mother was Maiev Shadowsong, that narrowed things down a bit. How many male night elf sorcerers could she have been in contact with during that time frame? By all accounts her extreme dedication to her duties kept her from leaving the Mount Hyjal barrow prison very often, and all the Watchers were female. There had been some of Cenarius children helping to guard the prison, and a tribe of furbolgs shared parts the mountain, but as Maeldan had already pointed out, he had neither antlers nor fur. No, his father had to be a night elf.
There were a number of druids hibernating in another part of the mountain, but even if one had left the Emerald Dream long enough to have a liaison with the warden that still wouldnt explain why he was reviled for the use of dark magic. Druidic magic was considered one of the purest forms, so surely that wasnt the answer.
Maeldan shook his head as he walked back in the direction of the temple. He had been daydreaming and theorizing for years so there was no reason to suppose hed reach the truth now. At least now he had a starting point, knowing his mothers identity.
If only he could talk to her! He had so many questions to ask her, if only she hadnt thrown caution to the wind and followed Illidan to Outland.
Maeldan stopped in his tracks.
Illidan Stormrage. The Betrayer. Could he ?
"No," the young elf said aloud. "Not possible."
And yet it fit. A male night elf with a connection to Maiev Shadowsong. Someone no one wanted to discuss. Someone reviled and condemned. Someone who was no longer in the same world, as Tyrande had said. Someone who had had close contact with the original Well of Eternity, as his tutors had fretted over. Someone who was famousindeed, infamousfor using darker magic, as his tutors had warned him against doing. Someone who had even taken demonic artifacts, as his tutors had worried about, to fight the Burning Legion. One such talisman had reportedly corrupted his body, giving him some of the features of a Dreadlord, including horns, which Tyrande had reacted to with horror when he mentioned not having any. It fit.
"Blessed Elune," Maeldan gasped, sinking to his knees on the stone garden path. "Can it be true?" A sick, sinking feeling congealed in his stomach.
No. It couldnt be. It just couldnt. And yet it made far too much sense to dismiss.
Shaking, Maeldan looked up at the milky half-crescent glowing down from the sky. "Goddess, if this is true if I am the son of the Betrayer give me some sign to show me what to do with my life. Show me where I belong."
With a shuddering sigh, he rose to his feet and wandered slowly back toward the temple.
"Sisters! Brothers! Wake up! News from the Eastern Kingdoms! Hurry!"
Maeldan opened one eye and looked around the dormitory he shared with the few other male acolytes. He had laid awake for hours, weighing all the clues to his fathers identity, and as he squinted into the late afternoon sunlight he had no inclination to get up any time soon.
"Wake up, everyone! The High Priestess wants us all to hear what she has to say, and it doesnt sound like its good news." The voice belonged to one of the elder priestesses whose name escaped him at the moment.
He groaned and sat up on the edge of the bed, attempting to get his sleepy fingers to work well enough to put his long, dark blue hair up in its customary ponytail. Yawning, he and the others hurried into clean robes and joined the procession heading toward the main chamber of the Temple of the Moon. As they filed outside they met a large crowd milling about on the terraces around the temple. It appeared all of Darnassus had gathered to hear the announcement, whatever it was.
Maeldan craned his neck to look up at the balcony from which the High Priestess and Archdruid usually made speeches, blinking heavily in the sunlight. What in the world was so urgent that they had called for the assembly of the entire city at this painfully early hour?
There was a stir of interest in the crowd and he shielded his eyes with one hand as he gazed up to see Tyrande appear on the balcony. Her expression was grave.
Everyone fell silent to listen.
"My fellow night elves," she began. "I have just received word from Stormwind that there has been increased demonic activity in the Blasted Lands. It appears that the Doom Lord Kazzak has finally succeeded in reopening the Dark Portal."
Horrified gasps from the crowd were mixed with shouted questions.
Tyrande raised a hand for silence. "The combined forces of both the Alliance and the Horde have nearly secured the portal on the Azeroth side for the time being. However, there is no telling what threats, new and old, we face. We must hasten to muster our strongest troops. We, better than any of this worlds races, know the danger of the Burning Legion. May Elune guide and protect us all in the days to come." Tyrande spread her arms in a solemn blessing, and the crowd slowly dispersed amid loud discussion.
Maeldan elbowed past a weeping priestess and hurried off toward his dormitory. His mind was in a whirl, each beat of his heart loud in his ears. He had asked the Goddess for a sign, and here it was.
The Dark Portal, open again Unbelievable. Maybe, just maybe, somehow, his mother still lived. And perhaps even
Maeldan rushed around a corner and nearly collided with the High Priestess.
"M-mistress Whisperwind!" he gasped. "Pardon me!"
"Thats all right, young one," she said with a half-hearted smile. She attempted to step past him, but he stood in her way.
"Wait! I " Suddenly abandoning any attempt at subtlety, he blurted, "Illidan is my father, isnt he?"
Tyrande paled. "What--?"
"He is, I know it! I I feel it. Maiev Shadowsong is my mother and Illidan Stormrage is my father. Look me in the eye and tell me its not true."
"I-- I-- How did you Thats" Tyrande sputtered indignantly.
"It all fits! All the rumors, all the suspicions, it all makes sense now."
"We dont know that for certain," she managed to say.
"Who else could it be?"
She sighed deeply and steadied herself with a hand on the nearest column. "Maeldan I truly do not know. However we have long suspected as muchfrom the day your mother brought you to the temple, in fact. Add to that your striking resemblance to him"
She smiled slightly. "Yes. I knew Illidan at your age, and although I can see much of Maiev in you, you also bear a strong likeness to him."
Maeldan shook his head in wonder. At last, the truth! "Do you know did my mother ever say Were they in love?"
Tyrande looked away. "There was a certain fascination between them. Maiev was extremely possessive of him. But she also made no secret of her hatred for him. He nearly killed her brother when he created the second Well, and there were numerous times when she was all too willing to execute him."
Maeldan bowed his head in disappointment. "I suppose I should have known better." He paused, then looked up at her again. "But arent love and hatred a bit like light and darkness? Two sides of the same coin?"
"You are still too young to understand, Maeldan."
He scowled, weary of hearing that excuse. He was an adult now, wasnt he? "Im old enough to understand how babies are made!" he snapped.
Tyrande blushed slightly. "But not, apparently, old enough to understand that love is not a requirement."
"I know that! I just I would like to think "
Her expression softened. "I know, young one. We would all like to think that we were conceived from true love, but unfortunately the world does not always work that way."
Maeldan sighed and leaned back against the wall. A moment of silence passed. At last he asked quietly, "Do you think either of them are still alive?"
"As I told you yesterday, we have not had any communication with Warden Shadowsong or her fellows since they followed Illidan to Outland. I suppose it is possible she could have survived, but we have no reason to think so."
"But the Dark Portal has been closed all this time. Perhaps now"
"No!" Tyrande interrupted. "Maeldan, you are far too young and inexperienced to go anywhere near the Portal. The most accomplished warriors have been bested by Outland, and theres no telling what forces the Burning Legion has waiting on the other side."
"Then Ill train harder than ever before! With my magic I can"
"you can fall into the same destructive cycle that your father did!" Tyrande finished for him. "Do not be tempted by the promise of power through darkness, young one."
"But I have a natural talent for it! All my teachers have said so, although now I finally know why that disturbed them so." He spread the fingers of his right hand and willed a faint purple glow to surround them. "Is it true that Illidan actually drank from the Well of Eternity?"
"He He had far too much to do with the Well. If he had left it alone he would not be the Betrayer and outcast he is today. Learn from his mistakes, Maeldan."
"But think about it, Priestess! If he hadnt salvaged the Well, Nordrassil would never have existed. If the Tree hadnt been there, would Archimonde have been defeated?"
Tyrandes eyes narrowed. "You were not there at Mount Hyjal that day, boy. I was. The Tree did not destroy that monster. It was the forces of nature, the very soul of Azeroth itself, that rejected his foul presence and destroyed him. And it was druidic magic that summoned that power."
"Maeldan, I realize all this has come as a shock, but this is exactly why we kept this knowledge from you. Do not dwell on the misdeeds of your parents. You have been raised by the Sisterhood to protect and nurture all life in the name of the Goddess. Follow our teachings and be glad that you are so removed from the tragic failings of those who gave you life."
Maeldan scowled and avoided eye contact with the High Priestess. "Yes, Mistress Tyrande." He wandered off, his mind reeling with the possibilities.
His restless feet once more led him to the temple gardens but he did not stop there. Without making a conscious decision, he simply kept walking until he found himself crossing the commons toward the city's main gates. He barely acknowledged the Sentinels as he passed them, following the road into the forests of Teldrassil.
Sunset set the western sky aflame, casting sharp shadows across the path. His sandals scuffed on the paving stones as he crossed a small footbridge and continued on toward the village of Dolanaar.
He would not waste his life sitting around the Temple, suppressing his powers and trying not to notice the others whispering behind his back. No, that could never be his fate. He set his jaw in determination. His lineage was a portent of greater things, of that he was certain.
It was a long walk across Teldrassil but Maeldan did not stop to rest. He went through Dolanaar without pause and continued on, finally reaching Shadowglen near sunrise.
No one at the Temple in Darnassus would notice him missing for many hours, yet. Even when they did, there was nothing they could do about it. He was an adult now, free to choose his own destiny.
Breathing heavily, he sat down on a bench near the main building to rest for a moment. This was the training ground. All night elves who went on to make something of themselves started here. Here he could learn to fight, to survive, to fend for himself, and, yes, to kill.
Maeldan gave a thin smile, watching dark purple energy dance between his fingers on his whim. No one here would insist that he limit himself to the lighter side of magic...
His true training began today. One day it would lead him to the Dark Portal, and beyond. By then, he would have accomplished much...perhaps even enough to earn the respect of his parents.
He would get the answers he sought, one way or another.