It was quiet underground. Though underground was perhaps an inappropriate description for the material surrounding the Kal'dorei woman. She was cut off from the sky, the stars, and the moon, this was true; but what surrounded her was wood, not rock and earth. And above her head, on the other side of her wooden ceiling were her kin as they moved about their daily lives in the capital city of Darnassus, crown of the ancient civilization.
She knew there were druids, the male balance to the female dominance found in the Sentinels and in the Sisterhood of Elune. There were ancients and treants, those protectors of the woods and wise advisors who had been close to their people since the breaking of the world. There were craftsmen and artisans. There were fishers, foragers and farmers, supplying the city with food. All her people's honorable walks of life were represented and she knew of them intimately. But she would no longer walk among them, and they would be her people no longer.
Her mind searched back along her actions in a futile effort to turn back the clock and change the way events had progressed. It was foolish, but it occupied the hours and kept her from the desperation she wished to keep at arm's reach. And so she turned to the focal point of all her people's actions in recent years, the attempt to grow the new world tree.
Teldrassil. The massive tree was supposed to be their salvation, their way back to the immortality that had been granted in exchange of watching after the first world tree. And her people needed to believe it, their belief so strong, Darnassus had been built within the boughs of the great tree, small villages dotting the edge of the island at the base of the tree. But not all had gone according to plan... All of which would not have been needed had the first one survived.
Nordrassil, the Aspect blessed world tree, had burned. And with it the everlasting life that they had been accustomed to for centuries was torn from them. They had been a race demigods in a world of mortal races, who struggled in the ebb and flow of struggle to maintain a foothold in Azeroth. But now they were as any other race, mortal and slowly marching towards an equally mortal death. It was a realization reflected in madness within the eyes of many of the Kal'dorei who understood the change. While individuals struggled with the reality thrust upon them, their race as a whole... faltered.
The blue-skinned woman closed her eyes as she sat alone on a wooden ledge in her lonely room concealed beneath the city. 'All I've ever tried to do is serve my people.' And with that thought, her inner calm shattered. All manner of impulsive urge reverberated in her being as her self-preservation instinct fought desperately to find escape. Though her mind knew fight to be hopeless. She bowed her head and clasped the silver crescent moon pendant around her neck, murmuring a prayer asking for peace.
'Elune Mi'adore, ea'shalla de am.'
She had straight dark blue hair, which reached to mid-back. It was unbound, left to lay about her shoulders. Her eyes shined the silver that was the hallmark of her people. Her eyes looked towards the corners of her cell. 'Seems so simple, so little separating me from freedom.' The bars of her cell crisscrossed across her sight; iron bars woven in a decorative pattern. It was ironic that something so utilitarian would display an appreciation of aesthetics.
There was little emotion present on her face, which bore the markings of her family. It was evidence of Elune's blessing, or so the common knowledge went. Even those few who were born without markings took pains to have some color added before adulthood to avoid social stigma. Her markings defined her parentage almost as clearly as the name she bore. Cyshia, after Cyshae, the sister of her mother - a woman who it had turned out she had nothing in common with. Nightwhisper, after her mother's Nighthaven, and her father's Rainwhisper. An honorable name, one she had always been proud to have. And now there was shame brought upon that name.
'I am sorry I have broken your heart, mother,' Cyshia thought. And for a moment she found herself being thankful that her mother was not alive to see this. A reflection of her pain appeared on her lips, which tightened against the thought.
Her clothes were simple. A loose white shirt with short sleeves which was split halfway down the front with laces hanging open and untied, and a pair of dark gray linen pants with a draw string which came halfway down her calf. It was what she had been wearing under her armor when they brought her here. Her boots were gone, nothing to come between her feet and the floor.
There was a tray of food sitting next to her, untouched. Despite the smells of the still warm thick soup and sweetly spiced bread, she couldn't bring herself to eat it. So it sat neglected next to her on the shelf which had also served as her bed for the last several days. On her other side was a stack of thick blankets, carefully folded, an expression of order and admission that there was nothing for her to do but wait for her judgment.
She wondered if it was on purpose, not telling her what her fate was to be. Or if they really could have spent as much time deliberating it. It didn't help that she wasn't fully aware of just what they had to bring against her, but what little she knew she could see them justifying taking her life. If that was the case, she had to escape, she could not resign herself to that fate. But what if that was the point? Guilt admitted in action what she would not do in words.
The fall of approaching footsteps was obvious in the quiet surroundings, as hers was the only cell occupied. A moment later a woman approached the cell. The jangle of keys sounded too sharp in the stillness, and Cyshia didn't even stir as the key was turned in the lock and the door swung open. She knew the woman standing in the doorway as Lyanth Moonglow, a Warden.
"You have a visitor," Lyanth said.
"Alright," she responded neutrally.
Lyanth stood there a moment more, searching Cyshia's face as though familiarizing herself with the expressions upon it. After a moment the white-haired woman gave a snort and left the cell, leaving the door wide open. It was then Cyshia realized Lyanth would probably welcome the chance to forcibly return her to her cell, no matter what judgment was to be wrought upon her.
After a moment another woman came around the corner, bearing the silver and violet armor of the sentinels. This woman Cyshia recognized immediately, and she stood. The woman was taller than her, but only slightly, with forest green hair, and soft purple skin. She came to the door, and Cyshia rushed forward to embrace her, an action born more out of instinct than deliberation. But she could feel the stiffness of the other woman and stopped. She dropped her hands to her sides and took a step back, looking up to search her expression.
'So it all comes down to this,' Cyshia thought. 'We just here across from one another, the distance of a river across a room.'
Taina shifted, her hands clasped in front of her. She licked her lips nervously before speaking, "I've been trying to decide whether or not to see you."
Cyshia sat down on the shelf again and gestured to the chair that sat outside her cell. "I'd imagine it was a difficult decision," she said neutrally.
"Yes," she said. She followed Cyshia's gesture to the chair and went to retrieve it, putting it down opposite the shelf in the cell.
Cyshia could just see the outline of Lyanth, standing around the corner. While she didn't appear particularly interested, Cyshia knew she listened to every word.
Taina sat down, leaning forward in the chair. Taking a breath, she appeared to begin speaking, but no words came out. Then she looked down, her fingers interlaced in front of her and her elbows resting on her knees.
Cyshia just sat on the shelf, vaguely looking at the wall as she waited for Taina to give some word to why she had come. She had long since given up the idea of trying to convince everyone of her innocence, she knew no one would listen.
"I wanted to tell you I will not be there tomorrow, I was given the duty but asked to be excused," Taina finally came up with the courage to say.
"Tomorrow?" Cyshia asked.
"The ceremony. Your exile..." Taina said.
Cyshia could feel a tightness in her chest lessen slightly. If she was free, there was hope. There were still a few in the wild areas of the wood whom might listen, and there were options. If her life was ended in the indefinite imprisonment that was the most severe form of punishment they'd bring against one of their own... there would have been nothing to slow the madness that would await her should their immortality ever be restored. "Thank you for letting me know," Cyshia said evenly, keeping her emotions out of her expression.
Again there was silence. The muscles in Taina's jaw tightened rhythmically, as she cast her eyes everywhere but at Cyshia. After it had stretched out long enough to become absurd Cyshia gave a sigh, "How long are you going to sit there trying to come up with the courage to ask what you want to know?"
Taina looked up and gave a weak smile, "Long enough for you to break the silence, I guess."
"Oh, don't get me wrong, I appreciate the company," Cyshia said dryly. "Best I'm like to get for a while." She let that comment lay for a moment, "But I tend to think you'd have places to be and things to do, so perhaps you should just spit it out."
Taina blinked from the hardness of Cyshia's words, "I-I wanted to know why. I couldn't believe it when I heard, but-" she trailed off as though deflated.
An annoyed sigh erupted from Cyshia, "As I've said repeatedly - I didn't. I serve our people. I always have."
"You didn't?" There was disbelief clearly evident in her tone.
"But then how do you explain everything?"
"I can't - I don't even know what exactly I'm being accused of, but it seems not to matter," Cyshia said, bitterness evident in her tone.
"Then what happened?" her voice was challenging now.
"I did my duty, just as I was ordered. I carried the message but reached no destination, before I was stopped. Beyond that, I don't know," Cyshia said. "I swear I did not do anything to betray our people."
Taina just stared at Cyshia for a few minutes, "I can't believe you."
Cyshia grunted, and crossed her arms across her chest. "Yes, I know. No one can believe me. No one, not even those closest to me, believe in me. So go on, if you can't believe it, and you can't believe me, what do you think happened?" Cyshia said angrily.
"I know losing Ilsa was very hard on you, and-" Taina said.
The blue haired woman barked a dry laugh, "So you think out of some misplaced sense of sorrow, in some haze of confusion from grief, I went and ran to the traitors of our race, to those who would see our forests burn? Brilliant." she stood up and clenched her fists, then opened her eyes wide in a show of theatrics, "Of course that has to be it, there's no other possible explanation, and all we have to do is vilify me to make the world make sense once again! Yep, that will work out just fine." She sat down hard.
"Stop it," Taina said sharply. "Just stop it. You don't think I'm hurting too? No one knows what to think, or feel. And even with me here standing before you; you can't admit it, and you can't even say anything more than deny it. I would have died to save your life, once; as I thought you would have done for me," Her voice began rising, "They just want to make you go away, so we can all forget. So we won't know you're sitting down here as a reminder. How could you-" she squeaked off abruptly.
'Go away,' she thought bitterly, 'I wish that would solve everything.' She didn't say anything for a moment, then when she finally looked up there were tears in her eyes. "I have always served our people, and I will find a way to continue to serve our people," Cyshia said softly, "even in exile."
Taina opened her mouth, then closed it, her eyes locked with Cyshia. She appeared to be shaking, Cyshia figured either she hadn't anything to say, or had too much to say. When Taina stood up, she barely was able to drag the chair beyond the cell before dropping it.
"Taina, could you do one thing for me?" Cyshia said, without looking up.
Taina froze, but did not answer.
"Please see no one else who may still care for me is there," Cyshia said softly, not looking up. "I will be dead to them soon enough, they don't need to see it."
"I-I will think about it," Taina said.
And then she was gone. A moment later Lyanth returned to the cell, and without comment took the chair back to where it stood before, then pushed the cell door closed, key in hand. There she stopped and stood a moment, looking at Cyshia.
"If you have not already guessed it, I am your Warden," Lyanth said evenly. "Pray that after this is done, we do not see each other again."
It was a simple statement, but Cyshia knew its meaning. From this time forward her life and Lyanth's would be intertwined from now on, no matter what happened. Wardens were assigned by person for severe crimes. If Cyshia ever was foolish enough to turn up within an elven settlement again, it would be Lyanth's face who would greet her none too long, no matter how remote the location. Exile was permanent, and she would make sure it was enforced. Wardens staked their honor on the behavior of their charges, and they could be fanatical in their efforts.
That was the purpose for holding her here, she supposed, beyond any show of evidence or discussion of her fate. The punishment was to be made more severe on the contemplation of its consequences. And now a symbol of the separation that was to come. It hardly mattered if the door had been unlocked and left ajar. Suddenly escape was not even an option. Where could one go to escape banishment?
Lyanth turned the key. The click of the lock carried a tone of finality.