A Whisper from the Past
From where she sat on the banks of Serpent Lake, Rhianon could see the bobbing lights of the old Draenei temple in the distance – and further still beyond that, the glowing beacon that was Telredor. She relaxed herself and closed her eyes, letting her hooves dip delicately into the edge of the water. The intoxicating sounds of the Zangarmarsh twilight rang in her ears; the hissing of the Marshfangs, the slow, even cooing of the spore-bats. From beyond the shores of the lake, she heard the calls of the Bog-Lords and Bog-Lurkers, a strange, low groaning noise that both thrilled and terrified her.
And, riding in on the rippling surface of the lake, Rhianon heard another sound, one that she knew would come to her: the bright, clear laugh of a female Draenei. Mama…
Rhianon was sitting out on the balcony of their home in Telredor, a little army of Vindicator figurines, carved in wood by her father, scattered out at her feet. Her mother sat beside her, dangling her hooves over the edge of the balcony.
Saphra had been restless that morning; she had flitted from preparing breakfast to the morning chores with the unease of a marshlight wasp looking for food. Usually these moods prompted the unexpected. Once, she had taken Rhianon on an unplanned pilgrimage to Shattrath City. Another time, the two of them surprised Rhianon’s father, Rhellus, with an impromptu feast at the outpost he had been guarding. Rhianon, however, wasn’t sure what to expect this time. The orcs had been attacking local villages and all the residents of Telredor were under unofficial orders not to leave the area. Perhaps they would make something special to eat…or maybe her mother would finally take her to the stables to pick out an elekk calf to raise as she had been promising.
“Rhianon, don’t you hear that?” Saphra said suddenly, breaking Rhianon out of her daydream.
The young draenei looked up and asked, “What, Mama?”
Her mother gestured out over the horizon, her gemmed braclets glinting in the afternoon sunlight. “The bog-lurkers and bog-lords. They’re singing. It’s so melancholy. I was listening to it all night long; I couldn’t sleep at all.”
Rhianon turned her head and cast her gaze out over the horizon, her ears perked up. Yet, try as she might, she could not hear the low song of the bog dwellers. “Mama, I don’t hear anything.”
“We should go and see them,” Saphra said with a certain finality. “I’ll pack a picnic and we can make an afternoon of it. It will be fun. I’ll bring tidbits for you to feed to the eels at Serpent Lake. How does that sound, Rhia?”
Rhianon bent her head and picked up one of her Vindicator figurines, standing him up on the edge of the balcony. “Mama, Da said we need to stay around here. Bad things have been happening.”
Saphra sighed and kneeled down beside her daughter, one hand absently smoothing down the girl’s hair. “Rhia, we won’t be far. And aren’t you bored of staying here all the time? Light knows I am. I promise it will be fun.”
Rhianon pulled her head away from Saphra and picked up another figurine to line up alongside the other one on the edge of the balcony. “I guess if we aren’t very far…”
“And we’ll be back before dinner. We can tell your father all about our adventures! He’ll be impressed.”
Saphra stood up, her eyes glowing, and laughed, clapping her hands together. In that moment, Saphra’s figure siloutted against the sun-streaked backdrop of afternoon Zangarmarsh, her silvery hair and smoky-purple arms glittering with gem decorations, Rhianon thought her mother looked like one of the dew-speckled marsh-striders. She smiled, standing up to hug her mother. In the process, she knocked both her Vindicator figurines from the balcony and as mother and child embraced, the wood toys kareened through the air to the damp earth below.
Rhianon blinked her eyes and wiped back some hot tears. That image was still so strong for her, almost as if it had been yesterday: her mother slender and glowing in the afternoon sunlight.
She looked down at her hands. What had happened to those Vindicator figurines? She had lost track of them after that day.
Rhianon and her mother packed a large lunch into one of their gathering baskets and set off towards Serpent Lake. A Vindicator stopped them as they left the bounds of Telredor, a young draenei male who Rhianon had seen before in the company of her father, and asked them where they were going. Saphra lied and told him that they were just stepping out to pick some mushrooms that grew just outside the perimeter of Telredor. The Vindicator believed her – why would a nice draenei woman lie to her protectors? – and let them pass.
The trip to Serpent Lake took most of the afternoon, but was relatively uneventful, save for Saphra pausing every so often to show Rhianon flowers or plants and telling her stories about the spirits that lived in them. “You see, Rhianon,” Saphra would say, drawing her daughter close to her side, “the plants and flowers are all alive! They are just like you and me – but you need to listen very carefully to hear them speak. And they sing! Beautiful, beautiful songs!” Rhianon would then watch in wonderment as Saphra demonstrated how to tuck her head down close to the flower buds to listen to their songs.
The two of them stopped on the eastern edge of Serpent Lake for their picnic. While Saphra laid out the food (a glorious spread of all the best from their pantry), Rhianon tossed nutriment bits to the eels in the lake. She even stepped in the water, just as her mother had shown her several years before, to let the baby eels nibble at her hooves.
“The bog-lurkers and bog-lords live just on the otherside of the shoreline,” Saphra explained when they finally sat down to eat. She smiled, watching her daughter portioning herself two large pieces of pie. “See, isn’t this fun, my little Rhia?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Rhianon mumbled, her mouth stuffed with pie. “Alot more fun than staying at home all day.”
Saphra nodded. “We’ll go watch the Bog-Lords after we eat and then head back before it gets too dark.” She reached for a piece of grainbread and then stopped, her hand frozen in mid-air. Rhianon, still chewing on her slices of pie, looked up, confused. Saphra’s face, just seconds before pink with excitement, was pale and drawn.
Her mother blinked and then gazed down at Rhianon, the edges of her mouth trembling. “Rhianon, you’re a good child, aren’t you?”
The young draenei swallowed her pie and nodded. “If Mama and Da say so, I guess.”
“Rhianon, I need you do exactly what I say, okay?” Saphra didn’t wait for a response and continued. “Look behind you.”
Rhianon turned her head, her eyes scanning the darkening horizon.
“Do you see the lights of Telredor?”
Her eyes fell on the lights, floating just above the mushroom caps to the west. “Yes, Mama.”
“Rhia, you need to run right for those lights and don’t stop until you get home, okay? No matter what happens.”
Rhianon turned back to her mother, her eyes wide. “Mama?”
“Just do as I say. I’ll be right behind you.” Saphra smiled again, her eyes sparkling in the dimming light. “It’s a race.” She then leaned over, gripping her daughter in a tight hug, and murmured, “My little Rhia”, into the young draenei’s ear. Saphra then released Rhianon and said, flatly, “Go.”
Bewildered, Rhianon stumbled to her feet and turned, breaking into a clumsy run. Clouds of spore puffed into her face as she crashed through the shoreline brush, little spore bats fleeing in the opposite direction. Once she reached the road, she stopped to catch her breath, and turned to see if Saphra was following her.
The brush behind her was empty, save for the last dancing spores that were still filtering into the late afternoon wind. In the distance, she heard some muffled shouts and strange metallic clangs. “Mama?” Rhianon called out hesitantly, and stepped forward, her hands outstretched to part the brush and look for her mother. Before she could reach the brush, however, a cold gust of wind blew into her face and Saphra stepped out from behind a mushroom, shaking her head. “Rhianon! I said to run! Now, go! I’m right behind you!”
Rhianon gulped and spun around to return to her breathless run, her feet slapping the dank marsh path. The rest of the run seemed like a blur to her; Rhianon couldn’t remember running, only the feeling the wind whistling around her.When she reached Telredor, she collapsed down onto the ground just inside the gate, her heart pounding and her clothes soaked in sweat.
A Vindicator approaching her, bending over her shaking body. “Child, what’s happened?”
Her chest ached so much that Rhianon could barely speak; the only word she managed to rasp out was “Mama.”
Another voice spoke up. “That’s Rhellus’s child.” She heard the sound of a Vindicator turning, his plate mail clanking, and the same voice gave an order. “Go get Rhellus immediately. He’s probably almost home by now. And take this child with you; she’s exhausted.”
Rhianon remembered warm hands lifting her from the ground and cradling her; she vaguely remembered the sound of her father’s voice, tense with fear, and the orders given to rouse a search party. She felt herself being laid in a soft bed, a warm blanket being pulled over her, and a rough hand touching her forehead. ‘Thank the Light you are safe.’
The shaman opened her eyes and looked out over the water. Her father and the search party had returned later that evening – without her mother. Rhellus had come to tuck her in for the night, remaining quiet about what had transpired that day. Yet, somehow, from the broken look in his eyes and the way he paused as he hugged her good night, Rhianon had known that Saphra was never returning.
There were so many things about that day that had seemed unclear to her for a long time. When she had told her father that her mother had come out of the underbrush to urge her on, Rhellus had been upset; Saphra had been killed only a few feet from their picnic spot. In later years, Rhianon tried to repeat the run from eastern Serpent Lake to Telredor, only to find her strength give way before she even made it half way.
Sage Nastah, however, had not been surprised when Rhianon had told him the story. ‘Your mother seems to have been a sensitive woman. I would not be surprised if she had gifts similar to your own,’ he explained. ‘It was most likely her gifts that saved your life…at the price of her own. But such is the love of a mother.’
The draenei wiped her eyes again and then reached into her pack, drawing out a single, brilliant purple bud of Arthas Tears. She gently placed the flower on the surface off the water, letting the rippling current carry it out further into the lake. As the bud floated through the water, it began to sink, pulled down by the rivulets of lake-water rushing over it. Once it was no longer in view, completely submerged beneath the lake’s surface, Rhianon stood up and whistled for Tobias. The hippogryph appeared within a few seconds, gliding down to alight beside the shaman.
Tobias, for all his blustering, somehow knew not to strike up a chipper conversation with the unusually sober Rhianon and simply lowered himself to the ground so that Rhianon could climb onto his back. The two of them then flew away wordlessly, Serpent Lake growing smaller and smaller beneath them until it was nothing more than a murky puddle, a stormy blemish on otherwise peaceful marsh landscape.