The vines strangled her dreams and obscured her vision of the goddess. She said something, words of comfort swallowed by the creaking plants. Wisps danced around her moonlit figure, frantic as the scene turned red from fires springing up. Lesara gasped for air and choked on smoke instead. The last thing she saw between the vines was Mount Hyjal in the distance. A plummeting sensation in the pit of her stomach accompanied it and held a clenching grip on her heart.
She jolted upright and smacked her head painfully on something. Breathless still, she blinked sleep away from her eyes and rubbed her head with a grunt. She thought she heard a snicker to the left of the room just before an echoed groan to her immediate right called her attention. Narel rubbed at his forehead, looking dazed.
“You really shouldn’t head-butt your healer, Sprout.” Her father’s voice from behind Narel sounded concerned, rather than amused.
“My apologies, Lady Ethala’Aman.” Narel grunted a bit still rubbing the left side of his forehead. “Are you alright?”
Lesara shook her head, replaying the last images of her dream. She tried calming her breath, succeeding only a little. “Hyjal…Nordrassil…” She looked up into Narel’s golden-hued eyes. He still held his forhead, but his hand was still. “They destroy Nordrassil…I felt it falling.” She focused her vision on her knees beneath the blanket, but instead saw a firey battlefield and The World Tree atop Mount Hyjal, falling. Frantic wisps, lit red from flames, flew beyond the falling giant… “It’s all on fire.”
A sudden and loud click startled her and the vision faded, slowly replaced by her pastel blue blanket and Narel’s hand in front of her face, fingers clicking again. “None of that now.” She felt his other hand rest on her back. “Control your breathing.”
Lesara closed her eyes and swallowed hard, nodding. She had been close to hyperventilating and now she forced long and slow breaths, picturing her gardens outside, fighting against images of it burning as well. “We can’t stay in here.”
“We have to.” Ethan’s voice was thick and nearly mumbled from behind Narel.
Lesara glanced at him as she pushed out of bed and began pacing. He wore a haggard expression as clear evidence of how little sleep they’d both gotten over the past few days, despite Narel’s herbal mixtures. In fact, the others, set as guards and healer, slept far more in their shifts. “I can’t do this. I can’t stay.”
“You have to.” Valyndriel’s response was curt and commanding. Lesara glared at her, but the other priestess only shook her head and continued. “If you leave, we will suffer the consequences, not you. You’re the precious heir.” She sneered so briefly Lesara thought she imagined it.
“Valy–!” Shalya paled to a light, lilac shade and received a glare in return.
“It’s true and I don’t care if I get in trouble for reminding her.” Her eyes refocused on Lesara’s, ignoring the witnesses to her daring. “Report me if you like, but don’t be selfish, it’s on everyone else here if you leave the sanctum’s safety.” Her eyes narrowed and the last was exchanged privately from mind to mind. You’re not even a fit heir in the Order of Mysteries, go ahead, report me while you still have real power backing you up.
Lesara felt heat rising in her cheeks and looked away. She guarded her thoughts while recalling her mother’s past punishments, usually more severe than those charged with guarding her…only private. Ysareline made sure Lesara suffered her poor choices and called it the burden of power and responsibility, always tying it to lessons and training. Regardless, Valyndriel rightfully shamed her…and her private dig was also correct; Lesara continually fell short of her mother’s hopes. “I’m sorry,” she said, finally, sitting back down on the edge of her cot. “It was wrong to forget.”
“I cannot fault you for wanting to do something constructive.” Shalya was glaring at Valyndriel’s profile when Lesara looked over at her.
The other priestess shrugged and reopened the new tome she was reading. “Read a book.”
“Enough.” Lesara sat straighter with forced confidence. “You will show a fellow priestess due respect. I realize we’re all anxious for fresh air, but let’s not make this intolerable for each other, it shames our order in front of those who trust our lead.” She acknowledged the silent majority in the room, all considered of lesser station, they refrained from comments. Even her father held no authority over a priestess of his wife’s order, especially not her favourites.
“I apologize. Would you care for something to read, either of you?” Valyndriel looked up from the book in her lap and tapped her fingers on the shelf within arm’s reach of her chair.
Shalya shook her head and returned to her meditations, staring forward into empty air.
“I believe I will read one.” Lesara nodded and stood up.
Valyndriel flashed her a genuine smile. “Allow me.” She removed the tome she picked up the first day and brought it over. “You won’t be sorry.”
Lesara glanced down at the title between them. She recognized the emebellished figure of a female night elf in wispy, metallic purple relief on the blackened leather cover. Now she read the title: On Shadowed Minds by Evaressiel Ethala’Aman. “Thank you.” She looked up and caught Valyndriel’s amused smile.
“Enjoy.” She sauntered back to her chair and curled up with her current book.
Lesara looked around at the others and found all eyes carefully averted, or in her father’s case, closed entirely. She sat with one knee folded under her on the bed, the other leg draped over the side, firmly on the floor, and began reading her aunt’s book. The same aunt her mother rarely spoke of.