Sonora’s mind floated away from the room as images flashed dreamily before her eyes. She saw herself when she was young, standing beside her father as he showed her the loom. He said people were like threads in a tapestry, woven together by the Light; a cord of two strands being stronger than one. Scenes from her childhood panned before her, and then tapered off into her young adulthood. She had no plan for the future, like the others. Maybe that’s why she had agreed to go to Stormwind…
Suddenly the flashes came quickly; Markus and the room and Aleron. The images turned upside down, and Sonora felt as though she were falling into eternity. Then she saw images that she did not recognize. A beautiful human woman, with long brown hair, standing next to a fireplace, laughing. A little girl, sitting on her father’s knee, blonde curls bouncing wildly as she giggled. And a man, a young man—a young version of Aleron.
Then something darker, the girl was older, almost Sonora’s own age, she guessed. She stood alone in the snow, looking scared but determined. Sweat made the girl’s sandy hair dark with moisture, and fire formed on her fingertips repeatedly as she sent it flinging at a target Sonora couldn’t see. She felt the need to hurry, to save the girl; but she couldn’t move. She watched helplessly as something struck the girl, and she fell to the ground.
Sonora gasped, and the image faded into darkness. Light began to register on her eyelids, but the world beyond felt distant and muffled. She let reality settle on her slowly.
She felt a cold cloth on her head and muttered through her stiff lips. “Sonora?” she heard, “Sonora, can you hear me?” She tried to open her eyes, and they responded, but slowly. They fluttered open, and Aleron’s concerned face filled her vision.
“There you are,” he said. “You should try to sit up if you think you can.” He held a cup to her lips and after a few sips of water, she felt a bit stronger. Holding onto his arm, Sonora was able to pull herself up with a groan, quickly leaning back against the nearby wall. She took a few moments to sit and look around, trying to make the spinning in her head stop.
As it settled, she remembered what had happened, and she looked over at Aleron, startled. “Are you okay?” she asked, quickly followed by, “Am I okay?”
“I am fine,” he assured her. “I believe you are, too; although that was no small test they put you through. You have been unconscious most of the day.”
“I have never felt so much pain in my life,” she admitted. “I felt like I was on fire.”
“I expected it would be painful,” he said, intentionally omitting his own fear about experience. “How do you feel now?”
“Okay, but I feel strange. I—I feel as though I am shaking on the inside,” she said, blushing slightly at how absurd it sounded. Aleron studied her for a few moments, lost in thought. Suddenly, he glanced furtively around the room, then finally looking down at the straw of the makeshift bed upon which they sat. Plucking out a small handful, he looked again at the draenei.
“Hold out your hand,” he directed. She held out her hand dutifully, and he placed the straw inside her palm. “Close your eyes, and try to push that feeling out of you.” At her puzzled expression, he prompted her again, “Go on.”
“I am too tired for games,” she replied.
“Try. You must do this,” he said fiercely, the first real spark of life Sonora had seen shining in his eyes. Prompted by the strength of his response, Sonora tried again. Closing her eyes, she tried to turn her focus inside herself. She felt the shaking, like a reverberation within her. She pushed against it with her mind, and was shocked when it felt as though it were following her focus. Doubling her efforts, she pushed against it further, forcing it into her outstretched arm. The feeling was so intense, she knew her arm must be shaking wildly, but she continued until she felt as though a blast of it went through her fingers. The vibration seemed to settle back into her body, although not as strongly. “My hand is warm,” she noticed aloud. She was surprised to hear Aleron chuckling.
“Open your eyes,” he instructed proudly. She did, and was shocked to see the straw in her fingers smoldering, smoke curling up above her hand. The straw was clearly burnt in places, like the first breaths of a fire had passed over it.
“What have I done?” she said in awe.
“You have proven that you might be our way out of here!” He stood up, and Sonora saw him sway unsteadily for a moment. “I will talk to you more about it tomorrow,” he said wearily. “The encounter earlier has weakened me, as well—I must get some rest.”
He laid down in his small pile of straw, but found himself unable to fall asleep immediately. If Sonora were strong enough to withstand it all, there might be hope yet. Hope—something he had nearly forgotten.
“Concentrate,” a younger Aleron said. “If you do not focus it will find a way out without you, and control is key.”
“I am concentrating,” the girl told him, her eyes closed. The room stood completely silent, nothing but their collective breaths. Aleron had chosen thisStormwind home for its small tower, and certainly appreciated it now. A place where he—and now his daughter—could do their work away from prying eyes and the sensitivities of his wife downstairs. He looked again at Arcis’s hand, shaking almost imperceptibly. Suddenly, a small spark lit up the piece of dry wood she held in her hand. It burned a hole straight through the middle before dying.
“I did it!” Arcis exclaimed excitedly.
“Yes you did!” Aleron chuckled. “That was wonderful. Do you want to do it again?”
“Yes! I can do even better this time!” Arcis took another piece of wood from the pile on the table. This time she did not close her eyes. He watched while her youthful face twisted in careful concentration. He could sense power radiating from her, and watched her hand, daring not to breathe. Less than a minute later, an orb of fire the size of a child’s toy erupted from the palm of Arcis’ hand. The wood disappeared completely in the blaze before it vaporized, leaving no mark behind. Aleron looked at his little girl in astonishment. Most mages spent months or years trying to turn their first spark into a fireball, and here she had done it in the span of several minutes.
“That was amazing,” he said softly, pulling her close. “You are amazing. But I should not have expected less.”
“Can I do it again, Daddy? Please? I need to practice a lot so I can stop using the starter.”
“Of course, Arcis. You can burn all the wood in this house if it pleases you to do so,” he answered proudly.