Orphaned by a war she’d had no part in, Syndalee had spent the first two years of her childhood as a ward of the strangest orphanage ever imagined. Some civic-minded gentleman or lady of the magical persuasion had decided that Dalaran required an orphanage and so it had been opened and operated for 5 years, during which time the few children who found themselves orphaned and taken into the Dalaran orphanage had also been unwitting subjects in the oddest sort of experiments.
Could non-magical children be taught to cast even the most simplistic and materials based magic’s? And could magical peoples who primarily never had time to have children be responsible for children who were difficult and often non-magical?
In little Syndalee’s case the answer had been officially, “Not even with help” on both counts.
Vivid red hair that grew thicker and thicker and more lush and beautiful with every passing day and green eyes that rivaled the green of an Emerald Dragon’s riveting eyes, the little cherubic child had been gifted with a giggle that could charm even the coldest and most obsessed magical heart and the genius ability to recognize and identify even the rarest of herbal compounds almost from the moment that she could speak. And she could no more wield even the most simple of basic magic than any other mundane could do.
When the Dalaran orphanage was closed one of the volunteers, a lovely and gentle hearted mage known as Fourthumbs , had been unable to pack the lonely child off with the others to take the quick journey to Stormwind where all human children were being taken for shelter.
Frenzy, as Fourthumbs had actually been named by her mother, had applied for permission to adopt the little non-magical Syndalee and had kept the child with her in her close rooms in one of the many housing towers in the magical city. And so the little orphaned girl whose parents had been almost forgotten in the mystic hustle and bustle of the mages city, lived in relative obscurity and absolute joy for another 7 years with her adoptive mother and her many cats as siblings.
The cherubic fire haired tot became a leggy and soft-spoken girl who was, as often as not, out playing with the boys outside of the city walls for hours at a time until she heard her name echoing off the bricks and she would say her goodbyes over a dusty shoulder and race home as quickly as her long bony legs would carry her and apologize a thousand times to her tiny Gnomish mother for staying out too late.
And the lovely Gnome would settle on her chair and the girl she loved with all her heart would curl on the floor so that she could lay her head on her mother’s lap and hear the day’s new stories or adventures while Frenzy would gently stroke the girl’s cheek or hair and talk. Dinner was never a fuss, nothing ever was for the pair who enjoyed a simple and not terribly easy life.
Frenzy had so many friends that there were always mages dropping by for this or that advise and while she was clumsy in her mixing of spell components and had to have it done for her, the lovely and generous little Fourthumbs was able to read most any language and often translated tomes late into the night with the little girl who called her mother sleeping against her legs.
And then one night Syndalee had been met at the door of her mother’s tiny apartment by one of the beautifully garbed mages who guarded the city. Her mother had been away in Northrend as a special assistant to another mage, and the guard was so sad and so deeply disturbed that Syndalee knew at once that it was about her Frenzy and she blinked back tears that broke the old man’s heart and asked simply, “Do I have to go away or is there somewhere else where I can stay here?”
And a passing mage stopped and said quickly, without thinking, “Of course you aren’t going away, Syndalee. You are our child. We will all care for you.”
The guard had been relieved and troubled at once. He’d been sent to bring the girl to the Archmage so that she could be taken by teleport to Stormwind. Now he had to return and explain that the little human girl that they all had come to love and cherish had been invited by a draenic mage to stay with them as a ward of the City.
Grugworg was a mighty mage and was already so well respected that few would question him, and still, the guard shook his head sadly. The child needed a home and stability and a life where she could be cared for by parents, not a constantly changing whirlwind of existence.
And for the next five years little Syndalee proved the guard’s worry baseless. She continued to grow and become more beautiful and more lovely to speak to and spend time with.
Now in addition to being able to mix or use any herb in the stores of Dalaran’s mighty armory she could also make any potion, sometimes just by being told it’s effects and seeing the color of the finished product. Syndalee was still Frenzy’s daughter in many ways, her penchant for hearing long stories and for spending long hours with friends sipping very stout drinks while very intellectual tomes were poured over and discussed was famous, even as a young girl, but she was very different in her own way. She could mix even the most potent and dangerous recipes and potions without effort. Some alchemists would sweat and their hands would shake, and the easy and strikingly beautiful Syndalee would continue chatting away over her bowls and phials and bottles often without even glancing down.
She was still foal thin but her girl’s body was hesitantly trying out more womanly traits that made the Dalaran council nervous again. The majority of her gracious hosts were male mages, and because mages are often also unmarried, she was becoming a potential problem that none of them knew how to deal with. Had Frenzy even spoken to the girl about “those things?” None of them knew and many of the shy and less socially confident of their number feared asking her.
And one day Grugworg was asked, as her greatest benefactor and protector, to have “the talk” with the girl. He balked and hesitated and procrastinated and finally cheated. He took Syndalee for a trip to the Exodar, showing the wide-eyed little beauty the crashed ship he’d arrived on Azeroth in.
It was while watching his little charge with a boastful warrior just older than she was that the wizened mage realized that the elders and the council were right to worry. The quiet and sweetly yielding girl was the perfect palate for a myriad of possible indiscretions and seemed unaware and dangerously naive. A sense of paternal protectiveness filled the Draenei and he interrupted the pair briskly and invited Syndalee to accompany him to a lady Draenei’s home.
Gozier had expected the visit and was less than hesitant with the girl who gawked openly at all of the totemic and shamanic tomes and items lying all over her apartments. In thirty questions the Shaman both adored and was irritated by the girl and so she’d taken Syndalee away from the mage and told her directly, “The man mages around you are afraid that no woman has told you the things that women need to know. I’m no human woman, and I still know a bit about that subject. Do you know how women are different from men?”
And Syndalee had laughed. No embarrassment in the girl’s violently green eyes, and also no shyness. “I do, Gozier. I’m sorry that I thought I was here to learn about Shamanism from you. I didn’t know…”
And the Draenei laid her hand on the girl’s slender shoulder and laughed. “So you believed he was seeking your true calling, then? Not seeking someone less afraid to broach the subject of sex and womanly changes?” The Shaman laughed again and sat on the edge of her very soft mattress. “Tell me, then, Syndalee, how do you come to know enough that you take my embarrassing question in stride?”
“I’m a girl in a city of men?” Syndalee blushed. “They have all got books and drawings and stories tucked everywhere. I read them until I had too many questions and then I asked one of the cooks and she took me home with her for the night and it was fortuitous, too, because my flow started the very next month and I’d have been horribly frightened if I hadn’t known what to expect. She also showed me where in the library I could find books that would tell me the “real of it” as she said, because what the men read was “a sad falsehood that keeps those idiot mages single forever.”
Gozier snorted and laughed so loudly that Grugworg called from the other room to make sure everyone was all right. “Fine. Fine.” She laughed and waved him off through the closed door. “She’s right, your friend the cook. And she’s wrong. It’s up to a woman to find the mates who prove that. And to choose wisely. I think that’s the biggest fear, Syndalee. These men see you becoming dangerously beautiful and tempting, even to themselves. They fear that someone who does not care as much as they do for you will take advantage of that, even in a moment of weakness, and that you will be hurt.”
Syndalee thought of that the whole night, and then all the way to the horse seller in Menethil where Grugworg said he wanted to buy her a horse of her own. And then, before he could cast the portal that would take them home she asked if they could just ride for a bit first, up through the swamp to the ruins where amazing artifacts were being found.
Grugworg had always enjoyed the girl and loved her company and so he agreed.
And Syndalee had pulled them over outside of the Dwarven camp she’d wanted to explore and laid a hand on his gigantic one.
“Grug, you’re my closest friend. If you ever have something you want to know from me ever again, or anything you ever want to say to me again, please, say it to me. I embarrassed myself with Gozier thinking that she was going to teach me about being a Shaman when you only wanted to make sure she’d had the mating talk with me.”
He blushed and studied the tiny paleness of her hand on his. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you, Syn.”
“I know you didn’t. Grug, I’ve been a woman by biological rules for 5 years. By a man’s standards for 2.” At his startled and almost angry look she flinched back and he immediately recaptured her hand and apologized.
“I deserve your anger, Syn, honey. You’re right. I didn’t think to even find out when you should have been educated.”
“I should have expected you would be more worried about me choosing a profession and becoming a part of the world that you all work so hard to protect me from. In three months time I can no longer be a ward of the City, and unless I want to become a cook or nanny, I cannot stay even as an alchemist because I am not also a mage.”
Grugworg took her words in stride and began to think hard about how he’d also managed to miss that piece of information. “And what do you want to do?”
“I want to apply to the warrior training school in Stormwind. They have an excellent academy and…”
“You’re not a warrior.”
“How would you know? You didn’t even know that I’d coupled and taken all the necessary precautions to prevent myself from becoming pregnant until I’m telling it to you now.” She dismounted and climbed a rock, her anger rapidly dispelling in the light of a glorious sunset where she’d also managed to find a rare plant growing from a crack in the rocks. “I’m sorry, Grug. How rude of me when everything you’ve done has been for me today.” She met his gaze and the mage who loved her best felt her sincerity and her pain tugging at his heart again.
“Again, I think you’re apologizing for me, little girl.” And he’d dismounted and the pair of them had walked up the long hill to the archaeologist’s camp at the top of the excavation. “What makes you think you would be a good warrior?”
“I think it’s easier if I show you, in Stormwind, if you’ll take me.”
And after supping and staying the night in the godsforsaken wilds of the Wetlands outside an excavation site flooded with swamp water and plagued by raptors and talk of everything from what the Gods or Titans meant by different lessons on the different tablets and artifacts being found, Grugworg watched the sleeping girl who still slept like a child with one hand tucked under her chin with a sad awareness that the little girl who had stolen that special place in his heart was becoming a woman in more ways than the physical and carnal ways that were at the forefront the day before. She’d spoken and held her own with the Dwarves and had gained their admiration as well as their willingness to teach her if she made it back this way again. She was forging a path in the world with every step and in his world that made her grown enough to be supported on that path by those who claimed to love her.
And so, standing in front of the house of war in Stormwind’s Old Town, the mage was trepidatious and excited at once.
And Syndalee did not disappoint herself or her benefactor. She bested three of the four recruits who were sent with her into the challenge ring and then, on encouragement from her benefactor, she faced off against the instructor who’d challenged her. With a fierce cry that came from somewhere Grugworg had never seen the little girl who had giggled and sat in his lap to hear stories while playing with his transgotos or who had climbed and ridden his shoulders in the wild sea when he’d taken her to the beach was suddenly a fierce and inspiring beast with a mastery over the swords she was given that surprised him.
Later, after the instructor had told her the price of her training and quartering and promised to hold her a place in their school for as long as it took for her to raise the money, Grugworg strolled the streets of Dalaran with the girl and stopped outside of a little shop to ask her where she’d learned to fight.
“I’ll tell you what I told your friend Gozier. I’m a non-magical girl alone with only mages for company. I learned what I thought would be useful from the people who keep this city running while none of you were looking.”
“Syn, you have a magic that surpasses mine.” Grug had dragged her against him in an embarrassed and impassioned hug that made him blush. “It may not be a mastery of the arcane that surrounds us that you hold as a prize, and it is still magical.”
A few moments later she came bounding from the shop with her eyes alight and blazing with excitement. “I knew she couldn’t resist it!”
“And what might that be, Syn?”
“I found a recipe in my mother’s things and I re-worked it a little. She knew how to make some really incredible potions, and this one she was developing before she died.”
“I didn’t know that Fourthumb… I’m sorry, Syn. I didn’t know that Frenzy knew any potion recipes. Was she copying them from an ancient text?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I found out last month that mama kept a satchel in the bank for me of my parent’s belongings. I didn’t manage to be lucky enough to inherit their magical abilities, but I seem to have picked up my father’s ability to make friends and learn languages wherever I go and my mother’s ability to make anything into a potion.”
So matter of fact about the people lost to her before she could know them. Grugworg himself had never even heard stories about the girl’s dead parents, only a mention once from Frenzy who said they’d died in service to a power greater than man or King.
“And you’ve sold one of your mother’s recipes?”
And the girl blushed and glanced down at the ground. “Ummm… no.” She looked so suddenly chagrined that he reached out for her. “Should I have? I… it’s the only thing I have of her and it seems like I shouldn’t give her away that way. No, I reworked the potion and sold some of the result instead.”
“Sweet innocent little Syndalee.” Grug dragged the girl into another embrace and kissed the top of her head. “That is how money is made by alchemists, my darling. You keep that recipe and all of the others that you’ve made better or different and you offer them as finished potions for sale. The clever alchemists will figure them out, or come close. The less clever ones may sell yours as their own or even try to trick you into selling them the recipes. You stay true to the idea that this gift is your own and that it’s your way in the world.”
“Really my way, Grug. I never made a potion to sell before. I just made enough for my whole first year of school.”
“What in the world have you created, Syn? How much did she pay you for them and what did you sell her?”
Syndalee handed him one of the remaining potions and watched as he turned the little vial over in his hands. “I made that one for you. When Simione tested it she said it didn’t wear off for hours.”
“And what does it do?”
“Makes it so that magic cannot fatigue you as easily. You can cast even great spells very close together and never feel that tiring lapse that makes you have to stop and center yourself. I just thought it might be helpful in combat if you…”
“More helpful than you know. And how many did you sell to her?”
“Oh, Simione? She didn’t want that one. She wanted a different one that makes warriors fight harder by giving them the spirit of a rare plant called Icethorn that comes from the frozen North. The one my mom was designing. I made up the one I just gave to you from the same recipe because… well… I do spend a very lot of my time with mages.”
He laughed and followed her down the road to a little room she’d been keeping for herself in the same tower where she’d lived with Frenzy. “What else have you learned that I’ve been remiss in not asking about?”
“So many things, Grug.” And for the first time the girl lit up with excitement about what she could share, not just what she could learn and he felt that pang deep inside himself for neglecting to notice that she’d grown up right under his nose. “Do you want to see? I have a whole bag of things for you.”
“For me? Why for me, Syn? I’ve never given you anything but some little trinkets and toys along the way.”
Syn’s eyes misted and she took his giant lavender skinned hand in both of hers and pulled it to her chest where he could feel her heart beating. “I’m all alone, Grug. Alone before I even understood it and then almost alone over and over again. I’m about to be alone again. You gave me hope that whenever I’m alone someone will understand that hurt and will prevent it from haunting me.”
“I just didn’t want them to send you away, child. You’re a bright spot in a pretty intense and sometimes gloomy town. You don’t see Dalaran that way, but I do. So do many of the people who live and teach here.”
“This is the city of my dreams, Grugworg. I didn’t know it as a little girl and I really know it now that I return here for my things because I’m setting off on an adventure. This is my home and you helped to make it that way for me.”
From his personal selfishness he’d given a gift. He had much thought to give that idea later, he decided, because suddenly the girl was talking about him being able to manifest spells as hot and powerful as the sun if he drank this little phial or be able to come completely back up from mental exhaustion and begin casting again instantly with this chewy little packet of herbal wonder.
“You really made all these things?”
“Yes.” She smiled shyly. “I hardly ever even bother with the potions and elixirs that help anyone other than a mage or a healer. They’re the ones that my mother was most interested in, both of my mothers, I guess.”
“And this is entirely for me?”
“You can call it payment for all the times I’ve spent in your apartment as a guest, or for my beautiful horse, if it makes you feel more comfortable.”
He laughed out loud and patted her hand on the table. “Not payment. I never wanted payment. We’ll call them gifts as you’d intended them and I’ll pack my pride away until I can find someone wiser than me to help me understand why I’m suddenly feeling old and out of step.”
The little girl still in the young woman who sat across from him wailed sincerely and grabbed his hand in both of hers before exclaiming earnestly, “Grugworg, you’ll never be old! Not in my lifetime, anyway. Draenei live so much longer than humans that I’ll be gone long before you’re ever really truly old.”
He didn’t have an answer for her and was relieved when she remembered another little thing for him that became the most important thing he’d ever gotten as a gift from anyone.
“If you want me to I can make you more of them.”
“This is more than enough.” He’d stared at the tiny little bottles, each no bigger than his thumbnail and then back at her again. “Syndalee, where in the world did you find the rare plants you used to make these?” Grugworg had seen the vastness of Northrend and had seen where the little plants she described thrived and knew that no faint of heart tradesman had ventured there for some plants.
She looked down at the backs of her hands and then made eye contact with him. “Perhaps it is best to say only that I traded for them.”
He didn’t speak for fear of what he might say and she interpreted his silence and the misunderstanding clearly behind it and instantly and blushed.
“Not that way.” She said in a rush. “I have learned how to use the powers of transmutation. Not as well as some do, and still well enough. The man wanted me to make him titanium from saronite and so I spent a very long time perfecting it so that I could make him piles of the stuff for armor that he wanted to have commissioned.”
The Draenei blinked in surprise. “Why in all of Azeroth would you be embarrassed to admit that?”
“I was afraid you’d feel that it was too expensive a gift if I told you what I’d made in trade to make it for you.”
“I see.” The mage looked into the little box full of rows and rows of the amazing elixir she’d made for him and then back up into her hopeful green eyes. “Well, Syndalee, this little box is the answer to a need that I’ve had since before I knew you. Was this another of your mother’s recipes?”
“Umm… actually that one was something that mama thought of one night when we were discussing the properties of bending magic to a caster’s will, and how exhausting it can be. She said And what if one could harness some of that power and gulp it down for just one quick burst of dragon-like strength or ability? And it got me to thinking and we talked long into the night about it.”
“So really this is your own creation with the inspiration of others.” He’d nodded then and laid the beautifully carved box aside so that she was focused only on him. “You are the daughter I may never have, Syndalee. The greatest gift I have ever been gifted and I was forsaking you by not realizing who and what you are.” When she would have spoken he brought a finger to his lips and she was instantly silent. “I will never take for granted the friend and love that I have in you, little girl. If you feel that I am, I ask you to swear here and now that you will remind me of this night so I do not forget it.”
She nodded silently and smiled at him suddenly. “I can go to school tomorrow, Grug. I can become a warrior.”
The mage who felt years older than his real time shook his head and laughed then. “Yes, Syn, my sweet. You certainly can.”
Syn crept down the alley and glanced over her shoulder, turning the cowl she wore into a mask that guised her features and made her unrecognizable. This was her last night in Dalaran and she had to say goodbye to some that the others who enjoyed life topside in the great city of mages might not have approved if they’d known.
Down into the underbelly she went, twice kicking at the giant rats and other creatures lurking in the darkest of the shadows. She bowed politely to the withered old woman who kept the bar in the Cantrips and Crows and continued on by ducking through one of the sewer pipes and slip sliding her way to the less than level stones at the outlet.
She heard him before she could see him and stopped, holding still while he recognized her and then threw back her cowl so that he could see her in the very low light.
“I knew you would be here.” She whispered and took the man’s hands in hers while his eyes adjusted enough to the darkness that he could fully see her bright face like a moon. “I have a gift for you and some news that you’re not going to like, I’m afraid.”
“You will never say something I don’t like.” He said and stepped closer, putting his hands on her hips to pull her closer.
“I’ve been accepted to the warrior academy in Stormwind, Myrr. I’m going away.”
She nodded and laid her hand on his chest, misunderstanding his incredulous tone. “Please don’t be angry with me, please don’t tell me I can’t do this…”
He kissed her lips and she melted against him with a low groan that silenced her as he’d hoped it would do. “Silly girl.” He whispered against her ear with a moan of his own as her quick learning hands caressed his lower back in just the way he loved most. “Where do you think I live? Here? In this godsforsaken sewer? I don’t show my face above because it’s best if I do not. I live in Stormwind.”
She clung suddenly dizzy and laughed against his chest with so much elation that he was taken aback by it. “If I’d known I would just have asked if you minded if I visited you.”
He nodded. “That’s a complicated thing, even…” he stopped himself and she shrugged. “I can come to see you there.”
“She must be quite a lady, Myrr.” Syn whispered and hoped he did not hear the sadness that clung to each word. “And I didn’t come here to set up housekeeping with you, I came to say goodbye and to give you something amazing.”
She handed him the box before he could speak. “These amplify your magic for a few seconds. The effect takes awhile to work again, but in the moment right after you chew the little pocket you will have the firepower of a dragon.”
“Only mages and priests wear gowns, Myrrdinn.” She rolled her eyes at him and caressed the graying hair at his temples with a smile. “I didn’t mistake you for a Paladin. And a priest would never…” She drew up short and stepped back. “You’re no priest.”
“Certainly not.” He studied the box of tiny magical firepower disguised as jelly candy and then on her glowing green eyes. The dim candles on the walls reflected and made her emerald eyes flash in the low light like gems.
“And these are a way to keep your energy from flagging when you have to cast a lot of spells really close together, like in combat.” She handed him a leather bag with easily one hundred tiny clinking bottles in it. “The mage who tested them said that it lasted for more than an hour. She said she could just keep casting and casting and then when it wore off she wasn’t tired, just noticed that her spells seemed to be taxing her like they should again.”
His mouth fell open and he tilted his head to study her more closely. “Syn, you don’t even know me.”
“I know you better than you know yourself, Myrrdinn because unlike you I’ve bothered to accept you for what you are and took a look inside under all your defenses.” She said it so firmly and plainly that he only nodded. “These are very hard to come by, I only have a few of these because the plants are terribly rare and expensive. When you really need it and just cannot have it, these are like sleep in a bottle. You can drink one and it’s like having spent a weekend at the sea with only books and wine and food and a soft soft bed.”
He laughed at the image and studied the slightly iridescent shimmering elixirs that gave off a faint white glow. “Where did…?”
“I found the recipe and played with it. The effect is really sad, because you can use one and when it wears off a few hours later you’re just as tired as you’d be if you’d really missed that much sleep plus a few hours. You can’t just drink another and keep going.”
“I wouldn’t imagine anyone could go on forever.” He studied the vials again and then kissed her meaningfully only to feel that she’d pulled back and away from that attraction at the supposition that he was not hers alone.
“And lastly, because you love sneaking and knowing what no one else can know.” She handed him two little bags. “The red ones let you travel outside of yourself for a little while and scout ahead. I’ve tested and absolutely nothing can see you. Not even dragons.” She saw the joy fill his eyes and smiled. “It’s quite temporary and returns you very suddenly back to yourself, but you can see, breathe, smell and taste while you’re there, it’s very handy.”
“Syn, these must…” She laid a hand over his mouth and winked at him.
“And these other ones, the lavender ones, they make you invisible. Some things seem to still know you’re there, but most things can’t find you. Figure if you smell bad or are covered in blood that some things would find you no matter how well you were hidden and be clever, but Myrrdinn, invisible like even Rogues cannot accomplish. It lasts for only a few seconds and I think these are the most useful of them all to a man like you.”
He couldn’t speak. She’d truly understood him better than he did her, just as she’d said.
“I’m not married, Syn. If that’s what you think.”
Her body relaxed so visibly that he knew he’d hit the mark directly. “I have… commitments to people who might not understand my dalliances with a girl so much younger…”
She nodded. “So, now, do I.” She swallowed with difficulty and he could see the way her eyes shone over bright in the low light. “On both counts, Myrrdinn. Thanks for accepting those gifts. I made them just for you.”
And with that she turned to go with a quick glance over her narrow shoulder before drawing her cowl up. “You know where the Old Town is. I don’t know where I’ll be quartered. I start my training in two days’ time. I think that Grugworg will send me to Stormwind tomorrow if I ask him.”
“I can do it, Syn. You’ve never asked.”
She smiled from the shadows of her heavy hooded cloak and shook her head. “I think that you and I will have to meet again when we are more equally matched, Myrrdinn. When your commitments can be weighed against the reality that I am greater and more loyal to you than they are and that the only fool with any concern to my age shares your robes with you.”
And with that she was swallowed by the shadows and the mage was left to contemplate her words in the darkness of the sewers under Dalaran. He didn’t see the huge cloaked figure that disengaged itself from the shadows against a wall and hurried away after the girl. He saw only the prismatic effect of his suddenly wet eyes in the darkness as he turned towards the dim yellow candlelight and whispered the words that would take him home to stow his treasure trove of potions and elixirs.
Grug had met Myrrdinn a few times in Stormwind and in Northrend. The mage was too old for his Syndalee, and was also an honorable man and gifted mage. The Draenei was conflicted. It was clear to him that there was some intimacy between his young ward and the mage who was almost old enough to be her father. It was also clear that she had her head on straight and had control over a relationship that was precisely an example of what had actually frightened the mages of Dalaran to summon him in the first place.
The mage smiled to himself. His girl would be ok.
... more to come... Ice
more to follow...