The preview of the new female Night Elf model released this week has inspired me to post this story, which I wrote primarily during summer and autumn of 2011.
I don’t remember the glory of Zin’Azshari or the decadence of the Highborne.
I don’t remember the War of the Ancients or the Sundering of the world.
My mother once told me that there were more kaldorei children born in the fifty years immediately following Illidan Stormrage’s creation of the second Well of Eternity and the planting of Nordrassil by the Aspects than there were in the previous — or following — five hundred.
Scorned, derided, and shunned by the kaldorei, the remaining Highborne kept to themselves, but we occasionally saw them walking around the very outskirts of Constellas, where we lived. As a child and a youth, I was intensely fascinated by their pale, solemn, haughty countenances and their richly-decorated, yet increasingly threadbare apparel. My parents grew tired of my continual pestering to know more about them. After my father’s patience finally broke and he shouted at me — “Arcane magics destroyed our world! They are forbidden for a reason! Do not seek after them any more!” — I stopped asking about the Highborne… but when I had come of age, my parents could not prevent me from associating with them.
Fortunately, my parents were not as irritated by my musical experimentation with my father’s cooking implements and my mother’s gardening tools as they were by my questioning about the Highborne. They found me a tutor who also knew something of music, an amateur harpist, and I fell eagerly to practicing and studying musical theory. In time, I outgrew the musical skill and knowledge of my first tutor, and my parents engaged a second tutor specifically for music. I continued from one teacher to the next until at last, as I neared the end of my first millenium, I had become sufficiently adept that there was no-one left in or around Constellas who had anything to teach me… except one of the Highborne.
As I had grown, the Highborne had become increasingly reclusive; as they secluded themselves more and more from the world, it became common among the rest of the kaldorei to try to pretend they had vanished altogether. It took a decade of feeling bored and frustrated with my musical studies before I remembered having seen, during one of my juvenile exploratory ramblings, a Highborne harpist singing with his friends as night brightened into dawn. It took another two decades of planning and practicing before I felt prepared to venture to the Highborne enclave and attempt to approach him.
Myrliranden had been one of the lesser harpists of Queen Azshara’s court. When the demons appeared and the fighting began, his only thoughts had been to save his harp and his life. He had been fortunate enough to escape with both, and had made his way to the colony of Highborne at Constellas. He regarded me gravely as I stood at his door with my lap-harp on my back, fumbling through my explanation of why I had come. After I finished, he stood staring at me for a full hour. I could feel the eyes of the other Highborne in the surrounding houses on me.
Finally, he said, “Come into my garden, then, and show me what you can do.”
His garden was, of course, exquisite. I took my seat upon the stone bench he indicated and focused my entire attention on my harp, meticulously testing and tuning the strings before beginning the piece I had so carefully prepared.
I had only gotten a few staves in before he began to laugh. My fingers faltered for the tiniest moment upon the strings, then, cheeks burning with humiliation, I lowered my eyes to the ground before me and determinedly continued. He continued laughing for another few staves. Just as he stopped, my mind registered that his tone had not sounded mocking. It had sounded delighted.
I finished the piece and we sat in silence for several long minutes.
“Well, girl,” he said, with the barest hint of a smile, “if I had thought of taking on an apprentice myself, these long years should not have been so tedious. Come inside and let me see if you know your way around a big harp as well as that little one.”
Myrliranden was the most exacting master I had studied with yet. He made me begin all over again with the foundations: posture of back and arms and wrists and fingers, tuning and scales and other basic exercises, theory of intervals and harmonies and chord progressions. When he was at last satisfied with these, he had me play through my entire repertoire, and he noticed and corrected the minutest flaws in my memory and performance technique. I practiced until my fingertips bled, until all my strings were stained along their entire length, until I had to replace all my strings because they had absorbed too much blood to tune properly any longer. I practiced late into the dawning hours, until the light of the rising sun became unbearable to my eyes. After a few centuries, when I had perfected all that I already knew to his standards, then and only then did he begin to teach me new things.
When I had learned the harping and the lyrics of ancient Highborne songs and ballads, Myrliranden began inviting his Highborne friends to play and sing with us. From them, I learned much about the Highborne and the wonders of the original Well of Eternity. I learned to play many types of harps and stringed instruments, some of them specialized Highborne creations that were being deliberately forgotten by the general populace as the kaldorei turned their backs on everything having to do with the Highborne.
I also learned the Highborne system of musical notation. Kaldorei music at the time had no formal written system of musical notation; before I began studying with Myrliranden, I had learned all of my exercises and songs by rote. Even my musical theory studies had not had much in the way of notation, or had been a confusing jumble of conflicting notations. In contrast, the Highborne notation was elegantly simple. I felt that I had not truly understood anything of musical theory before — even though I soon discovered that I needed to begin keeping similar hours to the Highborne themselves, staying awake until the sun was well above the horizon, to have enough light to properly read the tiny symbols.
My parents weren’t happy about my association with Myrliranden. My father, in fact, was furious and would have cast me out of the family home if I had not already left, a century or so earlier, to make my abode with some of my similarly-aged friends. My friends thought I was odd, but generally agreed that I had to do what I had to do to continue to advance in my chosen scholarship. Myrliranden recieved his own share of disapprobation from his friends and acquaintances for having agreed to pass on his musical knowledge to a lowly kaldorei. It was popularly — though falsely — rumored in both the kaldorei and Highborne parts of the city that I was Myrliranden’s mistress or concubine. Although I eagerly learned all I could from the Highborne, I took great care to follow the dress and dietary fashions of the other kaldorei. I endeavored to keep a humble mien, that it might not be said that I was putting on Highborne airs. For this, and for my musical skill, the general kaldorei population of Constellas in time forgave me my eccentric and unfashionable association with the Highborne enclave. As one of the most skilled musicians in the region, my talents were in high demand for ceremonies, private parties, and other festive occasions.
One evening, when I had been studying with Myrliranden for nearly a millennium, I came to his house and found him preparing to pack up his books and instruments.
“There will soon be a gathering of all the Highborne in the south,” he told me. “I do not know how long I shall be away, so I must both pack the things I wish to take with me and prepare for storage the things that must remain behind.”
I helped him with the sorting and organizing until he indicated that he was ready to hear my progress with the Highborne Viol, a deep-toned bowed instrument that I had only recently begun to learn.
“Ah, Luna,” he sighed as he corrected my fingering and bowing postures, “there was so much more to music than this! If only I could teach you how to enhance and embellish the tones and intervals with the Arcane, as we did in Queen Azshara’s court!”
Myrliranden had said this to me thousands of times before, but this night, there seemed to be an extra shade of poignancy in his tone.
Several days later, Myrliranden and all the other Highborne of Constellas left for the Highborne gathering in the south. In a couple of weeks’ time, I received a rather cryptic letter from him that instructed me first to ensure that everything was secure at his house, and then to make safe all my own most precious belongings — meaning, of course, my harps and other musical instruments and my musical texts.
A few days later, the storm began. At first, it seemed like an ordinary summer thunderstorm. Instead of raging for a few hours and then fading away, however, this storm grew and grew in intensity. After a day or two, it became obvious that this was no longer a natural weather storm, but rather a storm fueled by magic. Suddenly, Myrliranden’s cryptic message made much more sense — the storm could only have come from the Highborne. Ashenvale lay in ruins long before the storm finally stopped. The enclaves of the Highborne, however, had been protected from damage by magical wards that they had surrepetitiously erected prior to leaving for their gathering.
Myrliranden returned to Constellas a week or two later. He told me that Malfurion Stormrage and Tyrande Whisperwind had intervened to stop the Highborne’s demonstration of their frustration with being forbidden to use magic. He said that the Highborne had now chosen to be exiled rather than continue to be stifled and were gathering on the eastern coast of Kalimdor to sail away across the ocean. He could take only a few of his most beloved possessions with him — the great harp he had saved from Queen Azshara’s court, a few other smaller instruments, his favorite books. The rest, he bequeathed to me. On the evening that he left, as the Highborne caravan began to pull away into the deepening shadows, he requested a lock of my hair — the full length, from my scalp to where it fell (unbound) to my knees.
“I wish to have something to remember you by, you who made these last centuries such a delight. I shall make a Hair Harp from it, when we have found a new land where we will be free to use magic as we please again.”
One of Myrliranden’s books had described the Hair Harp, a fragile, delicate-toned Highborne instrument that required a great deal of magical skill to create and only slightly less to play properly. I wept unashamedly that my master and friend should ask such a gift from me.
The kaldorei, outraged by the rebellion of the Highborne and the destruction of their lands, only barely restrained themselves from attacking the Highborne as they prepared to depart into exile. When the Highborne were gone, the people of Constellas ransacked and looted the Highborne enclave. I had to take possession of Myrliranden’s house itself to assert my claim upon his belongings. My friends, fortunately, sprang to my side. Though the beautiful gardens could not be saved from trampling, we were able to protect the house and all that was inside it from the wanton pillaging.
Over all these years, I had, as most young people are wont to do, pursued a series of romantic liasons of varying intensity and duration. At the time of the Magical Hurricane, my current lover was a young man of my own generation named Thelborius. Others thought it was very strange indeed that a Druid of the Claw should consort with one who adored the Highborne as I did, but Thel boldly answered anyone who challenged him that my music soothed the savage beast and helped him maintain his rationality as he and the other druids struggled to master the Bear and Cat shapeshifts.
Periodically, Thel went off with the other druids to fight in the ongoing war against the satyrs. Some years after the departure of the Highborne, the satyrs were especially well organized, calling themselves “Lords of the Emerald Flame”. Some of the druids, in desperation, took on a dangerous, exceptionally difficult-to-control shapeshift modelled after the ferocious wolf Ancient, Goldrinn. The druids who attempted this “pack form” fell prey to their own rage and turned on their friends and allies. Thel, who had been using the Cat shapeshift, survived, and when he came back and told me the story, I was horrified by the narrowness of his escape. Thereafter, I accompanied him on his various druidic errands as often as I could.
Travelling together was good for my own scholarship, too, as I had the opportunity to meet and exchange knowledge and songs with kaldorei musicians in many places. I could not, of course, bring any of my large harps with me when we travelled, but I usually contrived to bring a lap-harp and a lute. Even those seemed cumbersome at times, and so I began to study the music of pipes, flutes, and horns.
Upon returning to my house — the house that had once belonged to Myrliranden — after an extended stay in the newly established outpost of Feathermoon, far, far to the south in the jungles of Feralas, Thel observed thoughtfully that we had been each other’s closest friend for about half a millennium now, and neither one of us had shared a bed with anyone but the other for at least a century — if not longer. At the next Lunar Festival, though not in the Moonglade itself, we formally declared ourselves life-companions.
It only took us another few decades of discussing the matter to decide that we should have a child — maybe two — and that we should not delay doing so. Thel did not know how much longer it would be until he was summoned into the Emerald Dream, and he wanted to experience parenthood before that happened. We consulted the oracles and performed the necessary rituals to initiate fertility, and in time we produced first a son, then twin daughters.
Parenthood was more taxing than I could ever have imagined. At times, it seemed even more strenuous than the most difficult periods of my musical studies with Myrliranden. Somehow, it was simultaneously one of the most sublime experiences of my life.
The birth of our children also rekindled my relationship with my own mother. Our friends were fascinated by our babies, so our little ones never lacked for tenders. Our friends were as inexperienced in parenthood as we, however, and there were some things we just did not know how to handle. In desperation, not knowing whom else to ask for help, I turned to my mother, and she came gladly. Thel and I didn’t always agree with her, but I do not know how I would have survived the twins’ infancy without her.
After several beautiful, idyllic centuries of watching our children grow and mature, Thel was at last summoned into the Emerald Dream. We traveled with him to the Dor’Danil Barrow Dens in eastern Ashenvale, to say our farewells before he began his enchanted slumber. Our son, Ceredion, had followed Thel into the Cenarion Circle, becoming a Druid of the Talon. Our daughters, displaying the same feisty contrariness that I had shown as a youth, trained to be fighters. Aladonia eventually joined the Farstriders and ranged across the length and breadth of Kalimdor. Elaindris became a Sentinel at first, then was recruited into Maiev Shadowsong’s Watchers.
With my mate lying dreaming and my children grown and departed into their own adult lives and responsibilities, I was left more alone than I had been for millennia. I immersed myself in music again, practicing many long hours to re-polish abilities that I had devoted less time to while my children were young and in need of tutoring and training in other skills. Remembering what Myrliranden had said when I first presented myself to him as a pupil, I began to take students.
At this point, I ran out of enthusiasm for continuing to actively write a first-person, memoir-style story. I’ve had the following ideas for the continuation of the story to the present day lurking in my head, unwritten, for nearly three years now:
As Keriluna trained students and collaborated with other musicians over the succeeding centuries, she gradually and somewhat inadvertently assembled a performing group. This group, and the new, original compositions by herself and other members of the group that they played, became so well-reknowned that the group was invited to become resident musicians at the Court of the Moon. The music you hear in the Temple of the Moon in Darnassus is Keriluna’s composition, and, until rather recently — the blink of an eye, to kaldorei time-sense — she would have been the person playing the harp part.
At some point, Keriluna began covertly studying the arcane in an attempt to re-create what Myrliranden had hinted to her about using magic to enhance music. She knew that she would have to be very subtle with it, to give the music an ethereal tone quality without her audience — especially the High Priestess — noticing the arcane enhancement. It took her at least a couple of centuries of private practice and refinement before she dared try to magically enhance her music during one of her public performances, and she was so, so nervous the first several times she did!
Thought I couldn’t decide where to fit it in the timeline, I planned a vignette with Aladonia cajoling her mother into coming along on a Farstrider mission of several seasons length to track and observe the tauren through one or more complete migration circuits. Keriluna would have been immediately fascinated by the drumming, piping, and singing of the tauren camps, soon proclaiming that these creatures must be fully sentient, intelligent beings because they make music. She would have then spent the remaining duration of the mission recording and cataloging how the tauren music differed from tribe to tribe and from purpose to purpose.
I never quite figured out how I wanted to deal with the War of the Shifting Sands, the coming of the orcs and humans, the assault upon the World Tree during the Third War, the kaldorei’s loss of immortality, or the growing of Teldrassil. In the slowly developing cultural schism between those who approved of Tyrande Whisperwind’s leadership and those who preferred Fandral Staghelm’s more aggressive ideas, Keriluna favored Staghelm. During the events of Cataclysm, she sympathized greatly with Leyara, though she did disapprove of the treachery of the Druids of the Flame. She probably visited the Shen’dralar after their survival at Dire Maul/Eldre’thalas was revealed around the time of the battle at Mount Hyjal (How were the kaldorei at Feathermoon not aware of the Shen’dralar and the imprisonment of Immolthar for all those millenia between the Sundering and the Third War?) — ostensibly to search for lost musical knowledge in their libraries, ulteriorly to gain some training with the arcane. She would probably also have known about Lorekeeper Vaeldrin‘s obsession with regaining kaldorei immortality.
Some time following the defeat of Archimonde, Aladonia would cause a scene at the Temple of the Moon by breaking down, openly weeping, as she reports to Tyrande about the killing of the druids in the Dor’danil Barrow Den by the forsaken.
Elaindris was to be one of the Watchers who perished in the collapse of the Tomb of Sargeras. She would later be raised by Arthas as a Death Knight (I hadn’t decided if she would be a pink-haired Night Elf Death Knight or merely one with the gray-green hair). Eventually, she would cause a disruption at the Temple of the Moon by rushing in to fall at her mother’s feet pleading for forgiveness for what she had become.
Keriluna’s grief and anger arising from these two incidents drove her to intensify her clandestine studies of the arcane. When the Highborne openly returned just prior to the Shattering, she left her position as Chief Musician at the Temple of the Moon to become a Mage.