World of Warcraft: Sylvanas - Christie Golden - E-Book

World of Warcraft: Sylvanas E-Book

Christie Golden

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The epic, long-awaited definitive story of Sylvanas Windrunner, one of World of Warcraft's most enduring and iconic characters. Ranger-General. Banshee Queen. Warchief. Sylvanas Windrunner has borne many titles. To some, she is a hero... to others, a villain. But whether in pursuit of justice, vengeance, or something more, Sylvanas has always sought to control her own destiny. The power to achieve her goals has never been closer, as Sylvanas works alongside the Jailer to liberate all Azeroth from the prison of fate. Her final task? Secure the fealty of their prisoner—King Anduin Wrynn. To succeed, Sylvanas will be forced to reflect on the harrowing path that brought her to the Jailer's side, and reveal her truest self to her greatest rival. Here, Sylvanas' complete story is laid bare: from the breaking of the Windrunner family and her rise to Ranger-General; to her own death at the hands of Arthas and her renewed purpose in founding the Forsaken; to the moment she first beheld the Maw, and understood the true consequences of what lay beyond the veil of death. But as her moment of victory draws near, Sylvanas Windrunner will make a choice that may ultimately come to define her. A choice that's hers to make.

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Title Page

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Part I

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six


Part II

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven


Part III

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen


Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty


Part IV

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four


Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine




About the Author

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World of Warcraft: Sylvanas

Hardback edition ISBN: 9781803361000

Paperback edition ISBN: 9781803361017

Export edition ISBN: 9781785655036

E-book edition ISBN: 9781785655043

Published by Titan Books

A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd

144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP

First edition: April 2022

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2022 by Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

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This is, at its heart, a book about family, be it our first family, or found ones.

I therefore dedicate it to my own:My late father, James R. Golden, and my mother, Elizabeth C. Golden, and to my sister and brother,Lizann and James R. Golden Jr. (“Chip” to us). I love you all.


Sylvanas Windrunner stood at the top of the steps for a moment. She was not sure if the young king, pacing within the runic circle below, would become future prey—or future partner. It was all up to him . . . and her.

You will not succeed, the young lion had once said defiantly as he knelt before her. It was a ludicrous statement. Anduin Wrynn was held fast by chains woven of dark magic. He had received the worst pain the Mawsworn were capable of bestowing, yet had not broken—even managing to summon the Light in this place of cold, shattered misery. Through everything he had endured, Anduin retained a desire to help and heal, even if it meant his own suffering. And that display had intrigued the Jailer, he who ruled this realm of torment; he with whom Sylvanas had allied.

The Jailer wanted to use this shiny new weapon immediately. But something had stirred within the Banshee Queen. Something she couldn’t quite explain. Was it hubris that compelled this desire, to see her greatest enemy swayed to her side?

You’ve seen what he can do when he believes in the cause.

Their first encounter had not gone well. She hoped this one would yield better results. The Jailer had granted her the “measure of patience,” she requested, but he would not wait forever.

Anduin heard her steps and ceased pacing. He turned to face her, his blue eyes regarding her emotionless face, then he dropped his gaze to the tray she carried.

“I find myself wondering what that is, and where you obtained it.”

“Do you think you’re the only mortal in the Shadowlands?”

His eyes widened slightly. “So. My friends are still here. You’re slipping, Sylvanas.”

Sylvanas continued down the stairs. “Not at all. I told you before. No more secrets, no more lies.”

“I do try to think the best of people. But I lost hope in you even before the war.”

That surprised her, but she did not show it. “This is not a place for hope, Little Lion. But it is a place for reason. Overly gentle and trusting you may be, but I do not think you a fool.”

“I see. You’re going to attempt to convince me that I should help the Jailer destroy the cycle of life and death.” He laughed softly, shaking his head. “No. I am certainly not the fool here.”

Sylvanas had reached the invisible border of Anduin’s prison. She could enter and exit as she wished, and the tray of food and water passed easily through the barrier.

She knew he had not had water for a day; had been denied food even longer. Yet Anduin simply glanced at the food, then back at her with narrowed eyes.

Sylvanas pushed down her irritation and bit back a sharp retort. Then, to his visible surprise, she sat on the stone floor and cocked an eyebrow at him. “Eat. I do not need to resort to poison. Any harm I wished to do, you would not be able to prevent.”


So this was how it was to be. It was fine with her. He was quite literally a captive audience, and she had come to say much.

“I told you before, we wish you to join us willingly. I know you have empathy and compassion. That has been a weakness for you—but also a strength. So I will tell you how it was that I came to be the Jailer’s partner . . . and why I think you should be, too. I will share with you things I have shared with no one before.” It cost her nothing; Anduin would serve, or he would be used. Either way, any words spoken within these dark halls would never be shared with another mortal soul. Not when her victory was so close at hand.

Anduin cocked his head and looked at her searchingly.

As if mocking her he sat, somehow graceful, if clanking, in his armor. He reached for the water, toasted her, and drank.

“Go on then, Sylvanas Windrunner. Tell me these truths you have never shared. It would seem I have nothing but time.”



With love, and courage.



LET ME SEE, LET ME SEE!” VEREESA BEGGED. THE balcony walls, white and curving as the throat of a swan, were too tall for her to peer over, and Sylvanas sighed. She cast a final longing look at the crowd milling below, then darted back into their chambers for a stool. As Vereesa happily clambered atop it, Sylvanas returned her attention to the scene.

Their parents did host some gatherings—Father said it was “prudent” to do so from time to time—but they were usually small affairs. While Lord Verath Windrunner was one of King Anasterian’s most trusted advisers and his wife, Lireesa, was the ranger-general of Silvermoon, lesser nobles like the ostentatious Lord Saltheril threw much more lavish celebrations. But Lireesa had little patience with pretense and politics, and their quietly brilliant father’s idea of a fine evening was a glass of wine, a good book, and candles to read by.

But today, everything was different. Some of those gathered at the base of the spire were nobility like the Windrunners. Others would have once been considered commoners, but their athleticism, agility, and almost uncanny skills in marksmanship and tracking had elevated them to another sort of nobility. Certainly Sylvanas and her sisters had been raised with respect for and almost awe of the Farstriders, and thus far Sylvanas had seen nothing to disabuse her of the notion that they were worthier of respect than someone who’d simply been born with a title.

She had seen many of the Farstriders already for one reason or another, but they had usually come at the ranger-general’s request and interacted little with the rest of the family. Sylvanas was most familiar with Lor’themar Theron. Perhaps because of his white hair, he was one of the few elves who looked older than they were, and he bore himself with the same quiet, elegant dignity that Sylvanas saw in her father. Another Sylvanas had met was a relative newcomer, Halduron Brightwing. He had a cheerful grin and unruly dark blond hair, and he always greeted her and Vereesa if they were present. Like Halduron, the petite Jirri was also a relative newcomer, and clearly quite young if her obvious excitement and wonder at the spire was any indication. The blue-black color of Ranger Vor’athil’s hair made him stand out in a sea that was overwhelmingly gold and silver. Beyond the crowd, Lieutenant Helios spoke quietly to Rangers Lethvalin and Salissa while Ranger Tomathren waited, impatiently, for Helios’s attention.

Talthressar, Rellian, Auric Sunchaser, Alleria’s friend Verana—so many of them. Sylvanas’s heart was racing; she was so excited for what was to transpire that she might as well be the one undergoing the test, not her big sister, Alleria, who stood beside her mother in silence.

Ordinarily, the resemblance between mother and eldest daughter was uncanny. They had the same lean frame, though Alleria was still somewhat gawky on coltish long legs; hair that flowed like melted gold down their backs; the same curve of the mouth when they smiled. But now Lireesa’s belly was round and full, the child growing within due to make its happy appearance sometime in the next few weeks. In this moment, neither woman smiled. What was about to happen was far too serious.

Sylvanas watched Lireesa turn to Alleria and nod. As the two stepped forward, the Farstriders spread out into a circle, with mother and daughter in the center.

The ranger-general’s voice was strong and clear, used to uttering commands in the heat of battle and to having them be obeyed. It carried easily as she addressed the elite unit of the finest rangers in the entire kingdom.

“When I was a young woman, my mother, Alleria, trained me, the eldest child, to become ranger-general, as her mother had before her. Now my daughter, whom I have named after she who bore me, wishes to prove her worthiness and begin formal training. So that all may know that both Alleria and I understand the duty and importance of the position of ranger-general, I have set her a challenge.”

Lireesa turned to her daughter. There was no softening of the older woman’s mien as she spoke.

“Alleria Windrunner. Are you willing to do what is necessary to lead the Farstriders in times of both peace and war?”

“I am.” Alleria’s voice, unusually deep for one so young, betrayed no emotion.

“Then this is your challenge. Listen well. A springpaw lynx has been identified and tagged as your target. Its known territory ranges from Goldenmist Village to Farstrider Enclave. You must find it, slay it with a single arrow, field-dress it, and bring the pelt to me before the last ray of light fades. If you fail any of these charges, you fail the test.”

The ranger-general presented a single arrow to Alleria. “Here is your arrow. May it fly true.”

It was one of Lireesa’s own: uniquely fletched in the colors of green, representing the Farstriders, gold, one of the Windrunner colors, and a natural-hued gold-and-brown feather obtained in one of Lireesa’s legendary battles. Alleria hesitated just an instant before accepting it.

Most wouldn’t have noticed it. But Sylvanas knew her big sister well and frowned slightly. Alleria was a quietly confident young woman, a superlative shot, and an untiring tracker when need be. This should be easy. Springpaws were dangerous to the inexperienced, yes, but all the Windrunner daughters had begun training the instant they were strong enough to pull back the string on a child’s bow.

So why was Alleria worried? Perhaps it was simple nervousness. This wasn’t an ordinary hunt. To fail before not just the ranger-general but the entire unit of Farstriders would be humiliating.

Alleria placed the arrow in her empty quiver. Sylvanas thought it looked lonely, with none of its fellows surrounding it.

Now Lireesa offered Alleria a knife. It was beautiful; its blade, broad and sharp, as long as Alleria’s hand. The hilt was leather wrapped with golden threads.

“This is your skinning knife,” Lireesa said. “Use it only for its task. Do not use it to attack your quarry. I will examine the pelt afterward, and I will know if you do.”

Alleria nodded, accepting the knife and slipping it into its sheath. Finally, Lireesa placed a small sack in her daughter’s hands.

“Water, bread, and dried meat,” she said. “Enough for a single meal. If you grow hungry, you are permitted to gather food.”

Alleria fastened the pouch securely to her belt.

A small, warm hand, slightly sticky with melon juice, slipped into Sylvanas’s. Still not eye-to-eye with her sister even on a stool, Vereesa asked with a furrowed brow, “Is Lady Sun going to be all right?”

“Of course,” Sylvanas replied, squeezing her hand. “Alleria is going to be just fine. It’s only a springpaw. I bet even you could bring down one of those.”

Her eyes lit up. “You think so?”

“Well . . . maybe not right this minute, but very soon.”

Beaming, Vereesa returned her attention to the crowd below them. Lireesa placed her hands on her eldest daughter’s shoulders, though the gesture was not affectionate, but firm.

“If you succeed, we will begin the training.”

Alleria squared her shoulders. “Springpaw, I name you prey.” It was a formal phrase, the Farstrider equivalent of a vow.

Lireesa stepped back and brought a fisted hand to her heart in the Farstrider salute. Immediately, all the others did so as well, with such perfect coordination that Sylvanas heard but one single thump as hands met chests. Alleria flipped the hood over the shining gold of her hair, turned to the forest, and strode forward. The circle of hunters opened to release her, and there was silence until her slender form was swallowed by the trees.

Vereesa leaped from the stool toward Sylvanas with perfect trust that her sister would catch her. Sylvanas did so, hugging her tight and then setting her down gently while mussing her soft, silvery hair.

A thought crossed the older girl’s mind, and she could not hide a mischievous smile. “Come, let us talk to the Farstriders while we wait for Alleria.”

They descended the ramp as fast as Vereesa’s little legs could manage, Sylvanas still holding her hand. The perfect circle of Farstriders had now dissolved into smaller clusters of individuals. Some were partaking of the fare arranged on small tables, others talking among themselves. Verath had been standing beneath the balcony, keeping courteously out of the way while watching his daughter’s ceremony. Now he moved forward, hands outstretched to claim his wife’s. He squeezed them reassuringly. Lireesa squeezed back, then let out a sigh and released them. Sylvanas had observed that it was only when she was with her husband that the ranger-general allowed herself to relax.

Vereesa scurried over to their parents, and Verath bent to scoop her up. Sylvanas, though, was far more interested in the Farstriders than her family. She had left her bow at the base of the ramp. Now she picked it up, slung it over her shoulder with feigned nonchalance, and headed straight for Halduron, Lor’themar, and Jirri. They turned at her approach.

“Lady Sylvanas,” Lor’themar said, and inclined his head. His brows rose in impressed surprise. “You have traded bows since the last time I saw you—and traded quite well.”

It was true. The last time Lor’themar had come to the spire, Sylvanas was still training with a child’s bow. She had been presented this one on her most recent birthday and learned that Lireesa had arranged for one of the famed bowyers of Quel’Thalas to craft it. It had been carved from dark wood, polished till it gleamed, and inlaid with swirls of gold that spelled out her name.

“It is beautiful, yes,” she said, trying to sound casual. “But what’s more important is that the draw is smooth as silk and the valley nice and comfortable. Care to see me shoot?”

“Not at the moment, no,” Lor’themar said. “I am sure you’re quite good. You know, it is said your mother showed promise from a young age as well. Many here were present at the Battle of Seven Arrows, and they still speak with wonder at her skill on that day.” It wasn’t quite hero worship in his eyes; Lor’themar was much too grounded, but he regarded Lireesa with the deepest respect for a moment, then turned back to Sylvanas. “You have her steady hand,” he said, smiling slightly, “and I imagine you’ll be just as fine an archer.”

The Battle of Seven Arrows was a wonderful story, all the better for being true, but Sylvanas had heard it brought up so often it was all but meaningless to her now.

“Well,” she replied, hiding her disappointment, “I bet you will be telling stories about me when I join the Farstriders.”

Lor’themar inclined his head courteously, but Halduron smothered a smile. “That seems a way off.”

“Not that far,” Sylvanas shot back. “You’re hardly ancient.”

Vor’athil tried to cover his smirk. “She has you there,” Lor’themar said. “Sylvanas, we are all waiting for Alleria right now. No one wants to leave until she returns.”

Why not? Sylvanas wondered. Alleria had a lengthy list of tasks to accomplish that would surely take several hours—track the animal, dispatch it with an arrow, skin it, and return. Nevertheless, she had seen her father’s diplomacy in action enough to know when not to press a point. Besides, if Lor’themar was correct, none of the Farstriders would be leaving anytime soon—which meant she could talk to all of them.

They were the kingdom’s main military force; few citizens were more respected than they. She wished that she could at least see them shooting, but she would likely learn a great deal just by talking and listening to them.

The hours passed. By the time the midday meal was served, Sylvanas had spoken with every single one of her heroes. She was now hungry and growing bored with the whole thing. Why did Alleria’s trial have to be so lengthy?

Lireesa was now seated, rubbing her enormous belly absently as she gazed where Alleria had gone. Sylvanas approached her father, who was sitting on the grass with Vereesa’s head in his lap. He put a finger to his lips and Sylvanas nodded. Vereesa, she knew, had been up all night, refusing to sleep out of sheer excitement. Sylvanas, too, had not slept though she was less obvious about it. She pushed away any drowsiness, and chewed on a slice of bread and cheese as she sank down next to Verath.

“How long do you think this will go on?” Sylvanas whispered.

“Your mother was generous with her requirements,” Verath said. “Alleria will need the whole day.” His gaze, like his wife’s, was where Alleria had last been seen.

Sylvanas made a face. “So, what am I supposed to do?”

“Wait,” he said, simply. “Or whatever else you wish, my dear. You are not a Farstrider, you may come and go as you please.”

“I just might, then,” Sylvanas replied. She followed her father’s gaze. “You . . . you do think Alleria will succeed?”

“She excels at all she has been asked to do,” Verath said.

“That’s not an answer.”

“No, it is not,” her father said.

“I like you better as a father than a diplomat,” Sylvanas said. She had learned long ago there was no point in pressing him when he “put on his adviser robes,” as Alleria called it.

“It is fortunate for you that I am both,” he replied with a grin and a wink. This was true—many times Sylvanas had seen him smoothly interject himself into conversations between Lireesa and others when things began to grow heated. Because she knew she wouldn’t get anything more from him, Sylvanas grunted in exasperation and rose, polishing off the light meal and reaching for a delicate spun-glass chalice of fruit nectar to wash it down.

She went to the family armory and grabbed a quiver and a handful of arrows. She was itching to move, to jump from bough to bough of the beautiful golden-leafed, white-barked trees; to test her own skill at moving silently and shooting cleanly while her sister was doing the same.

Sylvanas made certain her departure wasn’t noticed, and once she was out of sight of the gathered Farstriders, she veered back toward the direction Alleria had been heading. Something was going on, and Sylvanas wanted to know what. She’d felt the tension in the group, tamped down but present. Lor’themar’s words were curious, and her father’s evasiveness had only increased her suspicions. Even Lireesa seemed anxious, and that was highly unusual.

Sylvanas, just like her sister, had no idea which specific springpaw had been selected as Alleria’s quarry. How would Alleria go about finding it? That task alone seemed impossible and doomed to failure. The practical thing would be to start with the pride that was closest to Windrunner Spire. Her mother would not have selected a beast as far away as, say, the West Sanctum. Not if Lireesa wanted her daughter to succeed, and Sylvanas was well aware the ranger-general was determined that Alleria would fulfill her birthright. So the closest, then.

Though the day was clear, it had rained last night. The forest smelled of damp, clean earth, and Sylvanas, knowing exactly what to look for, found traces of Alleria’s passing. “You’re easy to track, Lady Sun,” she murmured, but there was no reason for Alleria to waste precious time attempting to hide her path. Sylvanas continued to follow Alleria’s trail, then froze. The boot prints began to be spaced farther apart, and only the toes were now visible. Alleria had been running—and Sylvanas’s heart contracted when she saw why.

The largest springpaw prints she had ever seen began to appear alongside Alleria’s. Her sister was no longer predator, but prey—and the beast who hunted her was enormous.

Sylvanas began to run.

The words pounded in her brain: Everyone is waiting for Alleria to return.

She excels at all she has been asked to do.

And her response: That’s not an answer.

Except it had been, hadn’t it? Her father had known. Everyone had known, except for her and Vereesa. A sudden burst of anger lent her speed.

Her ears caught the sound of something crashing through the underbrush. An unmistakable snarling roar joined the noise. Something large and angry was barreling toward her.

Distance. I need distance.

Sylvanas leaped up, caught an overhanging branch, and pulled herself up, climbing high enough so that the springpaw couldn’t pull her down if she missed. Her heart thumped in her chest and her breathing was quick as she swiftly pulled an arrow from her quiver and nocked her bow.

When the animal burst into view, Sylvanas gasped.

The outsized prints had told her it would be large, but to see it—this had to be the one they called Mauler. The one rumored to have developed a taste for elven flesh. She could well believe it. For an instant, panic almost overwhelmed her, but then a sudden calm descended. Precise. Detached. Cold.

She noticed so many things in the space of a heartbeat: Its size. Its speed. Its yellow teeth and claws that tore the earth as it ran.

The lone arrow in its side, too far from the heart to have killed it. The blood dripping down its golden flanks from the arrow and numerous cuts that looked to have been made by a hunting knife.

That it was chasing prey not fleeing on the ground—but in a tree—and Alleria was in the branches. Her face was flushed with exertion, and she clung to the branches for dear life.

Sylvanas realized with horror her sister had made a dreadful miscalculation. Alleria wasn’t high enough to escape the sort of leap a springpaw the size of Mauler could make, was making—

Sylvanas’s arrow pierced the lynx’s right eye, emerging, clotted with blood, at the base of its skull. He dropped, his paws churning as his body spasmed, then lay motionless.

After the cacophony of the chase, the forest seemed unnaturally still. Birds were silent, too afraid to resume their songs. Even the wind did not dare to rustle the leaves.

Sylvanas’s mouth was dry from panting, her body trembling from the release of tension as tight as any bowstring. She took a breath, steadied herself, and jumped from the tree.

Alleria climbed down as well. In silence, the two sisters stared down at the beast.

Finally, Sylvanas spoke. “Did you know it was this one?”

Alleria shook her golden head. She couldn’t tear her eyes from the corpse. One hand clutched her bow; the other, the gore-covered knife. It was only then that Sylvanas realized that Alleria’s leg was bleeding.

“You’re hurt!” Sylvanas exclaimed, trying to tear off her sleeve for a bandage as she moved toward her sister. The Mauler had missed the major artery.

To her confusion, Alleria drew back. Her eyes bored angrily into her sister’s. “Don’t touch me!” she snapped.

Sylvanas blinked. “You’re wounded, you—”

“Haven’t you done enough?”

“What I’ve done is save your life, Alleria!” Bewilderment and hurt turned to hot anger. “A thank-you would be nice.”

“I’ll take care of it myself.” Alleria wrenched off her cloak, tossing it down to the forest floor angrily and stabbing at it with her dagger.

As she had tried to do to the Mauler . . . after her single arrow did nothing but enrage the beast.

Sylvanas gasped lightly, comprehension dawning. She had intervened, and now Alleria had failed her test.

But she failed before I even shot, Sylvanas thought. Alleria hadn’t killed him with one arrow.

“Alleria,” she began, more calmly this time, “even before I—”

“Be quiet!” Alleria was shouting now, and tore furiously at the cloak, ripping off a strip of dark green fabric, venting her anger and shame on the inanimate object as she wrapped it tightly around her wounded leg.

Sylvanas stood by, silent, less obeying Alleria’s request than being too frustrated and hurt to speak.

Alleria tentatively put weight on the injured leg and winced, hissing. Again Sylvanas moved to help, again Alleria halted her. Alleria took her bow, her beautiful bow that had been given to her only a few hours ago, and used it for a cane as they moved slowly toward home.

* * *


Lireesa’s face appeared to be composed. Only her children could see the banked fire of anger in their mother’s eyes.

“I missed the kill,” Alleria said quietly, trying and failing to keep her face as expressionless as her mother’s.

“Obviously, as I see no unmarred pelt before me.”

Alleria’s face twitched slightly.

“The Mauler is at least dead, I hope.”

“He is,” Alleria replied. Sylvanas remained quiet. Let their mother assume Alleria had put the beast down. It would go easier on both of them.

The older girl’s gaze darted to Sylvanas for a moment, then flickered back to Lireesa. “But I cannot claim the kill. I was treed, and it was Sylvanas who shot him.”

Sylvanas’s eyes grew wide. What had Alleria just done?

Now their mother’s simmering fury was turned on Sylvanas. “Is this true?”

Sylvanas wanted badly to lie. All Alleria had needed to do to avoid the worst of the storm was remain silent, but she had volunteered unrequested information and now made them both clear targets of their mother’s displeasure. Lying would only make things worse.

The younger Windrunner straightened and met her mother’s eyes evenly. “It is. Alleria’s life was in danger. I took the shot when I had it.”

“I see,” Lireesa said. “So you took even that away from her.”

Sylvanas felt her face grow hot. “That monster was—”

“You do not know what would have happened.” Lireesa’s statement cut off Sylvanas’s protest with brutal sharpness. “Alleria did indeed fail, as she did not kill the beast with one arrow. But she might have killed it regardless. She might have returned and requested another opportunity to prove herself against a uniquely dangerous creature. There are subtleties in these things, Sylvanas, that you do not appreciate. Perhaps you did save her life. We will never know. But all here do know you robbed Alleria of any opportunity to handle the situation by herself, cheated her out of her victory, and shamed her before the people she was born to lead.”

Sylvanas bit her lip hard to keep from bursting into tears. Not because she was hurt—though she was—but because she was so terribly angry. Angry that her sister had unknowingly been tasked with doing something so dangerous. Angry that Alleria had resented her for trying to help. Angry that no one here seemed to understand that Lireesa might well be planning funeral rites for her eldest daughter instead of publicly embarrassing her. She opened her mouth to shout It’s not fair! when a calm voice spoke.

“Ranger-General,” Verath said, speaking with the greatest respect to his wife, “as you say, there are things Sylvanas is too young yet to fully understand. If you had instructed her to stay here, I am certain she would have obeyed.”

Sylvanas was not at all certain, but she was wise enough to stay silent.

“I will take her and Vereesa out for some air while you resolve the situation with your Farstriders. And I will put this event in the proper context for her.”

Lireesa visibly calmed at her husband’s words. She said nothing, but nodded, and the angry furrow of her brow relaxed ever so slightly.

It was not the first time their father had gracefully inserted himself between his daughters and their mother, and it would likely not be the last. Lireesa had a quick temper and a sharp tongue, but she was also fast to forgive and forget . . . usually. Sylvanas suspected that this time it would take more than the duration of a jaunt to Silvermoon for her mother and Alleria to sort things out.

And perhaps even more time for the air to clear between the ranger-general and her middle daughter. Sylvanas could not suppress a glower as she prepared her hawkstrider, while her father hoisted a giggling Vereesa atop his quel’dorei steed as the head groom Talvas held the reins and smiled benevolently at the littlest Windrunner. His horse, with its coat of gleaming white, black mane and tail, and distinctive single, curved horn, was bestowed by King Anasterian only upon those of high rank or exceptional distinction. Each of her parents had one: Verath, the stallion Parley, and Lireesa the mare Arrowflight. Before Vereesa was born, it had been Sylvanas who perched in front of Verath as they rode, Parley sensing the need for gentleness and bearing the children of his master without faltering. Now that was Vereesa’s place. Sylvanas loved her hawkstrider, whom she had named Snap, and been proud of herself the day she finally rode solo. But sometimes, she missed the warm comfort of her father literally at her back. Today was one of those times.

Snap’s long, taloned legs moved swiftly, and Verath slowed Parley’s gait to a gentle canter so as not to outpace the large avian. Sylvanas fumed quietly, and her father did not press her. They had passed Windrunner Village and the Sanctum of the Moon and were well into Tranquillien when Sylvanas finally spoke.

“What Mother did wasn’t fair.”

“Which part of what she did?” her father asked.

“Any of it. Letting Alleria think she was supposed to kill an ordinary springpaw. Demanding one arrow and no knife marks. Not making sure someone was watching her. And,” she said, saving the worst affront for last, “being angry at me for saving my sister’s life.”

Verath nodded but didn’t reply at once. Then he said, “Your mother needs to be tough on Alleria. Do you know why?”

Because she likes to, Sylvanas thought. But even before the thought had truly formed, she knew it was too harsh a judgment. “I don’t know,” she said honestly.

“The position of ranger-general is crucial to the defense of our kingdom. It is the only hereditary position, other than the monarchy itself. It’s always passed from the ranger-general to one of their children. And for the last few thousand years, the ranger-general of Silvermoon has always been the eldest child of a Windrunner.”

“I know all this,” Sylvanas said, sulking.

“Yes, but you are not using that knowledge to understand the situation.”

Gentle as it was, it was still one of the sharpest rebukes Sylvanas had heard from her father, and her cheeks reddened.

“So,” she said, anxious to do better, “if she wanted to, Mama could give Alleria the title even if Alleria is a bad hunter.”

“She could. And what would happen if she did?”

“The Farstriders would be angry and accuse her of . . .” Sudden comprehension dawned. “Mama has to push Alleria hard so the Farstriders can see she was not only born to the position, but truly deserving of it. If Mama is soft on her, people would think she was playing favorites.”

“Exactly right,” her father replied. “And that is a burden Alleria should not have to carry. Simply leading the Farstriders well will be challenge enough.

“It was a measure of confidence in Alleria’s success that your mother sent her after the Mauler,” Verath continued. “It was less a test of those specific skills than to see how Alleria would behave in the face of something genuinely dangerous. It was never about passing or failing. Lireesa had faith Alleria would survive, and, regardless of what happened, Alleria’s actions would expose both her strengths and her weaknesses. Knowing these, Lireesa could help her improve on the first and eliminate the second. An evaluation, if you like.”

Sylvanas’s heart, until this moment beating rapidly with anger and resentment, suddenly felt heavy in her chest as understanding dawned.

“So . . . missing the shot didn’t mean Alleria failed.”

“No, it did not,” her father said, and his voice was gentle and filled with sympathy. She didn’t look at him, but she felt his kind gaze on her.

“But when I shot Mauler, I ruined the test.”


Sylvanas sat with this realization for a while, thinking her way through it, recalling every moment of the incident. Her mother’s cutting words came back to her: There are subtleties in these things, Sylvanas, which you do not appreciate. Finally, she said, “Mother should have told me.”

“I agree.”

She looked at him, pleased and surprised. “You do?”

“You are a young woman now, Sylvanas, no longer a child. Lireesa should have told you the importance of the test and you would have understood, would you not?”

“I would,” Sylvanas said, finally looking over at him. “But I still think that’s a cruel thing to have done to Alleria. And I am not sorry I shot. You weren’t there, Father. Springpaws can climb, and Alleria could not get high enough in time to escape him. I know I did the right thing.”

He chuckled, his eyes bright. “Right and wrong, just like fair and unfair, are highly subjective. But in the end, there’s only one thing that matters.”

She cocked her head. “And that is?”

“You acted out of love, and with courage. Everyone there—including the ranger-general herself—understands that.”

“I don’t think so.” Not the way she looked at me.

“If not now, then she will realize it soon. Just as I do.”

Sylvanas’s chest began to ease, and she smiled gratefully at her father. He understood her, even when she got into scrapes and trouble; even when she disobeyed or did something wrong. He knew her, knew her heart and her intentions, and always remembered these even when he was the one to dole out the reprimands.

Sylvanas turned her face up to the blue sky and took a deep breath of the clean, healing scent of the forest.

“I wish you hadn’t told Mother we were going to Silvermoon.” She was not overfond of the elven capital. It was too large, too bright, too oh-so-very crimson and gold. Statues were everywhere, and the cost of any given noble’s outfit could have fed a small village. “I would much rather have gone exploring with you.”

“Now is not the time to add an extra concern to your mother’s plate.”

Sylvanas scowled. He was correct. “Sometimes you’re too stuffy,” she muttered, and he laughed.

“I’ll tell you what. We will go to Silvermoon, just as I promised your mother. But we can stop along the way.”

Sylvanas turned in her saddle to look at him, her mood shifting almost at once. “Our favorite spot?”

“Our favorite spot.”

“Can we stay until the fireflies come out?”

“Not today, dear one. But we can stay for a little while.”

They exchanged grins, and Sylvanas felt as though a shadow passing in front of the sun had finally retreated.

The silence that fell was now companionable, and Sylvanas pushed back her hood to let the wind play with her pale yellow locks. Lady Moon, Alleria had dubbed her; Alleria herself was Lady Sun, and Vereesa, Little Moon. Sylvanas had pointed out that her hair was still technically blond, albeit pale, and Alleria had replied, “It’s closer to white than gold, and besides, would you rather be Lady Moon or Little Sun?” Naturally, Sylvanas had opted for the former, thus saddling Vereesa with Little Moon.

Soon a new Windrunner would join the family. Idly, Sylvanas wondered what color the child’s hair would be. White, like their father’s and the moon? Gold, like Lireesa and the sun? Black, like the night sky? Red, like her hawkstrider?

The thought amused her. She gave her father a sly look, blurted, “Race you!” and signaled Snap to run full-out.

“Race! Race! Race!” shouted Vereesa happily, digging her fingers into Parley’s mane. Verath, as always, gave Sylvanas a head start, but she expected him—as always—to win. I’ll never let you win, my daughter, he had told her once. You wouldn’t like that.

He was right. She would lose the race, but that wasn’t the point of it.

The point of it was joy.

The “favorite spot” beloved by the Windrunner family would not look like anything special to the casual observer. But to them, it represented many happy memories, stretching all the way back to the days when a strong-willed, passionate woman had paid suit to the court’s rising star, a youth with the tact and insight of one much older than his age, but who still had a lover’s heart.

“I was always a child of the city,” Verath had told Sylvanas the first time he and Lireesa had brought their three children to this small, grassy spot next to the river. Alleria was knee-deep in the cold, clean water, Sylvanas was in her father’s lap, and their mother was nursing the infant Vereesa. “I fell in love with your mother and the forest at the same time. In a way, it was like falling in love with one single beautiful, vibrant thing.”

Verath regarded his wife, who lifted her head, feeling his gaze, and smiled softly at him. Sylvanas had looked from one to the other, not quite understanding the unspoken words between them, but knowing them to be loving ones, and knowing as well that she was safe.

Today it was Sylvanas who was wading in the water, gasping at the bone-deep cold and laughing as small, silvery fish nibbled at her toes. Vereesa sat on a sun-warmed rock, attempting to make a flower crown, mangling it horribly, and not caring in the slightest. Verath had stretched his lanky legs on the grass and was watching the soft white clouds when he frowned and sat up, still staring skyward.

Sylvanas turned to look, too, craning her neck and shielding her eyes. There was a small speck—no, two specks—silhouetted in the sun that were drawing closer, their wings beating as they approached.

“Lord Verath!”

“Halduron!” her father called as Halduron, Jirri, and the dragonhawks approached. Although she was clearly trying to control her emotions, the normally smiling Jirri was pale and almost . . . frightened?

“My lord, you must return to the spire at once,” Jirri said “Lady Lireesa has gone into labor!”

Sylvanas had never seen her father look so distressed. “But the child isn’t due for several weeks—”

“Apparently, someone neglected to inform the child,” Halduron retorted. His effort at lightening the mood was received with worried silence as Verath handed Vereesa to him. He settled the girl safely in front of him while Jirri slipped off her dragonhawk and Verath and Sylvanas climbed atop it.

Sylvanas was not particularly interested in children other than her younger sister; nor had she given much thought to having children of her own. Alleria was the only one who needed to produce the future ranger-general. She sat behind her father, arms around his waist, resting her cheek on his back. Verath’s reaction had unsettled her, and she was doing her utmost not to worry. Her mother had doubtless summoned some of the finest healers in the land the moment it became apparent that the newest addition to the family was determined to join it ahead of schedule.

Sylvanas and her father leaped off the dragonhawks almost before the creatures were close enough to land. Halduron handed Vereesa back to her father, and Verath and Sylvanas raced up the stairs. A sensitive child, Vereesa had picked up on the tension and started crying the moment they departed, much to Halduron’s consternation, and she now was sobbing at full tilt. There was no sound from above, of another child crying its first breath. Sylvanas did not think she had ever been truly afraid of anything in her life, but suddenly fear locked her in its cold grasp. She was clumsy as she ran.

Despite his weeping burden, Verath reached the room before Sylvanas, vanishing into the quarters he and his wife shared. Sylvanas stumbled in a second after, bracing for the worst.

She saw instead a sight so beautiful it could have been a painting hung in Sunfury Spire. Warm sunlight streamed in through the open casement window, bathing her mother and the bundle she bore in white-gold. The transom at the top was made of stained glass, casting its own rainbow hues. Verath cupped Lireesa’s flushed face in his hands, and as Sylvanas stepped inside, relief making her weak, her parents kissed for a long, sweet moment, then pressed their foreheads together. Tears were on Verath’s cheeks, yet Sylvanas had never seen him smile with such joy.

Alleria leaned against the wall, smiling herself, and another worry Sylvanas hadn’t realized she’d been carrying fell away. The new arrival, it would seem, had already worked a minor miracle if Alleria’s test was all but forgotten. Lireesa pulled back from her husband’s embrace, her hand still on his cheek.

“Everything’s fine,” she reassured her children. “This little boy simply couldn’t wait any longer.”

A boy. A brother for the three sisters. Sylvanas realized she’d simply assumed the baby would be a girl, but she was glad he wasn’t. Four girls would have been boring.

Vereesa had stopped crying and now wedged her way between the parents. “Let me see, let me see!” Had only half a day passed since she’d said that to Sylvanas, wanting to see Alleria? It seemed like a lifetime ago.

Sylvanas stepped from the doorway quietly to stand at the foot of the bed, wondering if this giddy elation filling the room would extend to her. Lireesa turned her eyes toward Sylvanas, and her smile was warm and genuine. “Would you like to hold him, Sylvanas?”

Sylvanas nodded. The lump in her throat stopped her from speaking. She reached down as Lireesa reached up, and gathered the small, warm bundle in her arms.

The infant fidgeted, turning his head and dislodging part of the blanket that had been tucked around him. Sylvanas took a swift breath as she finally beheld his face, her eyes wide and suddenly stinging with tears.

He was perfect. Wisps of gold hair, bright as newly minted coins, adorned his head. His cheeks were pink as roses, and his deep blue eyes were fixated on her.

Joy and fierceness flooded her in a sudden burst as the world narrowed to this moment, this small being, and Sylvanas did not think she had ever cared about anything more than this confoundingly tiny bundle. Carefully, she shifted him so she could touch his face, his skin so soft, so perfect.

“What’s his name?” Her words came out in an awed, hushed whisper.

“Lirath,” Lireesa said.

“Lirath,” Sylvanas repeated, trying it out. As Vereesa’s was, so was the baby’s name an amalgam of his mother’s and father’s. It rolled pleasingly off the tongue, and though it was of course impossible, Lirath gurgled as if responding to it. “Lirath, one day, I’m going to show you our favorite spot. You can splash in the water, or dance with us, or just sit and watch the world like Father does. I can’t wait to show you fireflies.”

She leaned over and kissed his smooth forehead, unmarred as yet by sun or sorrow. As she drew back, the baby waved a chubby arm and tiny fingers grasped a few strands of her hair.

“He likes your hair, Lady Moon,” Alleria said. Her voice was warm and soft. Everything, Sylvanas thought, was warm and soft right here, right now.

“Well,” Sylvanas replied, her voice still low and tinged with wonder, watching the infant’s fascination with a simple lock of hair, “he is golden-haired, like you, Lady Sun, so I think he should be Little Lord Sun.”

“Two suns, two moons!” Vereesa crowed, bouncing slightly.

“Hold him carefully, Sylvanas,” Lireesa said. “You don’t want to hurt him.”

Sylvanas recalled her father’s words.

I will never hurt you. Ever. And no one else will, either. With love and courage, I will keep you safe.


LORD SALTHERIL SAT, EYES WIDE, PERFECT PHYSIQUE nearly motionless, as Lirath performed. Music to dance to, music to move the spirit, music to make the heart ache: Saltheril listened with a focus even Sylvanas could grudgingly admire.

The entire Windrunner family had a deep appreciation for art. Their parents had instilled in them from a young age that a world without beauty was no world worth living in. Music, sculpture, poetry, and the tranquility and inspiration they brought was what Lireesa and the Farstriders fought to protect; what their father defended at court. Sylvanas thought magic was useful, yes—but no display Grand Magister Belo’vir had conjured could rival the simpler magic of artistic creation. And so the girls danced, and sang, as other children did. But Sylvanas’s Little Lord Sun—not so little, not anymore—was a true prodigy, and everyone he played for was the better for hearing him.

Word of Lirath’s uncanny gift for music and song had reached beyond Windrunner Village and neighboring areas, all the way to the ears of the elegant, polished, impeccably tailored Lord Saltheril. He was famous—or perhaps infamous—for his extravagant parties. He’d been skeptical as to whether the youth really was as good as rumor had it, and Saltheril had mentioned the boy to Verath. Lirath’s father had invited the lord to come see for himself, and it was clear within moments that he, like all who heard Lirath perform, was captivated.

Sylvanas was proud of who Lirath was growing up to be, but she was a bit sad to see the child yielding way to the adult. She leaned up against a doorway, smiling wistfully as she watched him perform, as she had done at least a thousand times. And, as a thousand times before, Lirath astonished her.

Sylvanas had been the first to remark that, even before the baby could speak, Lirath was singing himself to sleep. “He is just making noises,” Lireesa had said. “The three of you did the same thing.”

“No, there’s a melody,” Sylvanas insisted. And there had been.

As Lirath grew, Windrunner Spire was often filled with his singing, and when he was introduced to instruments, he picked them up easily. A true Windrunner, he was driven to excel, practicing diligently. Once Sylvanas had noticed his lute strings were red. Lirath had played until his fingertips bled, but said not a word.

Under Lord Saltheril’s rapt gaze, Lirath played the lute and the lyre, the pipes and the flute, the mandolin and the harp, all with equal skill and equal power to touch the spirit. Then he placed the harp to the side and stood quietly for a moment. He raised his head and used Sylvanas’s favorite instrument—his voice.

By the light By the light of the sun Children of the blood Our enemies are breaking through Children of the blood By the light Failing children of the blood They are breaking through O children of the blood By the light of the sun Failing children of the blood They are breaking through O children of the blood By the light of the sun The sun