She ran as fast as her uncomfortable spotted feline legs could carry her.
Away from Felwood.
Bounding over a mossy rock and ducking beneath a low hanging branch little Aerdri landed on all fours behind a cluster of forest floor ferns. Tiny beads of warm star-sparkled moisture blanketed her pale skin. After a brief moment of deep thought she quickly righted her self and crept closer, moving into the thickness of the leaves as quietly as she could. Caught up in the moment she barely noticed the sting of sweat as it entered her excited eyes or the tiny prick of decaying pine needles that poked at her bare legs.
This was it, this was the place, she thought. After a deep breath she slowly extended her thin arm into the foliage before her and ever so gently pushed the covering to the side.
Beyond was perhaps the most wondrous thing she had ever seen. She saw it once before years ago when she was still just a small child but even now it remained unchanged. This time, perhaps even more so than the last, she was instantly filled with a serenity that even seemed to over power the magnificence of Nordrassil itself.
Her eyes wandered over the glory of the tiny recessed glade. Flowers of every color and type surrounded it like determined protectors of nature. Near it's center, glimmering stones, also varying in size and shape, surrounded a lily covered pond. It's near mirror surface reflected the clearest night sky and only wavered slightly with the ripples caused by the trickling of a small stream.
All around, tiny wisps, perhaps the size of a coin danced and skipped though the air like downy feathers in a spring breeze. Large dragonflies occasionally dipped down to the pond and skimmed along the surface for a moment before springing back up into the darker sky.
The air here was warm and alive. It whispered it's way through the conifers accompanied by what seemed to be a soft hum that emanated from everything. The melody they made together was almost... dreamlike.
Yet all of this beauty still could not be compared to majesty of what Aerdri's eyes were now focused on. Tiny darter sprites, perhaps part insect part lizard, coalesced in a small group off to one side. Their skin, a myriad of colors, continuously oscillated through the spectrum and appeared to be covered in the thinnest most delicate of transparent scales. Each butterfly-like wing was nearly the size of their bodies and were each decorated with painterly patterns just as dazzlingly colorful as the rest of them.
They fluttered about one another in the most social way. Their interactions echoed with feeling, as they exchanged their many chirps and whistles. The sounds reminded Aerdri of an amalgam of birds, crickets, frogs and... her own reed flute.
When she realized this her free hand immediately went towards the same treasure filled bag that she had had ever since she was a small child. Her had brushed along it's contents, recognizing each thing she touched as the individual memories wafted through her mind like the smell of morning bread. When she found the tiny multi-stemmed flute she hesitated for just a moment.
"Uncle Zeir!" Aerdri cried out, "Thank you so much!"
She hurled herself into her uncle's arms and gripped him tightly. He let out a deep soft chuckle as he accepted her embrace and wrapped his arms about her in return.
"It is what you wanted right?", he asked, "I mean, I know it's not the same as the other one but I thought this one would sing for you just as well."
After a moment she drew back and stared at it. The golden tan shoots varying in length numbered at one half dozen and were wrapped securely with thin but strong threads of grass that she imagined probably came from some far distant plains. As she turned it over in her hands she saw affixed to the other side a wafer of the purest silver inscribed with the words "Lil Spark" and just below "Your spirit dances with the Light of Elune."
Holding back a tear she looked up into her uncles smiling face.
"No, it's not the same..." she said to him, "This one is far better."
She blushed for a moment before raising the gift to her lips and blew softly onto one of the pipes. The sound was warm yet her skin was suddenly overcome with a happy cascading shiver. Almost in response a few birds just outside the window began chirping to each other. Maybe they had already been singing before but she only noticed it just now. Her thin smile slowly spread from ear to ear.
Without saying anything Zeirrander took her head in his hands and placed a light kiss upon her forehead then added afterwards, "She watches over you Aerdri, and she wishes only happiness and good things for you, in both this life and the next... and so do I."
The sound of the front door ended the moment but not in a bad way. She could hear her aunt Eliise making her way into the kitchen. The sound of a few pots being set out upon the wooden counter followed by a number of other soft thuds.
"Aerdri!", her aunts cheerful voice, that sounded so much like her mothers, called out, "Come and help me, we're going to make your favorite for eve's meal!"
Aerdri's smile grew even bigger and her eyes brightened to the point of exhilaration. Her uncle chuckled again when she looked at him. She gave him another hug and whispered another, "Thank you.", into his ear before she flew off in the direction of her aunt.
Coming back to the moment Aerdri wrapped her fingers around the comforting form of the flute and drew it into the light. It seemed much smaller in her hands now but every time she looked upon it's form, now showing some signs of age, she couldn't help but remember that particular day. And each time she smiled just as wide as she did then.
Using her other hand that had held the ferns aside she began a one armed crawl out into the clearing still remaining as quiet as she could. When she reached a nearby rock she eased herself up onto it's smooth glittering surface and pulled her feet into a cross-legged position beneath her. With the flute now delicately grasped between her hands she looked again in the direction of the sprites. She sighed a bit, in relief, as they seemed to go about their musical business, oblivious to this new intruder among them.
Slowly raising the flute she licked her mouth twice before emitting a gentle purse-lipped breath into the pipes. At first the sound was ever so subtle, fading into the natural chorus of the glade, but gradually, after sensing no reaction she increased the flow.
The song she played was one of the first ones she learned, it's inflection was soothing and began as the first part to a song about the love of a dryad. She used the hum of the earth and the whisper of the breeze as a guide to her timing.
Still looking to the darter sprites she now noticed a distinct change in their movements. Their chirping changed slightly nearly matching the rhythm of her song. Looking almost confused for a moment they seemed to look about for the source of the sound. It didn't take long for one of them to spot her and it chirped to the others that the puzzle had now been solved.
Making it's way towards her, it floated through the air with gentle bobbing motions. A few others had followed behind at a distance but then stopped and watched Aerdri with their tiny curious eyes. The first however continued on it's course until it fluttered only a few feet in front of her.
Aerdri forced herself not to smile or the tune would come abruptly to a halt. This time she would let her eyes do the smiling. As she watched the sprite, it cocked it's head slightly to one side and blinked, it's double lids closing upwards over a third inner membrane and retracted in reverse. Aerdri blinked in return and again forced her lips to continue playing, the smile this time was harder to contain. Nearly at the chorus she boldly extended one hand palm facing upwards, silently hoping the darter would see it as a sign of friendship.
It blinked once more and chirped at her in a way that Aerdri felt was a trusting acknowledgment before it moved to her hand as if to settle upon it.
The call of the voice shattered the song and startled her. The sprite seemed confused at the sudden end to the music but did not dart off in fear like she thought it would. It was not just the voice though, it was who it belonged to. A voice she hadn't heard for many years... the voice of her father.
Just off to her left, her father emerged from the shadows and swatted at the sprite who still had not moved. Aerdri immediately dropped her flute and made a grab for his arm. Failing miserably she lost her balance and tumbled from the rock.
Now the sprite reacted. It let out a high pitched cry of alarm. It did not fly off though. It now seemed agitated, the peaceful demeanor it had was gone now. Now it acted on instincts alone. Even more strange it did not fly at her father... it ignored him completely and instead dove toward Aerdri's face flapping it's wings excitedly.
Still in shock at the sudden appearance of her father Aerdri scrambled backwards away from her almost new friend. The other sprites that remained a short way away were now upon her as well. They pecked and screeched at her in a flurry of anger.
From beyond her father advanced toward her. An odd hue of violet and green now seemed to envelope him like a mist.
"Aerdri!", he called out again just before the colors shot from his hands.
She stared in horror as one by one the sprites around her hissed and gurgled as their fluids poured form their pain wracked forms. They shriveled and fell to the ground as lifeless husks.
Tears now flowing down her cheeks she stared at the body of the sprite she nearly held in her hand and started to scream. She cried for what seemed like an eternity. The only sound in the glade now was the trickling of the stream.
Her father was nowhere to be seen.
She went to cover her face with her hands and stopped suddenly. For a brief moment Aerdri thought she saw colors wafting from her own palms, but then they were just as white as they had ever been, perhaps whiter.
Falling over onto her side she tucked her hands between her thighs and curled into a fetal position. Eyes still open she continued to gaze at the pile of corpses before her.
The glade she once considered to be the most peaceful place in the world now only felt like a tomb.
She ran and ran and ran. Even when she thought she couldn't run anymore she continued to run.
She ran from Felwood, she ran from her past, she ran from her friends.
Most of all though she ran from Sylardre.
No she thought, she ran "for" Syl. She ran because the hint of dread she thought she had felt before became obvious to her now.
Felwood was corrupt. Twisted and dying. Now only a shadow, a mockery, of what it had been. It was a familiar feeling... something that echoed in her mind, in her dreams. Worst of all she sensed it not only in her own mind but something similar seemed to emanate from Syl.
She no longer cared about her fear. Her fear of the demonic. She had to do something. She had to do it now both for Syl and for herself. Wasted time will only make the situation worse.
She knew eventually she'd have to return to Felwood, but right now she needed answers and the only place she thought of to begin was in another land. The haven of the demons that had fled the battle of Mt. Hyjal.
She ran as fast as her uncomfortable spotted feline legs could carry her.