In which Nouala recieves a mysterious summons, a mother is found and certain revelations regarding a gem.

As Nouala read the letter in the soft spring breeze her brows rose in puzzlement. "Gone?" she said to herself. After reading the letter a second time, she made her way to the house of Elizabetha and Richeron where she had been staying. After a short while, she left the house dressed in full armor and made her way to the Cathedral Square.

She found Elizabetha standing outside the Cathedral. By the look of her face, Elizabetha could sense something was wrong.

"What is the matter, Nouala?" she asked.

"My mother has disappeared from the room she locked herself in, right under the eyes of the Sentinels." Nouala explained.

"I have to go and look for her. I do not know how long I will be, but I expect to find her at the Ruins of Ravenwind."

Elizabetha sighed, "I wish I could come with you..." Elizabetha pulled Nouala into a friendly hug.

"Ashal'thelal" said Elizabetha.

"I will go then, for Kalimdor" said Nouala as she started to leave reluctantly.

As Nouala made her way to the Gryphons, she heard Elizabethas voice ring out across the square "You will find her Nouala!" Nouala smiled, and felt a lot better about her search.

The journey to Kalimdor was quiet and uneventful. At the family house in Auberdine, Nouala got her suspiscions confirmed; her mother has left in the form of a cat, but there seemed to be something - odd about it. "The trail leads south..."

Nouala followed the trail southward, finally stopping at the ruins of her ancestral home.

"Ravenwind, I knew I would find her here." she said to her Frostsaber Kirfalah. "She must be somewhere nearby."

"Looking for me daughter?" said her mother's voice behind her.

Nouala turned with a start. Her mother was standing behind her in her druidic robes, unadorned except for a necklace with a darkly colored gem that somehow seemed familiar to Nouala.

"How did you get there?" she asked.

Her mother shrugged "I am a Druid" she answered, "Why did you follow me here?"

Nouala looked at her mother; "You left Auberdine without a word after..."

"After having locked myself up, and wallowed in my own misery for several months" interrupted her mother coldly, "is that what you are going to say?"

Nouala was taken aback by her mother's abrubtness; "No, I was..."

"Worried about me," said her mother nastily. "How sweet. But you can forget asking me to return home. I left as a cat, and a cat I'll stay. I have had enough of this life, I will spend the remainder of my time as a cat." her mother's voice left no room for discussion.

Nouala knew from experience, that there was no talking to her when she was in this state and decided to let the matter rest - for now. She would be back later, and she would make her mother listen to her.

"And what has my wayward daugther been doing with the humans?" asked her mother, changing the subject.

"I have been making friends, my best friend is Elizabetha, a human paladin." said Nouala defiantly.

"Friends! With humans!", her mother sounded shocked. "And you realize, that even if they get to live a long life by their reckoning, they will be dead and gone in a mere moment for you?" she asked.

Nouala smiled peacefully "Yes, I know, and I do not care. The joy I gain from our friendship will be with me always."

Her mother looked at her strangely, trying to see if she was serious; "And that is the truth?"

"Yes mother. I would not be without her friendship. This is my choice!" said Nouala.

Her mother gave her a long glance and then, she smiled, "I am proud of you."

The journey back to Stormwind City was uneventful. Nouala arrived the next evening and found Elizabetha by the fountain in the Cathedral Square talking to the druid Blueleaff.

"Welcome back, life-friend." said Elizabetha as she took Noualas hand. "Did you find her? Was she allright?"

"Yes, and yes, in a way," answered Nouala. "She is well, but she intends to remain in cat form for the rest of her life."

"Rest of her days, did she say why?" asked Elizabetha.

"Many druids feel it right to do so," said Blueleaff nodding to herself.

"It's more complicated than that, Blueleaff," said Elizabetha, "But not my place to tell."

"She wants to forget." said Nouala, "The form she has chosen is strong. If she stays a cat long enough, she will forget she was a Kaldorei."

"And you, Nouala? Will you be alright?" asked Elizabetha with concern in her voice.

"Yes, I will be fine. She spoke to me." said Nouala.

"Well...that's a comfort. But you still deserve better." said Elizabetha.

"I told her about you, and the bond of friendship we have made." said Nouala. "She asked me if I knew that even if you live to be one of the oldest ever of your race, you will be gone from my life much too fast. And I told her that did not matter, that the joy would always be strong in my mind. And then she..." Nouala paused for a while, emotion choking her.

Elizabetha pulled Nouala closer and hugged her.

"She smiled at me. She even said she was proud of me for making that choice." Nouala continued.

"I just wish she'd be a mother for you many more years to come, instead of running away." said Elizabetha.

"So would I," said Nouala, "But if it makes her happy. She deserves to be happy as well. It is just that, I think things are not as she claims, at least not all of it."

"She was wearing a strange amulet around her throat, as a collar." said Nouala thoughtfully.

"Could you describe it?" asked Blueleaff, taking a book from her pack.

"Yes, this is the second time I see it." said Nouala, "It is a round ironwood plate with a stylized raven on one side. And some sort of dark gem on the other."

Blueleaff whispered to her book and the pages turned "Dark colored or just black?"

"It was long ago, but..." said Nouala, thinking hard "It was sort of ... smoky, like there was a small fog trapped inside it."

Blueleaff turned to another page in her book.

"But last night, it was completely clear." said Nouala, remembering "I was not supposed to have seen it those years ago. It was locked away, in a strong cabinet. I have no idea what it is. But it made me feel very uneasy. Do any of you have an idea what it could be for?"

Blueleaff looked at her book, "It sounds similar to a shadow gem, but they tend to always be cloudy."

"A shadow gem? What is that?" asked Nouala.

"It's a gem, i think it may be native to us or of the furblogs, but it's used to ward off Fell energies." answered Blueleaff, reading from her book.

"They ward off Fell energies, that does not sound dangerous." said Nouala, thoughtfully "But you say they are always cloudy... Maybe it was a trick of the light?"

Blueleaff looked at her book again "Perhaps something has been done to it, it is hard to say.."

"If it is just a ward against Fell powers, then why keep it locked up? It should be used instead." said Nouala, "If you had this gem, would you not keep it with you at all times?"

"Indeed I would, in fact I believe the furblogs used to use it in their totems" said Blueleaff, nodding.

Nouala sighed.

"I hope I have helped," said Blueleaff.

Nouala smiled at Blueleaff. "Your help have been invaluable Blueleaff, thank you. I had never heard of shadow gems, at least now I know what questions to ask."

"But enough of my trip, how have you been, Elizabetha?" asked Nouala, and was answered with a soft snore from her friend.

Nouala smiled at her sleeping friend. "Oh, she is asleep. She needs it, but we should try to get her home."

Blueleaff transformed herself into a bear, and with Nouala holding Elizabetha on her back, they carried her across Stormwind to her home.

Nouala spent the next few days leafing through every book on magical gems she could find in the Stormwind Library, but none of them could tell her more than she had already heard from Blueleaff.

Sighing she put down the last book that had failed to provide her with any useful information and reached automatically for the next one. Her hand found nothing, and she looked up into the face of one of the librarians.

"I'm sorry miss," he said, "you have read through every text we have on magical gems, even the more dubious ones."

Nouala nodded, though thoroughly frustrated she managed to smile "Thank you for all your help."

She rose, stretched and left the library, taking a deep breath of the cold morning air. "It looks like I must seek my answers elsewhere."

With a yawn she mounted her Nightsaber and headed for the Gryphons, "maybe someone in Shattrath will know something."

It was late in the evening when Nouala returned to Stormwind. Her usually cheery face was marred by a haunted look. She chanced upon Blueleaff outside Elizabetha's house just as Elizabetha was exiting.

"Ishnu-Alah Nouala" said Blueleaff.

"I have finally found some answers, maybe." said Nouala.

Elizabetha exited the house as Nouala was saying "It is a long story, let us sit down."

"Ishnu-Alah Elizabetha," said Blueleaff, as Elizabetha locked the door.

"Ishnu-Alah both of you," said Elizabetha. "I could sense you earlier on Nouala, are you all right?"

"I am all right, yes," answered Nouala, stressing the 'I' clearly.

"What is the matter?" asked Elizabetha.

"I ... found a possible answer to the gem my mother wears," said Nouala, "maybe we should sit, it is ... complicated."

The trio went and sat under the tree on the corner by Elizabetha's house.

Nouala sighed. "To start where we left off, Blueleaff pointed me in the right direction."

"And I was lucky to run into a Sha'tari Anchorite that could fill the gaps."

Blueleaff nodded slowly, listening as Nouala continued.

"The gem is ... unique as far as he knows. It was created from a normal Shadowgem, and has the same protection against Fell energies, but ... When it is 'empowered', it grants, not protection, but complete immunity to any kind of Fell attack. But at a terrible cost."

"It drains the lifeforce, doesn't it?" asked Elizabetha.

Nouala nodded "You are right, in a way. It does use lifeforce."

"If the immunity is used, even in the slightest, the gem will work for a full day. And then it will inflict pain on the user, until death occurs, even if it is discarded. The user then has one full day to ..." Nouala's voice trailed off clearly not wanting to continue.

Elizabetha wordlessly held out her hand, and Nouala took it as she continued, "Sacrifice a sentient being to the gem to re-empower it."

"To me it sounds like a trap from the burning legion." said Blueleaff.

Elizabetha nodded, "A very logical suggestion, Blueleaff."

"Oh, and the 'cloud' in the gem means that the gem is empowered." interjected Nouala, "When it is dull, as I saw it recently, the immunity has been activated. And you are right Blueleaff, according to the Anchorite."

"He thinks - he does not know for sure, mind you - that the gem was made as a temptation, by Archimonde, or maybe Sageras himself." said Nouala.

"I do not know how long my family have had it. But if it is true then ..." Nouala trailed off as Blueleaff took her free hand.

Nouala squeezed the hands of both her friends and continued slowly, "My mother ... She was not in any pain when I saw her, and as a doctor, I can tell. And if it is that gem, it cannot be thrown away, get lost or be stolen."

Nouala continued miserably "I hope he is wrong."

"I have sent word to General Shandris Feathermoon, to hear if any gory deaths have occurred in Feralas. She was my brothers commander, I hope she remembers my name."

"I hope to get a letter from her thinking my question odd. Because if not, then... My mother ... Gory sacrifice ... Brother ... ?"

Nouala started crying in fear and Elizabetha pulled her into a hug.

"Nouala my dear, let us not fear the worst yet." said Blueleaff.

"But what if it is true, what should I do?" asked Nouala between sobs.

"We will know." said Elizabetha, "We will find a way, Nouala. Believe that."

Nouala hugged Elizabetha back as her sobbing stopped. In a small voice she asked; "Why do they do it, the Daemons? Why do they enjoy our suffering?"

"Because they hate all life." said Elizabetha.

"They feel nothing... only enjoyment of others suffering." said Blueleaff, gently stroking Noualas hair.

"That is why we have to fight them. That is why we mustn't give up, Nouala." said Elizabetha.

"I just wish for it to end, all the hurt." said Nouala softly.

"Because of what you know, because of the foe we face, make stern your face, fasten your grip on your weapon." said Elizabetha encouragingly. "Help make it end."

"You've faced them before, Nouala. You've fought them, and you've returned each time."

"Maybe if we keep killing daemons they will get the message." said Nouala regaining some of her confidence, "And leave us alone!"

She sighed, "and now there is nothing to do but wait..."

A week passed...

((Continues in The Battle))

Nouala 20:29, 4 April 2007 (BST)

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