Aini had finally returned that night. He was covered in snowflakes and sat patiently while Huifang dried him with a towel.
"Where did you run off to these past few days?" She chided him in a doting tone.
Aini stretched out his wing and allowed Huifang to carefully wipe away the wetness clinging to his feathers. "Aini had to go home and get energy. Huifang big war is coming. Very big. Huifang need Aini." He confessed.
Her hands stilled mid rub, "Aini, what of Fenrir?" She asked the raven.
"Flames and lightning. Fenrir will die." The solemn words fell like poison to Huifang's ears. War and death. The pressure was suddenly intense. She somehow had to ensure his survival at all cost. Her hands began rubbing the soft towel against Aini's feathers again. "What else did you see Ai?"
"Huifang...." The Raven hesitated to speak further. She scooped him up, towel and all, and had him face her. "Speak up Ai. What else?"
"Huifang.. Aini saw brother also.. also.." Aini kept dithering. Ice began to grow in Huifang's heart. Not Illidan.
"Ai please." Her voice was urgent.
"Aini saw brother dead. Brother dead from big knife.. Sw..ord." The Raven stuttered. "Huifang sorry, Aini is sorry." He began to panic when he saw how Huifang had gone stone still and cold.
Aini was gently put down by Lanaya's freezing hands. "Wait here Aini. I'll be back. Don't go anywhere." Huifang rushed out of her room and ran next door to Fenrir's. She had thrown Illidan to the back of her mind, promised herself she wouldn't care anymore. But she was forced to confront the truth. She was just fooling herself. Illidan with his gentle caring ways and warm calls of Naya had wormed into her heart. Huifang could not ignore the care and regard she had for this brother.
Huifang rapped her knuckles against the door loudly. When Fenrir came to open the door, his hair was still wet from the bath he had taken.
"Fenrir, I need to ask you something." She immediately blurted out when Fenrir opened his door. He observed the slight panic in Lanaya's countenance. This was a woman full of courage to the point of stupidity. What had her this panicked?
"Let's talk inside." He stepped away from the door and motioned for her to enter. Huifang's mind subconsciously noticed the convenient exit windows in the room, and how everything was neat and spartan. Fenrir led her to a seat near the window and handed her a cup of hot tea. It was his newly poured cup but it appeared to him that Lanaya needed it more.
"What do you need to ask Lanaya?" He sat opposite her and got straight to the point.
"I need the best kind of magic enforced armor that can repel weapons as well as magical attacks. I am even willing to pay for it. " Huifang quickly responded.
Fenrir's brows came together in a frown. "Why suddenly?" Why did Lanaya come running to his room at 10 in the night demanding he sell her armor?
"Do you have it or not, Fenrir?" Huifang had come here first because the Crown Prince had access to the best resources. To hell with the explanations, she needed to ensure Illidan's survivability.
"I have an armor gifted to me by the dwarven ambassador. It is made of the strongest Denuín alloy and enchanted with runes that shield the wearer from magical flux. Does that satisfy your needs?" He patiently explained and asked her.
"What is the cost?" Lanaya was the duke's daughter. She had plenty of money. But if that wasn't enough, she had Illidan to take it from.
"You can just take it. I don't need it. I'll have it delivered to you in the morning. Anything else?"
Huifang was surprised how easily she got it. But why was Fenrir giving it to her so freely? "Free lunches always have hidden costs Fenrir. Name a price."
"Stop overthinking a simple gift. If there's nothing else, I have an early day tomorrow." He dismissed her.
"Ok. I.. Thank you." She hesitated on what to say. Huifang didn't want to owe him.
"Just consider it as an early payment for your role in the skirmish. Goodnight Lanaya." Saying so he closed his door.
Dawn was a busy affair. Fenrir kept his word and an attendant delivered a beautiful piece of armor to Lanaya's door. It was fashioned from a metal the color of platinum. Extremely tiny metal plates stacked atop one another made for a light weight and smooth armour that covered the neck and torso. Runes were forged on it's inner side, and it was foreign script she didn't understand. Illidan could wear this underneath his shirt. But she wanted to test it out first.
Huifang met up her brother's group in the morning. Armor in hand, she dragged Illidan off to the archery practice range.
"Why can't we have breakfast first Naya?" He complained all the way to the target range.
"Like I said big brother, this will only take 10 minutes. Breakfast closes in an hour." She explained as they entered the gate.
Huifang clothed one of the man shaped targets with the armor. "Ok brother, stab this as hard as you can. Let's do some damage!" She picked up a bow and shot 3 consecutive arrows at the dummy. None of the arrows were able to penetrate.
"Illidan, go stab it hard. As hard as you can!" She pointed him to the dummy.
"Fine, but why are we doing this?" Illidan rushed to the target and slashed with his sword but it barely made an impact. "Lanaya this is some solid armor. Where did you get it from?" He ran his hand over it in appreciation.
"Once more big brother. Stab it this time!" She urged.
Illidan stepped back and with terrifying speed, he thrust his sword towards the dummy. It left a scratch on the armor but couldn't penetrate it.
"That's really impressi-WOAH!" He threw himself backwards. Lanaya had just released wind blades at the armor.
"Careful Naya. You only have one big brother to love." He slid his sword back into its scabbard and watched his sister attack the armor. All of their efforts yielded very little results. Huifang was quite satisfied. She yanked the armor off the dummy and threw it into Illidan's hands.
"What?" He was confused by all her actions so far.
"It's for you brother, wear it under your clothing at all times. I will check. If I find that you aren't wearing this, I'll strip you down and have it glued to your skin." She put her hand on his shoulder with an accompanying expression that said she meant business.
"No. This armor is fantastic. I don't know where you got it from but you wear it Naya." He tried shoving it back into her arms.
"I already have one. I'm wearing it inside. You want me to take my clothes off and show?" Huifang reached for her collar.
"Lanaya! No! I believe you. Keep your clothes on. I'm your brother but I'm an adult man. You can't just take your clothes off. You're not a kid anymore!" He looked bewildered and an eye brow twitched.
Retrieving the armor from her hands, he took off his uniform shirt immediately and wore the armor.
"So where did you get it from?" He continued to wear his shirt and asked her.
"It was a gift. Let's hurry. I don't want to miss the raspberry pie today." She left him behind and began speedwalking, hoping he would drop the matter about the armor.
Aria was in charge of training the newer recruits while Taemor had leadership of the day patrol. Ruben was away checking on the magical defences around the perimeter of the army camp. Illidan on the other hand had disappeared off to Fenrir's office for a brainstorming session. The entire station was aware of the upcoming battle and nerves were taut. Soldiers had begun drills and checking on the fortress defences. There was round-the-clock monitoring of the geographical area around the station. Huifang studied the topography and elevation of the area. The pass was strategically very advantageous and they had higher ground. However, this wasn't her world any longer. She had to account for the fact that mages and magic in general existed. She had to expect the unexpected.
Aini had only warned her of war and death. The general bulletin had announced the presence of a huge legion that was fast approaching them. When they would be done with the smaller band ahead, the monster behind would catch up. She didn't know when Fenrir would be struck the killing blow. The worst part was that she couldn't even throw her life on the line and just be done with it.
Huifang spent all day gathering information about their defences, formations, drills and evacuation scenarios. She also caught one of Fenrir's tacticians and had him give her a lesson on the enemy they would soon be facing. An older gentleman by the name of Genthuil, he was kind enough to spend half the day with Lanaya going through elven history and the war with the night elves.
The two groups had been at peace for hundreds of years. It was 476 years back that the Empress of the night elf kingdom had been ambushed and murdered horifically during her stay in Eternal Heart. At first, suspicions had been directed towards human involvement. But the trail had gone cold. And so had the relationship between the two sides. With the passage of time, when relations finally began improving again, an elven war broke out against the Orc race. Casualties were equal between the night and light elves. A tactical mistake from the side of the night elves ended up heavily costing the soldiers of Eternal Heart. It led to a bitter feud between the military of the two groups after the war. Their alliance went through another test when a Prince from amongst the night elves rejected a marriage alliance. It led to mutual dislike for one another. Trade and commerce continued between the two. But it all came to an end when war broke out again with the orcs and this time, the night elves refused to aid their ally. Instead, they turned to help the Orc in a secret agreement that the Orcs had brokered. Such was war. There was no such thing as permanent allies or enemies, just permanent interests.
Huifang was fascinated by the history of the elves. Lanaya had knowledge of elven history in her memories but it had barely touched the surface of this deep and complex past. Genthuil explained to her the leadership, weaponry, magic and technology that the night elves possessed. Eternal Heart had been at war with them for just a little less than a hundred years. Every time the night elves assaulted Moonfell pass, they always came back with a greater force. The last great war had taken place 70 years ago. What had prompted them to attack again, they did not know. But it was grim news altogether. The real leader of the night elves was a formidable foe called Fornseor, a magus of superior capabilities. He had however been missing for many years. The army was thus led by his nephew, an unparalleled warrior named Aunwinde.
Huifang soaked up information like a sponge and prepared herself mentally. She spent everyday training with the other soldiers in both martial and magical skills. She could beat most of them bare handed because of their unfamiliarity with her fighting style. But when it came to the usage of weapons, she was still not as good as the experts. Dawn to dusk, she was hounded by the recruits looking to get beat by her. It was especially the experienced soldiers that enjoyed the spars with her and learnt from her. Her Krav Maga Blackbelt Dan 5 wasn't just for show. Plus, Huifang wasn't ashamed to resort to dirty tactics like choking and head-butting her opponents in the nose. Under her care, a lot of the younger recruits abandoned shame and inculcated her dirty fighting style.
With the mages, she spent hours getting taught by a senior wind mage. Huifang learnt how to whip up the air and perform targeted damage within the area her wind was circulating in. She was a quick learner. Her teacher was very satisfied with the progress she was making.
Day 13 after her arrival at the pass, the rumoured army hadn't shown themselves yet. Aini had been getting very restless. Huifang uneasily watched the tree-line in the horizon. Her mind drifted towards the ominous prediction that Aini had made.
"Naya." Huifang turned to her brother who had shown up at the roof. With a grim look on his face, Illidan then spoke the words that began their nightmare.
"The King and Queen have been found dead."