Tirion sighed into his mug, his eyes closed against the stress of the past months. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do about his apprentice and her condition, but he knew he couldn’t let her stray from the path she was on.
“Fordring! Where’s your apprentice?” Barkeeper Kelly asked, smiling.
He sighed again. “She’s ill. All this travel has—”
“Oh, hello, Miss Redblade!”
Tirion spun to look at the young high elf, whose glowing blue eyes were wide with shock at being discovered.
“Tirion… You’re, um…in the tavern.” She clasped the front of her cloak together in front of her, careful to not let it accidentally fall open.
“Back upstairs, young lady.” The paladin stood and shooed her all the way into her room. He shut the door and set his stern gaze down on her. “Ali, where are you going?”
“I just… I… What if I just…told him? It couldn’t be so bad, right?”
Tirion grunted and stared down at the slowly growing belly of the elf as she removed her cloak. “It’s not a good idea. You’ve a destiny to fulfill. You know this.”
Alisbeth dropped onto the bed and began to cry, though she didn’t want to. “Why me? I don’t want a destiny. I just want to sleep all day and stop vomiting up everything I eat. Is that so much to ask?”
The human sat beside her and tucked her under an arm so she could cry into his shirt. After a moment, she flung herself away from him to heave into the bucket by her bed.
“Don’t drink…ale around me…” she mumbled between heaves.
He frowned, wanting to comfort her, but he knew it would only exacerbate the situation. He stood and fidgeted at the door. “I’ll, um, go sober up.”
Her reply was lost in the sloshing of the bucket contents as more spilled inside. His face pinched and he left the room before he, too, felt compelled to vomit.
For the most part, keeping Alisbeth in her room wasn’t hard—he merely had to remind her she was above a tavern that served ale and she would abandon her escape plan before getting far, for fear of throwing up. Soon, he surmised, her stomach would be too large to hide behind a cloak. He was nearly in the clear when he walked into her room to find her dressed for riding, her face set with the worst sort of stubborn determination he rarely succeeded against.
“Yes,” she said, pulling on her gloves. “I’m going to the farm. I’m telling him that I am with child… His child. I can’t wallow in assumptions any longer, Tirion.”
“You’re not riding Bloodmane in your condition, Redblade, and that’s an order. It’s bad for the baby.”
“Then I’ll walk!” She tried to shove past him to get the doorknob, but he folded his arms and leaned his weight against the wood.
“Ali, stop. Just liste—”
“I don’t want to be alone, okay?” she screamed, her tears bubbling to the surface as she finally admitted her fear. “I will never do anything great. Maybe if I go—”
“You have a prophecy to fulfill, young lady. Don’t you forget that.”
“Yes, allying the green-eyed elves and the ancient ones. But it makes no sense. It’s absolute nonsense! But he is real. This is real!” She set a palm to the bump beneath her dress.
“Prophecies never make sense until they come true.” Tirion went to her and set his large hands on her shoulders. “You’re not alone, Ali. I’m here. And what of the arrangements we’ve made?”
She leaned forward and set her forehead against his sternum. “What if I can have both the prophecy and the family?”
He scowled at the wall and thought quickly. “How about you write him a letter and I’ll deliver it for you?”
Alisbeth paused, then nodded. “His farm is just east of here, you can’t miss it.” She went to her writing table and penned a quick letter for the other elf. She folded it and sealed it with wax, then smiled up at her mentor. “You’re the best stand-in father a girl could ask for, you know that?”
He chuckled and kissed the top of her head. “You look exhausted. Take a nap.”
She smiled lazily and went to her bed. “That sounds like an amazing idea. Wake me when you return?”
Tirion left the room and stomped with heavy feet to the tavern below. With a sigh that released all of the air in his lungs, he dropped the letter into the fire, then lowered into a stool at the bar.
~ * ~
After her initial heartbreak, Alisbeth had accepted that the young man had only used her. Tirion’s heart remained heavy with the lie he’d told of a man he’d never met telling him he’d have nothing to do with the young elf. He was in the market picking out fresh apples to make cinnamon apples for Alisbeth’s lunch, when a citizen approached him with a young, blond elf beside him.
“Tirion! So fortunate you’re here this time. This young man has traveled to Southshore twice to ask about a young woman, but I’ve never heard the name before. Figured you’d be the man to ask.”
The paladin cautiously shook the elf’s calloused, well-worked hand. Already he knew who the man was in search of. His eyes flicked to the second story of the inn to make sure Alisbeth wasn’t watching him in the market that day.
“Grimory Silversong,” the man said.
“Tirion Fordring. What is the name, then?”
“She gave me the name Diori Nightheart. Said she was staying in Southshore for a while before she was to move onto Lordaeron.”
It took Tirion a few seconds to realize Alisbeth had given the elf her mother’s maiden name. “Hmm,” he hummed in false thought. “I don’t really recall anyone by that name passing though here. Have you tried asking in Lordaeron? Perhaps she’s already moved on?”
Grimory sent his gaze to the ground. “I can’t travel that far from home, unfortunately. Not while my mother is ill.” He sighed and held out a hand to each of the men one last time. “Thank you for your help. Good day to you both.”
Tirion watched the man hop into a wagon of newly-purchased supplies and retreat up the road.
“Queer,” the other man mused. “If he’d given another name, I’d think he meant your Alisbeth. Only elf maiden on that particular route.”
The paladin forced a laugh. “If the woman gave him a fake name, she likely gave him a fake story.”
“Women,” he scoffed.
~ * ~
Alisbeth had been screaming for hours, the sound blocked from the rest of the inn by a silencing charm placed on the room. He held her head on a pillow in his lap as she suffered through contractions so painful she was prone to fainting from them. After one such spell, he stroked her sweat-soaked hair and looked to the midwife.
“You can’t tell me there’s nothing you can do for the pain.”
The woman held her hands up as though warding off retribution. “She told me not to. Said she deserved the punishment for her transgressions.”
“I must atone, so the Light doesn’t abandon me,” Alisbeth mumbled.
“And if it kills you?” Tirion demanded, disguising the worry in his voice.
“Then I die knowing the Light has judged me and found me—aahhh!” She curled on her side and gripped the pillow, then fainted again.
The paladin stroked her black hair and sighed. “Do we have to do as she says? Or can we do this without losing my apprentice?”
When Alisbeth next woke, the midwife gave her water with a tincture in it that made her delirious. She lost herself, and when she regained her awareness, there was a little blonde baby in her arms.
“I don’t remember anything,” she said weakly.
“Must have been the pain,” Tirion said, peeling a clump of damp hair from her forehead. “It’s a girl, by the way.”
Alisbeth looked down at the newborn and turned her head away from it. “We had a deal.”
The paladin scooped up the little girl, who immediately started wailing. Alisbeth pursed her lips together to fight off tears as she heard the cries. The baby was handed off to a wet nurse, who was settled into a rocking chair on the other side of the room. But the baby cried and fussed and refused to eat.
After a week-long trip to Tarren Mill, Tirion returned to find Alisbeth still in her bed, smiling down at the little infant at her bosom. She turned her smile on him.
“I thought we had a deal,” Tirion said dumbly.
“She wouldn’t eat,” the midwife said.
“Diori is such a picky eater,” Alisbeth said lovingly down at the girl.
Tirion deflated and sat on the edge of the bed. “Alisbeth, I already sent word—”
“Then send another word! She’s mine, Tirion. She loves me!”
“She’s a newborn, she needs you. That’s not the same.”
Alisbeth clutched her daughter tighter. “I don’t care. She’s all the family I have, now!”
“If she stays with you, she will die,” Tirion practically shouted. “The prophecy…”
Silent tears rolled from Alisbeth’s eyes. “I don’t want your prophecy, Tirion. I want my family.”
“The world doesn’t care what you want, my dear. Your uncle is her only hope for survival.”
Alisbeth nodded, then stared down at Diori as silent sobs shook her. “I’ll come back for you, okay? Mommy loves you. So, so much.”
Tirion urged the infant from Alisbeth’s grasp, who reluctantly let her go. He set Diori in a soft basket of blankets and tucked the letters from Alisbeth and himself within. The sleeping newborn made a few suckling noises, then sighed as he tucked the basket under an arm. As the door closed behind him, Alisbeth shot upright and tried to throw herself from the bed.
“Wait!” she screamed. “I changed my mind! Wait! Please, Tirion, bring her back! I changed my mind!”
The midwife pushed her back into the bed and sent a quick vial of sleeping tonic down her throat.
“Stop him,” Alisbeth mumbled as the world grew fuzzy. “I changed my mind… I changed my…mind…”
Tirion pursed his lips and went to meet the caravan. He sat in a covered wagon with only supplies and the driver and navigator up front on the bench. Once the wagon began moving, Diori woke and began her desperate wailing, accepting nothing as comfort. She ate hesitantly, only accepting the milk out of hunger. The only times her screaming subsided were when she fell asleep. By the time the caravan reached Stormwind, everyone was scowling at the paladin as though the fault was with him—he couldn’t help but think they were right.
With a leaden weight on his heart, he knocked on the door of the large house he’d been directed to. An older elf with fair hair answered and smiled warmly at Tirion.
“Mr. Nightheart, my name is Tirion Fordring, and I’ve an important message from your niece.”