Warcraft Fan Fiction ❯ Turning Red ❯ A fire inside ( Chapter 4 )
Phoenix has been planning this day for months, having spent so much time just thinking about what to write.
Now it’s here, she’s surprised that she doesn’t feel nervous.
Phoenix would never be able to say these words aloud. But as she writes, she continues to bottle some of her feelings and holds back the tears while doing so.
I can’t do this anymore.
The bloodthistle, the prostitution, the questions you’ve left unanswered.
Why do we have to be stuck here? Who is my father? Do you even love me?
Our life here is dysfunctional, and I’ve had enough. I’m leaving.
Maybe I will return one day, to show you there is life outside this inn. Until then, please don’t come after me.
Later that evening, Phoenix says goodbye to Solari. Not literally, because she wants to leave without causing a fuss, but by telling him he’s a good bouncer instead. The ageing battlemage is taken aback by the sudden compliment and is left blinking and bewildered as Phoenix scoots off to her room. She packs her things - some clothes, food, water, gold and basic tools including a pocket knife and rope - into a humble bag.
That evening, she falls asleep sooner than usual, dozing through a mild commotion in the hall outside her room.
The following morning, she wakes up in the early hours while everyone else is still asleep. It’s just past 5am and the world is still and dark.
Phoenix wraps a grey cloak around her shirt and leaves the four walls of her minuscule room for the final time.
She opens the door to Chrim’s room and tip-toes past the old, sleeping, snoring goblin and into the hallway beyond.
The skinny teenage elf waits outside her mother’s room for a long moment. She brings the envelope to her mouth and thinks about kissing it, but for what? Luck? Love? She decides against this and slides it hastily underneath the door instead.
Phoenix turns to leave, but hesitates. She thinks about scrapping the whole idea and staying at the inn. Her mind dips to and fro, like a ship sailing through choppy waters.
The thought of staying is eventually brushed aside, but part of her wants to say goodbye to her mother properly. She deserves that, doesn’t she? Phoenix reaches a middle-ground and decides to take one last look at her mother while she sleeps.
Phoenix slowly opens the door to her mother’s room, and shuffles inside almost silently, stepping over her own letter. She turns her nose up and holds her breath. The room stinks of bloodthistle, the substance her mother had grown addicted to.
She moves towards her mother’s bed and suddenly comes to a stop.
The room is empty and her mother is gone.
Phoenix checks the clock - it’s too late for her to still be working. Something is wrong.
She scurries back to Chrim’s room and knocks on the door, quickly questioning why on Azeroth she’s doing so and decides to just walk in and wake the goblin up instead.
She rocks the frail goblin a little too vigorously and he awakes, startled.
“What? What is - ” Chrim groans.
“My mother is not in her room! Where is she?” Phoenix whispers.
Chrim’s half sigh, half yawn and look of guilt tells Phoenix he knows something.
“I had to kick her out.”
“What? Why?” Phoenix raises her voice slightly. She has no idea why she was whispering anyway.
“I’m sorry... the bloodthistle abuse was a problem. People were talking about her and I can’t house a substance like that in a place like this. She was attracting the wrong crowd. It’s nothing personal, it’s just bad for business.”
“So you just kicked her out without letting me know?! After all we’ve done for you and this inn...”
Phoenix feels a pang of rage but keeps in line.
“I was going to tell you in the morning - you were sleeping,” Chrim slurs in his half-asleep state. “She was okay with it and I didn’t force her to leave right away, your mother wanted you to know she’ll be back soon to talk to you.”
Phoenix doesn’t notice his nervousness. Or his lie.
“Did she say when?” she asks.
Chrim shakes his head sadly.
“Of course, this means there’s a vacancy…” Chrim continues. “People are talking, you know, you look like your mother, and I’m getting more requests for… so maybe in the future you could-”
“Don’t you dare finish that sentence. You can keep your filthy money.”
Phoenix, surprised by her confidence, lets the rage bubble more this time, but turns her head away in anger as she storms out of the room - and the inn - for good.
Chrim calls out for her but she doesn’t turn back.
As Phoenix opens the homely oak front door of the inn, a wave of feelings rush over her. Sadness for her mother’s situation, anger over how things turned out and dare she think it, excitement for what may lie ahead. Disappointment in herself and her pitiful life. She closes the door and feels her eyes welling up. She frowns, fighting back the tears, and leans back against the bricks of the inn wall, looking up at the purple sky with a grimace.
After taking a moment to regain her composure, Phoenix wipes away a tear and breathes deeply, the crisp early morning air filling her lungs.
She can feel the warmth of the Sunwell and, feeling a smidgen of calm, looks around Murder Row. The buildings and cobbled streets are encased by a dim hue but not quite shadow, as the first signs of dawn emerge. To her left is the entrance to an alley; on her right there’s a long concrete path leading out towards the central areas of Silvermoon. The city is sleeping - except for the solitary drunk with his back to the wall by a nearby alley, that is. Upon spotting the young elf, he mutters something inaudible at her. She realises her crying may have woken him up and feels a mild pang of guilt.
‘You and me are alike now,’ she thinks to herself, ‘homeless and probably going nowhere’. She looks to her right and takes her first step to leave.
The door to the inn creaks opens behind her.
“Wait, Phoe,” Chrim says, wearily. “I haven’t told you the truth.”
Phoenix looks back at the little goblin, shocked. Her mouth opens as she thinks of something to say, but he is first to talk.
“I didn’t fire your mother,” Chrim continues, pausing to lock eye contact with her. “She was taken.”
Phoenix stares at Chrim in disbelief, her mouth widening.
“What? Who…” she stutters.
“I...” he sighs and throws his hands above his head, not knowing where to start. “They left this note,” he says, handing it to her while avoiding eye contact. Phoenix takes it, stunned.
“Your mum didn’t want you to know, she didn’t want to scare you,” Chrim says. “But you’re not a little girl anymore and you deserve to know. I’m sorry, Phoenix, I really am. Please don’t do anything stupid. Come back inside, won’t you?”
Phoenix takes a deep breath as she grips the note tightly, not wanting to unfold it or discover what lies within. Deep down she knows she must.
She opens the folded scrap of paper slowly, reading each word carefully.
Amelia can no longer afford to pay for our goods, so she is now in our property until the debt is paid. Do not speak of this or your business will suffer. In the meantime, we suggest you find a new whore for your establishment.
A small feather has been drawn and smudged in the bottom corner of the note.
Phoenix softly scrunches the paper and looks up at Chrim as her world crumbles around her, almost literally. She wants to cry, to scream, to panic, all at once. The powerful feelings that have been buried for years rush to the surface and this time cannot be contained by Phoenix’s mind.
All noise evaporates: the sound of the gentle breeze brushing the leaves of a nearby tree, the creak of the door and Chrim’s concerned voice, it is all replaced by silence, followed by the pounding of Phoenix’s heart as it thunders rapidly inside her chest.
She’s trying desperately to focus on Chrim, to answer him, but all she can see is the old goblin silently mouthing something to her as if in slow motion.
Phoenix attempts to turn her head, but everything around her blurs, like she’s travelling at a hundred miles an hour yet somehow remaining stationary. Chrim’s head blends with swirling lines into the door, with the inn wall, with the floor.
The lights go out.
Phoenix regains consciousness, the feeling of wind rushing in her ears, slowly replaced by hideous screaming as she comes round.
She turns to the noise of the shrieking and sees the homeless elf recoiling away from her in horror, tripping over an empty bottle onto the ground.
“Get away from me, please!” he begs, glancing up at Phoenix and the floor beside her.
She looks down to see Chrim’s lifeless body in a pool of blood and his face - or what’s left of it - smashed into an unnatural mess.
There is a hollow where his left eye and the bridge of his nose should be, bloody scratch marks on his forehead and cheeks, and most of his teeth are missing. His neck is purple and the expression on his motionless, utterly disfigured face, is one of horror. Thick bloodstains are marked on the door of the inn and parts of the wall beside her.
Phoenix retches and vomits onto the floor, part of her sick splashing onto Chrim’s boots. She turns away from the body in disbelief, leans over and spits, out of breath. As she leans her palms on her knees, she notices both her hands and the sleeves of her grey shirt are stained with blood. She starts to shake with fear.
“Help! Somebody! Guards!” the drunk shouts, and Phoenix hears footsteps emerging from the nearby alley. She looks up at the cowering elf and back down at the blood on her trembling hands. Phoenix thinks for two seconds - and runs.
She sprints along the long tarmac path to leave Murder Row as quickly as possible, her slim frame swiftly cutting through the air; the satchel bouncing awkwardly on her back; her leather boots patting softly with urgency on the cobbled street. Before she reaches the grey wall at the end of the path, which forks left and right, three thoughts rush into her mind all at once.
First, she ponders which way to turn: left towards the Royal Exchange, the quicker way out of the City, or right towards the Bazaar, the longer but potentially safer option with crowds of shoppers and traders to hide amongst… scrap that, they won’t be there this early. Second: how long will it be before other guards identify her? Third: did she really just kill someone? Not just anyone, the person who provided a home for her whole life. The only thing she’d ever had that could come close to a father figure.
The third thought makes her feel sick again. It lingers in her mind, causing Phoenix to glance over her shoulder while running at full pelt. Chrim’s lifeless body lies in the centre of her line of vision. Phoenix feels a mix of fear, panic and disgust all rolled into a ball of anxiety. She spots the tramp speaking to a fully armoured Royal Guard, who turns towards Phoenix. Her eyes widen. His ornate silver armour is dull with no morning sun to catch its edges and glint. What if he’s a battlemage? He could cast a spell towards her and harm - or restrain her - in seconds. She pushes the thought aside, quickly swivels her head forwards again and continues running forwards. She gasps.
Phoenix suddenly crashes into someone.
She knocks over the oncoming male elf, who is adorned in a majestic set of blue robes, sending his large gnarled wooden staff ricocheting noisily onto the floor and her bag flying to right, choosing the path for her.
He shrieks in shock and anger as he spills over backwards onto his backside, while Phoenix, unable to break her momentum, tumbles on top of him as they clatter to the floor.
“Shit!” Phoenix cries out, panicked by the seconds wasted and her displaced bag.
“Imbecile!” he grumbles loudly, swatting her away, but she’s already pushed herself off him, leaving a smear of goblin’s blood on his silk robes which he hasn’t yet noticed. “Watch where you’re going!”
Phoenix ignores him and instinctively sprints towards the Bazaar. She picks up her satchel on the way, throwing its strap around her left shoulder and tightly under her right arm as she runs along the narrow path sandwiched by several small buildings and closed shops. This time Phoenix doesn’t take a half-second to look back at the guard. She thinks she hears him shout something but she’s in full flight now and blocks the noise out.
Phoenix’s body aches like never before. Not because she’s never run as fast in all her life, and not from the impact of bumping into the passer by, but from something else. Her slim torso feels like it has been drained of energy, as if she’s been working out all morning or crashing after a sugar high. Phoenix blinks for a second as she attempts to absorb whatever she can from the Sunwell. Nothing happens; she still feels somewhat lethargic but forces herself to continue, hoping the adrenaline coursing through her veins will see her through.
The wind rushing in her long ears quietens as the path suddenly opens up and she emerges into the Bazaar’s main circular plaza, turning left to face the large gaping space between her and the street leading to the Inner Elfgate - and Silvermoon’s exit. Panic crashes over her like a wave, stopping her in her tracks momentarily as she breathes wildly and darts her eyes around the plaza.
There are merchants setting up their stalls and carts as the first trickle of shoppers enter the streets, but there is still hardly anyone here: it is too early for crowds. Blending in and losing any trailing guards that way is not an option. She hears desperate footsteps and clanking armour in the alley behind her and instantly resorts to plan B. Phoenix starts running again, veering slightly to the left to avoid making a scene in the middle of the large circular plaza. She knows she must pass through the Inner Elfgate before word reaches it if she’s to evade capture; Phoenix digs deep for that extra something and runs a little faster.
This is not how things were supposed to be. She had planned on taking her time to walk out of Silvermoon one last time and admire the world around her, to drink in the magical aura and early morning stillness of her home city, enshrouded in permanent springtime by the Sunwell. She wanted to do this to ease her doubts and forget the past. Instead, she is running scared like a headless chicken, fighting for survival.
Regardless, Silvermoon is beautiful: the beige buildings stand tall, decorated in traditional elven style with splashes of blue, red, green and gold. It demands the attention of every elf, every visitor, every inhabitant present, the occasional luscious green or red-leafed tree adding to its beauty. But Phoenix cannot register any of it properly as she whizzes through the ancient city alone at this hour without her mother for the very first time.
As she passes the stalls, she catches the eye of a merchant glancing towards her with puzzled curiosity. He soon spots the guard running after her, as do a few other traders. Phoenix is already halfway across the plaza when the guard emerges from the alley she left some ten seconds ago.
“Stop her!” he yells, the deep voice echoing across the plaza.
Phoenix suddenly comes over giddy, and slows ever so slightly to retain focus, her boots staggering across the cobbled ground. She passes a couple of patrolling guards, previously hidden by a large marquee on her right. She notices them in her peripheral vision but keeps her distorted focus dead ahead. The pair of guards look at each other and back at Phoenix. This propels her to keep up the pace, fighting against her body’s urge to stop and rest. She shakes it off and continues.
“ - her!” a screaming echo comes from the other end of the plaza. “By the Sunwell, stop that girl!”
The two guards give chase, joining the third, a few seconds ahead of him. But Phoenix has already reached the street at the end of the plaza and is now bursting with all her strength towards the Inner Elfgate. Her light, slim frame gives her an advantage over the heavily armoured guards with their long shields and double-bladed swords.
Flashes of blue, gold and white blur in front of her as she passes tall, ornate buildings either side of the street, which is paved with beautiful blue stones. There’s the odd person here and there, going for an early morning walk, their eyes bulging at Phoenix as she whizzes past, but at this hour there’s hardly anyone around.
Phoenix’s breathing is fast and erratic. She doesn’t have time to admire some of the golden statues of elven legend, including Dath’Remar Sunstrider who founded the kingdom of Quel’Thalas some 7,000 years ago. He fearlessly led his people across the seas, through harsh blizzards in the mountains and fought off savage Amani trolls to make their home here. Now his statue merely watches as an unwitting murderer flees his people.
Phoenix notices the statue and briefly wonders if she too will lead an interesting life, or if she’s destined to rot in prison for a crime she didn’t want to commit, or doesn’t even remember doing. Her head feels cloudy and she instead tries to concentrate on leaving Silvermoon City behind her.
Her body is burning with effort, crying out for her to stop, but her mind wills her to keep going. At the end of the street there’s a clearing, the buildings replaced by bushes and grass as the City ends and Eversong Forest begins. She can hear distant shouts from the guards behind her, but doesn’t hesitate as her boots move from the tap of the concrete to the silent muffle on grass.
Phoenix turns right and hesitates. The enormous Inner Elfgate dawns in front of her, defiant and bold, the only thing standing between her and freedom. Fear bubbles within her. The gate opens at sunrise every morning, around 6am, for traders and customers to bring their coin into the city, but Silvermoon is still in that transition between night and morning. The gate is closed tight. The only ones inside the city right now are those who live there or those who passed through the gate yesterday. She is trapped.
The Elfgate consists of two gargantuan wooden doors, each inlaid with gold and displaying a striking ornate pattern, which flows and curves as one when both doors are shut, as they are now. Each thick door is about 25 metres long and 20 metres tall, creating a huge 50-metre wall - a barrier to protect Silvermoon from the outside. A flicker of blue magic beams across the Elfgate, which is sandwiched by two circular stone guard towers and sheer, almost unscalable hilltops. Battlements run atop the length of the gate, connecting the twin towers, with some of Silvermoon’s finest guards and archers stationed and ready upon them. Two special gatekeepers are positioned at the centre of the battlements, responsible for any guard shift changes and most importantly, opening and closing the gate via two huge stone winches encrusted with magical runestones. The guards here speak only in Thalassian - the high elven tongue - and expect travellers to speak it too should they wish to trade in the city.
Phoenix, knowing she probably has half a minute maximum before the other guards catch up with her, runs straight towards the centre of the huge Inner Elfgate.
“Anaria shola,” shouts one of the elves down at her from atop the commanding Elfgate.
“Anar’alah belore,” Phoenix yells between breaths, her heart tearing through her chest like a drum.
A breeze catches her hair as she desperately tries to catch her breath.
“Belore, Aranal. Belore, Aranal!,” she repeats, desperately. But gets no response.
One gatekeeper says to the other, low and impossible for Phoenix to hear: “She’s eager, Andreas, it’s not daybreak yet.”
Phoenix cries up at the guards, her voice breaking and echoing across the large open space: “Anu belore dela'na!”
Back atop the high battlements, the second guard responds to the first: “Bah, it’s only a little girl, Dahneil, just ignore her…”
The gatekeeper’s words trail off as, in that very moment, the first ray of sunlight pokes above the horizon, catching Phoenix’s ginger hair and gleaming mildly off the gold pattern of the Inner Elfgate. Phoenix is spending every valuable second to take as many breaths as she can, but the shining glint from one of the guard’s helmets atop the Elfgate takes her breath away.
“Huh,” the first guard states, watching the first light of dawn break over the horizon. “Would you look at that? Guess she’s right. Well, let’s open it.”
“Al diel shala,” the second guard yells down towards Phoenix.
Hope flutters in her heart as she sprints towards the two towering doors, smiling widely.
“Al diel shala!” she shouts in return, with ecstasy and disbelief. “Al diel shala!”
The two gatekeepers atop the battlements start to turn their respective winches, and one of them shakes his head in response to the girl’s peculiar enthusiasm. They do not see the three guards emerging from the edge of the city towards the grass and the enormous gate.
Phoenix arrives at the base of the gate, pressing her hands on it as if this will somehow force it open quicker. She shuts her eyes and thinks about what may happen if she’s caught, her heavy breaths seeping into the old wood. After what seems like an eternity, but is probably only a few seconds, Phoenix feels the large door twinge as it starts to move. She looks over her shoulder and spots the three guards, shouting at the top of their voices, running towards her and waving at the guards in the battlements to close the gate.
“Tal anu'men no Quel’dorei!” one of the guards shouts up at the gatekeepers.
“Wait!” the first gatekeeper says to the other. “Andreas, what’s that?”
“Huh?” he says in surprise, both gatekeepers moving away from the winches and looking below to see the guards waving at them to close the Elfgate. They spin back towards the winches and turn them in the opposite direction fast, in a bid to close the gate. But it is too late.
Phoenix has already slithered through the narrowest of gaps between the two mammoth doors and is now sprinting down the hill into the thick shrubbery of Eversong Forest.
There is confusion as the gatekeepers atop the wall and the guards below them shout at one another, the gatekeepers trying to make sense of the situation and the archer generals in the two towers beside unable to understand what is happening fast enough. With no clear instructions given to them in the commotion, Phoenix is able to make distance between her and the gate. She has her eyes half-closed now as she runs, her heart feeling like it wants to beat its way out of her chest, her mind telling her a volley of arrows could shred her to pieces at any moment.
By the time the guards have opened fire on Phoenix, she’s at the edge of the Forest, blanketed by the leaves of a hundred trees, casting her in shadow, the shouts of the guards now a mere muffle in the wind.
Phoenix is terrified and incredibly lucky to be alive.
But she is alive. And she feels more alive than she can remember.