Shadow Word: Character Lore

I’ve been playing WoW for many years. And like so many, I began that journey as a hunter. I started in MoP, so I’m still what some would call a noob, I suppose. But, I loved the Pandaren and they have been my most played race since day one.

After I reached 90 for the first time on my Pandaren Hunter, I decided to give a new class a chance. My friend had played Shadow Priest from Vanilla up through Cata, and his tales of the class intrigued me enough to give it a go.

So, I made Denaise. By the time she and I left the Wandering Isle and were quiesting through Darkshore, I knew I would never return to hunter. I have quested and raided on her  through the good ole days of the Legendary Cloak, I stuck to my guns and ran Auspicious Spirits when everyone else was dot-weaving, and I let her live and not Succumb to her Madness through 7.1 until they buffed Legacy of the Void.

C4Ezqp6VUAAw6YlDenaise is, in a weird way, an extension of the darker parts of myself, as well. I made her at a tumultuous time in my life which is maybe why I began to imagine a backstory for her initially. I spent a lot of time ruminating on how a priest could be come a shadow priest… and still remain in favor with the larger forces that she exist within.

So, though perhaps a bit trite, her story developed in my mind, and I wrote it down. I’ve been working on revising it a bit again recently, cleaning up spellings and mistypes. I continue her story for ages in my head and perhaps someday I’ll share those, too. Afterall, according to Blizzz, she and a few million others all grow up to be great heroes and saviors of Azeroth

 

So, here is the story of my main. All the worlds, scenarios and main characters, etc. belong to Blizzard, and I thank them for letting me have Denaise.

Denaise

Denaise was only five years old the first time her father roused her from her thin mattress bed in the pre-dawn hours to go kill vermin in the moonlight.
It had never left her. Even after she’d relinquished her protective hold on her younger sister, Belle, even after she’d come to understand why their mother had left them and the Isle altogether, even after she somehow forgave Breacan, her older sister, for abandoning her and Belle to a childhood of horror, Denaise still remembered vividly how it felt to cast a spell of unrelenting pain for the first time. She only, much later in life, realized, it was because she knew the pain she inflicted so well herself.

Brahm poked his middle daughter, Denaise, in the shoulder as she slept, seeing that same sad, scowl darkening her features even while she was at rest.

“C’mon, girl. Wake yourself. I need your help in the garden.”

The cub awoke with a start, but did not flinch. Instead, in her surprise, she reached for a now cold kerosene lamp on her nightstand, as if she would make use of it as a weapon.

She clutched its handle, catching her breath and her father laughed mirthlessly. “Such a violent one, you are. Come, put that anger to use in the garden.”

His voice was not kind or amused and Denaise felt sparks of dislike for the man flare in the depths of her soul.

“What if I don’t want to go?” She snapped at him.

He leaned down close to her, his face cast in ghastly shadows in the remaining moonlight. “Then one day, the vermin will come and take you away, and because you’re such a contrary little girl, when they gobble you up, and you die, your soul won’t go to heaven to meet your Gram’s. It will smolder in the pits below with your mum’s.”

Denaise felt a sweat of terror erupt over her, but she refused to let it show. She growled at her father, a high-pitched, pathetic whir at the back of her cub throat. Her delicate ears went back and her eyes narrowed. From deep within, she felt an anger that she could commonly control, bubble dangerously.

She took a deep breath, but was not sure what she felt compelled to say, when her father struck her. Denaise yelped in pain, waking Belle, just a slumbering toddler in the next room. She began to cry, and the noise floated through the cottage as a sad melody.

Brahm snarled. “Put the baby to sleep again and then meet me in the garden. Ten minutes is all you get. Don’t make me coming looking for you.”

Brahm was one of the Wandering Isle’s most revered elders, somehow. No one knew why his wife had left him, and as Pandaren tended to be very private people, no one pried into his business or household. Such moments as these were ones that Denaise could not escape then, at least not fully.

She watched her father’s back as he departed and then finally allowed herself to rub at her swollen cheek. The pain and sting there, she did her best to remember and process, until it was a well-written memory in her being. She did not cause it to disperse entirely, though she knew she could as she was blessed somewhat with the Gift of the Light. But she concentrated the pain at a single point before she committed it to the well of anger within her soul.

With the pain managed in the only way she truly felt she could, Denaise tossed off her thin blanket and tumbled over her older sister Breacan’s old schoolbooks and robes as she made for the door.

She’d been playing “wizard” with Belle the night before while Brahm was out. The baby didn’t really understand the game, but had finally at least learned to moo when Denaise “made” her a cow, and ribbit when she “made” her a frog, and not the other way around.

Denaise bent a claw a bit on the spine of a massive spell primer and let out a curse she’d heard her father use when he was most angry with her. She resolved to commit herself to the housework Breacan used to do.

Brea was a good deal older than her sisters. She was fifteen now and was gone; an initiate at Master Shang’s Academy. The things she used to do such as cooking and cleaning had all fallen to Denaise. As a young cub, it was hard for her to keep up with it all, but she dared not ask her father to bring in aide from the monastery,  though surely the monks there would have been more than willing to help.

Brahm was a revered elder on the Isle, but this brought the family no luxuries. This was compounded by his feverish, brash and obsessive religious beliefs. He was born and raised through a long line of family clerics. The zealotry and maniacal tendencies only exacerbating as the family line became more and more engrossed in what they taught. Outwardly, the Lang family gave them impression of peace, if staunch adherence to the teaching of the Celestials, and therefore, no one knew the difficult way in which cubs were reared.  The small cottage the two daughters now lived in with their father had been a gift of his followers, unquestioned. So, while Denaise and her sisters never lived in squalor, nor went hungry, they by no means lived comfortably.

Having stumbled her way out of her own room to her sister’s, Denaise pulled Belle from beneath her bedding, allowing the two year old to wrap her tiny arms and legs about her neck and torso. The older sister cooed at her, watching as her tears slowed and her breath became even once more. The toddler’s face was preciously a-symmetrical, one brown splotch darkening her left eye, while her right eye was nearly rimmed with it. Brown speckles tickled her nose and her fur color was a muddied mixture of their mother’s black fur and Brahm’s red.

Denaise was often envious that both her sisters seemed to take after their mother (Breacan herself being possessed of pitch black coloring). Denaise had gotten her father’s red fur, though darker splotches broke up her overall coloring. Furthermore, though many found her perfectly symmetrical eye markings and delicate brows a masterpiece to envy later on in her life, she always wished she’d inherited her mother’s freckles and color-stained nose, like Belle.

Belle’s watery eyes gazed into Denaise’s own now, searching for comfort and the elder sister obliged. Mindlessly, she put her bruised cheek to her sister’s forehead, only let out a hiss of pain, pulling back.

Bearabelle (as Denaise jokingly called her, saying she was only just “bearable” to be around), didn’t flinch at this. Intuitively, the toddler put a paw to her sister’s cheek and babbled. A cool, healing power surged between them and Denaise felt the swelling go down.

The older girl laughed in spite of herself. “Looks like Master Shang will come for you next, not me.”

Belle yawned, obviously tired from her spell casting.

“Yeah, that’s the idea, Belle. Get some more sleep and I promise I’ll have pumpkin pancakes for you in the morning.”

The baby was out cold again before Denaise even had the chance to finish her promise, but she resolved to make good on it, anyway.

With Belle put peacefully to sleep again, Denaise pulled on one of her mother’s forgotten shawls and found her dusty pair of rubber work boots in the cottage entryway. Donning them, she stepped out into the freezing ocean air. Being out on the Wandering Isle, the seasons never changed, but one could always be certain that nights would be cold, and the mornings frozen before the sun caught up to Shen Zin Su on his endless journey.

Denny pulled the hood of her shawl up and tucked her hair behind her ears and down her collar for extra insulation. She rounded the corner of their small abode and grimaced at the sight of her father. He was kneeling at the shrine in the garden, praying to whatever gods he believed in. Even at such a young age, the hypocrisy of the same hand that struck her just moments before now making a holy sign in the moonlight was not lost on her.

She waited impatiently, kicking at a vermin tunnel that ran between a row of turnips. Brahm, hearing the sound, turned to her.

“You’ll say your graces before we begin.”

“What gods will forgive me for taking an innocent life of a creature?”

“They are not innocent, Denaise! They take our food and destroy what small crop we have. You WILL say your graces or you will not eat this week. I’ll see to it.”

Denaise bit her tongue though she wanted to agree to not eat for the week. But, she remembered her promise to make the pancakes for Belle. If she would not be allowed to eat, she would not be allowed to prepare food either, and her sister would go without as well. She knew this from past experience. And without Breacan around to beg food off of her friends, Denaise would have to allow her father to win arguments such as these.

Denaise knelt beside her father, leaving a good distance between them, and stared blankly at the shrine in front of her. Wisps of incense escaped into the night, and the idols on the altar watched her as vacantly as she did them. But she went through the courses, reciting a list of thanks, and hopes and prayers. With her father’s intense eye upon her, she went an extra step and even asked forgiveness for her earlier insolence.

Saying her last amen, she looked to Brahm, who nodded at her, though not in any kind of true approval.

“Now we begin. Get a rake. You’ll be doing the extermination tonight, I think. I’ll chase them out of their filthy holes beneath the house to you.”

Denaise did not protest, knowing it was futile since he had already turned his back on her, heading back around to the front of the house, where most of the vermin had taken up residence behind her mother’s old rosebush.

The cub claimed a rusty rake from the garden shed and sat with a huff upon the stone shrine she’d just been praying to. Giggling to herself, she broke wind on it, and spoke in a whisper of hilarity to the same gods she’d just prayed to.

“And please forgive the beans I ate for dinner last night. It’s all my father would let me have.”

The incense wafted thickly about her then, as it tried to purify the air around her. “Oh, it’ll take more than that!” She snickered. “I had a WHOLE plate.”

It was true that Denaise had always been catatonic during all of her father’s rambling diatribes about spirits and gods and praying for every last little thing that came into his thick mind. He, and the teachers at the catechism classes he’d started sending her to, had warned her the gods frowned on most everything, and they were not to be trifled with or provoked.

Denaise, on the other hand, couldn’t see how such benevolent gods would allow her, a relatively innocent young child, to be abandoned by her mother, nor allow her to be beaten and threatened by her father, nor would such beings see it fit that she have gone on so many of her childhood years feeling so lost and empty inside. As the adults had it, those types of feelings shouldn’t happen until she was well into her teens. That’s when it happened to Brea, anyway (until Master Shang came to take her to the academy).

No, the gods had to have some kind of awful sense of humor that only the truly evil could understand. And Denaise , quite sure in this knowledge, took no caution in lashing out at them in the least.

It was just moments before the first of the vermin appeared in the garden, as they fled her father’s intrusion into their den. Denaise suddenly felt useless as she gripped her rake. She wasn’t quite sure she had the stomach for braining even such a disgusting, filthy creature as this.

It was quickly joined by a few of its friends and family, and they all stopped to regroup, whispering and squeaking at each other, not even noticing Denaise as she watched them, counting her misgivings.

She picked up on snippets of their conversation. “No! NO! We should flee! Flee! Why don’t we runses! Runses!” “We should nibbles the baby’s toeses, or the fingers of the bigger baby! The bigger baby is a weakling! Easy, easy!”

All the vermin chuckled at this, and Denaise, realizing that SHE was supposedly the bigger baby, and, fueled by a rage that they would attack Belle, stood up in a literal flash. Her anger surged out from her in an inexplicable wave, shattering the shrine she’d only moments ago blessed with prayer and her own gas.

She did not notice, though the vermin did, and they stood perfectly still in the moonlight, the terror written on their faces.

“Why. Don’t. You. Die instead!” Denaise raged, and the vermin squealed, some holding their filthy paws up as she brought the rake up over her head and then swung it down in front of her. The tongs buried in the ground before her, missing the grouping of vermin by at least three feet.

There was a stunned silence then, in which Denaise realized that her aim was just as bad as she had ever expected it to be, and even if her rage had made her blow a killing one, it meant nothing if she couldn’t hit a two foot wide target at point blank range.

The vermin, also, took stock of her abilities and, after they recovered from their initial fear and shock, there rose a great titter. This time, not of fear, but of laughter. Squealing, cursing, and name calling, mockery all directed at the cub erupted from the crowd of brazen rodents. Most rolled around upon the dirt, clutching at still growing turnips to steady themselves as they cackled at her. Others still pointed and laughed, their sickeningly large teeth chattering as they guffawed.

“It misses! It misses! It needs glasses! The baby needs glasses! No! The baby needs a banjo to hit a cow buttses!”

Denaise felt her rage boil again. Rage at being laughed at, rage at her initial sorrow in having to kill these foul mockers, rage at their misuse of a famous Pandaren idiom, rage at her father, rage at her mother, rage at being hit, and called names this morning, rage at being made to adhere to religious practices she felt were a farce. And it happened.

The cub tapped into that anger, and harnessed the white-hot pain she had internalized earlier, she drew upon it, and focused on the laughing vermin closest to her. Her eyes narrowed and, letting go of the rake, she simply spread her arms out, palms upward and commanded her target.

“Suffer.” She said simply. And it did. She felt the pain she had experienced earlier herself spike and leave her in a ball of fury, it smashed down upon the vermin and its laughter immediately became a squeak of pain. Denaise watched, breathing heavily as the pain she’d slammed it with ticked a new course of affliction into her victim, causing it to convulse once more. It writhed there a moment longer before falling dead at her feet.

The other assembled rodents fell silent, frozen in fear once more. Denaise, however, was not silent. Something inside of her was seeping through her veins and she could not control it. She wanted these little scum to pay. Much like her father, she commanded the next target to repent to her, and struck it with a volley of white light which exploded from her fingertips. Next, she applied the same pain she had to the other vermin.

This new victim lasted only a fraction of the time the first had. Denaise felt powerful, and became relentless. She picked her way through the fields, as her prey attempted to run and escape her. She caused pain to those that hid from her, letting it tick away their life. She threw the light of chastisement at others that thought they had found refuge in the awnings above the cottage windows.

Within an hour, Denaise stood stock still in the center of the garden, and the tide of vermin had slowed to a stop. Around her, the corpses of the rodents lay in a tangle, but she did not notice. She was quiet now, exhausted. She was sure she’d not be able to cast another spell no matter how many more came bounding around the corner to their ultimate doom.

Feeling weak, she stooped and picked up her disused rake and leaned against it, panting. Her eyes fell upon the shattered shrine and she only vaguely remembered how she had some how unwittingly broken it. She was puzzling through it when Brahm appeared from around the front of the cottage, the rising sun lighting the yard as he approached her.

“Denaise…” he was breathless himself as he beheld the destruction around them. He took stock of the vermin bodies surrounding his daughter, and it was only when his eyes fell upon the broken shrine that he spoke again. “What have you done!”

He yelled as he ran at his daughter and she wheeled on him, stepping backward, but able to control her new-found powers.

“I did nothing.” She lied. “I didn’t break it. Not on purpose.” She searched for something to tell him.

“Denaise! Tell me the truth!” Brahm raised a palm.

“They desecrated it, Father.” She said quickly. “The vermin, they… destroyed it. And I retaliated. Don’t you see?” She gestured around her with the rake. “How dare they, Father? How dare they? In between their attacks, I took the necessary steps to…”

“Destroy the shrine as directed…” Brahm finished Denaise’s lie for her, and she couldn’t help but grin.

“Yes, Father. Yes. That’s all.”

It was easy enough. Pandaren religious fanatics maintained that the only thing worse than a family having no shrine in their garden was the family that allowed the shrine they did have to become infested or desecrated by the earth’s dirt and vermin.

Brahm nodded in what might have been his first approval of any of his daughters, ever. “You’ve done well tonight, Denaise. You will be in charge of vermin extermination from now on. Also, you will be keeper of the family shrine. I will rebuild it, but entrust it to you.”

Denaise worked to keep herself from recoiling at this new assignment. It wasn’t the killing of the vermin that made her shrink either.

“You can thank me for that honor, daughter.”

“Yes, yes. Thank you, Father.”

“Come inside. Make us breakfast while I fashion you a proper vermin killing device. That rake cannot be our only line of defense. No matter how well you wield it.”

Denaise, following Brahm back to the house, did not protest yet again. She did not understand from where her powers came, and she knew he might not either, which would make the consequences for her dire, no doubt. Worse yet, he might understand where her power came from, and that would have spelled an almost certain doom for the cub.

After Belle had been given a plate full of pumpkin pancakes, and once Brahm was a safe distance from the house, looking for a proper stick to be fashioned into some kind of spear, Denaise locked herself in her room for a bit. She tore each of Breacan’s old spellbooks from the shelf, and poured through all of those, including the ones she’d already had out the afternoon before.

Denaise was still honing her reading skills, but she could tell well enough that nothing in her older sister’s primers mentioned anything about the types of spells she had seemed to summon in the garden earlier. There was talk of manifesting fire, water and even ancient magics, but nothing indicated anything about drawing from one’s one experiences, one’s own fears or anger, hatred or even happiness. There was no talk of a bright magic and the shadowy residue left behind upon her victims.

Sighing, Denaise gave up once the baby was finished eating, and took her down to the creek by the side of the house for a dip in the rushing water. As Belle splashed about in the shallows,  her older sister sat despondently on a rock by her side, still troubled by her lack of understanding.

There was a soft plop of a stone hitting the water’s surface nearby and it brought Denaise to her senses. She cast a glance up to the arched bridge to her left and saw a classmate of Breacan’s, a young hunter named Cate, waving down to her. She had a turtle beside her, and he was chewing on some grass that he’d picked up somewhere. They both looked happy, and Denaise couldn’t even fathom how anyone or anything could feel so.

“Thanks to your Dad, you’re the talk of the Turtle!” Cate called down.

“How’s that?” Denaise put a paw to her ear, and Cate nodded, and this time threw her voice down over the creek’s rabble.

“Your Dad is going on about you out at the Academy. Says your vermin extermination skills are the truest sign he’s seen yet that you’re destined to be a great monk someday. Says you fought them just like the old monks did back in Pandaria, during their great uprising.”

Denaise was slack-jawed, not sure how to respond. “I– they’re just mice.”

Cate shrugged. “Well, to hear your Dad tell it, they were Mogu emperors, all.”

Denaise was torn between some sort of absurd pride and fear. What if she was called upon to prove her talents?

“Dads will be Dads, I guess.” Cate said flippantly. “Always talking a big talk about their kids.”

The words didn’t mean to, but they stung and Denaise gave a weak smile. “I suppose.”

“But don’t discount yourself!” Cate went on. “I couldn’t hit my first vermin with my slingshot until I was eight! That’s like… an old woman by your standards, right?”

Denaise now grinned. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess so.”

“Brea says hi, and sorry she couldn’t come. Master Shang’s got her doing extra spellwork. On a WEEKEND, no less. I don’t know if that means she’s something special or some one that needs extra special work, though.”

The cub shrugged at the fledgling hunter. “Breacan is smart. She’s a good big sister, and she’ll be back when she can be.”

Denaise knew as she said it, it was a lie. Breacan rarely came home because she hated their dad. She had abandoned her sisters just as their mother had. And while Denaise could not blame either of them, as she watched Belle splash in the water, she knew that when she left, her baby sister would be at her side.

“Well, happy hunting!” Cate called. “Off to fight some sprites that  are apparently camping the road into Morning Breeze. Gave my own Dad a nasty black eye last night, I guess.” The older bear chuckled. “Though I’m inclined to think he probably just fell out of his cart again. He’s a perpetual clutz.”

Deniase waved. “Good-bye, Cate.”

“Bye, Denny!” Cate waved and her turtle breyed as they took off running for their home village.

Deniase scrunched up her nose, not wanting to like the nickname she’d just been given, but ultimately having to admit… it had a nice, familiar ring that she was not accustomed to.

The cub decided to keep her power a secret. She would have to learn to control it, but, that shouldn’t be too hard, she decided. It was, after all, something that came from deep inside of her own being, and therefore, self-contained.

And so, Denaise grew up, Belle at her side. For years, she kept her secret, adapting to a nearly nocturnal lifestyle at times. She made money as a vermin exterminator throughout the villages on the Wandering Isle. Each night, she had countless rodents fall victim to her simple spells, writing, withering and dying in her wake. And each morning her customers and father would find her lounging about the gardens, reading a newspaper or old books, surrounded by furry corpses.

The spear her father had fashioned for her when she was just five years old became a constant companion to her. She used it mostly as a walking stick, and could sometimes channel her spells through it, relieving her body of the need to be a conduit in addition to being the well of power.

And no one on the Isle was any the wiser. Not even Belle. And Denaise liked it that way. Bearabelle, however, had taken to her own enjoyment of vermin killing throughout the years. Sometimes, she’d catch an intruder in the kitchen and learned how to douse it with a tankard of ale to slow it down enough to crane kick it back out the door, dead.

Breacan was still something of a ghost; only coming home on major holidays after a time. She found Denaise’s vermin extermination service odd, but seemed pleased that her younger sister was at least able to save money, and provide for herself and the youngest.

This was still particularly useful since the pride that Brahm felt after that first night in the garden quickly waned back to his own religious ramblings. He rebuilt their shrine within weeks and saw to it that Denaise did nothing else first before she ensure it was clean, and well kept. Occasionally, in an act of rebellion, Denaise would pretend a desecration had occurred and would use her odd power to smash it to bits. She stopped short of turning it to dust, though she knew she could.  She would not be able to explain that away.

It was when Denaise turned fifteen, and Bearabelle was a new thirteen that a letter arrived for the girls from their older sister.

“Ladies, a number of exciting  circumstances have culminated in me sending this correspondence to you. So, please read carefully. Both of you are now of age to join Master Shang’s Academy, once your skills have been assessed. Of course, news of your talents precedes you, particularly since your leanings seem to indicate you’d both make very capable monks (Belle, your particular knowledge of healing is of interest, as well).

We are also in great need of talented students. As we all know, Shen Zin Su, of late, has been suffering of some kind of malady that has caused his course to become erratic and dangerous. We’ve all worried about the quakings of the shell beneath our feet. Master Shang believes his students have the capability to  end whatever torture has befallen our greatest protector, but he needs students of a particular merit and talent to assist. He believes you would both be of significant aide.

Master Shang has told me that a time has come for you both to be evaluated, and we will be arriving in three days’ time after you’ve received this letter.

Please be sure that the house is in order, and that you are dressed to perform your best. Also, you might make sure that you are alone when we arrive. You can expect us around the noon hour.

I look forward to seeing you both, as always, and hope this letter, and soon enough, I, will find you well.

Love,

B.”

Denaise felt her heart seize while Belle burst out of the house, happily, into the garden, rolling about, and kicking, throwing jabs at invisible attackers. Denaise followed her outside, obviously subdued and terrified.

Belle giggled at her, basking in the sunshine. “Now you’ll have no choice, Denaise! Your prowess will have to… come out of the dark…” she gave a pretend maniacal laugh and the elder bear tried to play along.

“Ha ha… yeah… yeah. That… this is it, then.”

Deniase knew her lies were coming to end then. She knew she would be found out, and would no doubt be shunned. To do such magics that no one had even heard of? There was something wrong with her, and though she’d been clever enough to hide for so many years, there would be no avoiding what was coming to her.

It was, however, also the out her younger sister needed. Bearabelle was indeed quite talented, and would prove invaluable for whatever important task the Academy set out for her.

Over the next days, both daughters did their best to clean and clear out both house and yard. Brahm, by the third day, had, in turn reached a fever pitch of annoyance with their work, and that morning took to rampaging about cottage.

“I’m not able to find my notes!” He bellowed as he smashed his massive paws about on top of his newly organized desktop. He ripped open drawers and shredded the papers he did find.

Belle, cowering on the kitchen counter, Denaise standing boldly in front of her, eyes set upon their father, tried to speak to him. “Papa… I put them..”

“Enough out of you! You dithering mouse! You know you’re not touch this desk!”

Denaise flared. “Then perhaps you shouldn’t toss your precious papers about as if you’re no more than a schoolboy. What would your precious GODS think of your slovenliness, Father?”

The massive bear rounded on his daughter then, and raised his vicious paw. He struck Denaise across the face. Out of habit, she grabbed the pain as it struck her and congealed it, forming the familiar ball of power and ejected it from her body, sending it searing to her father’s own face.

He cried out, as if he had been slapped himself. Relief flooded her as Denaise realized she had not caused any mortal harm. But it was quickly replaced by fear and dismay when her father’s face clouded as he glared at her.

He held his jaw and spat words at her. “What did you do! Denaise! What was that?”

The young woman steeled herself. “Consider it a taste of your own foul medicine, Father.”

He roared at her. “What dark magic are you using! Tell me!”

Belle backed up, but not from Denaise, simply trying to get out of the way of her father’s surging fury. “Dark… magic… Denaise…?”

“I’m using what you TAUGHT me!” Denaise bellowed back. “Anger! Pain! Fear! I control them all.” She stood tall and brave, her body, rippling as a dark fire sparked at her feet. “I control them all and I command them to defend me. Against you.”

She shrieked and Brahm trembled, but only for an instant. It gave Denaise just enough time to push her sister out of the way before the massive older bear lunged in their direction. Belle rolled expertly across the room, lunging up onto a counter opposite.

Without her staff, Denny felt weaker, and lost control of her thoughts. Brahm seized this moment, and grabbed his daughter by her arm, gripping it so tightly that she cried out.

“You filth. It was you. You have desecrated our shrines. It’s you who has brought on your own demonic ending. You have always brought me shame.” He grabbed her by both arms then and tossed her as if she were a rag doll across the kitchen.

She collapsed against the wall, disoriented, only just able to focus on Belle’s terrified cries. Denaise lifted a hand to attempt some sort of spell, wishing to slow her father as he raced toward her once more. She felt an instinctive ability to cast some kind of spell…. in the haze of her injury, she could feel it… a spell to slow… but would also cause harm. Despite it all, she didn’t want to harm another Pandaren… not her father… not family. So, Denaise began to summon a fearing spell again, hoping to disrupt him for just another moment.

But she never got the chance. The front door slammed open, the daylight streaming in. Breacan was there, Master Shang at her side. Both had staves at the ready, their faces stern and unforgiving.

“Brahm!” Breacan roared. “Face me!”

Denaise watched her father change his course, heading for the eldest girl. “How dare you think you may call me by my name! I am your Father! You must have respect for-”

He was lunging for her, but she uttered a quick spell and ice materialized in a snap, freezing him helplessly in place in the center of the kitchen. He toppled over himself, wheezing.

“You speak lies.” She spat at him. “And your reign of fear, your control of your daughters ends here.”

“Breacan.” Master Shang spoke her name quietly. “Go now. Allow me to collect the girls.”

Denaise, out of breath, struggled to process what had happened. Belle was at her side, muttering her few common heals, attempting to stem the pain she felt. Denaise brushed her paws away, not unkindly.

“I’m alright, Belle. Really.”

Breacan stepped from the doorway as Master Shang entered. He stood over Brahm, shaking his head.

“You have chased away all those who could have cared for you, Brahm. Your daughters and Breacan should have been your salvation, not your faith. For what is faith when you are possessed of no love? I’ll be taking the girls now. I shall keep them in my care.”

Denaise was regaining her feet as the Academy’s founder slid an arm under hers. “Come with me, ladies. Your sister is waiting for us.”

The cart ride across the Isle to the Academy’s shrine was one of uncomfortable silence. Denaise’s mind was swallowed with her own fears. Everything from the worry over her father’s retaliation, to her confusion over Breacan’s denial of their father, to the revelation of her own, as Brahm called them, “dark magics”.

Belle had curled against Denaise and slept most of the way to their destination. It was only the sweet rhythm of her breathing that kept her older sister from jumping headlong, out into the woods in an attempt to escape.

When they arrived,  a few attendants were immediately at their side, and the two girls were rushed away momentarily and changed into initiate’s gear: a pair of plain black pants and shirt.

Once they were redressed, they were sent back out to the courtyard, where Master Shang and their sister waited for them. Shang motioned Belle away from Denaise’s side. “Let Breacan show you where you’ll be staying, young one. I’d like to have a moment alone with your sister.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And might I add… your heals on Denaise were most impressive for some one who has never had any formal training.”

Belle finally smiled. “Thank you, sir. Thank you. I’d do anything for Denaise.”

“Ah, and it’s clear the feeling is mutual.”

Denaise gave a weak nod and hugged Belle goodbye. “I’ll catch up with you as soon as I can, Bearabelle. I promise.”

With that, the girls were separated for the first time in their memory and Shang held out his own staff to Denaise

“You appear exhausted. Please, use my staff.”

All propriety gone, Denaise obeyed, thankful for the support. She leaned on it as they walked together, working her own odd healing spell that Belle had helped her learn, in order to subdue some of the overflow of her aches.

“Let us walk up along the cliff,” Shang said as they strolled. “I think the view will do you some good.”

“Alright.” Denny agreed, though she truly wished for a bed.

When they were well away from the trainees in the Acadamy’s training yard, Master Shang chose a large flat rock and motioned Denaise to join him in a rest. She did so and looked out upon the ocean before them, the wake of Shen Zin Su rippling out for countless miles as they cruised through the ocean. She breathed deep, and relaxed finally. There was something about the knowledge that there were no doubt so many countless possibilities out beyond where the horizon’s seam was… surely she was not meant to stay on the Isle. Somehow she could go, and take her sister with her.

“Denaise, your extermination business hasn’t been the result of your great aim with a spear, has it?” Master Shang asked simply, without judgement.

“No.” She was surprised to find herself admitting to it just as simply.”Not… not in the least. In fact… the stupid vermin once LAUGHED at my aim with a rake.”

Shang burst into laughter at this, and Denaise even chuckled despite herself. “You sound like I did the first time I attempted to take on the sprite infestation I have in my own shrine.”

Denaise worked away a grimace at the word “shrine.”

“You’re not a woman of true faith, are you? Even though your father thought he was raising you to be.”

The potential recruit shook her head. “I couldn’t be farther from it. I’ve never had reason to have faith in anything.”

“Well, that’s true. Nothing but yourself.”

“And Belle. I know Belle won’t let me down.”

“Of course not.” There was a thoughtful pause before the Master continued carefully. “But how would you feel if I told you that many of the best priests I’ve seen come through my establishment have had the same feelings as you?”

Denaise’s eyes narrowed and her ears went back, casting a look of anger at the old man. “Priests? Don’t speak to me of them.”

“Denaise, I know it’s hard to accept when we are different than what people have expected of us. Your father expected you to be one thing, or even several things, that you will never be. On top of that, he was cruel, apparently. Something Breacan ever failed to mention.”

Denaise scoffed. “Breacan only cares about Breacan.”

“Well, even if that might be a bit true, you are different. Which makes you incapable of being a mage.”

“What are you saying?”

“You can do small heals, no?”

“Yes, enough to keep myself from bleeding or hurting more than a moment. That’s really Belle’s area of expertise…”

“True. But, nonetheless, you possess the power to cause pain or stop it. To bring death or guard against it. And most priests are possessed of the darkness and the light. The only difference between you and many others who walk the path of a priest is that you’ve not been allowed to explore the parts of yourself that have been touched by the Light.”

“Well, that’s not my fault.”

“By no means, no!” Master Shang agreed emphatically. “This I realize most clearly. And simply because you have honed your offensive spells rather than your defensive, does not mean you are evil, or bad, or to be feared… at least not by anyone who is not your enemy.” He smiled at her warmly.

Denaise sighed, as if a weight had been lifted. “All these years, I thought there was something wrong with me. I’d given up on myself… given myself over to a darkness.”

“And, I feel for the rest of your life, you will, to an extent. Because that’s how your powers work. But you are not alone. And while you will draw from that darkness, you need not exist within it all the time. I have pupils here who are walking this path as well, Denaise. I’d like to allow them to work with you. And I would like to work with you myself, as well. I believe your potential to change our world, here on the Isle and beyond is great. And we should get to work right away. Would you like that?”

Denaise was speechless for a moment. “I… well, yes, of course I would. I … want to belong, Master Shang. Please…” she found herself begging.

He placed a comforting paw on her shoulder. “My dear, you have always had a place to belong. You’ve only just now found it. Now, to start, why not hop down the hill and pick out a spellbook and a wand to use? There are weapon racks below us filled with items you’ll find useful. If you can easily equip them and handle them properly, then I have a gift for you.”

He grinned and produced from his robes a pair of green gemmed bracers that glittered in the brilliant sunlight. “Fitting for a young caster, no?”

Denaise was on her feet, her exhuastion just a fading memory. She was leaping over rocks, pulling her hair back into fanned pigtails, using the frayed strings from her mother’s old shawl that she’d always kept  around her wrists as remembrances. The dark fire burned within her, drawing her toward the weapons she most would need.

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