Faith is the beginning of all things. That was the first lesson she had learned and memorized as a Sister of Elune. Tyrande recalled High Priestess Dejahna's severity as she examined the girls, quick to weed out any half-hearted pupils who had simply joined the Sisters because of their lack of magical aptitude. If your skill with the arcane is passable, but not strong, you may still become a sorceress. If your skill with a needle and thread is passable, but not strong, you may still become a seamstress. But if your faith is only passable and not strong, you will never become a priestess.
It was strange how clearly the words came back to her as she struggled to stay on the hippogryph. The winds were against them and the rain plastered her cerulean hair to her shoulders, but part of her mind was still in the old Temple of Elune in Suramar, where Dejahna's sharp eyes had gazed on her skeptically.
Why have you chosen this path, Tyrande Whisperwind?
Because, she had said, I want to protect others. Especially the ones I love. The high priestess had regarded her for a long moment afterward, and Tyrande never knew exactly what Dejahna had thought about that exchange, but she had long suspected that somehow the seed for her nomination as successor had been planted in that brief, earnest sentence.
There had been many times when she had questioned her predecessor's decision to appoint her as high priestess. How different would her life have been without the burden of leadership? Would she have needed to slay the Watchers to secure Illidan's aid against the Burning Legion? Would she have been forced to wait for thousands of years to finally wed her beloved? Would her people have suffered less during the War of the Ancients if their ruler had been more experienced?
Dejahna had been right: faith was her only guide. Now it drove her through a relentless storm to rescue the most capable general she had ever known from a danger that was vague but unavoidable in her mind. And she was alone. None of her words had moved Malfurion, even though she was certain of them.... It seemed that faith was a rare gift indeed.
The hippogryph squawked, and Tyrande peered over his antlered head. Feralas lay before them, and Sardor Isle was barely visible through a wall of fog. Somewhere beneath it, Shandris was waiting. Tyrande had to believe that she was still alive.
She tapped the hippogryph's neck, indicating that he should land to the south. It was easier to communicate through touch in the driving wind, and the creatures always understood the code. The hippogryph surged forward in response and spread his wings wide in an attempt to buffer the turbulence. Despite his efforts, the gale toyed with them, nearly sending the pair into the thrashing sea below. Tyrande slid to the far right edge of the saddle, hoping that the shift of weight would help the hippogryph correct himself. For a moment they hung like a leaf in the wind, and then the creature dropped sideways and swiftly banked toward the shore.
Tyrande clung to him fiercely. "Well, that was foolhardy, but effective." The hippogryph puffed up his feathers proudly as he landed on a patch of dry ground just outside of Feathermoon Stronghold. "I suppose that is why we are in this together. Stay close," she said, dismounting from him and treading cautiously toward the settlement.
Morthis hadn't lied. Feathermoon was in shambles, its structures crumbling and flooded. The naga were everywhere, rifling through the wreckage and patrolling the coast as if they expected reinforcements at any moment. Somehow in the rain and wind, they had missed her approach from the south. Or perhaps one lone night elf had not been a cause for concern.
It crossed her mind that Shandris could have escaped from the isle before the invasion, but she would not be content until she had completed a thorough search. Her fear for Shandris gnawed at her, turning her thoughts back to the dead girl on the Rut'theran shore. Tyrande pressed on, edging toward the nearest building and keeping an eye on the patrols as she went. She didn't mind the prospect of combat, but her mission would go more quickly without any unnecessary engagements.
The floorboards creaked beneath her feet and water streamed down from cracks in the roof as she entered the battered shelter. Scanning the area, Tyrande spotted a patch of lavender near one of the bookshelves—the tip of an ear? She ran forward, hoping that she was not too late. The bookshelf was wedged in a corner, and it took a sharp kick to move it, but the high priestess managed to shove it aside and find the body below. Reaching down, she lifted the night elf up out of the muddy water that had filled the structure.
She recognized his long braided hair quickly. Latronicus Moonspear, one of the foremost fighters against the naga in Feathermoon Stronghold. Now he rested in the arms of Elune. She closed his eyes and murmured the prayer for the dead. The words had become all too familiar on her lips in the past few days.
The rest of the room yielded only the body of another slain Sentinel, almost certainly killed by the naga, and dozens of abandoned supplies that had been ruined in the flooding. As she left, a party of naga scouts rounded the corner and saw her. The high priestess extended her arms and uttered a few words, sending beams of moonlight down upon her enemies before they could attack. The naga collapsed under her assault and she ran for the inn, searching beneath the water for any tracks—any signs of battle that could lead her to Shandris and the other survivors—but the floods had churned the earth into mud.
A shadow passed over her head, and Tyrande raised her glaive in alarm. An enormous bird circled in the sky above her. She paused, watching the creature in disbelief. It dove into a steep descent, and she began to recognize the dark plumage and the certain spark that lit the storm crow's eyes. The bird landed and, in a matter of seconds, shifted into the familiar figure of her beloved.
"I am sorry for making you wait." He smiled.
"Mal…" She embraced him. "You came after all."
"We fight as one now. Our friend Broll Bearmantle has taken my place organizing the druid scouts, and Merende tends to your duties in Darnassus."
"Thank you, my love. Feathermoon Stronghold is in dire need of our aid. I have not been able to find any survivors, and it is impossible to track them in this flood."
He nodded. "Perhaps I can help with that." The archdruid closed his eyes in meditation and reached out in front of himself, stretching his palms over the devastated land. Gusts of wind gathered around Malfurion as he drew them together in a massive cyclone. The murky waters began to ripple and recede as the fierce vortex drove them back into the sea. Then only the broken landscape of Sardor Isle lay before them, revealing a trail of corpses that led to the giant tree tower to the northeast.
But the spell had also alerted the naga. They came in from all sides, eager to investigate the cause of the receding water. When they saw the night elves, the serpentine creatures cried out in alarm, drawing in more of their troops. They were readying an attack. A naga sorceress, Lady Szenastra, appeared in the center of the growing group. Judging by the deference that the lady commanded from her subjects, Tyrande could tell that she was the leader of this army.
"Sardor Isle is ours now. You have come to your death, 'Your Majesty,'" Szenastra sneered.
"I am no queen," Tyrande snapped. "And I would sooner die than take that title. What have you done with the kaldorei who have made their homes here?"
"Your people sleep eternally now. Do you not see them?" Szenastra gestured to the corpses idly. "You may join them now, if you wish. My lady Szallah would find it most agreeable if you would be obliging. If not, I shall have to see to you myself." She signaled, and a cadre of myrmidons slithered forward.
Tyrande and Malfurion exchanged a look.
"How easily these fools forget defeat," the high priestess muttered through clenched teeth.
"We must give them a reminder, then," Malfurion said. Tyrande gave a quick nod. Lightning crackled through the air as the archdruid began to craft his spell. The clouds above the isle blackened even further, and the naga's heads shot up in alarm. Szenastra hissed out an order, and the naga army advanced on the pair of night elves.
Malfurion watched, unperturbed, waiting for the energies to coalesce. When the storm was fully formed, he slowly tilted his antlered head to the sky, and the heavens poured their wrath down upon the naga forces. Lightning shot to the earth—each bolt splitting into forks that seared through dozens of hapless myrmidons. As the troops dispersed in chaos, Tyrande began closing in on the sorceress.
Lady Szenastra was already trying to escape, but the high priestess unleashed a massive column of moonfire above her. The naga convulsed for a moment while the energy blazed through her, then she slammed to the ground, her glittering adornments swallowed by the mud.
Tyrande pressed on to the tower. The entrance was blocked by rubble, as though it had been sealed from the inside. Undaunted, she managed to clear away an opening with a few furious strikes from her glaive.
Inside the room, Shandris Feathermoon lay in a pool of blood that glistened across the floorboards.