Chapter One

The Battle

            The stench of the cavern was overwhelming. There was rot, fungus, strange mushrooms with gases and oozing beasts that gave off foul spores. This was not a pleasant place to be – and certainly not Lilien’s favourite. But she wasn’t there for fun – oh no! She had a job, a duty. She was there to triage this band of adventurers and their perpetually angry leader. She could hardly believe she volunteered to be in this stinky pit of beasts. Only a few days ago, she volunteered to be the medic for a troupe of adventurers looking to poke around in an old palace. That’s right – it said palace. Not swampy cavern of foul-smelling nastiness. An order from the commander snapped her quickly out of her thoughts. It was time to fight.

The air was thick with tension as the group readied itself against the beast. The angry leader barked out his orders without heed for anything or anyone else. In fact, to Lilien it seemed like the louder he barked them, the more he believed they were right. She didn’t like it, but her days in trauma certification warned her against spreaking out against him. Angry folk were not usually open to different ideas – and questioning the leader in the moment of battle usually leads to worse things. No, her job was to keep people alive and that’s all she would focus on.

The battle began and time and time again, Lilien worked at what she knew best. She channeled the Light to heal her group, concentrating on the weakest and the most injured. Bolts of Light went out one after the other, along with strong shields of protection. There were even times when she had to pray desperately to save herself in the nick of time. What kind of beast was this? The battle wore on and the other medics began to show their frustration by turning on one another – it was appalling. It was only a matter of seconds before all eyes turned to Lilien.

“Are you really doing everything you can?” went one. “How could you channel the light at the moment? You knew I needed your help then!” chimed another. “Why don’t you do what the other medics do? You should know better!” Lilien was unprepared for this. She did everything she could, and it seemed like she was doing it right. Never before had she been attacked by her own and she was unprepared to defend herself. Terror filled her as she stammered and stuttered out reasons but it was too late. A shower of orders ensued and Lilien followed them, despite herself. She was already scared and confused by how quickly people would get injured. Her head was swimming with thoughts – most of which were drowned in fear from her fellow medics now, and the commander. She was alone.

The tyrannical leader kept pushing everyone to continue fighting the deadly beast. Like a man with an obsession, he seemed content to have the beast’s head over the corpses of his own fellows. By the fifth hour, the adventurers were exhausted but noone dared say so. Noone had any food or water left, and the Light seemed to have forsaken Lilien. Parched and hungry, her hands began to shake, and her steady mind and heart had all but disappeared. Her little gnomish legs felt weak and she knew it was time to leave. She left the cavern, worn and hungry – her body in pain, and her faith broken. With the last ounce of energy, she pulled out a wormhole generator from her bag and prayed it still worked. “Take me away from here” she whispered as she pushed the little red button. A portal opened to an unknown place but she didn’t care….anywhere but here was enough.

Crisis of Faith

            Lilien woke up to find her cheek stuck to a page of the Dalaran Trauma Medics Quarterly. Her body hurt all over, and she rubbed her eyes as she struggled to remember what had happened. The wormhole generator – yes it had worked. But where was she? Was that snow outside? A terrifying screech outside made her head ring. But it sounded strangely familiar…where in Azeroth was she? “Oh you’re awake! Honey she’s awake! The little one is awake!! Grab the stew quick!”

Was that a dwarf? No the voice sounded a little bit more…a bit more…..gnome? No. They said ‘little one’. Little one. WAIT JUST A MINUTE. WHO WERE THEY CALLING LITTLE?? Lilien tried to get up, ready to tell them that she was the third tallest gnome in her graduating class but her legs wouldn’t move. Soon, the friendly face of a human appeared with a bowl of steaming hot stew. “Where am I? Who are you?” managed Lilien. She took the stew without thinking but the bowl was much too large to hold. She put her arms around it to steady it and began taking sips little by little. It warmed her and gave her strength. She was grateful for it.

“You’re in Grizzly Hills darling” said the woman, pulling up a chair. Grizzly Hi…..Grizzly Hills? Northrend?! Lillen secretly swore at her wormhole generator before gulping down more stew. “You popped out of the middle of nowhere! Good thing Terry was out fetching firewood at the time or you might’ve been out there all night!” “That’s right!” chimed Terry from the fireplace. “Scared my poor old dogs you did! One second I was piling up firewood and then poof, we have a gnome!” He had clearly enjoyed the adventure. “So…who are you? It’s been a long time since we saw any gnomes in these parts.”

Lillen began her usual introduction – always bowed with a full description of her rank and trauma specialty. She pushed away the blankets and bowed…and then she suddenly stopped. How could she introduce herself as a Rank 1 trauma medic? She could still hear the voices screaming at her, blaming her. That’s right, she was responsible for a few deaths. How could she have let that happen? How could she have let them die? She was a failure as a medic and a priestess. She had failed. “I’m Lilien…” she finally said, omitting her last name. There were no accomplishments to allude to today, and her last name just seemed meaningless to her. “I’m an engineer” she awkwardly continued, sensing that the couple were expecting something more. “I suppose my wormhole isn’t quite as ready as I had hoped hehe.” She tried to smile but it was more a wince. “I must thank you for all your kindness. If it weren’t for you, I’m not sure what would’ve become of me.” Her eyes filled with tears and she hurriedly bowed to hide her face.

Later that night, Lilien offered to help around the house. The events of the battle were still fresh in her mind, and every time she thought of them she felt sick and weak. Cleaning was a good way to get back some normalcy even though Lillen knew, it would be some time before things would ever be the same for her. While cleaning up, she found the Dalaran Trauma Medic Quarterly and tried to find answers to her own questions there. Did she really do things wrong? Why did they die? Why was she blamed? She found her eyes welling up again and wiped them away hurriedly. She missed the smell of fresh-baked pies from home, and the smell of oil and gears from her father’s workshop. Maybe that was a start – she could return. If anyone could accept her failure, her parents would….wouldn’t they?

The following day, Lilien bid farewell to the kind couple, thanking them again for their kindness and hospitality. As they saw her walk down the little path and wave, Terry whispered quietly to his wife “I know we didn’t want to pry, but I have to wonder what the truth about her is.” “What do you mean?” she asked, giving the gnome one final wave.

“Well, I’m no suave city-dweller but….this is the first engineer I’ve seen with a staff. Not to mention intricate robes with no oil stains.”

“Huh”.

The Journey Alone

            A boat ride and a tram-ride later, Lillen was back in the city of Ironforge. The smell of coal and hot cinders filled the air as busy dwarves hustled and bustled about their business. No doubt Moira Bronzebeard had something planned – her son’s birthday perhaps. Gryth the gryphon master was surprised but happy to see her. A hug and a gryphon ride brought her quickly to Kharanos. She was finally home. “Mom, Dad…” she managed before giving them a big hug. The terrible story was told over a quiet dinner. At the end Lillen’s dad got very pink in the face at how his little girl had been treated and stalked off to his workshop muttering curses at those people.

“Stay as long as you need to my dear Lil” said her mum. “You could help me with the pies or your father with his engineering projects. He’s getting old and blind now but he refuses to buy a decent eyeglass! Keeps insisting that his Ultravision Goggles X-2 can be fixed….gah! See if you can do something about it why don’t you?” Lillen smiled as she got into bed. Things hadn’t changed a bit. Maybe things could go back to normal afterall. For the first time in many nights, she fell into a deep peaceful sleep.

“LILIEN LIGHTSPARK YOU GET YOUR SORRY HOLY GNOME BUTT OUT HERE THIS INSTANT!”

Lilien fell down the step stool with a start. It had been almost a week since she’d been home, and she was making herself useful around the house.

“LILIEN LIGHTSPARK YOU CAN’T HIDE FROM ME YOU HEAR ME??”

No…it couldn’t be Meeps could it? Lilien poked her head out the window and saw a beard. Meeps didn’t have a beard – who on earth was this loud nuisance and how did he know her last name?? She’d only chosen it a year ago. Before she could get back in, she felt a strong tug at her pigtails. “Gotcha!”

Meeples Fizzlesprocket was what many gnomes would call “wild” for he was beyond eccentric, even by gnomish standards. He was born bald and had made it his lifelong engineering goal to find a way to grow the most thick and shiny hair. So far though, no luck. He’d heard his childhood partner in crime was back in town and worse still, he’d heard why. News travels quickly among gnomes you see. Meeples, or Meeps as he was called by his close friends, dragged an obstinate Lilien to the usual scouting spot just close to Frost Peak. “Talk!” he demanded.

Arguing with Meeps was pointless – a lesson Lilien learned when she tried to convince him that sledding down the peak straight into an icecream wagon was a bad idea. So she reluctantly related the entire thing to him – the anger, the yelling, her failure. “But it’s not your fault!” insisted Meeps. “You did everything you could and by all accounts you did it right.”

“NO! I did make mistakes – perhaps nothing to warrant their reaction but I wasn’t perfect.”

“But everyone makes the little mistakes. Heck, look at my trogg beard…you think that’s the result of perfection??”

“Oh I was going to ask about that beard you….”

“That’s besides the point. By Mekkatorque’s gears, you’re the best medic I know! You even put my leg back together when others gave up! Remember? When the flying bomb refused to….err fly?”

“I let them die Meeps. Everyone’s told me I’m a good medic…and I want to believe it. But somehow ever since that day I’ve been unable to heal. I’m too scared to call the Light because I feel like I’ll be turned down. I’m…..I’m scared to heal.”

For once, Meeps had nothing to say. He plopped himself down on the snow and stroked his imperfect beard.

“You’re right, Lil. They got to you didn’t they? They made you doubt yourself and nothing we say or do can help. You’ve gotta get your confidence and faith back and you have to make the journey alone. But I know you will!”

Meeps stood up dramatically against the sunlight. Under normal circumstances, it would’ve been heroic. But his trogg-beard only made it impossibly comical.

“How bout we get some warm cider from old man Firebrew? My treat!”

Spirit

            The days began to get more tedious for Lilien at Kharanos. Her stay was nearing a fortnight now and worry began to envelop her. When the household was asleep, she would quietly try to heal with the Light but failed every time. The best she could was a tiny flicker before the fear in her heart would quickly take over and extinguish it. Her parents began to worry and invited a long time friend and fellow medic to try to help. But Lilien could not use the Light without fear and terror, and that was no good.

“It’s only a short -term block – you’ll work through it I’m sure!” they tried, encouragingly.

“Work through what?” snapped back Lillen.

“Lil! They’re just being positive. This isn’t the end!” cried her parents.

“Positive? None of you understand the position I’m in. I am a healer who cannot heal. When you figure out what those kinds of healers do I’d be glad to hear it!”

Lillen put on her boots and ran out. She couldn’t hold it in any longer – the idea of never healing again overwhelmed her. And somehow she never thought about the future. How did those strangers instill such doubt in herself? The thought of healing only terrified her now. What if she could never heal again? Should she be considering her other options? She was a good engineer but nowhere close to the genius of Meeps. He hadn’t yet found the answer to baldness but he’d done some amazing things and he was constantly summoned on projects. Lilien had heard that he’d even had a hand in inventing the portable mailbox. Whatever did Meeps mean when he said the journey to be taken alone? Oh, good ol’ Meeps….if only he were around.

With her head swimming in thoughts, Lilien found herself at the Gates of Ironforge. The city was bustling as usual, with various wagons of food, weapons, scrolls and other things going in an out. The heat of the Great Forge could be felt even by the gates and before long, Lilien could hear the familiar voice of Myra Tyrnegarde selling her famous bread. Lilien didn’t mind the crowd. She used the last of her money to buy some warm bread and wandered around the boards and posters as she munched. An interesting advert caught her eye:

WANTED: STRONG ADVENTURER

Paying 50 GOLD to he who can deliver bread and ale

to soldiers of the Alliance!

Delivery to Refuge Pointe in Arathi Highlands.

Light Package: Easy delivery!

Warning: The area is highly dangerous. Adventurer MUST have experience

of the lands and in battling the Horde. No exceptions!

            Fifty gold! Lillen certainly needed the money and thought it would do her good to get away from Kharanos for a little while given the circumstances. She popped her head in and got the job from a nice friendly dwarf. “I don’t usually hire gnomes for these kinds of deliveries but ye seem like a capable lil’ lady and I can’t deny yer experience in battle. Darn Dark Irons been tearin’ up the Wetlands an’ made passage to the Highlands tricky! An’ ah hear the stinkin’ Horde’s been up there fightin’ over the lands!  I can pay yer way by gryphon until the Loch but ye’ll be on your own after that.”

Early the next day, Lillen set out. After much hesitation, she decided to take Benediction along. Afterall, the area was dangerous and she would need a strong staff to defend herself even if there was no holy magic to be used. Nevertheless, she wrapped it up well to cover it’s well-known design and pretended it was part of the delivery. She didn’t want people assuming she was a healer anymore.

By the time she reached the Thandol Span, the sun was high in the sky. It was a long trek from the Loch and Lillen’s tummy was growling. She should’ve packed some food for the trip! She was just about to count her copper coins when she she heard some loud angry voices on the bridge.

“What do ye mean ye haven’t heard of us? We’re the ones who protect ye from the orcs that roam these highlands! Now how about a tiny donation for our efforts eh?”

It was an ugly dwarf who held a young human boy who had only walked by minutes before. From the looks of it, the dwarf seemed to be part of the Alliance military.

“But I’ve already given you a gold now let me go!” cried the boy. He didn’t seem afraid – his eyes blazed with anger and his fists seemed ready to fight.

The dwarf however, had done this before and was now ready to do it again. He caught the boy by his foot and swung him upside, shaking him out for all he worth. The boy was caught by surprise. Gold coins fell out of his pockets while the dwarf laughed, showing his dirty ale-stained yellow teeth.

“A bridge toll did you say?” asked Lilien stepping in. She didn’t like what she saw and even though she wasn’t particularly the heroic type, she couldn’t just sit by and watch it all unfold now could she?

“Eh?” The dwarf had clearly not noticed her before. “Aye we’re the Stormgarde Patrol who protect travellers in these parts. We deserve a lil’ sum’in for our efforts here wouldn’t ye say?” He grinned the most ugly grin.

“You could use the extra dental care for sure. Maybe if you buy my Automatic Brusher 2000 I’ll throw in the Powder Puff-o-Matic free for you. Dental care and body odour all taken care of!” Lilien smiled her best.

The dwarf dropped the boy with a thump and picked up his mace, charging menacingly towards Lilien. As a gnome, his bigger size did not intimidate her. Everyone was bigger than a gnome. Moreover, this dwarf was big but he was a slow. He seemed to be moving more like ogre than a soldier. Lilien easily sidestepped his charge, moved right behind him and pulled his laces strongly towards herself. The dwarf immediately fell face forward into a small jagged rock. His nose was bleeding and he quickly ran away shouting curses and insults.

“Thanks!” said the boy, still picking up his money. “Those beasts call themselves the Patrol to protect travellers, but all they do is threaten us and extort money!”

Lilien began to pick up her things.

“Is there any way I can repay you? Gold perhaps?” pressed the boy.

“You don’t owe me anything” replied Lilien. “I didn’t have any money to help his little “donation” anyways and besides…..” an embarassing tummy growl interrupted Lillen.

“Well well, look at this. Mum seems to have given me two boxes of lunch instead of one. Why don’t you eat with me? I owe you.”

Lilien was too hungry to decline so she gratefully accepted, secretly hoping the boy had no plans to join the Stormwind Theater someday – he was terrible at it!

Over the simple meal, she heard his story. He came from a family of paladins but it seemed as though they had hit on difficult times. His father died in Northrend, and his uncle, a close advisor to Archbishop Benedictus, disappeared after Benedictus betrayed Stormwind. The family had fallen from grace, and the Church of Light had not been kind to them.  “Paladins forsake us and the priests in Stormwind look at us in disdain now. When I am ready, I will not depend on the Light to be strong.” There was pain in the boy’s eyes. Lilien listened sympathetically – a lot of families were hit hard with the events of the Cataclysm. She should be grateful hers was not one of them. Even so, she was glad of her decision to keep Benediction hidden.

As the two got ready to cross the bridge towards Refuge Pointe, they saw three figures approaching in the distance. Trouble was on the horizon.

            Light

            The ugly dwarf with the broken nose was among the menacing trio. He still held his nose but his eyes now held a certain gleam. Beside him was a human, tall and muscular. Lilien sensed trouble with him. The third one was a rather fat human who fancied twirling his polearm about to show off his skill. It was clear that they wanted revenge from the little gnome who had insulted them so. Lilien was not one to seek out trouble – frankly she hoped to avoid it on this trip. But it didn’t seem like these three would be in a negotiating mood. Perhaps the mention of the Powderpuff-o-Matic was a bit much?

“I can’t believe they’re back for more.” The boy’s voice trembled a little – three against a gnome and a teenager did not bode well. Lilien stayed silent, sizing them up and trying to figure out her best option. All she had was her skill with the staff. It would’ve sufficed with just the two of them but maybe not with the tall human. As they got closer, Lilien could make out the tallest of the trio casting a blessing over his companions. He must be a paladin. She tried to think quickly – her first priority was keeping the boy out of it. Their quarrel was surely with her and not him – and the less injuries to go out, the better. She clutched Benediction and held it in front of the boy to block his path. “They’re mine.”

“Well look what we got here boys! Folks who don’t respect the Alliance! Are we going to sit back and take that now?” The tall one swung his enormous mace around casually with a wicked grin. Lilien couldn’t believe that these bullies were Alliance soldiers. “I sure ain’t!” replied the ugly dwarf from earlier. His nose still smarted and he wanted to crush the little gnome for it. Lilien took a deep breath and readied herself. If the dwarf was half as smart as he was ugly, he would’ve done something different than his earlier charge tactic. But he wasn’t – he took out his little mace and charged at the serene gnome waiting patiently. Lillen did not hesitate. She waited for the right moment, held Benediction horizontally, and bent low to trip the heavy oaf to his doom. He had more bruises to add to his previous ones, and his nose began to bleed again. He slunk away, howling in pain.

After seeing his comrade fail, the one with the polearm made his move. He gave out a loud piercing cry and charged with the weapon aimed straight at the gnome. Lillen wasted no time in using the staff to her fullest. She took a quick step to the side and almost instantly plunged the staff into her asailant’s foot. Benediction was heavy and this worked to her advantage. He immediately roared in pain, hands and chin high up. She jumped up and used the staff’s head to drive it into his chin, nose and forehead a few times. A few solid bumps and he was down. The polearm fell from his hands. Lilien deployed one of Meep’s flying bombs from her belt onto him just to be sure. The boy kept cheering from the sidelines – it was good to see these “soldiers” get what they deserve!

The tall one cracked his neck. He had a sense of control about his movements that neither of his two comrades had and Lilien knew she could expect a higher level of skill. She needed an advantage that wasn’t based on ability alone and so she decided to use words. “Is that all they had?” she smirked. “Are you all really Alliance soldiers? Because you seem worse than the Horde ones to me.” Her words did not faze the paladin as he began to step closer. His comrade groaned from the sidelines, and Lilien took the chance. “I suppose they’ll make anyone a soldier these days.” The paladin smiled. “Nice try, little gnome.”

The paladin’s mace came down onto the gnome with a resounding clang. She held up Benediction to block it just in time but she barely managed to do so. Each swing of the paladin became stronger with holy energy, and soon it burned through the staff’s wrappings. Benediction shone strongly in the midday sun, protecting its master the best it could but Lillen’s physical strength was no match for that of the paladin. Everytime she would try to step away, the paladin swung the mace in the opposite direction, forcing her to block. In just a few swings, she had already been pushed back nearly 3 feet. The paladin, sensing his victory was near, decided to choke her off. “Time to die, little gnome!”  He put forth three consecutive quick attacks and called down a Judgement to finish her. He was too quick for Lillen and the mace barely hit the gnome in the tummy. It was enough to send her flying across the bridge.

The boy’s cheers faded away. “I’m not failing again….am…I?” wondered Lillen as she hit the ground. The world went dark.

“Don’t you know how to heal? Why are they dying?”

But….I didn’t let them die. I did my best!

“Lilien you can’t channel the Light now! You knew I needed you to heal them then!!”

“Why aren’t you as good other medics? All you do is let them die.”

“Why did you let them die Lilien? Why?”

“Why can’t you save them like the other medics?”

It wasn’t my fault. I did my best!

“You will channel the Light when we say so. Try not to let anyone die.”

Lilien opened her eyes to the paladin standing over her, his mace held high and ready to deliver the final blow. “Die, gnome.”

ENOUGH!

A large pulse of holy energy emenated from the gnome. The paladin was no match. It flung him a few feet away and left him crumpled on the ground. Lillen picked up Benediction. The bruises on her arms and face began to heal as she walked up to him. “A…priest?” stuttered the shocked soldier.

“I am Lilien Lightspark, Rank 1 Trauma Surgeon and Triage Specialist of the Alliance.”

She turned to face the boy whose cheering was replaced with a dismal look on his face. “You’re….you’re one of them. You lied to me!” “I am indeed one of them,” answered Lilien. “But we aren’t all the same you know. Some prefer faith in the Light…and I prefer faith in myself. We aren’t too different. Maybe we could be friends?” She held out her hand. The boy sighed and grudgingly took her hand, looking displeased about the entire thing.

“When we get to Refuge Pointe I’ll get a buddy to make you some Elixirs of Growth maybe. I owe you.”

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