As each feather fell from her battered wings, a weak memory fluttered to mind.
The forest was her home. Each patch of earth, branch, stream, leaf was known to her, like an extension of her arm. Her twin daggers were carved from the heart of nature, their handles retrieved wood from a fallen tree's great bough, their blades curved in the graceful, elliptical scythe of a panther's claw. She wielded them as one would naturally breathe as she slunk through Ashenvale, her eyes ever-watchful, her ears keen, and nose partial to every breath on the wind.
The Sentinel stalked an intruder, his gait loud to her sensitive ears, his breath offending to her nose. With each footfall, she silently closed in behind him, her willow and lithe kaldorei limbs stretching, leaping, easily narrowing the distance, like a predator in all likeness except appearance and name.
His stature was smaller than others, likely a juvenile. His hair was disheveled, unkempt either by preference or hardship. His breaths were labored and feet clumsy; however, the Sentinel took note of the occasional stealthy step his feet mistakenly managed. But with her scythes tucked in close and legs low in a crouch, Anarial made her final assessment and leaped to seal the male kaldorei's final fate.
Her pounce was quick, sudden. A leg wrapped about his waist, the other clenched over one shoulder. With her scythe daggers drawn to his throat, their sharpened edges leaving the tiniest of red traces, she drew close and whispered, her lips brushing against his ear lobe:
"One second till you die, trespasser. Persuade me: who are you?"
"His name is Kanta Wildsabre," one of her sister Sentinels scoffed, her arms folded across her chest. "And he wants to join the Sentinels."
A crowd of onlookers gathered in the branches above a circle of commanders. Caught within the circle was the male kaldorei, speaking occasionally, but appearing to know when to hold his tongue as superiors unleashed their judgment.
"Idiot, he should know his place," another Sentinel scoffed in return, her eyes not straying from her work on whittling her bow.
"Poor thing probably was lost and did not know where to turn," a third Sentinel chimed in, her tone mocking.
"What is the matter, Anarial? Are you lonely and brought in a stray?" A fourth teased.
Before Anarial could snap a reply, her name was called again. It came not from the teasing circle of her peers, but from the commanding circle of her superiors. With a departing, poisonous look toward her sisters, she withdrew from the shadows of their perch and descended to the gathering below.
The Sentinel Ranger-General was an imposing woman, large in stature, muscle, and girth. The tone of her voice matched her appearance, along with the unquestionable delivery of her command: "Scout, you brought this runt to us. This kaldorei is your responsibility. Teach Wildsabre our ways, I will determine if he is found wanting."
Anarial replied first with a second, swift poisonous look, directed at no one but Kanta.
"Aye, General," she replied.
Their partnership was rocky, the topography jagged at each peak and nothing but resentment filling each valley. Each time Kanta made a mistake, or was perceived to, Anarial's reaction was first anger, then frustration, and finally critique.
As the male kaldorei attempted to wield a dagger, Anarial struck the back of his hands till his right thumb finally grasped the handle as it should. As Kanta attempted his first stealth mission, she laughed at her perch in the canopy as he galumphed through the brush below. It was not till he grasped the shaft of a bow and shot an arrow into the throat of a satyr that Anarial thought him as more than a fool. As his close mentor and eager tormentor, she was among the first to detect any change to his person or mood.
The presence of any satyr enthralled him; not in any joy or relish, but as an unquestionable net of passionless need - a need to kill. For every clumsy gesture he made on a routine mission, he performed flawlessly when the twisted, foul figure of a satyr crossed their path. The sound of a hoof fall made Kanta rigid, the slightest hint of fel taint raised the hair on the back of his neck.
He never spoke of why and rebutted her jokes or pries on each occasion. As more arrows flew, striking their targets with growing accuracy, Anarial withdrew her barbs and critique, and fell into the habit of silent watcher. To her, the drive of revenge was clear to her eyes, to the point of tasting it on her lips as Kanta passed by, intent on another satyr kill.
It was nearly dawn, the taunt of enemies sounded below them. The sun threatened to return with a heralding banner of gray in the east. Withdrawn and keeping to the shadows, two Sentinels kept their weapons close and eyes on the ground below.
"I will take first watch," Kanta offered with a growl, his gaze narrowed to slits on the sight of naga below.
"Like hell you will," Anarial replied, running a stone along her dagger. "You will have killed five before I wake up, and will probably end up with a spear buried in your ass cheek. I will take the first watch."
"I know what I am doing, Anarial."
"So do I. Care to argue, Wildsabre? I am all ears, we will be here all day, stuck."
Kanta growled in reply, then went silent. As he leaned back into the leafy boughs of the tree, Anarial took up a perch to better gaze at the scouting enemies below. It was some time before either of them spoke.
"Any change?" he break the silence, both eyes still open and on her.
"You would know if there was," she chided him, her tone still a mentor toward a student. As she spoke, her gaze turned toward him with a smile, ready to smile or tease.
Her next comment nearly passed over her lips, but it stopped short when her gaze met his. She expected to see resentment in his eyes, but found something else that drove her to pause. A lengthy moment passed between them, one that left both sharp tongues oddly silent. The nature of their gazes did not elude her, it stood as clear as the danger so close below them, but neither made a move or mention of the shared thought briefly had.
"Just sleep, Kanta," she told him, neglecting his surname for the first time. From Kanta's renewed gaze, the slip of the tongue did not go unnoticed.
A gathering of Sentinel voices spoke, their speakers again looking on to events transpiring below.
"Who is he?"
"His name is Bairne Mistglaive, one of the druids sent to warn us of encroaching taint to our woods."
"He is immense. The bastard looks like a bear on hind legs."
"That is his nickname, I think. The Bear."
"Males taint everything. Druid or not, he better not stay for long."
"Anarial? You are a poor male's keeper. What do you think?"
Among the throng of voices, Anarial did not hear. As she peered at Bairne far below, his gaze turned toward her and caught her eye. Her name sounded again from her sisters, but she did not hear.
When Bairne's gaze broke away, Anarial moved her own, searched for another, and found it: across the way, she spied Kanta Wildsabre, who she found midway through an intense gaze focused on her. When she caught him in his stare, his eyes moved on and he departed. From the direction he took and bow on his back, he appeared intent on the kill once more.
Returning her gaze to the druid gathering below, she found that the meeting had adjourned, and Bairne Mistglaive departed the opposite direction.
"Wildsabre," Anarial called as she approached him. Once more, Kanta Wildsabre could only be found with a bow in hand, the tipped arrow pointed at an imagined enemy at the Sentinel practice range.
He did not reply. An arrow was set loose from his bow and he reached to retrieve another. Noting that he was again enthralled by no thoughts but his own, Anarial wordlessly picked up a stone from the ground and pelted it at him. The reaction was more than she hoped for.
"Ow! Damnit, Anarial. I am practicing. Go away," he growled, rubbing the back of his head. His hands worked at his bow again, intent on not pausing for long.
"Just came to tell you that you are released from my hands. I am leaving."
In a rare moment, he stopped. The bow string loosened against his fingertips. Lowering his bow, Kanta turned to look at her.
"There is some other training for me, and I found a teacher."
"Who?" He questioned, his brow furrowing.
"No one that you know," she dismissed him.
"What training?" He pressed.
"Not your business," she dismissed once more.
"Secrets again, huh?" he teased drly.
"You keep yours, I have mine," Anarial said darkly.
Again, a moment passed between them, one gaze on another. Kanta looked as if he were about to speak, then his gaze averted and hand returned to his bow and arrow.
Anarial could not hide the disappointment, but the emotion quickly departed from her face. With a wave, she turned to leave.
Many millennia later, in Hyjal, Anarial's wings crumbled against her and she again plummeted from the sky. Breathless, desperate, Kanta Wildsabre caught sight of her rapid descent and urged himself to go faster.