It was moon-dark; the world did not even have Elune’s light to illuminate it, which was appropriate considering that She had abandoned Her people. But there were those who did not need Her to see their way in the darkness.
One such creature moved along the edge of a tiny forest clearing, a shadow slinking frictionless and silent through the underbrush, discernible only because it was slightly darker than its surroundings, like fresh ink spilled upon dry. If not for that shadow, it could have only been the breeze that stirred the bushes.
After completing a circuit around the clearing, the shadow detached from its cover and then glided forward: a great black wolf, nose lifted to the air to taste the wind in quick sniffs. After a moment the wolf sat down on its haunches, relaxed as any dog before a cozy hearth. The moment stretched on, and the wolf waited patiently. The wolf and the forest clearing could have been a painting rendered in the black and midnight blue shades of the deepest ocean waters, except for a breeze stirring the wolf’s fur and the leaves of the trees above.
A minute later, another figure emerged from cover—tall and slender, a kaldorei woman in the practical leathers of a huntress, metal fittings dulled so as not to catch light, with a bow in hand and a full quiver across her back. She bent for a moment to kneel beside the wolf and favor it with an affectionate scratch between the ears. As she tilted her head down to look at her companion, the thick violet rope of her long, braided hair slipped over one shoulder and trailed the ground. The wolf looked up with a doggy smile, tail thumping back and forth with doggy adoration. The huntress smiled in return, but it was a quicksilver thing that slipped across her face and then trailed away as she stood up again and tossed her braid back over her shoulder, out of the way.
Her hand went to a thin silver chain at her throat. She tugged carefully and removed a silver pendant from under her hardened leather curiass. She held the pendant in the palm of her hand, regarding it without expression for a minute, then another, and another. Finally, she drew a deep breath and closed her hand over the pendant, pressing her fist against her chest. She whispered a single word.
The night waited.
The woman waited. The wolf waited, because the woman waited.
Behind the woman, the night itself began to swirl in a spiral—small at first, then expanding like ripples from a pebble dropped in a calm forest pool. The woman spun around, arrow nocked and ready; the wolf sprang to its feet, ears pricked and muscles tense.
The spiral glimmered now, violet threads of arcane magic weaving through it until they joined at the center and pulled open a small tear in the fabric of reality. A tall figure stepped through the portal. Another woman, also an elf, with skin almost as blue-black as the night around her, hair and eyes shining white. Unlike the huntress, she wore a simple but elegant dark blue silk shift, completely unfit for traipsing through the forest, and she sparkled with silver jewelry: bracelets, arm-bands, a delicate silver filigree gorget, silver ear-cuffs that tipped her long ears. Toe rings glinted on her sandaled feet as she stepped carefully from the portal and onto the forest grass.
The portal spun closed behind her and the night was still again. The huntress lowered her bow with a sigh and a look of exasperation.
“Could you for once in your life just be subtle?” For all her ability to move silently and unseen, the kaldorei’s voice was high with tension and worry.
The shal’dorei did not immediately respond, studying the kaldorei and her wolf pet before replying in a voice that was as cool and soft as the night about them. “One does not survive in Suramar without knowing subtlety, little sister.” A smile broke on her long, elegant face, and she held out her arms. “Zhanna.”
The huntress crashed into her sister, arms wide and desperate, all caution forgotten for the moment as they embraced. Zhanna’s wolf padded up close, ready to move if she gave a signal, cautious and watchful but not hostile.
At last Zhardeenah pulled away, if only to regard Zhanna at arm’s length. “It has begun, then?”
Zhanna nodded, her quicksilver smile slipping away again. Now her face was grim. “Do you want to see?” She did not wait for an answer, but instead pulled a flimsy leaflet from her gauntlet and held it out for Zhardeenah.
Zhardeenah unfolded the paper and read it, her eyes needing no moonlight to make out the words. Her long eyebrows, delicate as the feelers of a butterfly, arched high as she read.
“You don’t mince words,” she said at last, handing the paper back to Zhanna. “But then, you never did.”
“What do you think? One thousand leaves of a new spring, spread among the various Darnassian refugee camps.”
“I think we had better not get caught,” Zhardeenah replied dryly.
Zhanna was silent, studying her sister. Then: “Are you losing your nerve?”
Zhardeenah sighed. “No. No, the die is cast and we must see this through, win or lose.”
“We will not lose,” Zhanna said. “And you’re right. The die is cast. I’ve contacted the poisoner. He’ll take the job. Once that’s done, there’s no going back.”
Zhardeenah’s forehead wrinkled. “Can he be trusted?”
Zhanna snorted. “The man’s a complete blackguard. Liar, thief, assassin, pederast. Of course he can’t be trusted. But he does value his own hide, and once this is done his own self-interest will keep him quiet.”
“I mean before it’s done. What’s to say he won’t tell people?”
“If he reports me, he doesn’t get paid.” Zhanna’s mouth quirked up at the corners. “Really, ‘Deena, you should have more confidence in your little sister not to be a total fool.”
Zhardeenah reached up and fussed a bit with her sister’s violet hair, arranging her braid over her shoulder, smoothing some strands that had come loose around her face. “I know, I know,” she said apologetically. “After all this time, even you’ve learned some subtlety yourself. I suppose I’m just…intimidated. By the sheer audacity of what we’re about to start.”
Zhanna humphed. She reached out and mussed a few strands of her sister’s moonlight hair, pulling them loose from their perfect coif. “The arcanist, who warps reality every day, is afraid of audacity?” She smiled then, and this time it was not a quicksilver smile. It was hard as adamantite, sharp as a knife, and brought her chin to a point.
“It’s time for our people—all our people—to be audacious. Trusting our leaders has led us only to ruin. We begin by speaking the truth that everyone else is afraid to say. By ripping the veil away and showing the Alliance and Horde for what they are. Spring begins with a few green buds. But once the first few leaves sprout, it’s inevitable that the rest will follow.”
Silvermoon was saturated with magic. As Zardeenah strolled through the city, she fancied she could feel magic on her skin like scented oil applied after a bath. That much felt like home. But the city was too bright, too bold and garish, nothing at all like its name suggested. Even at night. These sin'dorei, these blood elves, took such pride in their mastery of the arcane, and yet as Zardeenah watched them all around her--gossiping, posturing--she felt as though she were watching a room full of kittens. And, just as one might do with a clutch of kittens, she viewed them with both amused indulgence and a certain paternal mistrust.
They were as children, and needed guidance.
The arcane guardians patrolling the city were programmed to spot illusion spells. It was a good defensive measure, and their magical programming was so subtle, they even had the ability to discern between a harmless magical glamour--such as one might use to brighten one's teeth, or make one's hair particularly shiny--and a full disguise spell. But focused as they were on magic, they could be foiled by physical measures. With some cosmetics, hair dye, and a little extra padding under her robes to look more curvaceous, Zardeenah cut a very different figure than her usual self. And she'd be remembered that way, if anyone bothered to remember her visit to the city.
A pleasure visit, she'd told the guards who met her at the gate. A trip to see the wonders of Silvermoon. Shopping, and tickets to the opera. And she'd done exactly that--wandering the city to take in the sights, dining at an elegant cafe, purchasing perfume and wine and an especially gorgeous scarf (delicate silk in a shimmering spring green, she immediately fell in love with it). She wore the scarf wound elaborately through her long, dye-darkened hair when she went to the opera.
Through all of it--the charade, the shopping, the soaring voices and magical effects of the opera beautiful enough to make you cry--her heart slammed in her chest with fear and apprehension.
Back in her hotel room, she did not sleep. She waited by the window, listening to the sounds of the city outside, watching the slow crawl of the moon across the sky, watching for the first greying of the night. And in the hour before dawn, she arose and went to her pack, laid out on the bed.
"Now," she whispered. "It is now, or it is too late."
She didn't want to do this. But hadn't Zhanna taken an even greater risk, to spread the leaves? Zardeenah could not do less, could not fail her sister.
She unlaced the pack. The leaflets lay tucked inside, alongside the scarf, the wine, the perfume and her personal effects: one thousand crimes against the Horde, printed in Thalassian on cheap paper. One thousand death warrants if they caught her, or traced them back to her.
Zardeenah drew her wand. She stirred it over the pack, as if stirring a pot. One after the other, each leaflet flew out of the pack and folded in on itself several times over before fluttering out the window--a stream of origami birds, taken on the wind, blowing out over Silvermoon to scatter and land at random.
It didn't take long. In just a few scant minutes, her mission was complete. Zardeenah stowed her wand, laced the pack up, and made her way downstairs to settle her bill.
She would contact Zhanna as soon as she was certain she'd gotten away clean. It was time to find out if their poisoner had done his job effectively.
Translated text of a leaflet originally written in Darnassian, recovered by Uliana Windclaw and given to Folcan:
Sisters and brothers of Elven blood:
We are the children of a great and glorious heritage, chosen by the Goddess to be raised up from a dirt race to one that surpasses all. Elves, and Elves alone, were blessed in this way. Our history and heritage, art and science, faith and reason, and our respect and understanding of the natural world far exceed that of any other race. We have been separated by petty quarrels, but one need only remember the soaring arches of Suramar, the gleaming spires of Quel'thalas, and the sheltering boughs of our beloved (violated, ruined) Darnassus to know that Elves are superior.
Elves--all Elves--are the master race.
Dwarves are merely sons of dirt and stone, low and hairy and greedy. Gnomes are little more than machines at heart, inexplicable creatures more in love with gears and combustibles than matters of living flesh. Pandaren are fat and gluttonous and worship strange deities. The draenei, perhaps, are the only race worthy of sharing this world with us, but they are not of this world, are they? They are uninvited immigrants--invaders who led the Legion back to Azeroth. Now that the Legion is defeated, they should leave and find their own world to settle.
Worgen are merely Cursed humans. And humans? Perhaps the worst of the so-called Alliance. They combine the greed of dwarves, thoughtlessness of gnomes, gluttony and sloth of pandaren, and invasive tendencies of the draenei. And they embody the worst of the Horde, too: the war-lust and vainglory of orcs, destructiveness of goblins, savagery and idolatry of trolls, hypocrisy of tauren (for they are hypocrites, to profess respect and reverence for nature but then align with orcs and goblins and dead things), and jealousy of the undead (for the Corpse Queen and her lot are all so insanely jealous of the living, they would deny life to those who have it). Humans breed and multiply like rats, spread to all corners of this world, and take over everywhere they go. Without fail, they leave a place worse off for them having been there.
And Tyrande would bow to a human King? A human King who has spilled our blood so willingly, but was not there to help us defend Kalimdor? Ashenvale, Darkshore, Teldrassil?
How much longer must we wait, how much more must we lose, before we Awaken?
((There is no signature--instead there is a drawing of five spring-green leaves sprouted from a single stem.))
A bizarre post is tacked to the bulletin board. To a passing visitor, it looks like mad scrawlings in some sort of undecipherable text.
Over the COMMs, M sends an image containing the cipher. It's rather complex, based off both Gnomish runes and the altered Common alphabet that Gutterspeak uses. Common vowels are replaced with two different letters, alternating, so ensure it remains difficult to crack. It'll take a while, but eventually it translates to...
Notes on the elven questioning below, but firstly a notice.
Do not write down the cipher provided to translate this text. Do not let your COMM leave your bodily space, even while bathing and sleeping. It is waterproof. Use a pocket or put it under your pillow. If you lose a COMM, report it immediately. For safety, all COMMs in storage have been moved to my office and new ones will only be issued after a brief security question to ensure you are you.
Do not discuss any of this outside of sign language and the COMMs unless you are 100% certain you are in a secure, completely private location. The lives of at least two kaldorei are at risk should this information leak, one of which is a teenager. Two others would be at minimum gravely threatened and one of those is a child.
Report any sightings of unknown elves. Aerie Peak is likely being watched. Do not wear your tabard if alone in Stormwind. They know who we are and these are vicious people. Be safe and use common sense.
All elven prisoners will be referred to as Elf 1, Elf 2, and Elf 3 for additional security.
Aryn - likely suspect for the rogue at the Eastern Plaguelands massacre. He had arranged for Elf 1 to be up front at the food protest. We concluded it was to ensure she would be a martyr during the machine's planned detonation. He is a rogue of some talent. Likely suspect in planting bomb on machine by Elf 1.
"Edryn", Dareledryn Nightshade - A puppet of the Sentinel's, although he thinks he is not. Elf 2 described him as an iron fist in a velvet glove. A good actor, charming, manipulative. No conscience. To be concise, a creep of the largest magnitude. Sentinel finds him useful, but holds distaste for his objectionable tendencies. I will spare details.
Zhanna - the Sentinel. Cult of personality formed around her. She is the main leader of the Alliance side of this movement. Purple hair, former Sentinel, has a wolf companion. Quite old, perhaps an ancient elf. Eye tattoos are unique and no longer done. They look like this:
Zardeenah - Zhanna's sister, who is a member of the Horde. Either a sin'dorei or a shal'dorei. Currently I have no other information on her, other than that she is leading the same effort on the Horde.
Leaves of a New Spring - the name of the organization, at least the Alliance end and perhaps both sides. They meet three times monthly, on the lunar dates of dark, half, and full moons at night. I have the locations of their meeting points in Stormwind and Elwynn. They are currently searching in Azshara and Suramar for a headquarters. Zhanna is looking for naga and Highborne artifacts for an unknown reason, and also kaldorei who had access to or worked in the Darnassus archives. If those elves refuse to work willingly, they will be forced.
The organization is a pan-elven separatist movement. Elf 1 reported some ren'dorei and quel'dorei interested and Zhanna did not permit them thrown out of a meeting. Most of the membership is kaldorei. No information yet on Horde, but likely similar with sin'dorei in place of kaldorei. The root of this group is a hatred for non-elven races, but currently powered by a sense of betrayal by Tyrande.
Here is a quote from Elf 3: "The world will be better when they [non-elves] are all removed, and only elves are left."
This is not just a lunatic fringe movement, it is incredibly serious.
Aside from the actions we have seen, there was a massacre at a goblin camp in Azshara and all their machinery was taken. Elf 2 was coerced to make a bomb via the kidnapping and continued imprisonment of his wife and child - this bomb was later seen at the protest. The protest was not a long-planned event, but was a rapid response action planned that same day. These people move fast and are brutal. Do not underestimate them.
Do not mention this to the Sentinels, Wardens, or any other elf-only or elf-majority group. An amount of Sentinels and Wardens are actively involved in the Leaves. Consider all elven organizations as compromised. They likely are.
There are future plans involving pandaren, Forsaken, draenei, and humans. Explosives were planned in use for the pandaren action, but Zhanna keeps her plans close and no information was available on the details. They are next, though. They will be targeted likely quite soon.
Watch this board for updates. I have a source within the organization who will relay information when possible. A rescue will be planned for Elf 2's hostage family when possible.
DO NOT DISCUSS THIS INFORMATION IN PUBLIC OR WITH ANYONE OUTSIDE THE GUILD WITHOUT DIRECT PERMISSION FROM ALL OFFICERS.
An additional post in the same cipher:
Directly from source:
There was a Leaves meeting last night, where they were all ordered to withdraw from Stormwind and go into hiding. No exact reason given, just that trouble was stirred up between Pandaren and sin'dorei. Something that made a group of Pandaren angry. The kaldorei are the next target. Leaves are to stay clear and let the trouble occur, then to step in afterwards and exacerbate anger towards Pandaren.
Watch for any further updates as this situation develops.