Gathering Of Hope

Broll Bearmantle took the news of Malfurion's awaking with an exuberance rarely seen in most night elves, much less druids. He let out a hearty yell that echoed throughout the enclave and rushed to the Temple of the Moon. He raced past those taking a more solemn approach to the home of the Sisterhood, only caring that his shan'do appeared to be well.

Two armed Sisters briefly blocked his path until one recognized him. "Our orders are to allow only a select few in," she explained, "lest the temple be overwhelmed with those concerned for the archdruid's health."

Broll nodded, grateful that he was one of those Tyrande had permitted to enter. Aware where they had brought Malfurion, Broll needed no directions. He rushed through the temple, giving homage and thanks to the Mother Moon's image more than once during the trek.

They had made a place for Malfurion underneath the great statue, where moonlight ever shone. The high priestess had insisted that he be brought to the temple, though the first notion of the druids had been to take their esteemed shan'do to the Moonglade. However, Tyrande had refused to be swayed and as she was not only ruler of the night elves but also Malfurion's beloved, in the end none could refuse her.

Eyes shut, Malfurion lay on a mat of woven leaves and herbs —an offering of the druids. Tyrande knelt beside him, a soft, moist cloth in her hand. She had been tending to him as if she were a novice, not head of the order. Behind her, and standing guard, was an equally quiet Shandris Feathermoon. The general wore a look Broll would have more expected of a child concerned over her parents than that of a seasoned warrior.

"My lady," Broll murmured to Tyrande as he neared. Shandris gave him a cursory glance; she had registered his presence much earlier and thus was not concerned. "I had heard that he was...that he was awake."

"And so.and so I am." Malfurion responded, his eyes slowly opening. The archdruid's orbs still shone like the sun.and always would, it seemed. He gave the other male a brief smile. "But she" —with his gaze, he indicated Tyrande—"insists I rest some more .a command with which, after a failed.failed attempt to rise. I must agree." Malfurion's smile grew. "But I'm remiss. I see that the struggle has changed you as well, Broll."

That to which the archdruid referred was Broll's own eyes, which, while not as resplendent as those of his shan'do, now also gleamed gold. In reaching into himself and into Azeroth, Broll had finally broken the final barrier—a self-imposed barrier—and truly become the great druid so many had believed he was. More important, the change went deep within. Gone was Broil's uncertainty; he himself knew at last that he was as he had always been meant to be and his every movement radiated his great confidence in his calling.

But that was not of interest to him at the moment. Only one thing mattered. "But...you are truly well?"

The high priestess paused in her ministrations to stare at Broll as if he were mad. "He is in the house of Elune and I am her hand in this world.do you think he would be otherwise?"

"Forgive me," the druid returned with a chuckle. "I clearly wasn't thinking."

Malfurion put a hand on her knee. Tyrande's expression softened. To Broll, the archdruid replied, "She is rather protective. I've made her a promise she intends I keep."

"It is fortuitous that you are here, Broll, for I can think of no other I would have stand with me when I and Tyrande take our vows."

It took Broll a moment to register what he meant. Shandris laughed lightly at his delayed reaction.

"Please do not sound so shocked." The high priestess smiled. "I believe that I have waited long enough for him to come to his senses."

"And I believe you should have long found someone with more sense than me," Malfurion, sounding stronger, returned. Now holding her free hand, he said to the other male, "Well, Broll Bearmantle, will you stand with me?"

"There are surely others—"

"Many good souls, but I choose you."

The druid bowed his head. "Then, I'm honored. I only pray that I will not make a mistake."

His shan'do laughed. "You can make no greater mistake than I did by leaving her so often throughout the millennia, my friend."

"When will the ceremony take place?"

Without meaning to, both Malfurion and Tyrande answered simultaneously. "As soon as possible."

Although Darnassus did not in some regards present the most practical of places to hold such a ceremony, there was no other place that would have been more appropriate. With Malfurion Stormrage leader of the druids and Tyrande Whisperwind not only high priestess of Elune but monarch of the night elves, they could only choose the capital.

Long before the eve of the ceremony, the two had already quickly settled any question as to their roles—or rather, Tyrande had. Malfurion knew Tyrande was the best leader his people could have and made no claims in that direction. However, she insisted that there could be no other choice but for the two to rule side-by-side, equal in all things where their race was concerned. She remained high priestess of the Temple of Elune and he the lead archdruid, but now those two stations would have closer ties, which would only benefit the night elves in general.

The ceremony took place in the Temple of Elune, of course. Granted, that meant arranging the audience involved some maneuvering, but General Shandris proved as adept at organizing guests as she was in battle. There were some who said, not in earshot, of course, that she seemed to enjoy it more than her normal duties.

Still, in addition to the Sisters, the Sentinels were well in attendance, ensuring that no one would cause trouble...a necessary point since, in addition to their own people, Malfurion and Tyrande had as guests King Varian, Archmage Rhonin, and other leaders. Naturally, each also came with the prerequisite attendants and personal guards. Even with the vast recovery taking place throughout Azeroth, Varian and the others had seen it as an absolute priority to acknowledge this seminal event concerning the one most responsible for there still even being an Azeroth. Even the independent-minded dwarves of the Wildhammer clan—the famed gryphon riders from Aerie Peak—had come, led by their high thane, Falstad.

Words of well wishes for Malfurion and Tyrande came from Thrall, representing the Horde. The fragile partnership between the Horde and the Alliance was already falling apart as personal hatreds seized control now that the main threat was gone. It was all the pair could have hoped, aware of how quickly peace could vanish. The only other benefit of the message was that the bearer was none other than Thura, who had asked of her warchief to be the one to carry it. To her, the archdruid, the high priestess, and those others beside whom she had fought were blood comrades.

Although the time of the ceremony was of course set for when the White Lady—the great silver moon that to the night elves was Elune herself—was at its zenith, other illumination existed that both added to the splendor and eased those visitors who were not of a nocturnal nature. Fireflies by the thousands decorated the trees, and small silver-blue orbs of moonlight hovered over the people themselves. At the offering of Rhonin—who had in a unique manner known the pair longer than nearly anyone else there—the magi created a series of magnificent rainbows that, set against the dark sky, marked the ten millennia of Malfurion and Tyrande's relationship.

Near Rhonin stood his wife, Vereesa Windrunner—leader of the high elves of the Silver Covenant, itself created to oppose the inclusion of blood elves in the Kirin Tor—and their twin sons. The two boys bore a subdued look. They had their father's crimson hair and strong, clean jaw, but were somewhat more lithe in appearance and with slightly longer ears. The combination of elf and human could have proven unfortunate, but both were handsome offspring.

Triumphant horns announced the entrance of the wedding party. An honor guard of Sentinels bearing lances topped alternately by the lunar banner of the Sisterhood and the tabard of the Cenarion Circle—a great leaf from which majestic antlers sprouted—led the way. The honor guard was followed by a stately procession of druids and members of the Sisterhood. Behind them solemnly marched senior officers of the Sentinels hand chosen by General Shandris.

And then...came Malfurion and Tyrande.

Malfurion, chin high and antlers thrusting skyward, wore a long, draping cloak of forest leaves and a breastplate crafted from fallen wood. On it had been shaped the World Tree with the sign of the Cenarion Circle above it. In addition, the archdruid wore a kneelength green kilt and sandals.

Tyrande glowed with the love of Elune, the Mother Moon clearly giving her blessing to this union. As she passed, many night elves instinctively knelt. Tyrande was dressed as high priestess. She was also adorned with a grand cape of silver-and-blue light that flowed long past the end of her mount. Her midnight-blue hair was loose and long and though she looked as wise as all thought their ruler to be, there was also an added youth to her tremendous beauty that many were certain came from the joy of the moment.

Shandris and Broll strode behind the pair, both also adorned with long cloaks akin to those of the archdruid and the high priestess, but not quite as grand. Their task was to stand as witness and strength for their respective companions, a task of which they were clearly proud.

At the center of the great chamber, the party came to a halt. Malfurion and Tyrande held each other's hands forward, then solemnly walked on ahead. Broll and Shandris moved to the side and back of the pair, with the druid near his mentor and the general near her ruler.

The honor guard, the druids, and the Sisters divided into two columns that departed in opposite directions.

There had been great question as to who would perform the ceremony. Had matters been otherwise, many believed that Remulos would have done so. However, the forest guardian, now recovered but weak, was part of the audience, as were others such as Elerethe Renferal, who assisted Naralex beside her. Even up to this point, only the high priestess and the archdruid knew who it was to be. Not even Broll and Shandris were aware of the truth.

Malfurion and Tyrande stood ready. Together, they looked up.

The light of Elune suddenly shone down most upon the pair. Yet this was not what seemed to attract their attention.

A great flapping of wings resounded from above. The audience, which included among its members Lucan, Hamuul, and Thura, followed Malfurion and Tyrande's pleased gaze. The tauren looked up with eyes not only strongly gold, but with a unique hint of emerald green at the edges; he, too, had given so much of himself in helping to guide Malfurion's efforts that he had been likewise marked. Lucan, now not only Hamuul's student but newly appointed chief cartographer of Stormwind by King Varian—who had heard much of his subject's part in the struggle from Malfurion and Broll —especially radiated pleasure at the fantastic sight high up. Though it made some glance aghast at him, he waved as if sighting a friend among the giants now circling.

Red and green dragons filled the air above Darnassus.

"Be at ease," Malfurion calmly commanded before chaos could erupt. "They are here as friends and guests."

Most of the dragons hovered, but the four largest descended. As they did, the two smaller—and clearly male—alighted onto some of the greatest branches.

A chuckle escaped Archmage Rhonin, who, along with the couple, knew the red male. Korialstrasz was his name and he was chief consort to Alexstrasza. Awakened with the rest of the sleepers, he had been active in helping restore calm to Azeroth.

But to the trio and Rhonin's mate, Vereesa, he was also the mysterious mage Krasus. As with Rhonin, it was quite clear from Korialstrasz's expression that the dragon would not have missed this pivotal moment for anything.

And, naturally, Korialstrasz had come in the company of his queen. Alexstrasza hovered just above the columns, next to her none other than Ysera.

The green dragon looked worn and thinner, her titanic struggle having taken much out of her. Yet there was also a tremendous expression of pride from her, that pride directed at Malfurion Stormrage.

The dragons hovered a moment more, then, before the startled eyes of the audience, the two leviathans landed and transformed. Wings shrank and bodies contorted. The dragons dwindled to the size of night elves and took on shapes akin to theirs.

Alexstrasza became as Broll and the others had met her, a glorious, fiery figure. Ysera was no less astounding, though in an ethereal manner. Clad in a gossamer gown of emerald, the cowled female was otherwise very much a twin in face, save that her skin was of a pale green and her eyes were, as usual, shut.

The two Aspects smiled at the high priestess and the archdruid. Ysera took up a place near Malfurion while Alexstrasza did so by Tyrande.

"We are honored to have been asked to be the ones to perform this intertwining of two spirits," they sang in unison. "But in truth, these spirits have been one since the beginning..."

The two females brought the pair's other hands together, then placed their own atop and underneath.

"Though this ceremony shall be brief, let it forever mark the culmination of ten thousand years of love, of destiny," Alexstrasza and Ysera continued. "Let there be peace for this pair, who have brought it to all others, who have sacrificed for all others..."

The moonlight shining upon the wedding couple grew stronger. At the same time, a beautiful crimson aura arose around Alexstrasza, while an emerald one did so about Ysera.

The auras blended with the moonlight, bathing the high priestess and the archdruid.

"The blessing of our kind upon you, Tyrande Whisperwind, high priestess of Elune and ruler of the night elven people and you, Malfurion Stormrage, archdruid and leader of the Cenarion Circle..."

Now Malfurion and Tyrande glowed so very brightly. Their radiance would have been blinding, if it had also not been so soothing to the onlookers.

"This is a day to be well-marked by all Azeroth!" The Aspects pulled their hands away. The fantastic blending of auras and moonlight continued around the newly married duo. "But, most of all, this is a day well-deserved for these two here! Tyrande Whisperwind.Malfurion Stormrage...we bless this union...and, as ourgift...we also do something else this glorious day..."

The expressions of the two night elves indicated that they were as ignorant of what this meant as the rest of the audience. In response, Ysera and Alexstrasza gestured toward the direction of Teldrassil's vast crown.

"This tree was born without our blessing...it has been cleansed by the druids and blessed by one of us, but a more special blessing shall now be made...let it now receive through both us our hopes for a world and a future of which we can all be proud..."

Following their direction, the couple faced Teldrassil's center. The Aspects each stretched a hand that direction. Malfurion and Tyrande smiled in understanding.

From the two transformed dragons, there shot forth a wondrous light that flowed to the archdruid and the high priestess, then outward.

It washed over the entire crown in a mere heartbeat, then spread down through the branches to the trunk and quickly beyond sight. What was visible to the onlookers clearly strengthened, flourished. No one there could deny that Teldrassil was obviously stronger, more vibrant.

The moment swept over Malfurion. His people, his world, was safe. Teldrassil was purified.

Most of all, he was at last one with his beloved.

A sense of fulfillment rose up within him. The archdruid smiled.

There were gasps from many in the audience.

"Mal!" Tyrande blurted. "What are you doing?"

He suddenly realized that he glowed and that glow now touched Teldrassil in a manner much as had the dragons' blessing.

The assembled guests peered around in awe as even the surface beneath their feet was transformed.

The glow around Malfurion faded, but Teldrassil remained illuminated. In that light, its leaves grew even more lush than when Malfurion had cleared it of the Nightmare's taint. Huge, multicolored fruit blossomed from the branches and, after reaching a thickness akin to the largest of apples, began to softly rain down. Those assembled laughed with delight as they caught the fruit and dared taste them.

"Like the sweetest nectar!" Elerethe Renferal blurted.

"Have to admit, nothin' like this in the Aerie," Falstad rumbled as he all but swallowed one of the two he had procured.

Tyrande tasted one, then also smiled. "Mal...this is amazing."

He looked deep into her eyes. "This is because of you."

She flushed.

"May your life be as full of life as Teldrassil is now," Alexstrasza murmured to the bride and groom as she and Ysera stepped further back.

"Our time at these festivities is at an end," She of the Dreaming added. "Congratulations to you, my child," the mistress of the Emerald Dream said to Malfurion. "Be worthy of her."

"I will always try to be."

Ysera became more serious. "This is only your beginning, both of you.but you, most of all, my Malfurion, have entered a new stage. When there is time.and I say when.you have a complex level of training to start, one which no other has faced before."

"I look forward to your teachings, great one."

The Aspect cocked her head. "This is not something that I can teach you.this is something that must be learned by yourself. You have done what no other, not even I, could do." After a pause, the dragon added, "But I will be happy to offer advice, though if I were Malfurion Stormrage, I would listen most to she next to you."

Malfurion squeezed Tyrande's hand. "Oh, I will."

Alexstrasza and Ysera nodded, then, without further words, transformed. They rose into the air, again the great behemoths.

The two night elves glanced at one another. Tyrande quickly nodded.

To Ysera, the archdruid called, "Ysera.great one.we give our condolences for brave Eranikus!"

"And they are welcomed." She of the Dreaming bowed her head, sadness and gratitude vying in her tone. "From this happy place, I go to mourn! His sacrifice I will honor forever."

"As do we all," Alexstrasza added.

With that, the two soared high into the sky. Korialstrasz and the green male joined them, the red briefly giving the night elves a knowing nod.

"Thank you, my good friends." he rumbled before departing.

The party of dragons circled over Darnassus. Most expected them to simply depart, but then, as one, the huge beasts issued a triumphant roar.their final homage to Malfurion and his bride.

And as Ysera and Alexstrasza led their kind away, the archdruid and the high priestess turned back to those who had come to honor them. Malfurion looked upon the assembly and wondered if Azeroth might have any chance not only to completely recover from the Nightmare, but even move beyond it, to that future that might have hope.

Then Malfurion recalled what still held sway over the Rift of Aln and grew troubled. It was not a threat that could be left untouched for long. The archdruid began pondering what they would have to do—

He felt Tyrande squeeze his hand. She leaned and kissed him.

"Enjoy today, Mal...that's all we can ever ask.today together..." She kissed him again, then added more strongly, "And then we shall begin dealing in earnest with the foulness that guided Xavius's evil."

The archdruid nodded, accepting her wisdom. He would enjoy today—and all his time with Tyrande—and knew that he could indeed ask for no more than that. Still, both of them could not also help but have some hope for the future.

And Malfurion Stormrage was well aware that great things had been successfully built upon far less than that.

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