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Prologue

September 17, 2008

Flames danced around her and the crackle of burning trees filled the air. A falling branch crashed to the ground as she stood unable to move, rooted with terror. The sound of screams filled the night and she felt rough hands grasping her. She tried to struggle but her limbs refused to obey. Darkness blurred her vision as thick smoke engulfed her. She was falling, unable to escape from the nightmare that surrounded her…and then it was over.

Kess awoke with a start. She was trembling violently and could barely hear over the frantic beating of her heart. Drawing a deep breath, she forced herself to relax and surveyed the room. Moonlight streaming in through a window bathed the room in gentle light and revealed everything was as it should be. Unbidden, her mind returned to the night five years ago when her world had changed forever.

The Horde attack was brutal and merciless. There had been no warning, no time to prepare. Her small frame lying among the bodies of the fallen had not been noticed and she alone had survived. The next day Alliance soldiers found her and brought her to the sanctuary of Stormwind – one of the last remaining bastions of safety in a world torn by war.

For the first year she lived in constant fear, certain at any moment the illusion of security would be torn apart and she would be left alone again. She was afraid to trust or care for anyone and remained isolated, trapped by the fear within her mind. A Dwarven Priest named Catti gently led her back to the light and taught her to open her heart again. Catti introduced her to Al and Krin Donovan whose only child, Aleathea, was across the ocean fighting the invasion. They welcomed Kess into their lonely hearts and eventually adopted her formally.

In time she developed several close friendships. Pandabear, the mischievous Dwarven Paladin who taught her to laugh again. Pinknubcake, the eccentric rogue who kept her life interesting with his unpredictable antics. Laniken, a spirited gnome mage who she came to view as a sister. And always there was Kneabiter, the loyal gnome warrior who was her first and best friend, and who never left her side.

One year from the attack she returned to the place that had been her home. Kneeling beside the simple headstone that marked the final resting place of her loved ones, she vowed to devote her life to the study of healing so that never again would she watch helplessly as those she loved died beside her.

With that motivation she returned to Stormwind and began training as a priest. She pored over the ancient tomes and practiced her healing spells tirelessly. She avoided the Shadow path, instead focusing all her attention on the Light and learning every way possible to increase her skill as a healer. None worked harder or with more determination, and her ability grew with each passing day.

A call from the night watchman brought her back to the present. With no desire to return to sleep, she donned her robes and slipped out of the house. The moonlight sparkled off the water in the canals and the stone that paved the bridges seemed to glow in the soft light. A gentle breeze caressed her face and her robes rustled in the wind.

Savoring the moment, she realized just how much she had come to love this place. The realization was the more poignant, because in her heart, she knew the time had come to leave. During the last five years she had grown strong, she had found a new family, she had discovered her purpose in life. There was nothing more for her to learn here; it was time to move on.

She found herself standing at the entrance to the city looking out into the darkness beyond the gate. She had stood in this very spot so many times before, but this time was different. For too long she had lived in fear, tormented by dreams and the memory of those she had lost…but no longer.

For the honor of those who had fallen, for the future of those who still lived, for the defense of all that was good, the time had come to fight.

And so, armed with courage, determination and unbreakable bonds of friendship, Kess and her friends ventured forth into the world of Azeroth.

***Commentary on Prologue***

About two years into our WoW experience, my husband and I decided to roll alts.  We were only a few months away from the BC expansion and we figured our guild would need healers and tanks for the new content.  My husband rolled a gnome warrior, Kneabiter.  I rolled a Night Elf holy priest, Kess.  One of our best friends rolled a gnome mage, Laniken.  The three of us leveled up together.

The first night of the Winter Festival Laniken and Kneabiter really did have a snowball fight.  This was a few days before they removed the mechanic that allowed you to knock people over with snowballs.  I have rarely laughed so hard as I did that night watching Laniken and Kneabiter, two little gnomes, knocking each other over!  Some of my favorite WoW memories are from this period of time.

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