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“When you’re running things?  What, you plan to be Regent Lady of Quel’thalas?”

Astoreth frowned.  Yes, actually, she had wanted to reply.  She had been born to power.  Raised to seek and possess it.  Sometimes it was hard to remember that she put down certain dreams when she took up her vengeance.

“That girl died on the walls of Silvermoon with my father and brothers.  Any chance of reviving her died with my mother — and by the same hand.”

Anetho sat on the council, true — but by virtue of hiding what he was.  And she’d never hidden.  She had never deluded herself as to what that choice would cost her… but sometimes that choice burned more than others.

“I would still be wearing robes like this if I was a magistrix.  And wielding a staff.  And I’d have the entirety of my soul and not a care in the world about it, rather than being proud that I’ve managed to retain a controlling interest. I’d even have the helm that looks like a crown. I like it.

She knelt down in her library, almost to the ground, scanning the titles on the spines of the ancient books until she found the one she wanted.  Opening the cover of the slender volume, in the middle of the inside cover were the words THIS BOOK BELONGS TO; below that in her father’s distinctive handwriting read the names Kieran Duskflame, Rioghan Duskflame, Beirgin Duskflame, and beneath Beirgin’s, in a childish hand, the name Astoreth Duskflame.

And I’d be leaving footsteps that I would be proud for any daughter to follow in, instead of arguing with her on mountaintops that no, she really needs to not damn herself.”

She ran her fingers over the words on the title page: Where There’s Smoke: An Elementary Guide to the Principles and Primary Applications of Fire Magic.

She flipped a couple more pages.  Then she stood, extended her hand towards the candle on her desk, and muttered a few syllables.

“ORLAITH!  ORLAITH, HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT OUR DAUGHTER CAN DO!?”

She knew the words were wrong almost before they left her tongue.  Sparks flew from her fingertips — and fizzled.  Green ones.  She scowled.

Laying near her feet, Kreelum lifted his sightless head from his paws and whined at his mistress.  “Don’t worry,” she replied.  “The pacts are forged, the bargains sealed, and none may unmake them.  I know I can’t go back.”

She raised her hand once more, and tried again.

“Maybe, just maybe, I’d even be proud of myself.”

“You’re not?”

“…I need to go.”

The words were better, the gesture smoother.  The candle burst into flame that flickered green for only a moment before clearing to orange.  Astoreth smirked.

“I can’t go back,” she told the felhunter.  “But there are many ways to move forward.”

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