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Before the Storm

Stormwind Harbor buzzes with activity. Soldiers from across the Alliance enjoy a last one final a pre-battle meal, blow off steam in the sparring arena, or simply try to get some rest before shipping out to assault the Burning Legion forces on the Broken Isles.

Llane Venner stared down at his notebook, wondering which of those soldiers were enjoying their real last meal as he wrote. His father had been a career soldier, and one whose duties had often kept him away from his family, but he made a point of having a "farewell dinner" with his wife and son before every deployment. Llane had continued the tradition, and tonight was no exception.

He was nervous, more nervous than he'd ever been. He'd been in battles before, barely surviving Theramore, fighting on the front lines across Pandaria and Draenor, and taking part in the Siege of Orgrimmar. But this was different than facing off against Garrosh Hellscream and his "True Horde," or the Iron Horde and the Shadow Council. This was the Burning Legion.

Stormwind had been spared the ravages of the Third War, but Llane had heard plenty of horror stories about the last time the Legion had invaded Azeroth. Alynore had grown up on Outland, a world practically dominated by the Legion. Many of the draenei he counted among his friends had family and other loved ones who had been lost to the Legion.

"Daddy?" A vocie from the doorway broke him from his reverie. He glanced up to see Annelise standing there, her hands hidden behind her back.

Llane forced a smile. "What's up, Cupcake?" he asked.

The four-year old stalked cautiously into the studdy, her cat Yogi close behind her. The orange tabby crossed the floor and leapt onto Llane's lap, surprising him. The cat had never really seemed to care for Llane, but maybe even he could sense the reporter's unease.

"I made this for you!" Annelise announced, removing her hands from behind her back to produce a small, crudely-wrapped parcel. Llane noted approvingly that she'd appropriated an old copy of the Stormwind Evening Standard to use as wrapping paper, rather than an issue of his own Dalaran Diviner.

He took the parcel out of his daughter's hands, carefully unwrapping it. Inside was a strange, mechanical-looking device. It looked almost like a wristwatch, except the central disk was slightly larger, and covered with concentric circles.

"It's a demon zapper!" Annelise announced proudly. "You put it on your hand, and zap any demons that get close!"

Llane raised an eyebrow. His daughter had recently become obsessed with booby-trapping their house in case the demons invaded. Trying at the best of times, but absolutely terrifying when you were raising an engineering prodigy. "Did Auntie Nore help you with this?" he finally asked.

Annelise shifted uncomfortably. "Well...she helped make sure it wouldn't hurt you, as well as the demon," she said. "I just want you to be safe, Daddy!"

Llane got to his feet, Yogi meowing in protest as he was unceremoniously dumped out of the reporter's lap, and knelt before his daughter to wrap her in a hug. "Thanks, Cupcake," he said.

Annie returned the hug, tears starting to fall down her face. "Promise me you'll come home, Daddy," she said.

Llane just hugged her tighter, his own vision starting to turn blurry. "I promise, Cupcake," he assured her. Even if it's only as a vase on the mantelpiece.