[Story] Story a Week 38

[[ Prompt: A story set on another planet

I almost always do SWTOR characters for these, but I’m not exactly sure what some of my characters are up too right now. So here’s Malavar exploring spooky ruins on a gloomy planet! ]]

Malavar’s ship captain and navigator looked out the front window and scowled. “What’re we doing here, again?”

Looking out himself, Malavar was almost inclined to agree with him. A steady, driving rain drove against the transparent surface, the sky an ominous grey. The trees’ boughs were tossed back and forth by relentless winds. But even if he was to return another day, the rains lasted for half the year here, just another forgotten planet to everyone else. Malavar didn’t know exactly why he had been urged here, but he had a good idea. And he certainly knew whose idea it had been.

Having another consciousness within your own was the most unsettling thing that Malavar had ever experienced, akin to having a rock in one’s boot that you could never remove. It might be less noticeable at times, but it was always there. And it wasn’t the first time either, though according to his research, it wasn’t exactly the same. That hadn’t stopped him from attempting to oust his unwanted guest in the same manner, of course. Days he had spent in meditation, even returning to the dark places on Voss, but it persisted. The presence in his mind was a living, willful thing, and it resented these attempts to eject it. Malavar had to believe that it had brought him here for its own ends rather than his own. But he had to admit that he was curious. The maps that he had found were scarce, but they suggested an elaborate city had once been built here, and its ruins still remained. That was likely what he — or his guest — was after.

After the captain had left the bridge, Malavar clicked on his communicator. He paused there, regarding the flickering image of Zamarra. They hadn’t spoken in so long. He couldn’t let her know what was happening to him, for one because she would worry. She had enough to concern her already. The other was that he didn’t want her to be right, that the darkness had seized hold of his soul after all. Malavar didn’t feel any different, but what was happening to him seemed beyond his control. How much further would it pull him before he could break free? He didn’t want her to be between them when it happened.

Frowning, he clicked it off again. Maybe after he’d found whatever it is he’d come for. He had little in the way of outdoor equipment, but he found an overcoat that should keep most of the rain off. The hood was large enough to accommodate his lekku as well. He asked the archaeologist to join him; he trusted the man a great deal more than some of the rest of his crew, and he would likely have useful information about the ruins. Any place they visited, he always had some fact or story about, sometimes tiresome but usually interesting, at least.

Though it was day, the heavy clouds and driving rain made it difficult to see anything, and their lamps only lit so far. They took shelter within one of the ruins, as good a place as any to begin their search. The presence within his mind was maddeningly silent — the one time Malavar wished it to make itself known, it did not. Had it only brought him here to waste his time? It seemed unlikely, but it was impossible to know for sure. Talos, the archaeologist, took images of the inscriptions on the walls, in order to study them later back on the ship. Malavar stood, listening for any hint, any whisper from within. When he was a young child in the camps, he remembered getting a sudden flash of feeling, that sense within him that there was something more. He hadn’t known then what it was, and sought to recapture it in order to figure out what it was. He felt similar now, searching blindly in the dark for a point of light to guide the way.

Then, uncertainly, it was there for a moment. It was further below them, hidden within the earth. They searched the crumbling, wet stones, pulling away the plants that clung to them. A doorway led further into the ruins, down a narrow staircase into the dark and unknown. Malavar picked up his lamp and entered.

[Art] Fishing Bears

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Little birthday picture I drew for my dad!

[Story] Risarra’s Journal

Captain Avanniel let the old man leave. I honestly wasn’t sure that she would, given what he’s told me. He mentioned before about her shooting him, I’m not sure how much of that story is true, I never asked Avanniel about it. But maybe she’s had a change of heart, because she agreed that he could go. It occurs to me that we’ll probably never see him again. He’s going deep into sin’dorei lands, where he could easily be discovered and killed. Or if he does succeed, I doubt very much that he’d return here, even though he said he would. He and the others hate the town so much that even dumplings won’t coax them in. He’ll probably find a quiet place where they can live and we’ll never know what happened. I’ll miss him, in a way. Or at least I’ll wonder what became of him. Maybe that’s not the same thing.

Zhyra and I took a big basket of dumplings to Bear’s camp. It’s the only way we can convince them to talk at all. He said the old man had come by and left some food for the bears. That worried me a little, because if he was giving away his food, what was he eating for the trip? It’s a very long way, he’s going to need something. Apparently he didn’t say anything else. Bear didn’t seem worried at all. He said that if something happened, there was nothing he could do about it so there was no sense worrying. Which I suppose is true, but it’s an awfully heartless thing to say. I wonder if he forgets about everyone who disappears like that. He said the old man sometimes stopped to check on him, but they didn’t talk much. I guess that’s probably true, because he didn’t have any dumplings. The other elf came for a short time, he said that he smelled the dumplings. He didn’t say much besides “hello” and ate a lot of them. He was worried that Zhyra was upset when she left to return to her patrol. If he was so worried, why didn’t he say anything before she left? It’s good that he’s not hurt, too, but it would still be safer for them in town.
Bear said that he didn’t forget about going to Feralas, he just thought I hadn’t been by. Which I had, I always stopped by on my patrol but most of the time he was away, fishing or something. He’s worried that the water in the stream might be unsafe due to the demons, I have to ask the druids to come and look at it. They’re always very busy but I think it’s important. I would have thought the bears would have found my scent or something. We can’t go now anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter. We’re too busy with our patrols and making sure the demons don’t get worse. I guess it’s good he didn’t totally forget though. I left the basket, so he could finish the dumplings. I’ll have to go back and get it the next time I am by there.

[Story] Tathariel’s Journal

I didn’t get one of the letters from the Circle. I can understand why, I’ve only been studying for a little over a decade, nothing compared to most druids. Like Father. But I heard about what was happening, obviously, and I wanted to do whatever I can. I know that Relanos would be safe with Jaellynn, and I’d worry but I know he’s more than capable of keeping them both out of harm. I expected that he’d make a fuss about it, and tell me I couldn’t go, but he didn’t. He just said that he thought I wanted to go get another kaldorei child from the orphanage. Or maybe he did mean to make me stay, because it stopped me in my tracks. I do want that, very much, I’ve wanted it for years. And surely there are a lot of children without parents if the Legion is invading. But maybe it’s not the best time to bring one home. I worry constantly about the safety of the Grove. I know Jaellynn is here, and the tauren, and I believe it would be for the best that I stay here and keep it safe too. It is our home, and there are no large towns or soldiers here to protect it.

I suspect that my father might have spoken to Jaellynn about it, too. I know he worries and still thinks of me as a child, even though I have one of my own. I’m sure he said it was too dangerous and I have to stay behind, like I did before. Part of me wants to go anyway, just to prove him wrong, to show that I can do whatever I wish — but I think deep down I know he’s right. Not that I am not strong enough, but that I’m more useful here protecting the Grove. I will wait and see what happens. Jaellynn went one night to the death knight fortress. There was a call sent out to all of them as well, not a letter but it spoke directly to them. I think that would be a bit unsettling. He went, only to tell them that he’d be remaining in Desolace. I’m glad he wasn’t forced to go somewhere else. Maybe they can’t be forced anymore, and that’s good.

Father plans to go, of course. I don’t know yet whether Kelanori and Farahlor will go with him. Feathermoon is a large settlement, well protected by the sentinels. I wouldn’t worry about either of them staying behind, but I will likely go and check on them if they stay there, just in case. It isn’t a very far flight, but I’ll have to take a hippogryph if Relanos is with me. He doesn’t understand any of what’s going on, and I don’t want him to. It’s much too scary for a little person. It’s scary even for me, if I think about it too long. He plays with his toys and searches for frogs along the banks just as if it were any other day. Would it be wrong to just go and see if they have any available? There must be a lot now.

[Story] Story a Week 37

[[ Prompt: A story about a scientific discovery.

I don’t know enough about scientific techniques to make this super realistic, but here’s some archaeologists uncovering something unusual… ]]

“Professor Hughes, I think you should come have a look at this.”

Bethany Greer was his masters student in charge of the excavation. While she could be described many ways — brusque, driven, direct — she was rarely uncertain. That is what drew his attention more than anything else. Aside from her extensive book knowledge, she had gained a great deal of experience since joining the anthropology department. Like most devotees of the science, she had been drawn to bones from a very young age, found them fascinating and yearned to discover their secrets.

She was hip-deep in the discolored water of the excavation, neatly excised from the surrounding moor, as if by a cookie cutter. Arranged nearby were folding tables holding tools, notebooks, and packing materials. Several other similar holes stood nearby, some still being catalogued and charted by undergraduates, others slowly filling with water as all of their secrets had been divulged. It was a productive dig already; two weeks ago there had been a hanged man — judging from his broken neck and lack of clothing — and earlier this week a pregnant young woman. They weren’t yet sure what her crime might have been, there had not been time yet to study her fully. It’s possible that she was, like many of the bog bodies, a sacrifice to some ancient god.

Professor Hughes knelt down, hands on his knees. “What is it?”

Bethany stripped off her old pair of gloves and donned a new, cleaner pair. “Here,” she indicated with her tiny trowel. The tanned, gleaming skin of a bog mummy emerged from its bed of peat. It took him a moment to see what was unusual about it. From around the elbow and up, the arm was covered in thick hair. The acidity of the peat, which helps preserve the bodies in their remarkably pristine state, often bleaches hair to an unnatural orange color. It had done so here. Professor Hughes was stumped as well. “Let’s get him out and have a look,” he said. “Maybe he’s just really hairy.”

Bethany looked skeptical. Admittedly, so was he. He’d been studying bog mummies for over three decades and never seen one with much body hair at all. The natural tanning process usually caused it to fall out, or the handling after, no matter how careful one was. The head hair generally stayed in place. The professor was eager to see what this hairy fellow’s face looked like. It took the rest of the day to get the mummy unearthed, a painstaking and exact process that required care and skill not to harm the fragile surfaces.

“Professor…”

He laid his book and pen down on the table. Now what? Bethany looked, for the first time Professor Hughes could recall, absolutely perplexed. The bog man’s head appeared to be attached to that of a dog’s. As was the body hair, the hair over the head was an artificial orange, in life it would have most likely been a dark brown. Bethany struggled to explain. “Is this some kind of ritual? Attaching a dog’s head to the body?” She probed around the neck with her tiny trowel. “I can’t see any seam though, we’ll have to look closer back in the lab–”

He’d seen many bog mummies who bore ritual marks; runes carved into the skin, certain items of significance buried along with them. But he’d never heard of anything like this. He’d need to go online later from his tent, praying the signal would be strong enough to at least get some places to start. He vaguely recalled some cases from eastern Europe, but he couldn’t remember all of the details. Something to do with witches, most likely.

Bethany furrowed her brow thoughtfully and began preparing the mummy for transport back to the lab. Hopefully it would shed some light on what they had found.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Sath’alor’s Journal (and Letters)

Things aren’t going so well. Orledin and Salenicus just walked off during their patrol the other night. Sorrowmoss said that they went into a dark, shadowy portal which I assume means they went back to the death knight citadel, because neither of them were mages before. So at least I have some idea where, but I don’t know why they’d just leave. Were they unhappy? I know Orledin was lonely sometimes, but everyone was at least polite to him, and loved his baking. He has his cat, which he didn’t take with him. Nessna says that’s proof he’ll return, and I hope she’s right about that. Salenicus hasn’t been here as long, so I could possibly see him leaving, but not Orledin. Why wouldn’t they at least tell me what was going on? I’m writing a letter, but who knows if the scary dead people in charge will agree to it, or even read it. Can I go there if I need to, like I had to go find Sunashe? I hope not, I don’t think it’s a very safe place to visit. I’ll see what happens with the letter, I guess.

Nessna agreed that we should have a plan in case things get too dangerous here. She thinks we’ll be able to handle the demons, which we are for now, but if things get really bad it’s better to have a plan already in place. She said that Hethurin would allow us to stay at the school, it’s big enough for everyone and there are magical wards in place. We have some here that he made, too, but I assume they’re stronger at the school because they’re closer to him. Maintaining them must be tiring, and it’s likely ours would falter sooner. I have an alarm horn that can be heard far into the forest, that will be the signal to head to the school. That way, anyone on patrol will also know what’s happening.

I think Sorrowmoss would be just as happy doing her patrol alone, but I don’t really feel it’s safe. If something were to overwhelm her, we wouldn’t know until the morning. Thankfully, Julan volunteered to take hers temporarily, until Orledin and Salenicus get back. He wanted extra pay, but I don’t mind paying it. The overnight patrol is rough for us living people.

-=-

Dear Sirs,

Two of my rangers, I have reason to believe that two of my rangers, Orledin and Salenicus, are at your stronghold. They are both highly trained rangers and an important part of the team that keeps the Ghostlands safe for both living and unliving residents. Presently, their help is needed to ensure that the demon invasion is kept controlled. Please urge them to return as soon as possible.

Captain Silverdawn,
The Ghostclaw Rangers

PS – Pancat meows because he misses Orledin.

-=-

Dear Hethurin,

I tried to come by to talk to you, but Tik said you were sleeping. I just wanted to ask if it was all right if the rangers and Nessna and I stay at the school in case things get really bad out here. So far, it hasn’t, but it’s always good to have a plan in place. Also, after things get back to normal, I was wanting to take her on a trip. Would you be able to watch the boys for a few days? They’re really good and I know you have a place they could stay.

Sath’alor

-=-

Kes,

Congratulations, Nessna told me that you and Ordinicus had your wedding. I hope it was nice, and you’re going on a relaxing trip. I’m glad you are happy and doing well, though it wasn’t how I imagined things would go it all worked out in the end.

Sath’alor

-=-

Kitten,

I tried to write you a poem, but it was really bad. So just imagine that there’s a really beautiful and romantic poem here instead. It explains how much I love you and how happy you make me feel. It’s also maybe a little bit dirty. I can’t wait for our trip, you’re going to love it.

Sath

[Story] Xanaroth’s Journal

This place is awful. It’s my own fault for suggesting it, I know. Vallindra wanted somewhere warm, well it’s certainly that. “Warm” is misleading. It’s so hot that I can feel every part of me sweating in my robes. Sand gets into every conceivable crack, whether you want it to or not. At Hethurin’s suggestion, I bought a hat to protect from the sun, while it looks ridiculous I am glad I did. Magister Firewind’s doesn’t cover his ears, and already by the first night they were painfully burned. There are snakes, scorpions, and massive spiders. I’m told they seek shelter in shoes at night. In sharp contrast to the heat of the day, at night it’s quite cold and we need heavy blankets. The only food we have to eat are dried fish, which is tough and salty and terrible. Vallindra thought to bring some fruit, but it won’t last long. Hopefully some traders will pass by the outpost soon. It is my hope that all of this discomfort will be worth it in the end, and so far it seems promising.

We sleep during the hottest hours of the day, and venture out in the cool of night. It’s a bit more dangerous, due to the sand worms, but they haven’t given us much trouble yet. Magister Firewind suggested that we butcher and eat one if it should attack us. I can’t even imagine what worm meat must taste like.

While we couldn’t see any demons from the Reliquary camp, it did not take us long to find some. More interesting are the structures, because they are large enough that they appear to have been present for some time, but I don’t see how that is possible. Do they have some means to move them via portals? It’s something I’ve never seen before. I made sketches of the structures; there are also large flying air-ships overhead. It’s difficult to see them well in the night sky, but I have done my best to sketch them.

And there are new species, as I had hoped. There are slender, robed demons that are skilled casters and appear to keep lesser demons enslaved. I suggested that these ones be named after Vallindra, but I can’t tell if she was amused or not. We observed a larger species of imp, apparently similar in all ways to its smaller cousins, aside from size. Though slighter of build, they stand as tall as an elf, which is unsettling to say the least. After a few failed attempts, we aided Magister Firewind in binding one. Its name is Grembahl. I do not know if he intends to bring it home with him or not; if so I suspect that his present imps will not like the arrangement very much. I have selected some larger species that I would like to study more in-depth, in addition to the Vallindra demons of course.

I dislike having the blood knight here, aside from possibly exposing our studies, there is the very real danger that he will carelessly kill something I’m in the middle of studying. That’s the reason they agreed to send him here, so he can learn how to kill them and report back to the others. I don’t see what’s so complicated about it, but that’s blood knights for you. Binding and guiding them is much more rewarding, and delicate. Our knowledge will also help strengthen the wards back in the Ghostlands, to keep the school and rangers safe. As much as I enjoy studying them, I’d prefer demons weren’t roaming loose all over the Ghostlands.