[Story] Hallow’s End

[[ Happy NaNo Eve! Working on getting into practice writing at this time for NaNo. A short Hallow’s End story. ]]

“Mama look,” shouted Relanos. “Mama look, I’m jumping.” The elf boy crawled on top of a boulder with his arms outstretched.

“I’m not sure bears jump,” said Tathariel. “And I need to tie your hood. You’re not a bear yet.”

Relanos bounded over to his mother with his best bear growl as she tied the strings on his hood. In the doorway, Jaellynn frowned faintly. “I still say this isn’t a good idea.”

In truth, her mate was right. Hallow’s End was a holiday to commemorate the forsaken breaking free of the Scourge, coinciding with the humans’ harvest festival. Neither were really appropriate for a young kaldorei. They were losing hold of their own traditions already, there was no need to speed it along with strange human ideas. They’d both agreed to raise Relanos with traditional kaldorei customs — but the moment he’d seen the pumpkins in the glade he’d been obsessed. A day where you wear a costume and collect candy? It was easy to see why children would be enchanted by the idea. Reluctantly, Tathariel had agreed to help Relanos make a costume. At least he wanted to be a bear, which was a good costume in her opinion.

“It’s just one night,” Tathariel reminded Jaellynn. Relanos didn’t understand the meaning of the day or what it stood for. As far as he was concerned, it was about candy and being a bear. “Look how excited he is.” Relanos, now with his bear hood on, was stomping around the house and roaring as he pulled out the cloth bag Tathariel had saved for him.

“I want candy!” roared Relanos.

“That isn’t how you ask,” said Tathariel gently.

“Trick or treat!” roared Relanos.

“And?”

“Thank you!” roared Relanos.

“Are you coming with?” Tathariel asked Jaellynn. “I think it will be fun.”

“I don’t have a costume,” Jaellynn protested.

“I don’t either. Come on.”

Relanos ran ahead on the path to each of the little houses in the glade, knocking on the door hurriedly at each one. Tathariel worried that they might be irritated by the disruption, but everyone seemed just as excited about the holiday as Relanos. They gave him candies wrapped in paper, apples, cookies, and all manner of treats. Tathariel had to hold the bag so he didn’t eat all of them on the way to the next house. All of the residents knew Relanos, of course; they’d seen him in their yard or playing at the moonwell or fishing with Jaellynn. A handful of tauren children, perhaps relatives of Karnum, were out in costumes as well. Relanos momentarily forgot about his candy and went to play with them while Tathariel held his bag. She took out one of the paper wrapped candies and ate it.

“I guess you were right,” Jaellynn said at last, as they watched Relanos running with the tauren children. One of them was a kodo, and wanted to pretend they were hunting each other.

“Hmm?”

“He’s having fun.”

“Are you?” asked Tathariel.

He smiled faintly. “Yes.”

[Story] Thorns – Temperance

Marjolaine paused as she entered the cathedral, stepping into the dim candle-light, scented faintly with incense. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been here, and she had the distinct feeling of being watched, that everyone would somehow know she didn’t belong. The morning light illuminated the stained glass windows, throwing colorful shadows across the floor. They reminded her, suddenly and jarringly, of the cathedral in Gilneas.

“How may I help you this morning?” a soft voice asked behind her. It was a priestess, one of the older ones. Marjolaine supposed she didn’t have any studies to do this morning.

“I’m looking for Sister Temperance,” said Marjolaine quietly. Her voice seemed impossibly loud in the stillness of the cathedral.

The priestess seemed surprised by the request, but smiled politely, gesturing to an alcove off to the left. “She’ll just be down those stairs.”

Marjolaine nodded and thanked the priestess before descending the narrow stone staircase. There she found Sister Temperance, as promised, in a candle-lit alcove. She looked up from her book as Marjolaine approached. She wore similar robes to the older priestess upstairs, bright white with crisp lines, and a white ribbon around her neck. Marjolaine knew that covered the scars on her throat from the attack that had cursed her.

“Marjolaine, this is a surprise,” said Temperance. “Please, sit.”

She took the small stone bench across from the table. It was as if they meant to make everything as uncomfortable as possible. Marjolaine already felt more nervous than she had when stepping inside. While it may have been Harrison’s jaws who delivered the cursed bite, it was her hands who had set him free. She could have killed him, but she hadn’t. And her leniency had led to Temperance’s situation. Did she blame Marjolaine for that? Surely Kor would have told her. Her expression was impossible to read.

“I know,” Marjolaine said, twisting her gloves in her hands. “I’ve been busy with the shop.” It wasn’t really a lie; the shop always had high demand for the winter holidays, but it had been years since she’d come to the cathedral. The excuse felt weak, and she was certain that Temperance knew it. “How have you been?”

Temperance gestured to the walls around her. “I am safe here. I’ve been able to continue my studies. They have prayers every morning and evening.”

Though serene, her eyes held a hint of sadness. Regret, perhaps.

“But?” Marjolaine asked.

Temperance sighed. “I do miss my old chapel. The town. I miss–” she hesitated. “I miss how things were before. It was so much simpler.”

Though she was much happier here — she had her own life, and the shop, and Josie, Marjolaine knew what Temperance meant. Even she missed the grey rainy days sometimes, the sense of contentment and innocence. Would she go back, if she could? Probably not, but she could certainly understand the desire. And being cursed was a lonely business, a terrible and dangerous secret. Even if one was able to control it — most of the time — there was always the chance that it could harm someone else.

“You should come to dinner sometime,” Marjolaine suggested. “You could meet everyone. Maybe for one of the holidays, we’ll have too much to eat otherwise.”

Temperance smiled, a small and wry smile. “That is too kind of you. I will consider it.”

Marjolaine hoped that she would accept. And she hoped that she wouldn’t invite the smith along with her.

 

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Sorelle’s Diary

Dear Diary,

I ended up wearing the purple mask. That one wasn’t in the last entry, but I made it to go along with the purple dress that I made. It looks really fancy and had all sorts of embroidery; I didn’t do that because I didn’t have time, but the cloth had some on it already so I cut it so it looked nice. It’s a good way to sort of cheat if you are busy, or also if you aren’t that good at embroidery, which I’m not. Either way, I thought it looked really nice and I made a mask to match with it, purple with black feathers and some little glass gems. I had shoes that weren’t too high so it would be easy to dance, and I put on some of the perfume that Xarola made for me. I think it had violets in it, which I thought would go well with the purple dress. I thought everything was perfect, so it was kind of disappointing. Maybe I should have worn a different mask? Or no perfume? I wish I knew what to do differently.

The party itself was lovely. I saw the ballroom when I went through. There were decorations in every corner and on every post, even hanging from the ceiling. There were autumn leaves made out of paper, and bats, and spiders. Tik and Terellion had put gourds everywhere too, some were carved and had candles inside like a lantern, the smaller ones were just for decoration. There was food in some of them too, like some sort of soup I think. I couldn’t believe how much food there was! It all looked wonderful and I so wish I could have tried it, but I know I would regret it after. Besides that, there was a warm spiced wine that smelled lovely. I miss being able to taste things. I think it’s probably the worst part about being undead. I stayed inside for a little, but I went outside to the garden to wait for Salenicus because that’s where he usually comes to visit. He said he came with Orledin, and one of the alive rangers. I guess none of the other undead wanted to come. I can’t really blame them, there isn’t much to do if you aren’t going to dance. He also said that Orledin was going to dance with the alive ranger. I wonder if that is true. It doesn’t seem fair.

We talked for a while, just about normal things like we do when he usually comes to visit. It was a little too far away to hear the music from inside, so we just had to imagine it. He was a better dancer than I expected, but not good enough that I had to remember any fancy dances, which was a relief.  I remember some, but it’s been so long I’m afraid I would have got the steps wrong. He did say my dress was nice, but that’s all. I guess after everything Xarola said I expected more, or he might have changed his mind and decided he didn’t really want to dance after all, and just went along with it because it’d be rude otherwise. He had his armor and sword, it was quite big and looked very heavy. I don’t know how he can carry it around every day. He said he takes it on his patrol, but the trainer makes him learn to use a bow, but not Orledin. That doesn’t seem fair, they should get the same treatment. And we can’t do certain things because our bodies don’t work the same way. Like we can’t make our muscles bigger, for instance. So it might always be difficult for him to use a bow. I said he should tell the captain about it, and hopefully he will understand. I know that some people don’t, because they don’t have much experience dealing with undead people, but from what I’ve heard he is fair to everyone. So much for romantic conversations though, talking about bows wasn’t in the dragon books.

I will have to ask Xarola about it tomorrow. She might have an idea what I did wrong. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s evening tonight though.

[Story] Story a Week

[[ I took a prompt from the Fictober list: Under the sun and the moon.

This will probably be my last Story a Week until December, I won’t say never — I may have no trouble hitting my NaNo daily goals and have time for extra, but I’m not expecting that. I feel pretty solid in my planning and I’m set to go in five days! ]]

Under the sun and the moon, at the height of the eclipse, Tamazi stood at the center of the temple. As the light began to return, creeping around the moon’s shadow, the hushed reverence of the temple gave way to excited whispers.

“What are they saying?” asked Tamazi. “I can’t understand.”

Harvian’s keen ears turned and perked forward. “They say you’ve been chosen,” he whispered, as one of the temple attendants approached. They had different robes than all the others; sections of black in addition to the white. Tamazi guessed that this was the chieftain.

Chosen? The word rattled in Tamazi’s mind. Chosen for what? She wanted away from these strange creatures, the sooner the better.

The temple chieftain knelt before Tamazi, head bowed. She could have struck, snapped the neck and fled from the temple before any could react, but she did not. She felt her paws rooted within the temple’s stone floor, whether by fear or magic she could not be certain. The chieftain spoke again, and a murmur of assent rippled through the temple attendants.

“Oh,” said Harvian. “You’re the prophet of Miraluna, that’s what she said.”

“I don’t even know what that is,” hissed Tamazi. “How can I–”

The temple leader rose again, this time his gaze focused on Harvian. Tamazi watched her closely.

“You are M’haar?”  asked the temple leader.

“What?” Harvian blinked. “Oh, no. No, we’re — traveling together.”

This answer seemed to satisfy the temple leader, and she returned to the company of the others. The discussion among them rose again, eager and electric. The temple leader nodded, and two of the attendants hurried through one of the archways, returning a short time later with a robe that looked to be woven of silver and moonlight. The edge was trimmed with soft white fur, from what sort of animal, Tamazi could not be certain.

As she stood still within the center of the temple, the two temple attendants placed the cloak over Tamazi’s shoulders. It was warm, and heavy, but she didn’t feel any different. “What happens now?” she asked Harvian.

He shook his head wordlessly. He didn’t know either. But the attendants led her to an elevated place and bid her rest there. They placed pillows on the stone to make it more comfortable, and brought out bowls of clear, cold water and fruits and nuts. They did not protest when Harvian took one of the fruits from the bowl and bit into it. “Maybe it’s not so bad,” he pointed out. “Being a prophet.”

Tamazi still felt uneasy. There was something very strange about all of it, this place, these people, and how was she to be a prophet for someone she didn’t even know? She remembered that Harvian had told her of the dragons, that those outside the plains revered them. Miraluna was said to rule the night skies, but Tamazi knew that was not true — that was the Huntress’s domain. Unless, she supposed, they were different names for the same thing. But the Huntress was no dragon, she was flesh and blood and whiskers and claws just as she was. It wasn’t possible to mistake one for the other.

As she watched, the temple buzzed with activity. Banners and flags were hung from the high walls, the floors swept and polished, and attendants left and returned frequently. Harvian explained that they were preparing for something, but he was uncertain of what. He’d asked the temple leader, but the answer hadn’t made very much sense to her. She would just have to wait to see what the future held, but patience had never come easily to her.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Sorelle’s Diary

Dear Diary,

I haven’t picked a mask for the ball yet. It’s not that I don’t have one, I have five. I’ve been making them at night after my sewing is finished. I know I should be working on my plants in the greenhouse, but they can wait for a week or so. I can’t decide which mask looks the best, it doesn’t help that I don’t know what kind Salenicus will have either. Shouldn’t they match? Or would that be too weird? It might make him nervous or something. Or he might want to match and he’ll be upset if they don’t. I don’t know how elves think. One is kind of like a raven, it’s black and has feathers and a long nose, there’s curly things for decoration too. There’s some silver glitter to make it sparkle a bit. One is just green, it’s not really supposed to be anything. One is some kind of flower, I don’t remember the name but Xarola helped me make it. She told me what color to make all the petals and how they should be shaped. It’s really pretty but I doubt Salenicus will have a flower mask. Then there’s a harlequin with different colored diamonds and gold trim, and the last one is a horse. I couldn’t think of any animals from Dalaran, except a cat and I know at least two people will probably already have a cat mask. So I did a horse instead. I guess we could do one of those costumes where one person is the head and the other is the rear, but that would be weird, and also very difficult to dance.

I’m nervous about that too. I had lessons when I was a student, and I’ve been practicing so I remember most of them. But what if I mess up and step on his foot? What if I trip over my hem and fall? Or what if he doesn’t even want to dance at all? He might decide that, or they might not even show up at all. Hethurin could decide they’re not allowed again. I haven’t danced since dying, at least, not with another person. There’s all the usual worry about your dress tearing or getting dirty, along with the added worries about being undead. I’ve been trying to practice a little with Xarola, so I’ll be less nervous, but it’s not really the same. If I accidentally step on her foot or miss a step, I won’t be too embarrassed. I haven’t yet, or at least she hasn’t said that I did, sometimes it’s hard for me to tell.

She loaned me one of her dragon books to read, she said it was to give me ideas for things to say. There’s no way I’m saying any of that! First of all, Salenicus isn’t a dragon. At least I’m pretty sure not, because he would have gone back to his dragon form when he died. Unless it’s an illusion, but who would pretend to be undead? And his hands aren’t warm, so I don’t know how you would fake that. I’m pretty sure no one really says things like that, I know I certainly don’t. Plus, I don’t think we could do half of those things even if it wasn’t in the middle of a ball. If we were both alive, that might be a different story. But I asked her if she’d said them to Vynlorin and she said no, not exactly. Maybe she just thought I’d like to read them, they’re not bad for that at least. She said there’s a whole series if I want to read more of them. That might be something good for if I don’t have any sewing to do. I’ve finished up the ones that Xarola wanted, and also made myself one for the ball. But it also depends on which mask I pick, so I should probably sew one to match with each, so I’ll be prepared. I’ll need to ask Tik for more fabric though.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Ghosts

[[ Still working on NaNo planning, but I needed a break so here’s some WoW fluff! ]]

Loralinde took the path that led into the deeper part of the woods, away from the greenhouse and the houses. Dead leaves had blown over it, but she had walked it enough times to remember the landmarks — the tree with crooked branches, the log covered with moss and mushrooms, the old worn statue that might have once stood atop a grave. Though ghosts weren’t often active during the day, it was a perfect day for ghosts if there ever was one. The sky was cold and gray, dark clouds lingering overhead with the threat of rain. A cold wind rattled the naked branches of the trees and sent the leaves rushing over the ground. Further in the woods, Lora could hear the stream, strengthened by the recent rain. There was a sort of beauty in it, but it was the quiet beauty of a graveyard or a fallen bird, not the riotous color and buzz of spring. Lora had always liked the autumn, as well as the quiet stillness of winter. The city had neither winter nor stillness, but here in the country she had opportunity for both. With her reading and essays finished for the day, and Keyalenn still away at his classes, she had come to visit the ghosts in the woods.

She had left them gifts a few days ago, a little jar of jam, some candies, and rolls from the kitchen, all spread out on a cloth she had laid over a stump. Ghosts couldn’t eat, of course, but they were still attracted to things that they had enjoyed in life. The ghosts of the woods were shy though, and rarely showed themselves to anyone, even her. Lora suspected that they may have been people who weren’t supposed to be on the grounds, squatters or perhaps even criminals, who were afraid of being discovered even in death. Birds or squirrels had been at the rolls, she could see crumbs scattered over the cloth and little nibbles in the baked crust. They’d also tried to get at the candies — the bowl had been upturned and a few of them had fallen onto the ground. But the animals had not been able to unwrap them, and eventually given up. She didn’t suppose that ghosts would want candy that had fallen onto the ground, anyway. It was too windy now for a candle, but she brought a small ball from within her cloak. It was made of a translucent stone, perfectly rounded and smooth. Lora had read that sometimes spirits could be seen within them, and even speak to a person. Normally this was done in a darkened room, but she saw no reason not to try here — it was their home after all, and was certainly quiet enough.

Lora often thought about what sort of ghost she would be, if she were a ghost. She’d enjoy it, she thought, playing little tricks and delighting people by giving them a harmless scare. Perhaps she’d even make an appearance at the masked ball, to the wonder of the host and all of their guests. Imagine, a real ghost at your ball! It would be talked about for months. But she also knew that not every ghost had such an outlook. Some had suffered terrible heartache and loss — imagine dying and seeing your love with someone else. If that happened to her, she would be an unhappy and mournful ghost indeed. Or the poor ghost children, who had died while still young and innocent, never getting the chance to grow up. Lora sought to learn more about all of the different ghosts so she could understand them better, and help them if possible. She was still convinced that it was some sort of magic, just one that was not properly understood yet. It was still a matter of trial and error as to what worked and what didn’t, but she kept detailed notes about the ghosts here at the school. Eventually she aimed to add other ghosts as well, such as the ones in the tombs in Shattrath, and the human ghosts around Lordaeron.

Lora took away the half-eaten rolls, and put the candies back into the bowl. She placed the stone orb on the cloth beside it, and peered into it, watching for some kind of movement. She tried speaking to the ghosts quietly, making them aware of her presence and asking if they wished to be seen. Some leaves stirred up, but it could have just been a gust of wind. A little later, she felt cold drops begin to patter down onto her hair and cloak, the sky growing darker and more threatening. Disappointed, she picked up her orb again and turned back toward her house. The ghosts didn’t want to be seen today.

[Story] Story a Week – Imp

Xanaroth held his breath as the portal opened, fel-green smoke swirling through the room. Though Elara was safely upstairs, there was always still that moment of danger before whatever it was stepped through the portal. Felarius wasn’t powerful enough to open large portals, but that wouldn’t stop something that was really determined to get through. Most demons, though, preferred to stay in their own realm. Imps were generally a bit easier to coax over — and they never seemed to guess ahead of time what lay ahead of them.

Felarius, his summoning student, shook faintly with the effort of maintaining the spell, his eyes fixed on the demonic portal. He had made great progress in the past few months, and Xanaroth felt he was ready to work with his first demon. Of course, that meant he had to summon it first. For a few long seconds, he believed nothing would happen. Though the portal had opened, perhaps there was something wrong; a rune slightly smudged or the angle just slightly wrong. But Felarius’s rune drawings had been immaculate. He’d copied them over and over in his books and was meticulous about his work — more so than Xanaroth himself had been at that age. The Twisting Nether teemed with demons, especially the little imps, which traveled in swarms for protection from their larger cousins. Was it possible that they were all in another spot?

A tiny hand appeared from the portal, followed by a wobbly oversized head. The imp stepped warily out of the portal and into the rune that Felarius had drawn on the workroom floor.

“Now,” Xanaroth said, and Felarius let the spell drop, the portal collapsing in on itself with an audible fizzle.

The imp, now alarmed, attempted to flee, but the magic circle held it in place. As it realized this, its panic grew and it began to shriek, flinging itself against the magical barrier.

Felarius frowned faintly. “Is it supposed to do that?” he whispered to Xanaroth.

The older summoner nodded. It wasn’t unusual at all for demons to resist binding. Once it accepted its fate, however, it would be easier to work with. And for imps, the protection of a warlock was preferable than being eaten by a larger demon. “Ask for its name,” Xanaroth reminded Felarius quietly.

“Imp,” Felarius announced. “You will give me your name.”

The imp cowered at the edge of the rune, its little clawed hands over its large ears. It wouldn’t matter; the rune that Felarius had drawn compelled it to obey. “D-dagtuk!” it screeched. Xanaroth hoped it wasn’t going to scream like that all of the time. It hurt his ears, and it would likely wake Elara.

He had also had Felarius practice the binding spell repeatedly. Any error there could cause the binding to weaken over time, putting the summoner at risk. As Felarius recited the binding spell, shadowy shackles formed around the imp’s wrists and ankles. “Dagtuk, I bind you to my bidding,” he said, and the imp whimpered quietly, but seemed to have calmed down, at least.

Xanaroth walked the perimeter of the rune, checking for any errors and inspecting the imp’s bindings. He was well aware that any mistake he overlooked would put his student in danger, so he took his time to see that everything was done correctly. Felarius watched him anxiously. At last he nodded. “Break it,” he instructed Felarius. With his boot, he smudged away one of the runes of the binding circle on the floor. Dagtuk crept warily to the spot and stuck his arm out tentatively. When nothing happened, the imp crawled slowly out of the circle to crouch at Felarius’s feet. For the first time, his student allowed himself a smile. “It worked,” he said, sounding a little amazed. “Can I pick it up?”

“Of course,” said Xanaroth. “Don’t lose it. Or if you do, you remember the recall spell?”

“I won’t,” Felarius said, touching the imp’s head gingerly. “And I do.”

As Xanaroth had expected, the imp calmed down once it realized that it wasn’t in immediate danger. It would still be curious about its new surroundings, and cause trouble if not supervised, but in time it might even grow fond of its master. Once it got a taste of proper food, it would never want to leave.