[Story] Fairsong Academy – School Shopping

The stationery store bustled with activity, packed with school-age children and their parents buying up the needed supplies for the start of school. There were displays of various types of quill pens, another with journals and notebooks to write in, and some featuring paints and colored pencils. Raleth had never thought he’d seen children so excited about pencils and paper before. Of course he’d wanted to bring Naraleth with him, to take part in the excitement of going to school — big kid school, as Naraleth called it — for the first time. And it was possible that no one would have noticed that Naraleth was quite a bit taller than most children his age, that he had a different tone to his skin — but it was very unlikely. Raleth lived with the fear of what might happen if anyone outside of Fairsong Academy might learn about his son, it never really left his mind. So he’d taken the list of supplies and gone to the city himself, promising to get every last thing on the list. They could have gone to Shattrath, and indeed Raleth thought that next year they would, but the shops there were much smaller and had less variety to choose from. And Naraleth still wouldn’t get the experience of meeting the other kids, talking to them and feeling the anticipation of the new school year.

Raleth wandered over beside a harried couple who were holding armfuls of paper and notebooks as their twins picked out more items. He’d mentioned the idea of a sibling to Vaelarian, but he hadn’t really had a chance to discuss it with Lali yet. Naraleth was old enough that he would be able to play with a baby safely, and he might really enjoy being a big brother. Of course, as Vaelarian was eager to point out, they might hate each other too. Raleth could have done without his own older brother, even when they’d been young there had never been much warmth there. But he liked to believe his own would be different, certainly he saw none of the cruelty or ruthlessness of Sorran in Naraleth. But Lali would be busy creating lessons and preparing for class, and maybe it wouldn’t be a good time to bring it up. Several other women around the Ghostlands were expecting, and though they weren’t kaldorei, it might give them something to talk about.

That was another thing, Vaelarian had suggested that Lali should remain in the nursery classroom rather than teaching the older students. He didn’t say it, but he implied that she didn’t know enough to be instructing young blood elves in their history. So what if she was still learning? That didn’t make her any less intelligent, or less capable. Of course, she might prefer to stay with the babies, but that should be her own choice, not Vaelarian’s or anyone else’s. Hethurin had been discussing finding a second teacher, since there would be several new general education students this year, but Raleth hadn’t seen one yet. Looking over each of the items carefully, Raleth compared them to the list that Lali had prepared, and set the items into his basket. He added some things that weren’t there, like a pencil sharpener, and some bookmarks. Those were always useful.

For some time, Vaelarian’s presence had actually been somewhat tolerable. He spent a lot of time playing with and caring for Naraleth, and sometimes he even used Raleth’s name. But lately he’d been his old self again, going out of his way — as Raleth perceived it — to fluster and annoy him. They were still taking their weekly trips to Ratchet, something Raleth didn’t enjoy at all. It took him away from his own home, the goblin town smelled something awful, and he always felt anxious being in Kalimdor. Vaelarian was meeting with the sentinel, which is to say they were spending the day in her room at the inn. She was tasked with locating Lali, and Raleth had to go along with Vaelarian’s demands or he could tell her the truth — all of it. Wouldn’t he rather go and stay with this woman? Clearly she could tolerate him, which was more than Raleth could say for himself. Vaelarian would probably be happier in the woods, surrounded by trees and fellow kaldorei, than skulking around the Ghostlands. But he waved the idea away, saying he preferred to stay here. Raleth would have to see if Lali could change his mind. He could still visit Naraleth, of course, but it would be much preferable to have visits rather than a constant presence. Raleth knew that he loved Lali — and Naraleth — and deserved to be able to see them, but the old man certainly got on his nerves often.

His basket full of the required supplies, Raleth picked out the last item on the list — a lunch box. It was made of wood and carved with a design depicting trees and elf rangers stalking among them. Hopefully Naraleth would like it.

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[Story] The Ghostclaw – Faeris’s Journal

Julan and I are back from our trip, and back on our patrols again. I have to admit, walking around in the forest isn’t as fun as laying in the sun on a beach while drinking a tasty drink with a little paper umbrella. And it’s definitely not as fun as inviting people over to our room. But at the same time, it’s good to be home again. Kavia was excited to see me, and wanted to know about everything we did. I left some parts out, obviously, but I told her about the town and the beaches and things like that. It’s also good to see our little cabin again, and spend time with just Julan. Not that it wasn’t fun having guests, but sometimes I like to have him all to myself.

We unwrapped all of our presents from the party. Most of them were practical things, like my parents got us a set of dishes. We already had a few, and it’s not like we really cook here much, but it’s nice that they are made of wood so they won’t break easily. Maybe my mother remembered all of the times I accidentally broke her dishes when I wasn’t paying attention. Orledin gave us some kind of skeleton that he’d put together with wire, which is a little creepy, but I guess we could use it for a decoration or something. The Captain gave us robes, they have the first letter of our names on them so we can tell them apart. That’s a pretty good gift. Julan’s brother gave us a box from the one shop in town. I was surprised because he doesn’t seem like the type of person who would even know that stuff exists, let alone go inside. But he got us some good things, we were having fun coming up with different names for some of them. The big one is called Mister Kaldorei. I guess Julan’s brother is going to stay here and do paperwork for the Captain, it’s good that they’re going to finally get to know each other. It has to be a little weird learning that you actually have a brother after all those years. My brothers are a lot older, so it’s kind of like I was an only child. They’d already grown up and married rich girls from good families, so my parents didn’t really care what I did. At times it kind of made me mad, but I’m glad about it now. I’m happy that I could make my own choice instead of doing what they wanted.

I also thought it would be fun to make up some of our own drinks like the ones they had there. Obviously they wouldn’t be exactly the same, but we could come up with the names and they’d be our own unique ones. And of course, we can’t make them for any of the other rangers, because alcohol isn’t allowed in the lodge. Unless we invite them to our cabin, I guess. But I don’t want to bend any rules, they can just be for Julan and I. When it’s cold and snowy outside, we could make up some drinks and put umbrellas in them and sit in front of the fire and think about the beach. I think that sounds nice.

I kind of wish we’d talked to the guys there a little more. Obviously there had to be some story there, otherwise how would a kaldorei even meet a sin’dorei? Maybe they were pirates or something, that would make sense. Except Julan said that the kaldorei was a clock maker, so I don’t know. Unless that was just his cover for actually being a pirate. Maybe. I just hope Julan doesn’t get any ideas about running off with kaldorei clock-making pirates.

[Story] Character of the Week – Ahali Whitefeather

[[ Ahali is a Tauren shaman who has been looking after Makota, a Sunwalker, after her mother passed. Here’s a story from his past, with Makota’s mother. ]]

“Ahali!” The voice called from deep within the shadows of the thicket. “What are you doing so far out in the woods?”

The shaman couldn’t hide a little smile at the protest; he knew the voice well and knew also that her protest was all for show. Sure enough, Tahanah emerged a few moments later, with a great rustling of twigs and leaves, which still clung around her horns. Ahali couldn’t remember ever seeing her without something caught in them.

“Well, if you don’t want any of this, I could just take it back…” Ahali reached to pick up the reed basket at his hooves, heaped full of freshly-baked bread. The delicious smell seemed even stronger in the warm afternoon sunshine.

Tahanah huffed and shouldered him aside, crouching to look into the basket. “They baked all of this just for me?” She took one of the small rolls, round as a boulder, and bit into the crust.

Ahali shrugged, still smiling. “Not exactly, no. But I took a little extra, and I figured you might want some.”

She hooked the basket in the crook of her arm, striding quickly over the forest floor. “Come on,” she called back to him. “We’ll need some jam to go with this.”

Ahali had been to Tahanah’s home a few times before — he was hesitant to call it a den, but if he was being honest, that’s really what it was. Hidden between several massive boulders, it was well protected from the elements and from intruders. It was exactly the sort of place a bear might sleep — which was fitting, since she often changed her shape into a bear. Thankfully, she didn’t today. It wasn’t that she was more frightening, he’d seen bears plenty of times before. And she still held that same look in her eye, that sparkle of wit and curiosity that she always had. It was more that any conversation with a bear was frustratingly one-sided. As they neared her shelter, Tahanah ducked inside and emerged a few moments later with a small clay jar, and a bunch of dried fish tied up with twine. She brushed off a nearby rock and set the food upon it, as well as the basket.

She’d never been one for small talk. It was probably why Ahali had never really found the right time to talk to her — really talk, the way he wanted to. Couldn’t he now? She spread jam from the little jar onto another roll, and began cutting the dried fish into smaller chunks. He didn’t really know what to say. It was better to stick to safe things. “Are you coming back to the village?”

Tahanah shrugged. “I don’t think so. I like it out here.”

Ahali frowned a little, looking more critically at the forest surrounding them. “Isn’t it dangerous? There are elves near here.”

“I know,” said Tahanah. “They aren’t dangerous.”

Ahali’s ears lifted in surprise. “No?”

“Just as long as you don’t startle them. But the same could be said for me, couldn’t it?” She grinned at Ahali.

He nodded meekly. On one of his first ventures into the forest, he’d accidentally stumbled over her while she was sleeping. As a bear. Thankfully she’d realized who he was before anything too serious happened, but he still bore a few scars from that mistake.

“I stay away from their dens, and they stay away from mine. It’s all right.”

Ahali frowned, pulling a chunk off from his roll. “But aren’t you lonely out here? I mean–” he hastened to explain. “There’s no bonfire or shops or anything at all.”

“Exactly. That’s the point.”

Ahali sighed. He couldn’t understand, not really. It was nice to be alone sometimes, to gather one’s thoughts and feel a closer connection to the ground beneath their hooves. But all the time, forever? He couldn’t do it. Especially not on those blustery, windy winter nights, wouldn’t she like to have someone else around?

She gestured toward the clay jar. “Have some jam, it’s good.”

Ahali spread some onto his bread with his knife. It was good, of course. It tasted of the forest, of the summer sunshine and the fresh water of the stream, of the vivid green leaves and the little furry creatures that scurried beneath them. She belonged here, just as he belonged to the elements. He couldn’t change her nature any more than he could change his own, but he could learn to live with it.

And it was a pleasant place, he could see why she enjoyed it. Even more so while they shared a delicious meal together. He’d just have to bring more next week.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Braedra’s Diary

Isturon hasn’t been around lately. That’s not entirely accurate — he has been around his house. I’ve seen him once or twice in the hallways at the school, and he spends a lot of time chopping wood in his yard. He left a big stack of wood at the side of our house, I’m not sure why because it’s summer, but I suppose it’s better to chop wood before you actually need it. I also think it might give him a reason to be out there without a shirt on. I don’t know if he’s actually avoiding me, or just trying to give me space. I’m not sure which one I prefer, which makes it more complicated. I’m upset with him for keeping secrets, but I think I’m more upset that he doesn’t seem to think he did anything wrong. Or maybe he hasn’t, and I’m just over-reacting. Verisna said it’s very common among arranged marriages, and she would know better than I do. But I already know he’s willing to keep what he’s doing a secret, why wouldn’t he in the future as well? I am sure he’d say it’s different because he chose to be with me, but I still am not sure.

I went to visit Anorelle and deliver the gift for her and the baby. She seemed to love the outfit and the little soft toy. She gave me a tour of the nursery and I agreed it was very cute. I can’t help but feel a little jealous — not about the baby, I’m not really sure that’s something I want at this stage in my life. But because she’s so obviously taken with Arancon, you can see it whenever she talks about him. I wish I felt that way. Maybe I could, and it’s just my own worry and doubt blocking the way. She told me about their dinner with Aeramin and Imralion, and said she hoped that Aeramin would continue to work on his relationship with his father. There were times it was a little tense, she thought, but overall it went well. And he maybe was coming around to the idea of a sibling. It can’t be easy to be an only child for over a century and then suddenly not be. Anorelle seemed a little confused by the books but she said she knew what they were, a lot of the lady rangers lend them around the quarters.

And then yesterday afternoon I had coffee with Verisna again. Actually, she had coffee and I had one of their fruit drinks. It was far too hot for coffee in my opinion! I’m not sure what kind of fruit was in it, they said the names but I didn’t recognize all of them. They use fancy exotic fruits from all around the world. Regardless, it was very good and refreshing. Bailas was with her, which I assume means they’re trying to work things out. I’m glad, I think she was being a little too harsh on him, he just made a mistake. Maybe I’m being too harsh on Isturon too, but then again, we aren’t married either. That was mostly what I talked about, I’m just not sure what to do. I mentioned maybe talking to Keyalenn’s father some more, and Verisna mentioned that she knew him. Evidently he’s popular to have at parties. She also said she knew several married men who are looking for company. I don’t think that’s the sort of thing I want, but I am not really sure, am I? She said there is a meeting place for singles on the island, people go there to meet and have drinks and the like. I’ve never been to the island, that’s for rich people. She also told me about a beach where no one wears clothes, and suggested I should go there. I don’t think so! I’m sure no one wants to see me without robes on, and I definitely don’t want to see any old men in that state. Still, a vacation could be nice. I know I just went on one, but maybe I could go alone to have time to just think about things. I could ask the lady in the womens’ building to check on the girls, or they could stay there temporarily. I don’t have the money for something like that right now though, so it’s only a dream for now.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Teloth’s Journal

I am going to have a lot to write about in my letter home. Usually I let  Tystus write, since he’s the one that came out here to study magic at the school, and I’m sure Mother finds hearing about arcane spells a lot more interesting than hearing about hawkstriders. They can be really interesting, but I get that not everyone wants to hear about them. Most of my days are pretty similar, hawkstriders like routine and they can get upset by sudden changes. Early in the morning I feed them, then turn them out into the yard if it’s not too cold or rainy. They don’t mind mud, but they don’t like the rain, I can’t blame them because it’s cold water. When they are outside, I clean the dirty straw out of their stalls and put in nice, clean straw. I also make sure they have everything they need in their stalls, like toys and treats, then I make sure all of their equipment is clean and repaired. The rest of the morning I spend on training, the hawkstriders here are all pretty well trained, so it’s more for exercise than anything else. If we had any young birds, I’d practice commands and getting used to the saddle and things like that. When it starts to get hot outside, I bring them into the stable where they can have a little nap and some cool water. After their break, it’s time to brush and clean them if needed. They don’t seem to mind having a bath even though it’s also water, I guess because I don’t need to get them totally wet unless they are really dirty, like if they’ve rolled in the mud. But they don’t usually do that, hawkstriders like to keep their feathers clean and will spend a lot of time grooming themselves, and each other. If any hawkstriders were out on a patrol, they get a snack and some water. In the evening when it’s cooled off, it’s back out to the yard again so they can run and socialize. After that is their evening meal and I put blankets on them to sleep if it’s going to be cold. We don’t have any breeding pairs, so I don’t have to worry about watching eggs or feeding chicks or  anything like that.

So things are pretty predictable, I didn’t expect that I’d find a girlfriend — a real girlfriend — and things would get serious. I mean, I think they’re pretty serious? I’ve met both of her parents and we’re talking about things in the future. We’ve talked about her getting some hawkstriders and me living there so I could care of them, and breeding them so we could start our own farm. She wants to have a greenhouse to grow vegetables, and she lives really close to the clinic so she wouldn’t have to give up her job taking care of (elf) babies. It all sounds really great and sometimes I remember that we haven’t even known each other very long. But she’s really smart and pretty, and she cares a lot about a lot of things. I’m not sure why she wants a hawkstrider guy but I’m not complaining. Her mother doesn’t seem to like me at all, and I guess I can’t really blame her. But her father seems to like me, and his family has a big farm on the border of Eversong woods, I’m hoping we can visit soon. Esladra thinks maybe we could buy a breeding pair from them. Is all of this really going to happen already? I will have to find a replacement for the rangers if so. I can’t just leave all of those hawkstriders with no one to care for them. And I wouldn’t be getting paid anymore, which worries me a bit. Esladra says we’ll make money once we sell the chicks, but that won’t be for a long time. I also don’t know if they will be good chicks or not — obviously, better chicks will sell for more money.

I also don’t know what I’ll do if Tystus ever decides to move away. He’s got a lot of years ahead at the school, so I probably shouldn’t worry about it too much. By that time, surely he’ll be able to look after himself, right? I can’t watch over him for his whole life. And maybe he’ll find a girl at the school. Or a boy. It’s scary but also exciting for all of these things to happen. We had dinner at Tik’s special table in the kitchen nook for private dinners and then we walked back to her house. I stayed there all night. I hope she’ll invite me back again, though I have to get up really early to get back to the barn in time for the hawkstriders’ breakfast. If I’m late, all of the rangers are going to know about it from the squawking!

[Story] Character of the Week – Hraavik (LoTRO)

[[ In LoTRO for PVP you can play a monster character. There are several “classes” to choose from, including wargs who attack from stealth similar to a rogue. It’s pretty fun! This is a story about my warg, Hraavik (who is named after the main character from my 2008 NaNo). ]]

Smoke stung Hraavik’s eyes and nose, yet he kept moving toward it. He was flanked on either side by his pack-mates, scars written across their hides. The smoke was made by the tall ones, and the pack had learned that it was better to go along with their plans. For generations they had hunted alone, sought out their prey among the forest, anyone who was foolish enough to venture too far from their settlements. But now the tall ones came among them, calling the pack with their horns that echoed through the valleys. There were others gathered too, the many-legged ones and their strange hissing ways, but the tall ones were in charge. At first Hraavik resisted this, for he was the leader of his pack and was not accustomed to bowing to anyone’s word. But the tall ones had sharp metal, axes and whips and had no fear of him. And, as he soon learned, the tall ones had little interest in the meat of man or hobbit. All of the spoils went to Hraavik and his pack, they could eat until their bellies were full and taut. Thus did he and his brothers begin to associate the tall ones and their horns and smoke with hunting, and the sweet taste of easy meat.

They lay on the black dirt that surrounded the fire, their eyes bright with greed. The tall ones spoke of their plan, but it mattered very little to Hraavik. He knew already what to do; he simply needed to be told where their prey was hiding. Did they tremble already in their burrows, frightened by the war horns? Or did they carry on with their business, blithely unaware of the danger that rested only a short distance away on tense paws. Hraavik liked it better when they ran away — it made the game more exciting.

The tall one’s leader wore a skull atop his head, the antler tines broken and intertwined like the branches of a lightning-struck tree. His gaze rested upon Hraavik for a moment, appraising him and his pack. Hraavik was not concerned. He had chosen his best hunters to accompany him today, the rest could squabble over the scraps if there were any left. The more prey they brought down, the more the tall ones would be pleased, and they would call for him again. The tall one chief said something to another, but Hraavik did not know what it was. They waited with restless energy, their jaws slavering with anticipation.

They did not have to wait long. The war horn reverberated through the camp, stirring all who had gathered. Like a black wave they poured from the valley and toward the settlement. Hraavik and his pack broke off from the main group, disappearing into the shadows of the grass. Ambush was the key to a successful hunt, prey caught off guard was as good as dead already. They could run at an even pace across many miles, and their bodies were taut with muscle, but they were not especially fast. Hraavik would strike swiftly from the shadows while the rest of the army attacked another point. He could already taste the warm blood upon his tongue, it was so near now.

It was a hobbit-den, built into the sides of the surrounding hills. Some worked outside, tending to plants or washing clothing. Chickens and goats wandered the pathways, and young hobbits played games on the sod roofs. The jumble of smells and sounds was jarring to a younger warg, but not Hraavik and his hunters. They moved into position, Hraavik licking his jaws in anticipation. There might be weapons, but in Hraavik’s experience, it was rare. He hated the stinging things the most – they could reach from a very far distance and stuck into your hide. The last time he’d had to chew them out and one had become infected. Better to kill any before they were able to sting them. At the edge of the field they waited, concealed among the crops, until the tall ones’ signal.

[Story] Thorns – Booty Bay

It’s hard to believe we have been here for most of the summer already. The days go by quickly when you’re relaxing on the beach, sipping a drink and listening to the waves wash up on the sand. That’s not to say I haven’t been working though, I have. I’ve been able to make up several batches of clock workings, though eventually I’m going to run out of materials and need to get more. The shops here have some materials but it might be better to have it sent from Stormwind. I’ve also found some things that might make interesting clocks — there’s Nash’s shells of course. Personally it’s not my taste, but he’s excited about it. I did find a piece of driftwood with a nice arc to it, I think it would work really well as a clock if I hollowed out the back part and put the workings in there. There are also some pieces of sea glass in all different shades of green and blue. I’m not sure yet what I want to do with them, but maybe a mosaic would be nice?

It’s not been boring either. We met some blood elves who were here on their honeymoon and they invited Nash and I back to their room for drinks. I didn’t actually think they were serious or I might have told them no. Not saying I would have for sure, but I might have. Nash was worried they were just going to rob us, so we didn’t bring any money with. But they didn’t, they made us drinks and we talked. Then we did some other stuff. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, because I did — I think anyone would be a little flattered. But I don’t think Nash was very happy about it, I told him we didn’t have to stay but I know he’ll do what he thinks I want. It also felt a little impersonal, like they were only interested in me because I’m kaldorei, not for my personality or conversation or anything like that. At least I know Nash sticks around because he likes talking to me, or at least I think he does. It was definitely an experience though, and I definitely needed a couple of days to recover from that kind of party. Do blood elves do that kind of stuff all the time? I don’t know. Nash said that he knew one of the guys from before, when he lived in Silvermoon.

Sooner or later we’ll have to go back to Stormwind. I’m worried about him being able to get past the guards again, but he doesn’t seem to be. I thought maybe he could stay here, but I’m sure he’d get lonely. Opening a location here is possible, but it would mean a lot of extra work. Though I think we could have a few different styles already made and people could just buy one of those as they pass through. Most people here are just traveling, and we wouldn’t be getting custom orders like we do in Stormwind. The winter season is the most busy for the shop there, and we’ll both be needed to build, repair, and take orders. I know better than Rose or Josie what is possible and not with custom orders, and they’d both kill me if I ditched them during the winter busy season anyway. Then again, what would happen to our shop here if we both left for the season? I suppose we could just close it up. I don’t know if many people come through the bay in winter, it’s stormy and rainy. There’s still a lot we need to figure out.

He said he missed talking to the girl at the cathedral, but insists she’s just a friend. I tried to explain that he’s allowed to like her if he wants to, but he freaked out and said I was trying to get rid of him. I don’t know how he always manages to hear exactly the opposite of what I’m trying to say.