[Story] Character of the Week – Berwick Amberlight

[[ Berwick is a treasure hunter, he travels around the world digging in ruins for things to sell. He was captured during the purge of Dalaran and was held there until Xyliah and Kitty helped him escape. Since he lost his house and gold then, he’s been working to build his fortunes back up again. He’s married to Xyliah, a former ranger. ]]

“What have you got there?” Xyliah brushed a stray strand of hair back from her eyes with her wrist. Her hands, like Berwick’s, were covered in a heavy layer of dust and cobwebs.

Berwick held a small ornamental box that he’d plucked out of the rubble on the cave floor. It looked valuable; the lid and sides were carved with an elaborate floral design with gems inset. Even if it was empty, the box itself would fetch a nice price. But he didn’t think it was empty — it looked like the sort of box you’d store little valuables in. He ran his fingers along the seam, searching for a latch and hoping that it wasn’t locked. With a soft click, the latch released and Berwick peeked inside.

The interior of the box was lined with a fine soft fabric dyed a deep purple, despite its age it still held its color well. That was probably because it had been hidden in this cave all that time. Berwick and Xyliah had found dozens of caves just like this one, tucked behind trees and around hidden corners. Not all of them held valuables, but enough of them did that Berwick was glad they’d come. Sure, they had a few demons to deal with, and more than one cave had been home to a cranky animal, but it had been well worth it. Berwick couldn’t wait to get back to Silvermoon to sell their haul. There was nothing that collectors in Silvermoon liked better than old elven artifacts, and they had plenty.

Berwick hooked a finger inside the box and lifted out the contents — a necklace made of some dark-colored metal, set with deep red stones that reminded him of droplets of fresh blood. It was well-made, but it didn’t have the same style as the other things they’d found, it was more harsh and severe, the angles sharper and the edges rougher. Something about it made him feel uneasy. Still, he held it for Xyliah to see.

“Necklace. Ought to be worth something, I’d say.”

Xyliah gasped, gingerly taking it from him. “Wow. It’s beautiful.” Berwick regarded her curiously. Usually her superlative of choice was “valuable” or “rare”. She didn’t usually call things beautiful, especially jewelry, which she never showed much interest in. Xyliah draped it around her neck, fastening the latch in the back. “What do you think?”

“Yeah,” Berwick motioned to the box. “Let’s put it back in so — it doesn’t get damaged.” He didn’t want to tell her the real reason, that that feeling of unease had leapt higher when he saw it around Xyliah’s neck. “It’s probably cursed or something.” He was joking — wasn’t he? Berwick had no magical ability, no way to know if something was cursed or not. Surely some of the things he’d dug up had been magical at one time, but ordinarily he dismissed such silly ideas. Things were just things. It had lain here for centuries, how could it do anything to them now.

Xyliah touched her finger to one of the gems. “I want to keep it.”

“What? Why?” Berwick blinked at her.

“I like it. You always say we can keep one find from each trip, and I usually don’t even do that. So I want to keep this.”

He couldn’t think of a reason that she shouldn’t keep it — at least one that didn’t sound like superstitious nonsense. Besides, she was probably right, she was wearing it and nothing bad had happened. “At least put it in here while we’re still working, then.”

She nodded and undid the latch, carefully coiling its lengths back into the little box. To Berwick, they looked like the black shimmering body of a venomous snake, with little red gems for eyes. He was relieved to clap the lid closed and not have to see it anymore. Could he talk her out of keeping it? That was unlikely, once Xyliah had made up her mind it was not easily budged. He could pretend to lose it, but he was certain she would know that it was intentional. Nor could he lie to her, for one she’d known right away, and the guilt would eat away at him. Berwick dropped the box into his pack and tied the string tightly. He was just being ridiculous, he could imagine Xyliah saying just that. There was nothing to worry about.

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[Story] Berwick’s Letter

Dear Hethurin,

Greetings from Pandaria! I know it’s been a long time since we have been in touch. Xyliah and I have been here looking for treasure. There are hardly any outsiders here anymore, I don’t think we’ve seen anyone at all once we left the shrine. Still plenty of bears, of course, but they just go about their lives as usual. I like that because it means there’s no one else here looking for stuff. We have enough now that I think we should return to Silvermoon and sell it, most of it looks pretty good but there’s a few statues that I think will bring a lot of gold. There are also some old books, I can’t read pandaren so I don’t know what they are about, but perhaps a collector might be interested in them. We will have to bring back some spices as well, so Tik can make noodles for everyone. They never seem to taste quite the same when we cook them though, do they? I suspect the bears have some secret ingredient they aren’t telling us about.

Hopefully we can find a bear here who can make a portal. If not we might need you to come, if you aren’t too busy of course. I guess the fall classes must have started up, so you probably have a lot going on there. I also have one other request, if it’s not too much trouble. Once we sell our current stock, I’d like to see if there are still any properties available in the Ghostlands. It’s fine if we need to fix it up — well, I’ll probably hire your builders if it’s too complicated, but I can do some basic things. Like painting. I thought Xyliah would want to be closer to the rangers, because that’s where her sister is, but she said it would be okay being near the school as well. She’s a bit worried about spiders getting in, so I think she wants to be able to have it warded. It doesn’t have to be too big, just the ordinary rooms and maybe a few extra. We’ll need storage for things we’ve found that haven’t sold yet. We also had the idea to give each room its own theme, like we could have a troll room and put hammocks in, along with a lot of troll pottery and statues and masks and things. She even said her father could make chairs that look like they’re made of bones. Wouldn’t that be neat? I bet no one else has troll chairs. At least not any elves. I hope we can have a Pandaria room, too. They’re some of my favorite statues. Xyliah wants our sitting room to have fossils, that’ll be fun too, especially if I can find a really big skull.

If there aren’t any houses that need fixing up, just a plot would be okay, but we’d have to hire the builders to help design it. I’m really happy that she’s finally coming around to the idea. It feels a lot more permanent if we have our own place, even if we’re not there all the time, it’s still a place to return to that will be really ours. Everywhere else we lived has always belonged to someone else. I know she’ll never want to really settle down, I wouldn’t either, but it’s good to have something that’s ours. And you know, if we ever do need any extra rooms for anything we’d be prepared.

Do you need any decorations for the school, or antique books or anything like that? We even found some old pandaren weapons, but I don’t know if they could still be used or not. They’re probably better suited to decoration. Oh, and a big gong thing. It’s really loud. We might keep that.

Your friend,
Berwick

[Story] Story a Week 33 – Monkey

“Hey Xyliah,” Berwick called across the clearing. “Come and take a look at this.”

They were enclosed on all sides by lush jungle, very like those in Stranglethorn, except the trunks were not wood at all, but a sort of tough reed. It was not nearly so warm here either, even now in the height of summer, the nights got chilly enough that they needed extra blankets. But it did rain more here, as they had learned on their first few nights. After their entire camp, including their bedrolls, got soaked, they relocated atop a rock outcropping. There were wild animals too, porcupines that waddled around the camp in search of food, and enormous moths, which were startling but harmless. Berwick had even seen a tiger once, at dusk, its eyes alight with the last remnants of the sunset. They were both armed in case of such dangers, but it hadn’t caused them any trouble. It was a unique place, somehow both familiar and foreign. Several years ago, right after his escape from Dalaran, they had lived here, but it was along the beach, and felt like an entirely different place than this. Berwick had finally agreed to return to the Ghostlands, but camping at the school wasn’t really what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to get back to hunting treasure, the one thing he’d ever really been good at. But it had been a lot more difficult than he’d imagined, and he worried that he’d lost his knack for it.

None of his old spots had produced much of interest, and while they’d found a few scrolls and pieces of pottery that were interesting, nothing yet in Pandaria held the promise of real money. Berwick was hoping that changed soon. They had enough to get by, but he wanted the feeling of permanence that their own house would provide, whether it was in the Ghostlands or somewhere else. Xyliah always said she didn’t need one, but he thought she should have one anyway. Besides, he was sure she’d like it once she got used to the idea.

Beneath the carpet of moss and vines, he’d found stone — that wasn’t so unusual in itself, but it had obviously been carved and shaped. The surface was smooth and rounded, and he could see some carved lines though he wasn’t yet sure what they were.

Xyliah brushed the dirt from her hands onto her pants and hopped down from where she had been digging. She’d already discovered a small stone chest — unfortunately broken, but the latch could easily be replaced — and some small jade statues. These were very common and not especially valuable, but people back home would probably pay well for ones with pleasing subjects or that were particularly well carved. “What is that?” she asked, pulling away some of the moss.

“Looks like it might be a statue,” Berwick said, scratching his chin. “Or at least part of one.” They both worked to loose the carved stone from its bed of vegetation, untangling the roots and vines from the cracks. Before too long, they found themselves staring at five long, carved stone toes.

“It’s a foot?” Xyliah said doubtfully. “Who would want a statue of a foot?”

No one, that’s who. And it was an odd foot, at that — the toes were extremely long, and one stuck out at an odd angle. Studying it, Berwich reasoned that it was meant to depict a hozen, one of the monkey-like people that inhabited these jungles. They’d not had much contact with them, thankfully, but he’d seen them swinging through the tops of the trees, their spears slung over their shoulders. They hooted and whooped, making their presence known to the entire forest.

“I think it’s been broken,” Berwick said, peering around the far end. The entire thing was massive, almost six feet in length. If it was only part of a statue, the whole thing must have been impressively large. “Maybe the rest of it’s here too–” he gestured around the clearing, to the other small hills. It would take hours to find and uncover them all, but Berwick’s heart raced at the prospect of it — a mystery statue, perhaps from a temple? And where there was one statue, there were usually others. He did not know if it would be valuable, but at least it was exciting.

[Story] Berwick’s Journal

Life has been quiet, we’ve been returning to some of my old spots to look for anything people might have missed, but it’s not been that productive. The thing about treasure hunting is that it’s just like anything else, people always want the “newest thing”. Obviously when you’re looking for old treasure, that’s not easy to do, but what I mean is the newest trend in Silvermoon or whatever. For a while, anything from Uldum was going for crazy high prices, and one year everyone wanted fossils. Some things are always good to sell, like demon-related artifacts and anything risque or obscene. People will pay a lot for those, partly because they’re rare and partly because they’re sort of illegal. It depends on who you ask. The last couple of times we’ve gone into a town for supplies, we’ve heard about the islands. You know, the ones swarming with demons, those ones. But they mentioned some elves who have lived there for thousands of years, and if there’s one thing elves are good at, it’s leaving behind things that people will want to buy. Especially magical and artsy things.

There’s only one problem. Well, two problems. First is the demons, of course. I don’t know if people are exaggerating, but they make it sound like the place is swarming with them. I’m not that great of a fighter, and I definitely can’t hold off a swarm of demons. Xyliah is good with a bow, but it would take an awful lot of arrows to stop them. And I don’t want anything to happen to Thalien or Caras, either. It may just be that people are making it sound worse than it is. I’ve dealt with tigers and gorillas and trolls in the jungle, so as long as we’re alert it might be okay. I feel like we should at least go and see for ourselves to get a handle on how dangerous it is there. If there are towns and outposts, those must at least be safe enough for people to stay. And there are armies from all over gathering up there. If demons see them, they’d hopefully attack soldiers first.

The other problem is Dalaran. Though the human who ordered our execution is gone, so they say, that doesn’t make me feel any safer about going there. She may be gone, but all those who carried out her orders are probably still there. No one stopped her when she murdered innocent shopkeepers, or locked us up in the dark. I don’t know if I could do it. I shake just thinking about it. Maybe other elves are willing to risk it, but I’m not sure if I can. Do the shopkeepers there just smile and pretend nothing ever happened? Are the cells still there? What about our old house? I just don’t think I could do it. That would mean we’d need to find a mage who could take us out into the islands directly, and I don’t know if Hethurin can. I’ve written to Xanaroth, but I haven’t received a reply yet. He might be there now, studying all of the new kinds of demons. Then again, he’s not very good at portals either.

I know I should talk it over with Xyliah, but it’s hard to tell what she’s really thinking sometimes. I think she says things because it’s what I want to hear – or what she thinks I want to hear. It could be just the thing we need, though. Ancient elven artifacts… I can hear the coins jangling just thinking about it.

[Story] Treasure Hunting

The trip hadn’t gone exactly as Berwick had hoped. Yes, they’d found a few small things of value, but nothing really great, nothing that would provide that push they needed to get back onto their feet. And the rain hadn’t helped, either. Besides being cold and uncomfortable, it made the ground muddy and soggy and harder to see anything hidden there. Most of the ruins here had been well picked over, at least the ones closer to outposts. Berwick was convinced there still had to be some left in the more remote places, tangled by the dense forest. According to maps he’d seen, there had once been expansive cities here, with structures hidden under ground. If they could find one of those, they could surely find something hidden away. To complicate things, there were ogres, too. They were dangerous, but not very smart. Berwick didn’t think it would be difficult at all to slip past them with some kind of distraction. And they may have discouraged other explorers, too.

He’d saved up a little, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted to get a house somewhere, their own house that didn’t really belong to someone else. For now it would just be a home base, a place to organize, clean, and store things until they were able to be sold. That would be the first step to rebuilding what had been lost, and Berwick was certain he’d feel more normal if he had that. He and Xyliah had talked about where they wanted to live, but as before she hadn’t been very specific. She just said it didn’t matter, which he knew wasn’t really true. Then she admitted that she wanted to be close to her family, which meant close to Silvermoon. He understood, but that didn’t make it any easier. He hadn’t returned there for decades, and there was good reason. He didn’t want to see the sneers on the rich peoples’ faces when they saw him, hear the names they’d call him. Xyliah didn’t understand, thankfully, what it was like. He was glad of that, but he felt guilty keeping her from them. Maybe somewhere in the Ghostlands, near Hethurin’s school. It seemed silly to return since they’d already left, but it did make sense. Property was cheap there, and there were a lot of people they knew. If they wanted to set up a museum, it was only a short flight away from the city. Anyone willing to travel out to the Ghostlands to see a museum hopefully wouldn’t care that its co-owner was a former rat from the Row. Maybe they could even provide a dragonhawk service. They’d need to build a large enough stable to house them. Berwick was sure Xyliah wouldn’t allow Thalien and Carras to fly strangers, so they’d need a couple more. That would cost money too.

He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but he also thought he’d be further ahead by now. How many years had it been? His body had recovered from the ordeal, but he wasn’t sure about the rest of him. Some nights he still awoke thinking he was back in the dark cell, that their rescue and everything since had just been the dream, that he would die there forgotten. He had to be patient, he reminded himself. It had taken years to build what he had before, and it would take years to replace it. And this time he had Xyliah to help him.

[Story] Berwick’s Notes

Thalien is alive. I don’t know how it’s possible, but Xyliah is so sure that it’s him. It definitely looks like him, and it acts like him, but how could he have survived? How did he find us here after all of this time? I know I should believe what’s in front of me, but it all seems so impossible. Xyliah believes it’s him, and she’s really happy, so I shouldn’t question it. She hasn’t let him leave her sight since she saw him. There are some injuries, nothing too serious, and she’s tending to them. The stablemaster patched him up initially. I’ve been getting fruit and things from the school for him to eat, he still likes those although I would guess probably all dragonhawks do. I want to talk to him, to ask what happened, but of course he can’t tell us. I spent so long feeling responsible for his death that now he’s alive I’m not certain how to feel. I mean, it’s a relief of course, but it’s also confusing. If he is alive, how was I still captured? I’m not blaming him — or Xyliah — but I don’t understand.

The nights are getting cold here now, there’s frost on the ground in the mornings. I’d rather move into one of the houses but Xyliah wants to stay near Thalien in the loft. I don’t see why he can’t stay inside the house, but I know better than to argue. Besides, it’s not so bad with all the blankets, and it’s an excuse to stay close together. I keep thinking of warm places; Stranglethorn or Tanaris. Maybe even back to Pandaria, there were so many places there we never got to. We’ll have to wait until Thalien is mended, of course, and I wonder what we’ll do with two dragonhawks. I was worried that Caras might feel jealous, but he seems merely curious about the new arrival. I made sure to give him some fruit too, so he didn’t feel left out.

Tik told me that Hethurin is back, but that we’d have to wait to see him until he was feeling better. Maybe he was the one who found Thalien? That wouldn’t explain how he was injured though, Thalien would never hurt anyone unless he felt threatened. I guess the answers will have to wait a bit longer. Maybe it’s wrong of me, but I can’t help but feel a little jealous if Hethurin is the one who found him. The way Xyliah’s face lit up when she saw him alive… I wish it could have been me who did that.

[Story] Berwick’s Notes

I didn’t realize it had been so long since I wrote in this book. Flipping back a few pages, I see that I write that every time. I can’t say that it’s hard to find the time, because we’re not really doing anything here other than hunting. Xyliah is getting skins for her father. Seeing as there aren’t many animals here, that doesn’t take up too much time. And I have a lot of things on my mind, I guess I just haven’t wanted to write them down. Mostly it’s the same as before. I want to start looking for things to sell again, get the business up and running. It’s just discouraging because I lost all of my gold, and all of my maps and notes, and I don’t have any place to store things that we do find until I can sell them. It’s like I’m starting all over again. I did it once, right? It should be possible to do it again. But I’m older and it seems more daunting this time around, maybe because I know I can fail. Before I never really gave it much thought. It seems like Xy is still uncertain about what she wants too, and I don’t want to force her into anything she doesn’t want. Like she doesn’t know where she wants to live eventually, or if she even wants a house at all. I brought up working in her father’s shop again and she seemed to like that idea — I don’t especially. I mean, her father is fine, just working in a shop and dealing with customers really isn’t what I pictured myself doing. I could do it, I did right after I got out of Dalaran, but do I really want to? No. She changed her mind as soon as she saw that I wasn’t too happy about the idea. I wish she’d just tell me what she wants instead of changing it. Even if it’s bad, it wouldn’t matter.

The other big news is that Hethurin got married. It’s the guy that’s been working at the school, he is pretty young but they definitely seem to love each other so I think it’ll be good. I’m happy for him, he deserves it after everything he’s been through. I didn’t get much chance to talk to them but I guess he helps around the school and does the baking. He made the cake for the wedding himself, it was really good. I asked Xy if it was weird seeing him get married, but she said it wasn’t. I would have thought it would be, at least a little, but I don’t know. Then she said she was glad that we’d been in Dalaran. She meant because otherwise we wouldn’t have met, which I guess is probably true. Though I could have met her somewhere else too. Maybe somewhere else I wouldn’t have been locked up in a cage for weeks, I don’t know. It just seemed like a weird thing to say and all of those feelings of guilt came back. About Thalien, about the people who didn’t get out. Why would she say that?

I guess the plan will be to start looking for things once the weather is good, except we’re coming up onto the fall and winter, so we can’t go now. I can use the time to start re-drawing all of my maps, and looking for leads in the books here. I’m sure Hethurin can make me a portal into the city if I need one, though I’m not sure if they actually have more books there or not.