[Story] Thorns – Pirate’s Booty

Nash is doing better. He’s not as pale, and he’s more awake and alert when I come to see him. He says it doesn’t hurt as much, but he’s bored. I take it if he’s bored then he’s not in pain, which is a good sign. Last time I came I brought a book for him to read about pirates, and he wouldn’t stop talking about them. Except his ideas are a little different than the book. I suggested he ought to write it down, though he’s not that good with writing, it would be good practice and help keep him busy while his leg heals. I have a feeling he’s going to write about booty a lot. I tried to give him some ideas, I said there should be a sea monster and cannons and stuff, and people walking the plank. All that kind of stuff should be in a book about pirates, I guess if he wants all that other stuff, he can put it in. I think it would be a little strange, but I guess those kinds of books are popular.

We talked a little more about Astranaar. It’s not really a subject I enjoy, and Nash always asks a lot of questions. Like I told him about the time I fell off a roof and almost broke my leg. Thankfully I didn’t, because I landed in some bushes, but the sentinels all heard me fall and came over to see what I was doing. Which was eavesdropping on their meeting, of course. Nash talks a lot about Syrina and how awful she was — which I agree with, don’t get me wrong. But isn’t an awful mother figure better than none at all? I don’t know. There wasn’t any one sentinel who took me under her wing or would sneak me extra snacks or something like that. It was as if they all pretended not to see me, like I was somebody else’s problem. I don’t even know what my mother’s name was, or what she looks like, or how she came to leave me with the sentinels rather than keep me.

He wanted to know if he could come back. I know Rose isn’t happy about the idea at all, she said it’s too much of a risk. But she’s not there in the evenings, so what’s she going to do about it? I can read her well enough, I think, to know she’d be unhappy but eventually get over it. Besides, as I told Nash, I think the creepy new elves will actually make it easier for him to blend in. No one is going to look twice at a short person with long ears now, they’ll just assume it’s one of those elves. I also thought it would be good to make a hiding place, just in case. Something behind a bookcase or in a closet that leads to a little hidden room. I’m pretty sure I could figure out how to make that myself. Then, if the guards do come looking, he can slip into there and they won’t be able to find him. There are already fewer patrols around the shop. Hopefully they’ll start to give up soon. Most likely they aren’t even looking for Nash anymore, just the humans who escaped.

I thought he was friends with Zar and the others, but now he insists he never wants to see them again. That’s some gratitude for sneaking him out of jail, right? But I agree with him, I don’t think it’s a good idea for him to hang around them anymore. He kept saying he had to go, but he never did. It was just another odd rule he made for himself. He likes Temperance though, that’s the human here who’s been caring for him. He seemed surprised when I told him that she’d been bitten. I guess I really shouldn’t have done that. It’s not my business. I didn’t tell Nash all of it, how it was really our fault and Rose feels guilty about it and that’s how they know each other.

Most of all, Nash is excited to go to Booty Bay. It’ll have to be once his leg is better, though I think it would be okay as long as he had a cast and we weren’t walking too much. I do want to swim though, the water there is warm and so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. I told him we can have drinks with little paper umbrellas and go on the beach. I’m pretty sure he’ll love it. Even with the goblins, it’s a beautiful place and so different from where he’s been before. And we can pretend to be pirates, which I’m sure he’d appreciate.


[Story] Thorns – The Patient II

Sister Temperance didn’t mean to eavesdrop, at least not really, but sounds echoed down the empty stone halls in the lower levels of the Cathedral. She kept the door of her own room open to better hear anyone who might be descending the stairs, and if her patient called out in pain or needed anything. It had been so many years since she’d had a patient, and she missed it more than she liked to admit. It wasn’t just the break in monotony, though that was a large part of it too. Since coming to the Cathedral, her days varied very little; each day was like the one before, and inside the seasons never changed. The windows were of colored glass, worked in geometric patterns or important historical figures, they were meant to look beautiful, rather than show what lay outside. It’s true she could have left at any time, but where would she go? What would she do? The village would never welcome her back, and she know only a handful of people in Stormwind.

Tending to the injured elf gave Temperance something to do, a focus outside of herself, and she was diligent in her care. His bandages were checked and changed regularly, as were his sheets and the straw in his bed, she ensured he always had food and medicine. Since waking up, he’d liked the little number and word puzzles, and she’d brought some books that she thought weren’t too boring to read. When they’d spoken before, the elf said he didn’t have anywhere else to go, and she suggested that he could stay here. It might not be what he was used to, but it would be safe. And she’d have someone to talk to — or at least, to listen. The elf didn’t do a lot of talking, but that was fine. Just his presence, another living soul nearby brightened her spirits, gave her a purpose and direction she’d lacked. In her old chapel, she’d known everyone who stepped over the doorway, treated them like her own kin. Things weren’t like that here, but she could at least treat this elf, who seemed to have no one either.

But then his friend had come again, the tall and lanky kaldorei who had delivered him that first rainy night. Temperance still didn’t trust him, he seemed shifty and as if he was hiding something. And though she hadn’t really meant to, she overheard them talking — Nash wanted to leave the city, go somewhere far away, and the kaldorei told him not to. She could at least agree with that — traveling anywhere with his leg in that condition would be reckless. If it didn’t set properly, he could be unable to walk comfortably for the rest of his life. Though she couldn’t hear all the words, the tone of the conversation was clear — there was more to their relationship than just working together. When she went in later to check on Nash, they were sitting very close together, the smaller elf having fallen asleep against the kaldorei. She hurriedly took the dishes and excused herself, but she was angry. Who was he to just show up and ruin everything, especially after he hadn’t bothered the first day? Nash had probably asked a hundred times when he was going to visit. He needed time to heal, and he would be safer here — running off would be foolish for more than one reason. But his leg was responding well to the treatment, it likely felt much better, and Nash would try to walk on it soon. Even if she warned him not to, she was certain he would try. And then he’d want to leave, healed or not. She couldn’t really be upset at Nash — she would have left too, if she could. But she couldn’t, and soon he would be gone, and everything would go back to how it had been before.

[Story] Thorns – Star’s Advice

“It’s really early,” Star muttered when she opened the door, still in her sleeping gown that left very little to the imagination.

Harrier lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “I know. I couldn’t sleep.”

The kaldorei woman sighed and motioned him in, moving over to put a pot of water to boil over the fire. Harrier took the chair that overlooked the window, his fingers drumming the armrest.

“You seem troubled,” said Star. Of course he was, that was the only reason he ever came to see her. She didn’t mind, really, especially because he paid her for her time — but it was actually more difficult than her usual work. Feelings were much more complicated.

“Nash got caught.”

Star’s delicate brows raised in alarm. “Oh no. I’m sorry.” The blood elf had been by a time or two to see her as well, and for the same reason that Harrier did. She thought it would just be simpler if they talked to each other instead of to her. “What are you going to do?”

The Harrier’s ears twitched and he glanced outside the window, watching a pair of guards who were passing along the street. “He already got out, with the help of — someone else. But he came back to the shop. Rose was furious.”

Star fetched the boiling kettle and poured two cups of water, setting the leaves in to steep. “Hmm. I can see why, but where else would he go?”

“They’re looking for him. And some others, I guess some others got out too. The blocks around the shop are crawling with guards, I have to make a bunch of stops at other places before I go anywhere.”

“You must be worried,” Star said, adding milk and sugar to her cup.

“He’s — somewhere safe for now. I don’t want to tell you just in case they ask you. But he’s injured pretty badly. I just don’t know what to do now. Everything was fine and now it’s a mess,” Harrier said, scratching his beard.

“Was it?” Star asked quietly.

His ear twitched again. “I thought so. But I guess not. I don’t know what to say, even when I really try it makes no damn difference. He’s always upset and I don’t even know why he cares so much.”

“Of course you do.”

Reluctantly, Harrier reached for his own cup of tea. “I guess I do. But he shouldn’t. I told him not to.”

Star shook her head. “You know very well it doesn’t work like that. Of all people.”

“Thanks, Star, that’s really helpful.”

“At the very least you can be there for him as a friend. You can do that, right? He needs one.”

Harrier stared into the cup. “He has one. That mage and dwarf.”

“You’re insufferable. I don’t know how he stands you either,” Star said, sipping her tea. “Just go see him. He must be so scared and alone right now.”

Harrier withdrew some coins from his pocket and left them on the table. “Fine.” He gathered up his things — a bundle of clothes with something wrapped within — and left.

[Story] Thorns – The Patient

Sister Temperance peered through the doorway into the small room, her footfalls silent on the cold stone floor. The elf was still asleep. Glancing down the hallway to ensure that it was empty, she entered and pulled the door closed behind her. The plate on the little table beside the bed held only crumbs, which was also good. She’d need to bring more bread and cheese from the kitchen, and make up another pot of broth. That he was hungry enough to eat was an encouraging sign, and the food would help him heal.

Marjolaine had knocked at the door of her chambers very late the night before, her cloak pulled tightly around her in the freezing rain. She asked if Temperance would be willing to take in someone, as a favor. Even if she had not owed the woman her life, Temperance would have accepted. Marjolaine was sparse with the details, saying only that he’d escaped from the Stockades and it was important that he not be discovered by the guards. And he was an elf, Temperance learned a short time later, when the kaldorei delivered the patient to her doorstep, wrapped in a blanket. The sort of elf that wasn’t supposed to be in Stormwind. But Temperance wasn’t afraid of him, how could she be? He was so thin and so pale, she could feel the heat of infection burning in his broken leg.

She made up a bed in one of the downstairs chambers, where no one except the rats usually ventured. While he still slept fitfully, she washed and re-bandaged his leg, applying an ointment of crushed herbs that would hopefully reduce the pain and swelling. It would need to be set properly soon, but she wanted to wait for the infection to subside before she tried. She was uncertain whether it would or not, it had been left untreated for quite a while, and it could turn worse just as quickly. She would just have to wait and pray for the best; she had some training in healing but had rarely dealt with such a serious injury.

He awoke disoriented and frightened, but she explained where he was — that he was safe — and a friend of Marjolaine’s. He wanted to know how he’d got there, and whether the elf had come by looking for him. In fact, he asked several times. No, he hadn’t said much when he left the blood elf here, yes he was allowed to visit, no he hadn’t mentioned the blood elf’s pets. Temperance found him rather frightening, he was tall and had a predatory air to him, but she promised that she’d wake her patient if he came by to see him. She tried, a little, to understand how a blood elf had found himself in Stormwind, but she couldn’t make much sense of his answer. He’d come looking for work, but why here, so far from home, in a land that was dangerous to him? And why would he stay here?

Because it felt like home, he’d said, and he had people here. It was a sentiment that she could understand, even if she couldn’t really relate. She missed her home, but like the elf, she could never return there. Stormwind still felt a bit strange, even after all this time, but she felt safe within the Cathedral. And it would be safe for him too — she very much doubted that the guards would be searching the Cathedral. If they did, there were countless little rooms and places that the elf could hide, and who would suspect a priestess? He would be safe here until his infection subsided — he’d have clean blankets and bandages, food and medicine and she’d bring some books down from the library for him to read. If he wanted, she’d talk to him too — which she looked forward to probably more than he did. It had been a very long time since she’d talked to anyone at length, prayers didn’t really count.

[Story] Thorns – Caught

The Harrier stared at the pair of dragon tooth daggers that rested on his work bench. They were Nash’s, he remembered their assignment to kill the dragon that they’d come from. It was one of the first times they’d worked together, in the rain and fog of the ruins of Gilneas. It seemed like a very long time ago. Nash would never give them up willingly, which meant if he had them now, Nash was dead or had been brought in by the guard — which was as good as dead. There was a chance he’d run into trouble with someone else, but Harrier had checked around the surrounding area and found no sign of him. He’d found the daggers along one of Nash’s rooftop routes, in a trash heap on the street below. So likely it hadn’t been long after he’d left the shop.

It was that woman’s fault. He should have just killed her outright when she came around to the shop. He’d wanted to, felt himself reaching for his own daggers before he caught himself and stopped. It wouldn’t accomplish anything — Nash would still be missing, and he’d have to deal with the mess. And likely she would have told someone where she was going, Harrier didn’t want to deal with an angry worgen. She kept offering to help, as if that would undo her role in all of this. I don’t want your help, Harrier thought, his ears pressing back. I just want you to leave him alone. She thought she’d be able to walk into the jail and see if Nash was there, as if it wasn’t illegal to harbor him. Worse, she wanted to try to bribe the guards to release him to her. Bribes might work on a patrol guard — it was hit or miss, and too dangerous for Harrier’s taste. If you tried on the wrong one, you’d end up in far more trouble than you’d started with. But inside the jail? No, there was already a process in place, and numbers and rules and paperwork. If he was in there, their hands were tied. Blackmail might have been an option, if they had more time. But none of them were in a position to make demands of the humans in charge — a kaldorei, a Gilnean, or an elf only very recently granted admission to the city. What they needed was a human noble to plead his case, but Harrier didn’t know many of those.

Rose had said the same thing. “There’s nothing we can do”, she’d told him, looking at the daggers laying on his desk. “I’m sorry.” For what it was worth, he believed she was telling the truth. But it was a matter of their own safety now. Any action they took to aid Nash risked unraveling everything. Rose knew it, and so did Nash, and reluctantly Harrier had to admit it too. He’d known that when they took him in. Would he talk? He didn’t think so, but they had to be prepared in case he did. If the guards came to their door, they’d tell them that someone had been stealing from the house, perhaps he slipped inside when we weren’t at home. Why didn’t we report it? We were afraid, of course.

Glumly, he tore off leaves of lettuce and watched them disappear methodically into Nash’s rabbit’s mouth. He would never leave him willingly, which worried Harrier all the more. That’s if he was still alive.They could have just killed him outright, or the fall might have killed him. He had to be scared, and more alone than ever. How long could he resist questioning? Zar said that she would try to find out if he was there today. The Harrier planned to go by night, to see if he could learn anything else.

[Story] Thorns – The New Elves

I am trying, I really am. But I know I’m not saying the things I’m supposed to say. I don’t know why I thought it would be any less complicated just because he’s a guy. It wasn’t supposed to be, but it became that way. That’s partly why I warned him, because I know I’m no good at it, but he didn’t listen. I brought back food, and some wine, and some chocolates because the goblins were selling them for cheap because the holiday is over. I guess they made too many, I’m not complaining though.

Nash kept talking about the elves, asking if I’d seen them. I’d had other things on my mind, but after he pointed them out, I did notice. He is convinced that it’s his ticket to freedom, and fixing all the problems he’s had with his past. Just use this, and everything will feel better. Except it won’t, and anyone who’s telling him otherwise is lying or just plain cruel, maybe both. He says Zar did it, that elf he’s been seeing for tea. I don’t know much about magic, but I know it can have effects that you didn’t plan for. Especially bad kinds of magic. Sure, maybe they’re allowed in the city now, but that could change – a blood elf of all people should know that. And then  where would he be, twisted and addicted to a second kind of magic. Nash doesn’t know how it would affect him, but he’s eager to do it anyway. Then he said it was kind of like being a worgen. I’m sure if you asked a worgen, they’d rather not be cursed. Why would he do something like that willingly?  I told him to at least wait and consider it. All he kept saying is that he would be free and could walk around with his hat off. If that’s what he wants, we could stay on the farm. It wouldn’t be ideal, but it’d be better than this. He’s just so set on it, even when I said he shouldn’t, he got upset. Then he said he’d want me there to kill him if something went wrong.

What do you even say to that?

I asked him to stay, but he left. I should be used to it by now. But he hasn’t come back yet, and I’m torn between being worried something happened, and furious that he’s probably doing the ritual or whatever right now. Why did he even ask my advice if he was just going to do it anyway?

I thought this was going to be good, that he’d feel better and everything would be okay. But it hasn’t been like that at all, and now he’s run away, or worse. Rose blamed me, of course. She said I need to go and find him. I checked in his usual places, but couldn’t find any sign of him. Star hadn’t seen him either. I didn’t check at Zar’s house, because I was afraid I’d find him there. I’ll wait a bit longer before I do.

[Story] Thorns – Hangover

Harrier squinted at the array of tiny clock parts on his workbench. He could hardly focus on any of them, let alone remember how they were supposed to go together, with his head throbbing. He’d definitely overdone it last night, finishing his own bottle of Eversong wine, and most of Nash’s bottle of red as well. Normally he wasn’t so irresponsible, especially during the shop’s busy seasons.

Marjolaine stepped in from the front of the store, and gave him a suspicious look. “Are you going to have those orders finished today? Mister White’s already been in asking for his.” She wasn’t upset about anything at all. In fact, she probably hadn’t even thought about it today.

“Yeah,” he replied, picking up a gear and setting it inside the case in front of him. “Just — not feeling great.”

Thankfully, she didn’t say anything to that, only shaking her head and returning to the front of the store, where no doubt an impatient Mister White waited. She’d probably scold him later about drinking too much, but then again she might not. She and Josie were busy making plans for the farm, drawing out the buildings and where the crops would be planted, the places where the fences needed repairs, and what color curtains to put in the windows. They were excited, he could see it in their expressions and hear it in their voices. She didn’t care at all, and probably hadn’t ever. It had just taken him this long to finally see it, because he hadn’t wanted to.

So now what? Harrier had thought Nash would be excited about the farm, a place he could walk around freely and let his rabbit roam. But when they’d talked about it, he’d suddenly changed his mind, saying he wanted to stay in the city. It was impossible to tell with Nash if what he said was what he genuinely wanted, or just what he thought you wanted to hear. Harrier suspected that his decision to stay was the latter, but he’d been so strangely solemn about it. If they’d be staying here alone, wouldn’t he be at least a little happy about it? He had been there that night, at least as much as Harrier could remember, but he’d disappeared again this morning. Marjolaine simply said he’d gone “out”, which Harrier knew meant that he was probably upset. Had he said something stupid? It was certainly possible, most of the night was a blur. It wasn’t really fair to make Nash listen to his complaining, especially when it was about a subject he knew was sensitive.

But maybe once it was a reality, once it was just the two of them, and they could repaint and rearrange things as they wanted, he’d warm to the idea. Or maybe he’d decide to go to the farm after all. He’d asked if they would ever visit, but he couldn’t see any reason to. It would just reopen the scars all over again, and they were far too fresh and painful. Later that evening, when Nash returned from wherever he’d gone, maybe he’d be willing to talk.