[Story] Thorns – Harrier’s Journal

Rose has been taking Josie out to the countryside to look at places for sale. I wish she wouldn’t do that during the busy season, because I hate having to work the front. I’m not good at being friendly and smiling at everyone when I’m trying to get things done. Pup tries his best, but I think customers would rather have an adult behind the counter. I’m glad the shop is doing well, but it’s hard to keep up with orders if I’m always having to answer questions. I set my stuff on the counter though so people can watch me if they want, I guess they like that. I’m also not happy about the idea of moving at all. Rose didn’t even talk to me about it, she just went out and started looking. No, she doesn’t need my permission, but it would have been nice, you know? I live here too, it affects me too.

She said she wants a bigger place with more rooms. Okay, that makes sense, I guess. Pup does definitely need his own space, and Nash might too. I can never tell what he’s thinking. There would be room for growing vegetables, and Rose and Josie are already talking about getting some animals or something. I don’t want to live on a farm, thanks.  I guess she did already talk to Nash though, and he’s mostly sold on the idea. I think because he thinks he can get a bunch more rabbits and he won’t have to hide under a hat all the time. Which I can understand, I guess. I’m just worried about him having to go through the guards twice a day. He already passes them in the city, but I feel like they pay more attention at the gates. I couldn’t ask him to put himself at risk like that, even if he is getting the illusion from the other elf, it seems really dangerous. And we’d have to ride to and from the city every day. I like being able to just go up to my room and sleep after working.

I mean, I could just stay here. Maybe that was Rose’s plan all along. I should be the one there with her making these decisions, not Josie. Maybe it’s her way of showing that what I think doesn’t matter as much, or maybe it never did and I’m just an idiot. That’s probably the case. But I still don’t know what I’m going to do. I guess it depends on if they find a place, and what it’s like. And it depends if Nash wants to go or not. I still think it’d be a pain to have to ride there and back all the time, I don’t have a horse either, and neither does Nash. Though I guess if we’re getting a whole farm, we can get some. I don’t want a horse. Machines are a lot more reliable, and they don’t bite. Or poop.

And if that’s not enough, Risarra wrote to me too. She’s got a boyfriend named “Bear”, which I can only imagine means he’s huge and hairy. I know I shouldn’t be jealous, if I wanted there to be anything, it could have happened when I went to visit. But I’ll never belong there, just as she’d never belong here. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt a little. And if he hurts her I’m going to poison him or something, I know better than to try to fight someone called “Bear”.

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[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] Thorns – The Shipment

Despite his attempts to distance himself from his kaldorei past, some nights Harrier still found it impossible to sleep. Most times that happened, he would find some work to do. The winter holidays were quickly approaching, the shop’s busiest time of the year, and he’d have to hurry to make enough to meet demand. He could get to that a bit later, though. Tonight he was expecting a shipment at the docks, the sort he didn’t want to unload in the middle of the busy morning. While Nash and the rest of the house still slept, Harrier put on his boots and cloak and went out into the chilly night.

He made his way across the roofs, not only because it was faster, but because he missed it. Maybe Nash was right, he had been too safe and boring lately. He preferred to think of it as not taking any unnecessary risks, but greater risk brought greater rewards. Hadn’t that been one of the first things he learned in Ironforge? The ships and their crews slumbered in the docks, only a few street lamps burned to light the way. Harrier made his way to a small ship on the end, its bow decorated with a leaping wolf. From its bared jaws hung a lamp, lit with a tiny green flame. Harrier rapped at the captain’s window, and a short time later he appeared on the deck. He was a gnome, Harrier hadn’t expected that. But he’d known plenty in Ironforge, and they were incredibly quick and agile, and stronger than you might think. They also had a certain knack for taking charge.

Harrier took some coins from his pocket. They would no doubt be the last, this was just to get things moving. “I heard you had a shipment for me,” he said, his breath steaming into clouds in the cold air. The gnome inspected the coins before dropping them into his pocket. Nodding, he motioned Harrier up onto the deck. There, the captain opened one of the cargo hatches and lit another lamp.

“First pick, just like you asked for,” said the gnome. “There you’ve got some orc weapons, axes and stuff,” he said, gesturing to a very long box along the edge of the cargo hold. “ Harrier wasn’t really interested in weapons — at least, weapons that large. They would be difficult to sell and would attract a lot of attention in the shop. The gnome also had a load of expensive fabric — not illegal, but he could easily resell it for a huge markup. There was a crate of books, they looked magical so Harrier opted to take those. Mages — and others — would pay through the nose for books, especially if they were of questionable legality. He was less interested in the goblin magazines, though he supposed he could sell them to kids who wandered in with their parents.

“Got anything from Silvermoon?” Harrier asked. The person who’d given him the gnome’s name had said he often did. He wasn’t exactly sure how a gnome managed that, which made it all the more impressive.

“Sure do,” said the gnome, hopping onto another stack of crates. “You got some mana crystals here,” he pointed. “Some Eversong wine and–” he paused and pried open the lid of a very small crate that was stuffed with straw. Harrier looked inside.

“It’s an egg,” said Harrier. What would he want with an egg? Unless it was made of gold or something.

“Not just an egg, it’s a phoenix egg.”

The elf had never had a pet, didn’t really have any desire for one, but he thought Nash might like it. He had no clue how to care for it though, let alone hatch it. “How do you–”

The gnome held up a finger and rummaged around in the straw, pulling out a sheaf of papers. They were instructions. Very detailed instructions. “Now, if you mess it up, I’m not responsible.”

“Understood,” Harrier said.

He gave the gnome the rest of his gold, while the captain called his crew to come haul the boxes onto the dock.

 

[Story] Brewfest

Brewfest is my favorite time of year. It always makes me feel a little homesick for Ironforge, standing out in the snow surrounded by dwarves, eating cheese and sausage and drinking good ale for once. They sometimes get dwarven ale in Stormwind, but it’s just not the same. You need all the atmosphere to really make it taste right. In the past few years, it’s expanded to have all kinds of other ales too — ogre (yuck), troll (weird), and Pandaren (pretty good actually). It’s fun to try the different ones, they’re definitely different and unusual, but I always go back to the dwarven ones. I will say the Pandaren ale is interesting though, I think it’s made with a different kind of grain, and it’s quite strong. They have food stands too, the cheese and sausage are my favorite but there’s bread too. It’s good to have something to eat to help balance all that ale.

We all went, I think Pup is old enough to go with Nash and I, but Rose said differently. Maybe next year. I think it’s so they can keep an eye on him, as if she thinks I won’t? I’m not that irresponsible. I hope she at least lets him try some, he’s definitely old enough. Maybe cursed Gilneans react differently? Though I’ve seen her drink wine plenty of times with no problem, maybe it’s something you have to learn to control though. Either way, he was really excited about the ram racing when I told him about it. I hope Rose lets him ride one, watching is fun but actually racing is the whole point of it. Even when you end up landing on your behind in the snow. I thought Nash would be happy now that he’s got his dumb necklace back, but he seemed really quiet. I know part of it is that he’s worried someone’s going to notice that he’s not a human. It’s true that dwarves (and gnomes) are short and could see his eyes easier, but I guarantee they’re not looking at people’s eyes during Brewfest. Coin purses, maybe. But most everyone is just focused on trying the ales and watching rams and having a good time. There could be something else, there usually is, but it’s not as if he’s going to tell me about it.

I tried asking about how his visits were going. I don’t think he likes them, I figured he’d at least like the company of another elf. I wouldn’t want to visit some other elf just because they’re an elf, but he seems to want that connection to his past. And she seems nice enough. She’s interesting to talk to, that’s for sure. I wish I knew how she was able to keep everyone happy like that, it would sure make things easier. I’m pretty sure Nash wouldn’t be okay with everyone being all together like that, and I know for a fact that Rose wouldn’t. Even besides that, she must have some interesting stories about hiding in Stormwind too. Maybe she even has some tips for Nash — although he can’t do illusions. Which is why he hopefully keeps going for his visits, even though he says he hates tea. What has he got against tea? It’s all right.

[Story] Brambles – New Opportunities

[[ Set in the past, when Harrier first arrived in Stormwind. ]]

Sorias crouched between two narrow buildings, hidden by the evening’s long shadows. He was cold, sore, and starving — exactly as Blackbrew had told him he would be. The elf had parted with his former boss on good terms; Blackbrew had opted to retire and get out of the business at least for a time. He’d offered Sorias the tavern, but the tales of the city to the south intrigued him. Not that Ironforge was some back country village, but Sorias knew its buildings back to front, and in some cases top to bottom. Dwarves weren’t very good at climbing, but he still was, and it had proven useful plenty of times. He loved Ironforge, but he knew there was more out there, and he’d told Blackbrew of his plans. He’d warned Sorias that it wouldn’t be easy, that it was much bigger and more dangerous, and the gangs that ruled the streets there were even more bold. Stormwind wasn’t enclosed, and there were a lot more places to hide. Some of them had connections with the crown, and while that was also true in Ironforge, that carried much more weight in Stormwind. Still, Blackbrew wished Sorias well and told him he could always return if things got too difficult there. Sorias was certain he could make it, he’d survived everything else, hadn’t he?

But he’d seen immediately what Blackbrew had meant. The buildings themselves were oppressive, gleaming white marble reaching high into the sky, metal spires and iron gates in front of the expensive houses. And there were guards everywhere — until you got away from the center, at least. Sorias had intended to ask for a job, but as soon as he turned into one of the dark streets away from the guards, he’d been set upon. When he didn’t have any gold for them to steal, they beat him instead. It all happened so quickly, he hardly had time to react, and he’d always thought himself a decent scrapper. He limped back into the shadows to rest and make a plan. He couldn’t give up, not yet. Part of it was that he didn’t want to let Blackbrew be right, but he also knew he could do this. He just had to learn the rules — and learn the city. As night fell, he took to the rooftops and began to learn the layout; the routes he could take and the dangerous spots where he could be seen or could slip and fall. He didn’t dare yet enter a house, not until he knew the guard’s patrols and the good places to hide. There were also mages, something he hadn’t encountered in Ironforge, but he’d heard about. Blackbrew warned him they could have all sorts of spells guarding their houses; magical traps and alarms, or even worse. He soon learned that most of them preferred to live in the expensive houses near the mage tower, but not all of them. It was difficult to tell a mage’s house just from looking at it, some surveillance was required.

He stole from the market to eat, that was easy enough. Though he stood out in Stormwind just as much as he had in Ironforge, his sleight of hand was enough to grab something and disappear into the crowd. He didn’t take chances and took only what he needed, the merchants were just trying to make a living like he was. Besides, there were easier prey, he just needed to study them. Blackbrew would have scoffed at him, a common robber, lifting people’s purses as they walked home. It was important not to be seen, as the guards would surely catch on to a tall white-haired elf here among the humans. It was just temporary, enough to get on his feet, and there were plenty of people in Stormwind with heavy purses. He frequented the auctions, where customers had plenty of gold and were distracted by the barkers. It was good money, but too dangerous to do for long. He needed something more regular, more reliable and less likely to raise the attention of the guards. In the meantime, he rented a dusty little room near the cathedral, above a scribe’s shop. It was drafty and the roof leaked, but it was cheap — and safe.

Blackbrew might just be wrong after all, he thought.

[Story] The Tea Party

Nash has been keeping secrets. Well, just the one secret that I know about, if there’s more I don’t know about them yet. And it’s not as if he did a very good job about keeping this one, either – I asked go with him last time and he took me. Because really, it’s not a big deal. So why wasn’t he telling anyone? That’s the part I don’t understand. Of course I don’t expect him to tell me every little detail, but meeting with another sin’dorei living in the city? I don’t know, it just seemed like something people might want to know.

At first I didn’t know she was, because she had an illusion that made her look human. She must be a mage of some kind to be able to do that. We went over the wall of her house and into the courtyard and just walked into the sitting room like it was nothing. I can assure you I was confused by that point. She’s sitting there expecting us, and sipping tea. Well, she expected him. But then she said she knew who I was, because Nash told her who I was. He didn’t mention that before, either. I didn’t like it, I smelled a trap. She’d caught him breaking in after his necklace, and rather than attack him or turn him in, she decided she wanted him to come pay her social visits. I assumed of course that she meant something else by that, which again isn’t my business. Nash is free to do whatever he wants with whoever he wants, I just would have liked to know, is all. He said it wasn’t like that, but I think it would have been, if she had her way.

She made us tea and gave us cookies to eat. It was bizarre. She was really nosy and wanted to know a lot of things about me. She started out talking about how I was an elf, which is always my favorite subject. Like did I live in the forest, and why did I come here? None of your damned business, lady. And how I could seek out other elves here and talk to them if I ever felt lonely or something. Those elves aren’t my friends, I don’t have anything in common with them. Whatever their reasons for leaving are their own and they don’t need to talk to me about it. I’d rather not have to speak Darnassian, anyway. That part of my life is done, thankfully.

Then she wanted to talk about herself. That was okay, and I have to admit it was kind of interesting just because it was so weird. She ran away from home because her father wanted her to marry some guy, I can’t blame her for that. I’m glad that custom never caught on among kaldorei, though I can see them being all for that. The guy she ran off with was a worgen who was there studying dirt in the Dead Scar. Because he’s a researcher, she said. Okay. That’s pretty weird, though I know I can’t say anything because Rose is a worgen too. I’m just glad she doesn’t go around sniffing dirt clods. I wonder if Rose knows him? I mean it’s dumb to assume that every worgen knows each other — I don’t know every kaldorei. But it is possible. This lady must have spent some time in Ironforge too, because she was asking about my time there. And she has a girlfriend who is a dwarf. Again, unusual but it’s not like I didn’t spend some time with dwarf women while I lived there. Can’t really blame her. She also likes dwarven ale and Gilnean wine. So her taste isn’t that bad.

Nash said he hated going, and I don’t understand why he did. Just tell her he didn’t want to. Sure, there was a risk she’d turn him in, but I doubt she would take it given that it would put her at risk too. But I asked if she’d be able to do an illusion for Nash, like she had. Just enough that he could go without a hat. At first she said she couldn’t because she’d need to maintain eye contact with the subject, but  I asked if the necklace could be enchanted to do that and she said it could. Nash insists he doesn’t need it, and maybe he doesn’t, but it couldn’t hurt anything. The only thing she said was to avoid the mage district, because they’d know it was there. I think it’d be worth it, but she said she’d need to redo the spell every week or so. Which means Nash would still need to visit her, and I’m not sure if he wants to. Maybe he deserves having to sit and listen to her talk every week for not being honest with people. I don’t know why it bothers me, but it does. I’ve never lied to him, or to anyone I cared about.

He also told the lady that Rose is my girlfriend. I don’t know why he’d do that, unless it was just because he didn’t feel like explaining it. He knows well enough that she’s not. Do I wish she was? Yeah, of course, but that’s not going to make it happen. Believe me, I’ve thought about it a lot. If I thought I could change her mind after all this time, I would have tried it. Though maybe that lady has some ideas. It sounds like her two are fine with everything, so maybe she knows something that I don’t.

[Story] Story a Week 31 – Dull

The Harrier frowned at his knife as he went to cut the twine from the package of parts on his work-desk. It had taken some sawing to get through, and the ends of the twine looked frazzled and frayed. Though it wasn’t his best knife, it was still a good one — he didn’t own any that weren’t — and it held an edge well. It must have just been too long since he’d remembered to sharpen it. That, he realized, or someone else had been using it in the meantime. That was possible, Pup was the most likely culprit, though he had a blade (or two) of his own. Or Rose or Josie could have just grabbed it off his desk for quick jobs, they sometimes carried their own, but not always. What reason was there for them to carry a knife around the shop? Going through town was one thing, but not here.

The shop was safe. He frowned at that word, too. Safe was boring, safe was predictable, safe was — like his knife, dull. The Harrier fetched his sharpening stone before putting it away, so he wouldn’t be surprised by it being dull when he next reached for it. Nash had pointed it out before, but he’d dismissed the idea then. He was still juggling shipments at the docks, still smuggling and re-selling. He hadn’t gotten dull. But like a knife, you could never really be sure until tested — and he had to admit that he did feel dull. The shop had meant to only be a cover for their other activities, but it had been profitable enough to take up most of his time. Especially around the winter holidays — which would be coming up soon enough — he had to work on clocks and watches full time to keep up with the demand. The money was decent, not as lucrative as other ventures, but it was steady.

He drew the blade along the wet stone, hearing the satisfying rasp of it against the metal. But what was he supposed to do about it, exactly? He’d been away from the game long enough that he couldn’t be sure of his street contacts. Things like straight up robbery or blackmail were out, they were just too dangerous and too easily tracked back to him. More importantly, any risk he took would also come back to everyone else — to the shop, to Pup, to Rose. And to Nash. Being a sin’dorei in Silvermoon was dangerous enough. To thumb his nose at fate by committing illegal acts was something else. He couldn’t be the one responsible for Nash being discovered, and for the rest of them being arrested for hiding him. Nash always swore he was never caught, but if he found trouble himself, Harrier was certain that he wouldn’t turn the rest of them in.

But didn’t he miss it, just a little? He had to admit that he did. He missed the danger and uncertainty, his heart racing with anticipation in the moments before they moved. He missed his talks on the rooftops with Josie and Nash. He missed sneaking Pup out past his bedtime. It was a risk that had brought him to all of this, his failed attempt to rob Rose. He’d found something much more valuable, but what was he doing with it? Nothing, that’s what.

Nash still went out most nights, sometimes he came back and sometimes he didn’t. The Harrier never asked questions. But tonight, he’d ask to go along. Maybe an opportunity would present itself.