[Story] The Ghostclaw – Fishing

“Ann’da, can we go fishing?”

Sath’alor looked over the stacks of paperwork that covered his desk. Most were reports that needed to be read and filed, some were equipment requests, there might have even been a letter of inquiry in there, but he hadn’t got that far into the pile yet. Whatever it was, fishing sounded like a much better idea.

“We sure can,” he said, patting Rylad on the head as he got up. Perhaps he’d already known that his ann’da would say yes, because he had on his boots and coat. “Do you think Zaren would like to go too? I think he’s big enough.”

Rylad seemed to consider for a moment and then nodded. “Yeah, but he can’t hold a pole.”

“No?”

“He’d drop it,” said Rylad.

That was probably true. While Zaren had grown a lot, he was still little, and he was still at the age where he was more interested in eating things off the ground than much else. “I’ll help him,” Sath’alor suggested, and Rylad agreed to that plan.

Nessna was still away on her patrol, so he left a note that he’d taken the boys fishing with him. He also put on the scratchy new sweater she’d just bought for him. It would take some getting used to, but it was certainly warm. And it had lynxes on it. Sath’alor had never seen a sweater like that before, and he would have bought it if he had, so he was pleased with her choice. He wrangled Zaren into a hooded suit with a zipper, and helped him into his boots. Rylad could do most of it by himself, so he fetched the fishing poles and basket. They could stop along the way to look under rocks for grubs and worms for bait.

The forest was ablaze with autumn color, the once-dead trees having regrown some of their leaves over the past few years. Birds and little animals — squirrels and chipmunks — dashed and chirped overhead. Rylad delighted in stomping on every particularly crunchy leaf along the trail, hearing the satisfying crackle they made. The morning was chilly, but not too cold, and the day would grow warmer as it went on. It was a day that was practically made for fishing.

He baited the hooks and helped them get into the water. Rylad was an old pro at fishing, he gripped his pole and stared intently at the water, watching for any splashes or ripples. Zaren was more fascinated by the grub on the hook, but Sath’alor didn’t let him eat it. He had snuck some cookies in his pack though, and gave one of them to each.

Rylad had a lot of questions about fish, though. Sath’alor didn’t really know terribly much about them — his main interest in fishing had been finding food for his cats to eat.

“Do fish sleep?”

“Where do fish pee?”

“Does it hurt them to get caught?”

“Do fish have ann’das?”

Sath’alor hoped they might catch one or two — fresh fish with spices sounded delicious for dinner. But even if they didn’t, it had been a perfect day.

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[Story] The Ghostclaw – Faeris’s Journal

I had to give dancing lessons to Salenicus the other day. He asked Julan first, but I guess Julan told him that he didn’t know how to dance — which is pretty silly considering that’s what he was doing when he first came here. Maybe Salenicus forgot that part, although I guess to be fair he wasn’t here yet. But it’s not like Julan hasn’t talked about it, either. Maybe it was for the best, because I’m not sure the style of dancing Julan was doing would be allowed at a school dance anyway. My mother made me go to all kinds of lessons when I was younger, and I’ve been to a lot of dances in the city, so I do actually know them pretty well. That doesn’t mean I’m a good dancing teacher though, I don’t think I am. Plus, honestly I didn’t really want to have to hold hands with him and stuff, so I picked the easiest dance I could think of that didn’t require a lot of touching. Just a regular waltz, which is easy to remember and would go well with slow songs, which is I assume mostly what they would be playing. And you can always just go faster if you need to. But then he said he might dance out in the garden, where I’m not sure you could hear the music anyway. Which you could do, but it’d just be a little weird.

The girl he’s going to dance  with studied in Dalaran — I mean old Dalaran — so I’m going to guess that she knows how to dance properly too. They used to hold balls there all the time, and anyone who could afford magic school in Dalaran is rich enough to be sent to dance lessons. So Salenicus better hope that she’s forgotten all of the steps, or she can pretend to be impressed by a boring waltz, I guess. I kept asking if he remembered, and he said he did, but I told him it was a good idea to practice anyway. It helps to let your feet remember how to go, then you can focus on other things like talking when it is time to dance for real. Or kissing, but I don’t even want to think about that. Would it be cold? I bet it would.

He was also married before, and had two kids before he died. I’m assuming that they died too, but even so, that’s kind of a big deal. I’m not her, but I’d hesitate a little if Julan had been married before, that’s a serious thing to lose and I’d worry he still wasn’t really over it. Also she’s a human, and a lot younger than him, he got really upset when I mentioned that. He said I was shallow for thinking about her having small ears and being too different from an elf. I don’t think it’s shallow to like how a person looks at all, obviously it’s not the only thing that matters but it’s important. Maybe dead people don’t care, but then why is he trying to impress her by dancing anyway? He also asked if I was with anyone before Julan, obviously I was, and obviously Julan was too. But neither of us had anyone we were really serious about, and that’s a long way from being married and having kids. I just told him that he should talk to her about it because she might hesitate because of that. Probably not during the dance, though.

I suggested he bring her a present too, normally I’d say like wine or candy but she can’t eat those. Flowers are good, he wants to get a live plant to put in a pot, because it won’t die as fast as cut flowers.  I mentioned that all plants die eventually, I think he pretended not to hear me. But she likes working in the greenhouse, so she’s probably pretty good at keeping plants alive, and she would probably like that for a gift. He doesn’t have a mask yet though, so he should make one soon, the dance is only a few weeks away. Julan and I haven’t either, he keeps thinking of stuff that’s funny but probably wouldn’t be allowed at a school dance. I think we should make a set for the school and then a set to wear here, we could hang them on the wall when we’re done too.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Anorelle’s Journal

I don’t write often, mostly because there’s very little to write about. I fill out my reports properly, but that’s just about events on patrol. I have to be as objective as possible there, and truthfully there is not often very much to report. We have not seen any demons for some time, and the only trace of any undead is near the Scar, which is to be expected. Very rarely, Nessna and I will come across someone alive there, either people wishing to study it or sometimes casting magic to attempt to regrow things. I know there are some who can do such things, and it may be having some effect. There are small sprouts in the cracks here and there, but I haven’t gone any closer to investigate. I’m not sure how long those spells take, perhaps they are just making the existing plants stronger. They never wish to talk much, which is understandable I suppose.

There is another party coming up soon, the masked ball. I hadn’t put any thought into what I might wear, I always just wear my armor. No one seems to mind or say anything. In the past, Orledin and the other undead would be watching the road for trouble, but from what I understand both he and Salenicus will be attending the ball. So I intend to keep watch where I can, to help Sorrowmoss. She cannot possibly watch the entire estate at once, it’s too large. But I was also invited to a wedding, which was unexpected. It’s for Aeramin, and Arancon wants someone there to ensure that he isn’t tempted to drink anything. That makes sense, but I’m not sure if I could stop him if he really wished to — I may have guard training but I am still smaller. He said I just had to threaten to tell Aeramin, I hope that will be enough deterrent but I’m worried that it may not be, given how their relationship has been in the past. I think it would be better to find a distraction — the food perhaps, I hope that will be enough. I don’t know if armor is appropriate for a wedding. It’s nice enough armor, but I will feel out of place if everyone else is in a dress. Arancon said that Aeramin will be in a dress, that’s not very helpful. Maybe I should buy one? I don’t know who the other guests will be. I don’t know how to dance, but if I were to try, I assume it would be easier in a dress. At the very least it would hide what my legs are doing better.

It’s hard to believe I have been here nearly two years already. We spoke a little about his time in the guard. His captain wanted him to punish children who were stealing apples from the market. That does sound like something most of them would say. I know that not every guard and every captain is corrupt, but like much of the city, it looks polished and lovely on the outside. It takes time and close notice to see the cracks and corruption beneath. I didn’t, for a long time, because I didn’t want to. He asked if my captain was still there, and as far as I know he is. I try not to dwell on it too much, I was very angry at the time but now I wonder if I might be better off. Maybe one day I will be a ranger captain, but not for a long time. I think ours is doing a fine job.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Leinath’s Journal

Orledin got out all these boxes of paint and stuff the other night to make our masks for the ball. I’m not good at art, I mean obviously I know what a fox looks like, but knowing it and getting something else to look like a fox are two totally different things. The mask just goes over your eyes, it doesn’t have a snout or anything so that’s the first thing that’s not right. I figured that making it orange would be a good starting point, but it doesn’t look right either — it’s too flat and doesn’t look like fur, also the color’s not quite right. It needs shading or something, but I don’t know how to do that. I put some white for the cheeks but it’s not really even, and those should be fluffier. I glued some feathers on, but I’m afraid it’ll just look weird since foxes don’t have feathers. And I think the nose is crooked, too. Honestly, I think I’d rather just buy a nice one in the city, but I feel like Orledin would be sort of insulted if I did that. He says everyone will be able to tell it’s a fox. I’m not so sure. There are plenty of other blank ones, I guess I could try making another, but I don’t think I’m suddenly going to get better at art by the time the ball happens. I know the Captain always makes cat masks, so maybe he’ll have some advice. Or maybe his are bought too, I don’t know. Maybe I could get some fur to put onto it, that might look better. Or everyone can just think I’m some kind of weird orange and black monster.

Orledin’s making a skull. In some ways I think that’s even more complicated because you have to get all the bumps and things right, but then it’s really just one color. He said he had some to look at back in the forest, as long as it’s not a troll skull or something it should work fine. It’s sad to think of someone dying out here all alone and being forgotten about like that, he’s just sitting in a pile of other bones somewhere. Orledin said he’d take it back to the family if he knew who it was, but of course there isn’t any way to know. I hope whoever it is doesn’t mind being a model for a masked ball costume.

He wants to dance, too. I’m not really surprised that he asked, but I don’t know how to dance — at all. I’m kind of worried about it, because I don’t want to look like an idiot constantly stepping on his feet. He said he doesn’t either, probably to make me feel better, but if he lived in the city he probably at least has a basic idea.  Maybe if I just stand still and sort of sway, it’ll be okay. I’m looking forward to the food too, and everyone says they decorate the ballroom and gardens really well, so that should be good. I still think it’s so strange that I’m being invited to things like that now, I definitely snuck into my share before but I couldn’t really enjoy those.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Leinath’s Journal

Orledin was saying the school’s mask party will be held soon. It’s hard to believe it has been almost a year since I came out here. This will be my first one at the school, not my first one ever, of course. I was sometimes able to sneak into them before, by their very nature, and enjoy the food and wine. I always liked all the autumn foods and the changing leaves, as if even the forest wanted to dress up for the occasion. Based on the other parties I’ve been to, I’m sure the school’s will be amazing. We probably can’t have a party here with the rangers, but I thought it might be nice to bake some special things anyway. We could make pumpkin spiced muffins or cookies shaped like bats. Orledin said there’s a way to put the shape in the middle and then just slice a lot of them at once.

He also said they usually made their own masks at the ranger building. I know the shops always sell them, but I think it’s more fun to make it yourself. And I don’t think a fox would be too terribly difficult, I just need something like feathers that would look like fur. I think I should wear an orange shirt, that would be easy to get, and Orledin said I should get black boots and gloves. And a tail. I’m not too sure about that, where would I even get a fox tail? It might look a bit silly. But the rest I can do. I went into town to buy the shirt and gloves, I already have boots of course. I also needed to get a black robe for Orledin, he wants to be a hooded skeleton. Part of me was hoping he’d want to be a fox too, or at least maybe a wolf or something, but a skeleton is a good costume too. It’s good for there to be some spooky masks at a mask party. I thought maybe Sorrowmoss might want to go, as far as I know she’s never been to any of the parties. A mask party would be good because she could stay hidden if she wanted to. And there are plenty of people to dance with if she’s interested in that. Orledin didn’t think she would, but there must be something she likes, right? I also asked about Salenicus. He is excited to go and wanted Orledin to show him how to dance. Hopefully someone is willing to show him. I still think it would be really weird to be with a human, but I guess it doesn’t bother him. I think a mage would be strange too, but Orledin was saying all kinds of strange things about them doing magic while, you know. I’m not sure I’d be interested in that, it sounds kind of dangerous.

I wasn’t sure what size robe to get, but he said it was okay if it was loose. He’s about the same size as me so I got one that fit loosely, he can hem the edges if he needs to. I got an orange silk shirt with black ties, and found a pair of gloves that are perfect. They’re very long and come almost up to my elbows, and the softest leather. They’re actually for ladies, but since it’s for a costume that doesn’t matter. They already had some of the candies out for sale, though the holiday is still at least a month away. I know he can’t eat it, and I think I’d be sick if I ate them all myself, but I got a small bag because I figure we can mix them into cookies or put them on top, or something. I also wanted to get a few things for Lucky. I got him two porcelain bowls, one for food and one for water. He’d just been using an old wooden one and it wasn’t very nice. I also got him a leather collar with a buckle and a little brass tag and they put his name on it. I got one for Pancat as well. He already has a collar, but I think this one is nicer. Hopefully they both like it.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Mossflower

[[ Another “flower” story, it wasn’t planned that way but I got the idea so I ran with it! ]]

At first, Sorrowmoss protested against Selenicus’s visits to the mage school. It was reckless and foolish, not to mention going directly against their patrol orders. If he wished to waste his time with that human girl, Salenicus could do so on his own, without dragging she and Orledin into it. Of course Orledin was the one who encouraged it in the first place. Worse than that, it was boring simply standing around waiting while Salenicus discussed hair ribbons or whatever it is that young human girls care about. Though she too was undead, Sorrowmoss thought there could be little in common with any of them, any more than being alive made humans and elves alike. But as the spring bloomed into the summer, Sorrowmoss found herself enchanted by the school’s gardens. She dared not go through the heavy gates, of course, but she stood outside them and marvelled at the beautiful blooms. In this dismal forest, the gardens seemed like a colorful oasis, a glimpse into a happier time in the past. She could not smell them, not from so far away, but when the breeze was just right she almost thought that she could. The delicate, romantic smell of roses and the hot, summery-sweet jasmine of warm summer nights. They stirred memories she had not thought about in decades, because they hurt too much. But here, with the others distracted, sometimes she would permit them to rise and dwell there in her mind.

Niarah would have loved the gardens, taken her hand and dragged her to every single one of the bushes and insist she smell them. She would have plucked a stem or two — careful not to harm the plant, of course, and tucked a spring behind Sorrowmoss’s ear. Except she was Selenne then. She always felt like a drab little sparrow, with her plain brown hair and ordinary looking features — the leather armor didn’t help matters, either. Niarah was like a majestic phoenix, a bonfire burning bright in the night, a swirl of autumn leaves with their vivid colors. She had the brightest hair the color of fire, in loose curls that she was always tucking behind her ears. The mage from the school who sometimes came to the ranger building, his was the closest that Sorrowmoss had seen since then. The color wasn’t quite right, and his curls were smaller, but it was close enough to remind her every time that he came to recharge the wards. But beyond that, there was a sense of life about her, she seemed to stir it in everyone she came across. Beyond being hopelessly beautiful, she was an exceptional ranger. She was made captain only a few short years after joining the unit, chosen by the retiring former captain. It seemed unfair, Sorrowmoss remembered thinking, that she should have everything. But it was difficult to dislike Niarah, and certainly more so when they started to spend more time together.

Sorrowmoss never understood why someone like Niarah wanted to spend time with her, but she did. They patrolled together often, at first they talked often, talking about their families and their pasts and their dreams, but eventually they didn’t need to. They worked in tandem, like a pair of hunting cats, the one knowing the other’s intentions without words. Some evenings they would go down and swim in the river, bringing a basket of food to eat afterward. Niarah loved flowers, she almost always had a little vase of them in her room, or woven into her hair. She knew all of their names and what they could be used for. She also said they had meanings, if you gave someone a certain flower. Niarah would often stop on patrol and pick one, tucking it into her pouch. Back at home she would put it between the pages of a book to flatten and dry it. If you tried to read any book at her house, you would find dozens of those little dried flowers waiting in the pages. Sorrowmoss thought she rarely read them and probably kept them only for that purpose.

Niarah called her “Mossflower”, those impossibly tiny white blooms that grow among the green velvet moss. They weren’t flashy or showy, in fact they were easily overlooked, Niarah said. But those who took the time to look would be rewarded with their beauty and sweet scent. Would she still think that now? If she was thankful for anything, it was that Niarah never had to see what she had become.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Leinath’s Journal

I’ve been doing a lot of training work with Lucky. He’s still really young, so I can’t expect too much of him. Sunashe and the Captain have been giving me advice about it, which I really appreciate. I’ve never even had a pet before, let alone tried to train an animal. I think I’m learning more than Lucky is at this point. I do feel that he’s probably more similar to a cat than a lizard, though I think Sunashe has some valuable advice, too. These first couple of weeks, I’m mostly just getting Lucky accustomed to me and to the ranger building. He has his own little bed under my bunk, though sometimes he likes to sleep up top with me. I like when he does that, it feels all cozy, though Sunashe says he’s probably just cold. But it’s summer, so how cold could it be? I guess I’ll find out in the winter. Lucky goes outside to use the toilet, thankfully the people at Dalaran already taught him about that. I take him on a little leash until I can be sure he’ll follow without it. He’s still pretty young so he tends to wander off and get distracted by smells sometimes. They both said it’s really important to expose him to a wide variety of people and situations, but to make sure it’s not frightening for him so he doesn’t get afraid of them later on. So far he’s met all of the other rangers, Sunashe’s lizard, and the Captain’s tiger. He hasn’t met Julan’s seagull yet, because I’m worried either he might try to eat her, or she might peck him. Both of those would be bad.

The next thing I’m trying to teach him is to respond to his name and focus on me. So every time I say his name and he looks at me, he gets a treat. His favorite treats are little bits of cheese, fruit, and bits of fish. I think he might also like cookies, next time we make some I’m going to have to save him a few. It’s probably not too healthy for foxes, but I bet he’d do anything for a cookie. I feel a little bad I’ve been so busy with Lucky that I haven’t been baking as much. I mean I still do, but not all the time. I hope Orledin isn’t upset about that. He came out to watch me working with Lucky, I guess because he was bored. He hasn’t trained his cat, I’m not sure if you can. But the Captain’s cats are trained, they’re just bigger? Does that make a difference? I don’t know.

We talked about how they stop at the school on patrol a lot. Salenicus is seeing a student there, except she’s a human and also undead. I guess it’s not my business, but I think it’s a little odd. I don’t think I could be interested in a human. Orledin said Salenicus is interested in things besides ears, which obviously I am too, but it’s not as if ears aren’t important. I just feel like a human wouldn’t know about a lot of things, and they’d not live as long, but I guess that’s not an issue if you are both undead. Like I said, not really my business anyway. Then Orledin was telling me about how he has to go and recharge some runes, honestly I don’t really understand what that means. I know he has some on his sword, but I don’t understand how they work or why they need to be recharged — or how that happens. I guess I don’t really want to know, to tell the truth. Anyway there’s only two places it can be done. I asked why they don’t just make more runeforges, and he said it would attract a lot of death knights here if we had one. But if they behaved themselves, it wouldn’t be an issue, would it? And Orledin said it only takes a few minutes, so I doubt they’d just be hanging around here. He also told me about how he has to use rubbing alcohol to clean himself. I figured you could just use ordinary soap and water, but I guess that makes sense. It’s not really something you give a lot of thought to normally. I would miss being able to eat and drink, though. I don’t know how he can bake and not eat any of it, I think that would be like torture.

Lucky’s next lesson will be learning to follow me. I hope he’s ready.