[Story] Winter Veil Postcards 2017

[[ Sorry it’s been quiet… I have unexpected guests over this weekend. Here are two Winter Veil shorts, I’ll do more later! ]]

“Just get him dumplings,” Zhyra said over breakfast. The night was chilly, fog had rolled in over the small lake around the town, and a steady rain dripped from the eaves. “He likes them, doesn’t he?”

Of course he did. And while she’d been doing her best to learn to make them herself, Risarra felt they weren’t special enough for a gift. Bear got dumplings just about every day, he had for all the time they’d been checking on him at his camp — which counted in years now.

Avanniel made a face. “I don’t know why you want to follow a dwarf holiday anyway.”

Risarra frowned and stirred her oatmeal, mixing the berries in for flavor. “It doesn’t have to be for that,” she argued. “It could just be a gift.” The other two sentinels exchanged a look, but said nothing else on the subject.

There would be a market in Darnassus today. She’d have to hurry, but Risarra thought she could make it there and back in time before her patrol if she could borrow a hippogryph. Surely there she could find something that would make a good gift — something for his house perhaps, or to keep him warm when she was away at patrol. A scarf or a cloak, something like that. Risarra hurried to finish her breakfast and dug her bag of coins out from under her bunk.

“Ouch!” Sath’alor pulled his hand back from the hawkstrider’s sharp beak. He’d like to think it had simply mistaken his fingers for a snack, but he couldn’t be sure. They were probably just nervous, he reasoned, being led away from their farm to their new home. Sath’alor had specifically asked for birds with good temperaments and steady nerves to face the rigors of patrol. He didn’t care what they looked like or what their bloodlines were — though they looked fancy and colorful to him, at least.  There were six in total, four males and two female, their feathers varying shades of blue and black. One had a slightly greenish tint if you looked at it in the right light. The seller said that Sath’alor could name them, but he wasn’t terribly good with names, he thought he’d leave that to the rangers, and perhaps Rylad.

The stable was warm and dry, fresh straw spread over the floor and the bins filled with greens and vegetables. Each stall had a bucket of water and a blank nameplate on the door waiting to be filled in. Sath’alor hadn’t yet figured out a schedule for which hawkstriders would patrol when, but they couldn’t be worked all day, they would need to rotate. And not everyone would need or want to ride anyway, ideally only one pair would be out at any time. He hoped that at least one of them would be gentle enough to give rides to Rylad, and the other children if they were big enough. He could even bring them to Hethurin’s parties if he so wished, decked out in matching saddles. For now, he just had the plain leather saddles and bridles from the breeder, along with detailed instructions for their care. Sath’alor knew a lot about cats, but practically nothing about hawkstriders, so he hoped to hire someone to look after them. For the time being though, it was his job.

Advertisements

[Story] The Ghostclaw – The Recruit

Hethurin appeared in my office. Fortunately I wasn’t working too hard or he probably would have startled me. It’s still startling to have someone just appear in front of you, but I guess you get used to it when you’re around mages a lot. I still wish he’d knock or something first. He did bring good news though, he said he had a potential ranger that he wanted me to meet in Shattrath. I didn’t know they had any there, I know there are a lot of mages and blood knights, but I agreed to come meet with them. Though we aren’t hurting for people, there are a lot of empty beds and we could always use more. I went through the portal with Hethurin and we started walking to the tavern. I remembered that place, I’d spent quite a lot of time there when I stayed in Shattrath before. It seems like such a long time ago now, and I guess it was. Thankfully if anyone recognized me, they didn’t say anything.

I didn’t see any rangers at first, until Hethurin pointed out the huge draenei. I thought at first maybe he was sitting on the ranger or something, but no. A draenei, an enormous draenei with huge horns and hooves and everything, and it wanted to join up with the Ghostclaw. I don’t speak Draenei, and he didn’t speak Thalassian, but all three of us knew enough Common to make it work — kind of. Hethurin translated mostly, he explained that the draenei’s sister would be going to the school to learn Thalassian and help the healers in town, and the ranger was her brother. He wanted to be close to her to ensure that she was safe, because they were the only family they had left after the orcs attacked them. I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for him, as well as admiring his dedication to his sister — anyone who cared that much couldn’t be too bad, I figured. The school is safe, there are wards and Theronil patrolling, so no harm would come to his sister. But sending a draenei out onto the roads in the Ghostlands is another matter. I didn’t want any residents to mistake him for a demon or something while he was out there.

The night patrol might be the safest option. I know it’s not easy for a living ranger, but I could split it into two patrols if there are two teams now. Or I could ask if one of them wanted to move to a daytime patrol — I have a feeling that Orledin would jump at the chance, especially if I let him patrol with Leinath. I trust both of them enough that nothing too improper would happen, and they’d both actually get their routes done. Hethurin asked for me what kind of experience he had, whether he’d used a bow or not. The draenei said he was, and he had five different ones. Five! I bet Sunashe will like him right away. I’m not sure about the others. He’s very different, but I do think he’ll do a good job and he says he has a lot of experience — 1,000 years, in fact. He doesn’t look that old, but maybe that’s not even old for a draenei. Hethurin said he thinks they are immortal or something, I don’t know if that’s true or not. But I think, despite his fearsome looks, that he’ll take his post seriously, I don’t know why he’d ask to go somewhere so dangerous if he wasn’t certain about it.

I need to talk to everyone — Nessna especially — but I said we’d be ready for him in a week or so. I think he’ll probably need two beds, but we have plenty, so that’s okay. Fortunately he has his own armor, which is good because we wouldn’t have anything that would fit him properly. If something needs repaired, I hope he can do it himself, because I’m not about to take a piece of draenei armor into the city. Nor do I even know what draenei eat, Hethurin suggested that maybe he could bring some of his own food so the change wouldn’t be too drastic. My cooking isn’t that bad. He did seem interested when I told him we had fresh cookies daily from Orledin — he also has a pet moth that needs bread. I’m sure Lin will want to talk to him for that reason alone. I feel like my instinct has usually been right about people, and I got a good feeling from him. I just hope the other rangers agree to give him a chance.

[Story] Story a Week

[[ Story a Week is back, since NaNo is done (for the time being). I have some more novel ideas, but I’m taking a break from long stuff for the rest of the month to get some sewing projects done. Uhh I guess it’s sort of a Thanksgiving story, but not really? ]]

Sath’alor finished buckling the harness straps on the hawkstriders and gave them one last check-over. The last thing he needed was one of them getting loose and having to chase it down through the woods. Though they had a barn, he hadn’t yet bought any hawkstriders for the rangers yet — they patrolled on foot, and frankly he didn’t know enough about hawkstrider care to be able to look after them himself. That meant hiring a stablemaster, and with everything else going on, it just hadn’t happened yet. But certain of the rangers — Sunashe for one — might appreciate being able to ride from time to time. One strider per ranger would be far too expensive, and their barn wasn’t that large. Maybe a few pairs that could rotate through the day. It was something he’d have to consider once he made up the yearly budget — that job was coming up soon, and he dreaded it every year. For today, he’d just rented the hawkstriders from the stable in town. Thankfully, the stablemaster also had a wagon for use. He’d asked one of the mages from the school for help getting a portal to town, but the rest of the trip had to be made over the roads. Though all of the mages probably could open portals directly to the ranger building, he thought it would be safer this way.

He picked up the edge of the canvas covering and peeked underneath. It was important that all of the ropes were firmly tied in place before they started moving. Any jolts or bumps might damage his cargo, and Rylad’s grandfather had spent a long time getting it just right. Satisfied that it was secure, Sath’alor climbed into the seat of the wagon and guided the hawkstriders down the main road. Originally, he’d planned the surprise for the winter holiday, but he felt this way they might get some use out of it before the weather got too cold. It also had to do with his conversation with Salenicus the other night. Sath’alor hardly considered himself an expert when it came to dealing with women, but things had worked out with Nessna, so he had to be doing something right. There was a girl at the school Salenicus had his eye on, but he wasn’t certain if she was interested. He also got the idea that Salenicus wasn’t being clear enough in his intent. If you’re too subtle, he told Salenicus, some other guy might move in while you’re waiting for her to notice. Admittedly, he wasn’t sure that an undead girl had many other suitors, but one could never be sure. She was a mage, so she might have some rich arranged marriage, or maybe someone she’d known from Dalaran. The point, Sath’alor told him, was that you should make your feelings known. If they weren’t returned, at least he’d know and wouldn’t waste any more time. He suggested finding things that she was interested in, and getting her a gift related to that. Or flowers, or writing a poem. Sath’alor couldn’t write poems either, but something from the heart was good enough. It reminded him how he’d first got to know Nessna better, how he was worried she’d think he was a creep or something. Frankly, he still couldn’t believe she was interested even after they’d been together this long. He was grateful that she was, their family was more than he’d ever hoped for, and he wanted to make sure that she knew how much she meant to him.

Vessen’s father had agreed to the project, and seemed especially pleased when Sath’alor wanted to include Vessen’s name as well. It was a heavy wooden bench, elaborately carved with different scenes on the surfaces. The back featured a family of lynxes running through the forest, a male and female and their cubs. Other sides depicted a ranger drawing a bow, a dragon flying through the clouds, and other things. All were bordered by a tangled vine with carved wooden leaves and flowers, and sealed with oil so it could be left outside in the weather. Their names were hidden in the designs in various places, and Sath’alor had asked that Vessen’s be included because he was part of their family too. He knew the perfect spot for it — behind their house, on the bank of a little stream and facing the forest. Sath’alor had bought some heavy metal spikes to help anchor the bench to the ground in case it got windy. He hammered these into place and then hurried to return the hawkstriders and wagon to town. If he hurried, he’d be back before Nessna returned from her patrol, and could bring her out back to see it.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – The Extra Patrol

“Let’s go,” said Sorrowmoss again. “We don’t have time for your breaks tonight.”

Salenicus frowned, looking through the wrought iron gates into the school grounds. They were mostly dark, but a few lamps were lit along the pathways. “But–” he protested.

Sorrowmoss gave him a sharp look, as if daring him to continue complaining. Thankfully, he didn’t. She was the senior ranger of this patrol, and the decision was hers. She’d always felt the “breaks” were a pointless waste of their time. Undead didn’t need to rest, that was about the only good thing about being one. Let Salenicus visit his little mage student on his own time, there would be plenty of that during the daytime. They’d always had a lax attitude about their patrol, in her opinion. Both he and Orledin spent far too much time chatting and too little time watching and listening. How could you hear anything when your lips were flapping?

But it had got a hundred times worse since they’d gone to the masked ball. Sorrowmoss hadn’t attended, though she did stand patrol outside the gates as the Captain requested. He didn’t really expect any trouble, but it was always better to be certain, especially in the Ghostlands. Besides, it was a nice gesture to show the Headmaster that the rangers were willing and prepared to defend the school if needed. Orledin and Salenicus had both gone, and now chattered like gossiping schoolgirls about how it had gone. Sorrowmoss knew more about both of their personal lives than she’d ever imagined wanting to know. Orledin had danced with — and kissed — one of the other rangers, the one who was a criminal. The Captain hadn’t told her, but Sorrowmoss had figured it out on her own. He was the only one who knew the routes as well as she did, and was almost as skilled with a bow. If he wasn’t a ranger, he had to be a highway bandit, which he was. She’d asked him about it once, and he paled as if he’d seen a ghost. She didn’t want to expose him, she’d just wanted to know if her guess was correct, which it was. Sorrowmoss didn’t really have an opinion about him either way, other than that he had odd taste in men. Maybe he’d been really, really drunk. It was the only reasonable explanation she could come up with.

Salenicus, normally reliable and more importantly, quiet, spent more time talking to Orledin than he did paying attention to his patrol. He grumbled about missing their visits to the school, but that wasn’t her decision. The Captain had requested extra coverage around the Dawnshadow estate, down near the river. It was not a short walk, and put them some distance out of the way from the school. Sorrowmoss had known the Dawnshadows well, they helped supply the rangers with weapons and equipment back before the scourge invaded. They also often hosted parties in their lush gardens, the wife was especially fond of fountains and had them in every corner. They were long dead now, and new owners were planning to move in and fix up the crumbling buildings. Nothing could really be built until the springtime, but they’d requested that the grounds be kept free of spiders, scourge, and anything else that might be there. It would have been simpler to put a fence up, Salenicus had pointed out, and while he wasn’t wrong, it wasn’t her call to make. She would see that the job was done, though it was ironic that most of the people they protected would be disgusted by their presence. Sorrowmoss supposed that’s partly why they had to do it by night.

There weren’t any spiders on the grounds tonight at least, and Salenicus lingered behind, no doubt to talk to Orledin and complain about how unfair she was being. If they saw nothing after a few weeks, she might speak to the Captain about that fence after all. He would just have to be patient in the meantime.

 

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Leinath’s Patrol

[[ Another 828 words that don’t count 😦 ]]

Mornings in the Ghostlands had begun to grow cold, rather it had been summer then seemingly overnight, it was autumn, with winter breathing cold wind down its neck. Leinath had taken his scarf and hat out of the little trunk beneath his bunk, and he was thankful for the leather gloves he wore to protect his hands from calluses on his bow. He ensured that Lucky was warm enough, adding another blanket and even a scrap of hide that had been discarded. Though most mornings, the little fox didn’t even stir when Leinath left, he was still asleep. On cold mornings like this, Leinath couldn’t blame him.

He’d been going with Nessna’s and Anorelle’s morning patrol for a time now. While he disliked rising so early — especially as the days grew shorter, and it was still dark for a few hours — it was nice having the rest of the days free to do what he liked. Normally, that meant making bread or cookies with Orledin in the kitchen, then he’d tend to his bow and armor, maybe read for a while. He wasn’t very good at it, but he’d been practicing in an effort to get better. He couldn’t always rely on other people to read things for him — like recipes.

But since the masked ball, he’d been uncertain. He’d still gone, because everyone still needed bread, and Orledin acted normal — or was he acting different and Leinath just hadn’t noticed? They talked about normal things, about his cat and Leinath’s fox and their patrols, but they avoided the topic of the dance and what had happened there. It’s not that he regretted it, at least he didn’t think he did. It’s true he’d been lonely for a long time, and he and Orledin spent a lot of time together, and he did enjoy his company. He reminded him a great deal of Erilan, and that was probably part of why he was interested at all. But that was a big leap to — whatever they were now. Leinath wasn’t sure what that was exactly, either.

There were practical issues when dealing with someone undead, Leinath was still learning. Things like not being able to enjoy a drink at the party, or having to watch him eat the snacks instead of being able to try them himself. It must be awful, though Orledin never seemed to complain about it. How exactly did certain things work? Leinath assumed it had to be different, but he’d never asked. And it would be far too awkward to ask now.

And the other issue, the one that concerned him even more — rangers weren’t to be engaging in any sort of affectionate displays in the sleeping quarters. Not that it seemed to stop Julan and Faeris, from what he’d heard, but they had at least moved into their own cabin now. Leinath was keenly aware of what awaited him if he broke the rules, and he was determined to keep his record clean. Not even a bend, let alone a break. But then how would he find time to spend with Orledin, if that is indeed what he wanted?

He didn’t dare ask Nessna, because she was the Captain’s wife and she might mention it to him. If it wasn’t allowed, he’d tell Orledin before either got too attached and feelings got too hurt. He wasn’t certain how Anorelle might react, she seemed very fond of rules and regulations as well. But Leinath knew she was the best person to ask, as they spent every morning together, and she was older and more serious than Vellira, or Julan or Faeris.

They walked along the scar, looking for signs of Scourge. The spring and summer had seen some growth there, sprouting up through the cracked earth. It wasn’t a lot, but it was progress. Now the encroaching winter would kill it again, but the roots would persist, and it would return again in spring. “Anorelle,” he asked, once Nessna was a bit ahead and he didn’t think she could hear. “What would you do if you were, uh, interested in another ranger?”

She blinked at him and raised a brow warily. “Why?”

“Just, not saying anyone is. But hypothetically,” Leinath said.

“I’m not. Who told you I was?”

This wasn’t going as he’d hoped. “Not you. Someone else, like me. What should I do?”

“You’re feeling conflicted about it?” she asked, returning her gaze to the scar.

Leinath frowned. Was he? “Yeah, a little. I know it’s not really encouraged.”

“But it’s not forbidden either. You just need to use discretion. If you’re worried,” Anorelle suggested, “you could speak to the Captain.”

The idea frightened him — all it took was one letter from the Captain and his time here would be done, and he’d go to the prison. A real prison, with bars and chains, no comfortable bunk and no bread and no Lucky. No Orledin, either. “I’ll think about it,” Leinath said at last.

[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.

[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.