[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 – 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 – 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.

[Story] Thorns – The Farm

Rose went and bought a farm.  I can’t be too surprised, because she said she would, and once she sets her mind to something it’s pretty certain that it’s going to happen. But I thought it would take a while, or they’d give up looking eventually or something. It’s outside of the city, not too far from Northshire but far enough back in the trees to have some privacy. She insisted that I come to look at it after the shop closed for the day. I mean, it’s a farm. It’s muddy and it smells like shit. It has a barn already, as well as a house. Both will need a fair amount of work, Rose said that can wait until after the goblin holiday — which is good because that’s our second busiest time of year. A lot of people like to give clocks and watches for gifts for that. I thought there was no way she’d be able to do it herself, but then I remembered she did grow up on a farm, so she’ll feel right at home. Rose said she’ll hire some people to help though so it’ll get done quickly, spring is really rainy so she doesn’t want the buildings open for too long. She and Josie are already talking about what kind of animals they want to get, and what colors they’ll paint the rooms in the houses. It feels like everything’s happening without me, and I suppose it is.

When she was showing me the house, she showed me which room would be mine, if I wanted it. What I think doesn’t matter, it’s happening regardless. I don’t like the idea of leaving the shop empty every night, and I don’t want to have to walk into the city every day, nor do I want Nash having to pass through the gates all the time. Those guards are a little bit more on top of things, they check people coming in more closely than the ones who are already inside. I could stay here with him, I’d still have my work space plus a lot more. I mean, assuming he’d want to, but I think he would. I need to talk it over with him, and see what he thinks. Maybe he has dreams of hanging out in fields with sheep too, I don’t know. They’ll still come to work in the shop during the day — at least Rose will. Josie might stay behind at the farm, it seems she’d feel right at home there, and we don’t really need four people working the shop. Pup will probably go, too. He’ll come to the city for school but go home with them in the evenings, and I’ll barely see him. I know this is the push I probably need to finally let things go, but I still can’t make the jump. Not yet. The more time passes, the more foolish it is, I know that, but I can’t help imagining how things might go.

Rose will probably say I’m just being stubborn for its own sake, and why don’t I just go with them? A farm isn’t the forest, but it’s close enough that I’d rather stay here. I like the city. I like having people around and buildings and the feeling that I’m supposed to be here. I don’t think I’d have any of that on a farm. Maybe it’ll be a good thing, but that’s the thing about change — you never know how it’ll turn out ahead of time.

[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”.