[Story] Winter Veil Postcards 2017

Leinath wandered between the market stalls, certain to keep hold of his coin purse at all times. He’d heard stories about pickpockets in the city, and if someone was going to pick pockets, it would be a perfect opportunity to do so. Everyone was distracted by the stalls full of gifts, the cheery music and decorations. Most of the stalls were staffed by goblins, at least in the front. It seemed anywhere things were being sold, goblins were there.

“Happy Winter Veil, friend,” one of them called. She wore a huge floppy red hat with a bell on the end, perched on one ear. “What can I help you find today? A nice sweater, perhaps?”

In truth, Leinath wasn’t really sure what to buy. He’d thought looking at the market might give him some ideas, but he just felt more confused. What were you supposed to get someone who couldn’t use most things? And he still wasn’t sure where things stood between them, so there was a balancing act of not getting anything too expensive or sentimental. The goblin hopped down and went around to the other side of the stall. “Some chocolates?”

Orledin couldn’t eat chocolates, but of course he didn’t want to tell everyone in the market that. “He’s uh, he’s a ranger, so something practical.”

The goblin nodded, her bell jingling. “Say no more!” she said, and disappeared behind the counter again. “What about these fine boots, crafted of the finest crocolisk leather?”

Orledin probably could use new boots, while his were still in decent condition, these were really nice. And practical. But it didn’t really seem very personal. He already had all the baking equipment he could ever need, and Pancat had a nice bed and collar. Leinath had thought about a pocket watch, because he didn’t think Orledin had one, but he didn’t want to give the idea that Orledin was always late or something. He definitely couldn’t go back without anything at all, though.

“I’ll take the boots,” said Leinath.

The library in Shattrath had an abundance of books about its native plants, and Sorelle had brought several back to her room to copy the drawings. They weren’t allowed to go too far out of the city, so she’d only been able to find some terocones and felweed, which grew practically everywhere. She’d carefully shaken the seeds out of the terocones and saved them in a little paper pouch, labelled with the name. For Felweed, a cutting was necessary, and this she kept moist in her fruit bowl, once she’d removed all of the fruit.

They would be going to the market today, and she hoped she’d find someone selling more seeds there. In Dalaran there had always been people selling flowers and herbs, so she guessed there would be something similar here as well. Even if they didn’t have seeds for sale, they would better know where to find some. She might have to get special permission from the Headmaster, but Sorelle thought he’d probably allow it so long as she went with a teacher.

As they weren’t allowed in the market alone, she asked Xarola to go with her. Aside from being her best friend at the school, she knew a lot about plants — at least Azeroth ones. She was interested in learning more about Outland plants as well, and was eager to visit the market with Sorelle. The fellow at the flower stand was one of what Xarola called fungus people, short and tiny with mushrooms sprouting from their body. Sorelle was fascinated by these — she’d seen some Forsaken who grew fungi, but that was more because of poor care than anything else. Were these people some kind of hybrid, or were they fully fungi? She would have to do more research when they got back to the library. He — or it — Sorelle didn’t think fungi had genders in the way that people do — had an array of very small potted trees lined up on the table. They were evergreens, similar to the ones that had surrounded Dalaran when Sorelle was a student there initially, but these were an Outland variety, probably the same that composed the forest around Shattrath. The bristles were dark green in color, clustered together into little branches that alternated up the trunk. The pots were wrapped in brightly colored foil, and the little fungus person gestured excitedly to Xarola and Sorelle as they approached. “Winter Veil,” it kept saying, and pointing to the trees. “Ten silver.” She thought that might be the extent of all the Common that it spoke.

The tree was alive, fully rooted in its pot, not cut. If cared for, Sorelle thought it could be kept in the greenhouse until the spring. It would look festive in her room as well, lit with magical lights and hung with ribbons and maybe some cookies from the party. Of course, she’d need to ask permission from the Headmaster, but since small pets were allowed, she didn’t see how he could object to a tree. She took the coins from her pouch and gave them to the mushroom person, picking one with a red foil pot.

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[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.

[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] Ashenvale – Risarra’s Journal

I’m back in Astranaar, and Avanniel will be leaving just before dusk to travel to Ratchet. I’m a little nervous, but not too much — everyone already knows their patrols, and knows me, so it should just be a matter of collecting reports and reading them. Unless of course, something unusual happens like some orcs invade, or we find some demons. That’s the part that I do worry about, but I’ve thought a lot about what I’d do and I feel like I’m ready if anything like that happens. I want to prove that I can do a good job and Avanniel was right to trust me to be in charge.

I hope I won’t be too distracted though. It’s hard not to think about other things, especially on nights when patrol is boring and nothing is happening. I think it’s probably the prettiest place in the world, except that I haven’t been anywhere else so I can’t really compare. I think about maybe one day I’ll get to see them too, I hope I do. I would like Bear to be there too, although I’m still a bit confused about what’s going on. When he asked if I could go, I thought there was some special reason — I mean, other than just seeing everything. Probably it was silly of me to think that, after all he usually just says what he means. And I did love it there, other than being cold, which wasn’t so bad because we had a fire in our little cabin and lots of blankets. It was incredible to see the sabers and their families out there in the snow, and the furbolgs in their little villages. On the second day we went to the hot springs and they were amazing! The water in them is really hot, so hot that steam comes up, but some of the shallow ones you can actually go in. It feels just like a wonderful hot bath. The water is bright blue, because of the surrounding ice, I guess. Then later we went and saw some blue dragons. They were just little ones, Bear said, but I’ve never seen dragons before and I loved them. I don’t know how to describe them, like bright little jewels flying in the air. The last thing we saw was a whole cave full of moonkin, well we didn’t get too close because they can be unpredictable. But they were beautiful too, their feathers were white and grey and blue, not like the ones in Ashenvale. I didn’t find any tauren, though Winterspring is very large and there could be camps or villages hiding in the hills, we didn’t go everywhere.

I can’t ever tell what he’s thinking. I know he’s probably back at his camp, working on the little house. Before we left, I brought some more blankets from the supply building, so we should be warm enough. I know there’s also a hole in the roof so we can have a fire. Ashenvale doesn’t usually get too cold, so that should be enough. But I still don’t know what he thinks beyond that, I mean other than wanting dumplings. Which I do plan to work on while I’m here, and have a proper oven. If I can make up a few batches I should have enough until Avanniel’s next trip. Maybe I am just expecting too much, I don’t know. I should just be patient but I don’t like not knowing what is going to happen.

[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] Risarra’s Report – Winterspring

Winterspring is very snowy this time of the year. It comes up to my waist, though the locals say it will probably reach the eaves of the cabins by the end of the winter. There is a small kaldorei settlement here, one large building which contains a kitchen and serving area, as well as a small library and sitting rooms. It is built in traditional style without walls, so one might look out over the landscape. Surrounding the large building are several smaller cabins which can be rented out for a fee. They contain a bed, table and chairs, and a small reading area, as well as a fireplace. The operation is run by kaldorei, some of whom seem to be related. I saw a few who I presumed were druids, based on their attire. I believe there is a barrow den in the area and they come to the settlement for food. There is a very large lake surrounded by ruins, and it is frozen over most of the year. Further west there are said to be hot springs, but I did not see these yet.

A wide variety of wildlife makes Winterspring home. So far I have seen owls, sabers, bears, deer, and furbolgs. I am told there are more magical creatures such as moonkin, ice elementals, and blue dragons as well, but I have not seen these yet.

My official report wasn’t very good, but I feel that I need to get more practice if I’m going to be responsible for making them when Avanniel is away. I think she’ll be leaving for Ratchet soon, so I can’t stay here in Winterspring very long. I was able to find a mail box at the town, so she’ll get this before she leaves I think. It really is beautiful, I’ve never seen so much snow before in my life. Sometimes it snows in Ashenvale, but it’s only a little, like dust sprinkled over everything. The trees are thick so not much of it can fall to the ground. While there are trees here, even thick in some places, it’s much more open overall and there are wide fields just full of snow that haven’t been touched by any person or animal. And the sky has these beautiful bands of color, green and blue and purple. Bear said it has something to do with the way the sky works here, I thought maybe it was just a reflection from the snow. Either way, it’s breathtaking and wonderful.

There were a lot more people than I thought there would be. It’s not bad — especially because they make food, and it was good food, too. Bear really liked their dumplings, he said they were better than the ones from Astranaar. I think I could make them like this, they’re just larger and they use some more spices, I don’t know which ones but I could buy some from the market. I want to learn how to make the best dumplings ever. He also didn’t like that there were druids, so I went and got the food. I wish he’d understand that not every druid is going to be a jerk, I’m sure there are many who are very nice. They wouldn’t work so hard to protect everyone if they were all jerks. I love our little cabin, all except for the bear skin rug. I thought that was pretty rude, they could have used some other kind of rug. I love the little bench to read on, and they left bread and cheese on the table. The bed was a little small but it was nice. I just kind of wish there hadn’t been so many other people around. I talked to him a little about how I’d be doing the patrols when Avanniel was away, and I don’t think he was too happy that I’d be in town for that time. But he didn’t like my suggestion to find a place closer to the town, either. If we did, I could stay with him all the time. But maybe I’m not ready for that yet either, it’s like he doesn’t really want to talk too much about the future. Which is okay for now, I suppose.

We went to look at the sabers. We had to travel north along the road quite a way, you can go off the road but the snow there is so deep that it’s difficult. There is a really large rock outcropping that juts out over a small frozen lake, and a lot of sabers live around there. We had to wait for a while before we saw any, but finally we did — a group of mothers with their cubs. They were so cute I wanted to make a sound but I didn’t want to scare them off. I’ve never seen such beautiful sabers, some had purple stripes and others had blue, while others had black and some were completely white. I missed Magnolia when I saw them. I’ve thought about getting another saber, but I don’t know if it’s the right time. If I do, I definitely want to get one from here.

Bear said that tomorrow we’ll go to the hot springs. They sound interesting, I don’t know how they can be hot when it’s so cold here, but he said the water comes from under the ground. I guess the lava makes it hot and it stays warm when it comes up through the spring. It definitely sounds interesting.

[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.