[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.

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[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 – 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.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Leinath’s Journal

Orledin got me a fox. An actual baby fox, not a statue or something. He said he got it from Dalaran, I don’t know how he was able to get there, and I didn’t know they kept animals there. A lot of animals have been displaced from all the demons, and he said they take care of them there. That must be a lot of animals though. You’d think they would just release them somewhere safe where there aren’t demons, but I’m not complaining. I’m really happy to have my own fox. I don’t have any idea how to take care of him though, I’ve never had a pet before and I’ve only seen foxes in glimpses now and then in the forest. Orledin gave me a paper from the place, it lists some things I should feed him and which things I shouldn’t (like candy). So I guess no cookies for him.

I don’t actually know if it’s a him or not. I’m not really sure how to tell. I asked Orledin what I should name him, and he said he wasn’t good at naming things, Pancat is called that because he’s grey, like a pan. I think Lucky is a good name. Because he’s lucky he won’t be eaten by demons, or hunted, and because he should be good luck for me, too. Orledin also got him a bunch of stuff, two bowls – one for food and one for water, some toys, and a little bed. I set up the bed in the corner where my bunk is, but so far Lucky likes my bed better. I don’t mind, he’s really cute. When he sleeps he curls up into a tiny ball with his little tail over his nose. He really likes roast spider, and also bread. I know bread isn’t a good thing to feed to foxes, but I like to let him try everything. Mostly I think he’ll eat stew or roast bird, I know they have that a lot at the school and Lin goes there all the time. So I’ll ask her if she can bring me some back for Lucky.

I don’t know how to train him either. I think it would be great if he could go on patrol with me when he’s bigger. Orledin suggested I ask the Captain or Nessna about that, because they know a lot about animals. And a fox is closer to a cat than a lizard or bird. For now though I’m just going to try to teach him some basic things, like to come when I call his name or to find things. He really likes bringing a toy back if you throw it for him. Everyone in the quarters wanted to watch him when I was doing that. I hope they don’t mind him being there too much. He’s not as loud as that dumb bird, anyway.

He’s definitely the best present I’ve ever gotten. It’s not my birthday or anything, either, so I feel a little weird that he’s spending all that money on me. It must have cost a lot to get him here all the way from Dalaran, and he also bought all those things for him. Orledin said he doesn’t have much to spend it on, which is true, I don’t either but I’m still trying to save as much as I can. Was he just trying to be nice? I think so, I don’t really know what to say to that. I’m grateful but what if he expects something else? It might be okay, I know there are other rangers who are together but they have their own places. It might be less okay if it’s there in front of everyone. And I’m still not sure about how things work since he’s… you know, not alive. It’s not something I can just casually ask, though maybe Julan would know. It’s always weird when I talk to him though.

[Story] Story a Week 20

[[ My word this week was: bread! ]]

Leinath stopped to check the instructions again. Was this the second or third time he’d kneaded it? Would it matter? Bread was so much more complicated than cookies. With cookies, you just needed to measure everything and then mix it together. Sometimes you had to keep the dry ingredients separate from the wet at first, and then sometimes you had to mix in the nuts or chips later, but that was it. Nothing more complicated than that. A few of them you had to let the dough rest in the cooler for a while, but it didn’t need any more attention. Bread, on the other hand, was downright demanding.

It had been Orledin’s suggestion, he assured Leinath that he’d done enough baking to be able to handle it. And at the time, he’d agreed, but now he wasn’t so sure. He’d never baked anything before coming to the rangers, and he felt that he’d suddenly got in over his head. The first part had been easy enough, mixing the flour and salt and other things. But then there was the yeast. Orledin explained that these were tiny creatures that ate the flour and it made the dough rise. That was kind of gross when you really think about it, but he assumed they died when the dough baked. Still, he’d always think about eating the corpses of all those tiny animals from now on. You had to have just the right temperature and amount of water, or the bread wouldn’t rise properly. He’d already had to start over once because of that, thankfully Orledin wasn’t in the kitchen to see that. Leinath was sure he’d be irritated over wasting ingredients like that. Once it did rise, then you had to take the dough out and knead it. Then back into the oven to rise again. This was repeated once or twice, he couldn’t be sure, and then finally the bread was baked. If he got to that stage, Leinath figured, it would be difficult to mess up. He hadn’t had any burning incidents since that first week. And he had to admit he looked forward to being able to eat it after all this work. Corpses of little creatures or not, there was nothing like hot, freshly made bread.

Orledin came in to check how he was doing. He took over kneading, though it seemed that he did it in a different way, and much more efficiently. He seemed surprised that it wasn’t in the oven yet, but thankfully he didn’t look into the trash bin and see the failed first attempt. Orledin was an expert at bread though. Besides the normal kind, he could make all different shapes, like little round buns or fancy braided twists, or bread with brown flour or soft bread with nuts in it. He thought they could probably sell it in town — well, maybe once there were a few more living residents. Still, Leinath thought he wasn’t doing too badly for someone who was brand new at it. His old friends would hardly believe it, if they could see him now. A legitimate ranger, and one who was baking bread at that.

He opened the hot oven and slid the pan with the dough inside. Now it was just a matter of waiting.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Leinath’s Journal

I finally feel like I’m starting to get into the routine here. It probably helps that I already knew how to use a bow, so I got a lot less yelling from Sunashe. I hear the others complaining about him sometimes, and while I might not agree with his methods I agree with what he’s saying most of the time. Maybe I could help him give people tips, in a somewhat quieter way. He’s got a new baby and that has to take up a lot of time. It’s also good that nobody asks too many questions, because I don’t know what I would say if they did. I’d probably just tell the truth, but I’m pretty sure some of the guys here are the sort of people I used to rob if I saw them out on the roads, so I don’t know how they’d feel about that.

Like Faeris. He definitely has that rich-kid look about him, though he’s nice enough and he seems pretty good with a sword. Not a bow though, as Sunashe likes to remind everyone. It was never personal when I robbed anyone, I just told myself they deserved it because it made it easier. But I have to admit he’s an okay guy. I can’t tell if he was flirting with me or not. I’d brought out a new tray of cookies and he was out there – no Julan in sight. That was a little unusual, but I guess he was still on patrol. Faeris asked if I thought anyone here was interesting. I know he’s with Julan, so I thought that was an odd thing to ask, though I don’t know all the details there. Maybe they’re trying to invite me over, not sure I’m interested in getting in the middle of something like that. I don’t know if it’s really allowed at all. No one’s allowed in each others’ quarters, but obviously it must happen anyway. I can’t risk that though, I know how much better it is here than in jail. I don’t want to give the captain any excuse to send me there. I told Faeris I didn’t know what he meant, even though I did.

Then he asked what I thought about Orledin. I said he’s been teaching me how to bake and it’s been pretty good. There were also the flowers, and the cupcake. I’m not dumb, I think I know what he’s hinting at, but I’m not sure what I think about it. If he were alive? Sure, why not — as long as I didn’t get in trouble, that is. As he is now? I’m not sure. I guess I haven’t ruled it out completely but I also don’t want to give him any false hope. And it depends what he wants. I’m assuming there are some things he just can’t do and maybe he just wants a friend to talk to. I can certainly do that. I realized afterward that Orledin might have asked Faeris to find out because he was too embarrassed to ask himself. I could bring it up with him myself, but I don’t want things to be weird either, it might cause trouble, which is the last thing I want. I don’t want Orledin to have to move to another unit, either. I know he likes it here and everyone likes his baking.

Or I can just keep quiet and see what happens. I think that sounds like a better idea.