[Story] Story a Week 41

[[ Prompt: A romance that ends in tragedy

I’ve been wanting to write my Dragon Age Warden, Raleth, for a while. As he picked the (spoilers!!) ending where he chooses to sacrifice himself, I figured he’d fit for this prompt. It doesn’t actually happen in this story but whatever. ]]

The archdemon opened its jaws and screamed, a sound so shrill and un-nerving that Raleth could feel it in the ground beneath his feet. Panic seized him and he could do nothing but stare as the monstrous thing snaked its head toward him, its eyes burning with sickly flame. It roared again, this time so near that the force of it pushed him back, like a gust of wind in a storm. It smelled rancid, the stench of fouled meat and damp caverns. He turned and ran, the dead leaves kicking up underneath his feet, dodging the thin, black trees, slimy with moss and lichens. Raleth didn’t dare look, but he could hear the flapping of the leathery wings close behind, feel the rush of air as they flapped and stirred the leaves from the ground. He didn’t know where he was going, but somewhere, anywhere away from it. Maybe there was a cave he could duck into, but couldn’t it smell him? It had found him here, after all, somehow. Far ahead, wreathed in fog, Raleth could see figures silhouetted there and it briefly gave him hope. He was saved, someone was here to drive the monster off him and send it back to its fetid pit beneath the earth. But they weren’t people, he realized, as the shapes drew closer. Their bright eyes cut through the fog, leaving sharp lines of light. They were spirits of the fade, warped and twisted, and they weren’t here to help him. Not at all. Raleth gasped, and nearly stumbled over the root of a tree. His robes were wet and muddy from the forest, he could see the hem unraveling. How long had he been out here? The pause was all the Archdemon needed. It reared back its serpentine neck, and struck.

Raleth awoke with a start, and for a few moments he believed he was actually dead, until he realized that he was breathing heavily. Dead people don’t breathe, he was sure of that.

“Dreaming again?”

The bard’s features were outlined by the embers of the dying fire. It was her watch. Of course it was. Raleth felt his ears darken with embarrassment.

“Yes,” he said, gathering up his pack and blankets. He had strewn them off his sleeping mat. The dreams were bad enough, having to explain them was worse. He was sure he sounded crazy.

“Was it a bad one?” asked Leliana, stirring the fire with a stick. She lay a small log on it, and it flickered weakly into life again. “When I had bad dreams, they used to tell me to think of something else after. Something nice.”

If it were that easy, Raleth thought, he surely would. But they were so vivid, so real, unlike any he’d had back at the Circle. Almost if they were something else, prophetic, perhaps. But he knew that sounded crazy too. Still, he appreciated that she was trying to help. And it would probably be some time before he could sleep again. He could still feel the archdemon’s roar echoing in his ears. He wrapped one of the blankets around his shoulders and moved over to the fire to warm his hands. It wasn’t yet winter, but the nights grew very cold, especially at this late hour. She smelled nice, like some kind of flower. Raleth couldn’t identify it, but he knew it wasn’t the one he’d found for her in the woods. That one had been light and delicate and simple, unassuming. The one now smelled more exotic and fancy, like somewhere in the city. He thought about asking what she’d done with it, but decided not to. It would be awkward, even more awkward than things were presently. He thought, sometimes, that maybe there was something in the way she smiled, but he was probably just imagining it. Back in the Circle there had never been any girls who liked him that way. But he saw how they acted around boys that they did like, and he thought it might be similar. Or maybe she was just friendly to everyone. It seemed so. He didn’t want to make assumptions where he shouldn’t. Besides, he was an elf. He knew how that made him look to others. Especially someone who’d travelled so far and seen so much. She liked to tell of her homeland, and how opulent it was. What interest could she have in an elf from the poorest part of a city that stank?

“Are they from…?” she trailed off. Raleth knew what she meant. The demon’s blood that now ran through his veins, was part of him. Whatever it was that had marked him and set him upon this path, one that he couldn’t step off of no matter how much he wished to. He would have been happy to go back to the Circle, even with all its rules and templars, and forget about all of this. But then he wouldn’t have met her, would he?

He nodded. “They’re so real. I don’t know if they’re meant to show what will happen or –” Raleth paused, frowning. “Something else.”

“I have them sometimes,” Leliana said, her expression growing more serious. “Not like yours, I’m sure. But visions.”

Raleth nodded, he remembered. She’d said that she foresaw his arrival in a dream, that it was a sign from the Maker that she was to join them. Raleth believed in the Maker, dutifully said his prayers every day in the Circle chapel, but he didn’t consider himself especially religious. Still, how did he know it wasn’t true? Maybe it was. Stranger things had already happened to him. “Did you  have any recently?” he asked. About me, was what he wanted to know, but he didn’t say it.

Leliana paused, and he thought he saw a hint of a smile. What did that mean? “I’m not sure yet,” she said. “Sometimes their meaning isn’t clear at first.”

“Oh,” said Raleth. Of course he wanted to know what she meant, it was frustratingly vague and — he guessed — intentionally so. But he could hear others beginning to stir. It was close enough to dawn that it would be useless to try to go back to sleep now. Soon they would be cooking and packing up the camp and preparing to move. Streaks of pale light brushed the horizon. Whatever chance he might have had to say something was gone.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Raleth’s Journal

[[ Just a short one, this week and the next are tough for writing because kids are still home, but I’m trying to at least get something done! I will also be starting on summer art projects next week! ]]

It seems I’ve got myself a new student. True, she’ll be studying with Hethurin as well, but since I’m the one who is taking steps to see that she can attend, I think of her as mine. I’m not sure why I agreed to it, other than I sympathize with her, perhaps. She’ll always be an outsider, not really belonging anywhere. I’m worried about that for Naraleth. I don’t want him to feel like he has nowhere to go. I spoke with Hethurin, he was hesitant at first but eventually agreed to it. I’m aware that I’m her sponsor of sorts, if anything should go wrong it’s me who will be responsible. But I’m certain that it won’t. She studied in Dalaran, and then with the Highborne mage for several years. If she was going to cause trouble, she would have by now. That’s another thing. I’m not especially keen to visit Lali’s former teacher (and his stupid beard) but I’ll need to go and pick her up as she doesn’t know where the school is. I rather doubt it would be a good idea to send her through Silvermoon, either. Hopefully he won’t ask too much about Lali, I don’t expect that he will though – he’s likely still embarrassed about the whole situation too.

My main worry is that she’ll feel too different from the others. It is my hope that she’ll be allowed to stay in the girls’ building with the other students. Hethurin plans to talk to them about it. He said he’d build a whole separate house if he needs to, but I think that would only make her feel more isolated. After all, the rangers work with death knights, and haven’t had any trouble that I’ve heard about, and Sora isn’t a death knight. Just a mage who died during her training.

Being in Shattrath was interesting. It was nice to see it again, I’ve always liked its unique nature, but I always feel on guard there, as if my brother could be around any corner. At least I know he’s unlikely to be in the library, so I feel safe letting Lali stay there to study.

The summer term has started, but it seems most of the students will be staying. We teachers have our work cut out preparing the elective courses. As we’ll soon have a lot of new young students, Hethurin is considering hiring a second general studies instructor. That would let Lali teach the little ones, which she really likes, and perhaps an elective as well. Of course I can’t sign her up for anything without her permission. But maybe she’d like to teach about Kalimdor history or the cows, something like that. One of Hethurin’s plans is to build a greenhouse on the grounds, Ter brought back some manaberry plants and they intend to plant them there. I do hope they do well, it would be wonderful to have fresh manaberries all year round.

[Story] Valentine Shorts

[[ Four little short Valentine stories… three happy and one not. ]]

“Don’t peek,” Terellion said, stopping to check Hethurin’s blindfold.

“I’m not,” Hethurin protested. “Do I smell cake?”

Malwen covered her mouth to suppress a giggle. “Maybe,” said Terellion. “It’s just a little further.” He led Hethurin carefully, mindful that he wouldn’t trip and re-injure his leg. He’d checked the garden path carefully for any rocks or roots that might get in the way. The girls were already waiting there, Malwen in her frilly pink dress and holding her new doll, and Narise in her buggy. Terellion had given Malwen a lollipop to bribe her into not spoiling the surprise, and Narise kept trying to grab for it.

“Okay,” Terellion said at last. “You can look now!”

The garden was a riot of pink, red and white — though it was still too cold for real blooms, Terellion had tied paper roses to the ends of the branches. Ribbons were draped between the branches, and wrapped around the lamp posts. Paper hearts fluttered in the breeze, and on a table in the center rested a large heart-shaped cake.

“I helped!” Malwen exclaimed. She took Hethurin’s hand. “Come see!”

Raleth inspected the robe carefully, walking around the dressmaker’s mannequin to ensure that every detail was right. The tailor seemed anxious, waiting for his customer’s approval. If he thought it odd that the robe was such a large size, he hadn’t said anything to Raleth.

She hadn’t had a new robe in a very long time, and he wanted it to be a special one. Though the tailor had plenty of pink and red cloth in preparation for the holiday, Raleth didn’t think they would go well with Lali’s features. Instead, he chose a shade of cool blue and lilac for the main fabrics, and elaborate embroidery on the sleeves and hems. It would be fancy enough to wear for parties, but still safe enough that she could hold the babies and not worry about them swallowing a bead.

He wanted to do more though. Lali never once complained about missing her family or old friends, though she surely must. Here she was in this strange place, surrounded by strange people who didn’t even speak the same language most of the time. Raleth knew that she sometimes got letters from the Tauren back in Kalimdor, but she hadn’t gone to visit. He’d bring it up soon; he could take care of Naraleth for a few days. Or maybe she could bring him with, and he could finally meet his grandfather. It troubled him that the old man hadn’t even bothered to see Nareleth.

Raleth nodded to the tailor. “It’s perfect.” The tailor smiled, relieved, and began to fold the robe up to be wrapped.

Flower shops seemed to spring up like mushrooms around Stormwind close to the holiday. Normally, there were only two, with a couple of stands. Now, it seemed like they were on every corner, barrels bursting with blooms in every color imaginable. The Harrier took his time to visit them all, trying to decide which stand had the freshest and most lovely flowers. They all had roses, of course, but he wanted something unusual. One stand caught his eye, near the Cathedral. They had roses of every color, striped and white and yellow and pink, but the most outstanding were a deep purple in color, nearly black. The gnome claimed they were grown in Un’goro, in volcanic soil and watered with red wine. The Harrier didn’t really believe that was true, but he bought them anyway because they were stunning, and he thought that Rose might like them. He still had the ring he’d found in the ruins of Gilneas, it was still safely hidden away in his locked trunk, but it still didn’t seem like the right time. Perhaps it never would be, but he wasn’t willing to give up just yet.

He walked home along the streets, rather than take the roofs. It was slower, but he didn’t want to risk dropping or bruising the flowers. It also meant that he passed more stands selling things for the holiday — little candies, cheap perfumes, those flimsy night dresses. His ears perked when he saw the chocolates, though, packed neatly into bright red boxes. Josie would like some of those, so would Nash and Pup. He bought one for each, and carefully wrote their names with the quill provided at the stand. Maybe he ought to get him something else. He still felt guilty for the way things had gone, though Nash seemed to be less upset, maybe he was just better at hiding it. The Harrier certainly knew what that was like. He glanced around the marketplace. Most of what they were selling wasn’t really appropriate. But then he remembered the wine shop, it was even on the way home. Maybe they’d carry something from Silvermoon there.

Imralion woke in the chair, and it took him a moment to remember where he was. He was at the healer’s building in Tranquillien. Aeramin was still fast asleep, as he had been last night, but Imralion could see the slow rise and fall of his chest. He was breathing. It had not been an easy few days, but somehow things had got even worse. Lani, the healer, said that Aeramin had mixed a number of potions and was lucky to still be alive. Imralion felt responsible; if he hadn’t brought up wanting to live in the city, Aeramin would never have been so upset. He still didn’t know what was best — for him, for Aeramin, and for Lyorri — but he knew he couldn’t abandon Aeramin right now.

His father had been no help at all. He’d told Imralion that he should leave while Aeramin was with the healers, but that felt cowardly and cruel in his mind. Maybe Aeramin was right, maybe he should have tried harder. But he’d been trying for months now and it didn’t seem that things were getting any better between them. If anything, Aeramin had been spending more time in the basement and less time with him. He’d nearly begged Imralion to stay, which was not the reaction he’d expected. He thought Aeramin would agree, he could visit Lyorri more often and she could even stay over at the house, and he could come to visit Imralion at his leisure. But he didn’t see it that way. Part of it was that he wasn’t sure what sort of future they could have; Aeramin wanted to be involved in his daughter’s life, but Imralion didn’t. He resented his own father for leaving without a word, he didn’t want the same thing to happen to Lyorri. Her circumstances weren’t her fault, she was just a baby. But that didn’t make it any easier for Imralion to accept.

The door opened quietly, and Lani came in to check on Aeramin. She listened to his breathing and felt his forehead, and washed it with a damp cloth. She gave Imralion a look but didn’t say anything. Maybe she blamed him too, it was impossible to tell. The sun was already up, he would need to report to his post in the city soon. But he wanted to be there when Aeramin woke, Lani had said it would probably be later that day. He took a scrap of paper and wrote a short note on it.

I’ll be back after my shift. Your father will come today too. He paused. Should he write more? He wasn’t sure if Lani — or Arancon — would read it before Aeramin did. And he wasn’t really sure how things were between them. I’m glad you’re okay. ~Im

He folded the note and tucked it under Aeramin’s hand, on top of the blanket. Hopefully he would wake soon.

[Art] OC-tober – Day 9

This is Raleth, the little elf mage who became a Grey Warden and saved the world. When Dragon Age: Origins came out it was at a time that I was pretty bored with WoW, and I was completely absorbed in the game and its world. I’d love to find another game like that again! Normally I make female characters, but I ended up making this naive little elf mage from the Circle. I’m still far more attached to him than any of the characters from the other Dragon Age games, as he feels like the only one who was truly mine. Here his mabari, Bear, chewed up the flowers he got for Leliana. Bad dog!


[Story] Winter Veil Postcards – Raleth

Raleth tied the skeleton key to a length of ribbon, carefully arranging the tails of the bow to be even. The rest of the ribbon held a stack of books, neatly ordered by size. The books were to help her prepare for her new teaching position at the academy; while she was quite skilled in the magical arts for her age, there was a great deal she didn’t yet know about sin’dorei history. Or mathematics. Or any other number of subjects that she’d be expected to teach to the younger students. Raleth had assured Hethurin that Lali was up to the task, because he knew she was. She was an exceptionally fast learner, and very motivated to prove that she was capable. He’d also promised Lali that he would help her go over the material, and chosen books that he thought would make the subjects easy for her to understand. They didn’t need to go into great depth, after all these were only the most general of classes. Though they already had several bookshelves, he’d have to get one just for her school books. That would have to wait until she saw her other gift, though.

The key was to a house back in the woods in the Ghostlands. It was along the road from the rangers’ quarters to the school, though set back on a small private trail that was easy to miss. Raleth had chosen that intentionally; he was nervous about bringing Lali here as it was. He’d chosen this house for its relative privacy as well as its size — aside from the large bedroom there were three smaller rooms. That was room enough for Naraleth to have his own room when he was old enough, and two study rooms. Like most of the properties in the Ghostlands, it would need a great deal of work before they could actually live in it, but Hethurin assured him that he could hire the workers once they were finished at the school. It would most likely be in the spring, once the weather warmed a bit. Raleth hoped that Lali could see its potential, though it was in poor repair now. He hadn’t decided yet whether they’d keep the little place in Shattrath, or sell or rent it. That was something they’d need to discuss. Raleth knew Shattrath well enough now that he could open a portal to nearly any part of it, should the need rise.

Naraleth’s present was impossible to wrap, so he settled on a ribbon tied around the neck. It was a wooden horse, carved all in one piece with an armored saddle and helmet. It looked a bit like a blood knight’s steed, which it was probably intended to be. The woodcarver had showed him a hawkstrider one, but Raleth hesitated. Was Naraleth a sin’dorei or a kaldorei? Raleth wasn’t sure, and he thought it best to let him decide when he was older, rather than trying to push him in one direction or another. He thought the horse was neutral enough. It had wheels in the base, so it could be pushed along with Naraleth’s feet. The smooth stone floors in the new house would be an ideal place for Naraleth to ride.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Raleth’s Journal

The trip to Shattrath went well enough, even if it was strange having Hethurin missing — and Des and Renner. From what I’ve later learned, he was eager to investigate a temporal anomaly related to the chronomancy he’s been studying. While interesting, I don’t see how it was such an emergency that he had to drop this trip! But, it all turned out well enough. The students were all well-behaved for the most part. I am a bit worried about Keyalenn though; he wasn’t pulling any pranks but it seems his focus has been lost again. I shall talk with him about it, but ultimately it’s his own decision whether to keep progressing in his studies or not. I very much hope he does, as he’s an excellent frost student when he works at it. I’m quite sure it involves that ranger girl again, she came to the masked ball with one of the male rangers and they were dancing. He must have seen it, and that’s the reason for his disinterest in his work.

Magister Firewind was giving lessons during the day, but in the evenings he returned home so it was mostly just me to entertain all of the students. They’d already spent most of the day in the library, so that was out, but there aren’t many suitable places for students in Shattrath. We visited the temple to see the naaru one night, and I took them to one section of the market that I know isn’t too bad, and even the orphanage. But ultimately in the end I let the older ones have some freedom, they’re nearly adults at any rate and so long as neither I nor Hethurin know about it, not much damage could be done. Right? But Vaildor is another matter, he’s far too young to be roaming around the city on his own. I promised Hethurin (and Lani) to keep a close watch on him, but I think he found everything on my tour terribly boring. He did find the bird people intriguing however, and wanted to make sketches of them. I hope they didn’t mind, they didn’t seem to anyway. Vaildor seems to go between extreme interest and total disinterest very quickly, I’m not sure if that’s just his personality or if it’s common to all kids his age. In the market I showed him the stand that sold paper and different sorts of pencils, and he liked that very much. I think he would have spent all day there, but we didn’t have that sort of time. The rest of the afternoon he was sullen and couldn’t find interest in anything else. He may be upset about being left behind too, but I don’t feel that I know him well enough to ask about his personal troubles. I did my best to ensure that he enjoyed his trip, though I’m sure he would say it was completely boring.

Now that Mae has passed her exams, I wonder if we’ll get a new student. Des must be close to taking hers, as well. Lali will begin her lessons after the winter break, she’s so excited about it. She has all of her books and supplies in neat stacks, though Naraleth undoes her organizing almost as soon as she finishes it. I hope that means he’ll be interested in school when he’s older!

[Story] Fairsong Academy – The Masked Ball

All things considered, I think the party went well. Both Lali and I were wary, but no one said a word to her aside from complimenting her mask. Still, she spent a lot of time in the room with the babies, possibly to avoid being noticed. I hate that she has to feel like that, and I hate it worse that it’s my fault, even indirectly. I keep offering — mostly in jest — to return to  Ashenvale with her but I have a feeling the Sentinels would be even less accepting. Truthfully, most everyone here at the school is fine with it. I spoke to Hethurin about allowing Lali to teach the general education classes. He seemed hesitant, he wasn’t sure whether she would know the subject matter well enough. Really? She can speak both Common and Taurahe, in addition to her own language. She’s passed her magical exams and can read and write very well. I think that’s more than qualified to teach basic subjects. I also explained that Lali would very much like to be closer to her friends. Finally he said he’d consider it, and promised to ask Aeramin about obtaining records to supply to Silvermoon. Then if anyone were to investigate for whatever reason, they would see that Lali was a graduate of a Silvermoon magical academy. I wish such deception wasn’t necessary, but I agree that it’s much safer.

We did have an unexpected guest, an undead who expressed interest in the academy’s library. He said he wanted to study shadow magic, namely the sort used for mental manipulation. I explained that the academy, as a reputable place of learning, doesn’t cover such classes. Still, I’m sure Hethurin has something in his private library, it’s the best one outside of Silvermoon in the area. I do wonder what he could possibly want to do with such knowledge?

I’m so relieved that Xarola liked her mask. I was worried that she might not at first, because when I got to the party, she wasn’t down there yet. I thought maybe she’d decided to just hide in her room because it looked bad or something. Mostly we sat with Des and Keyalenn, because Salastion was busy watching the babies. I feel bad for him, who wants to be stuck taking care of babies instead of going to a party? But he didn’t seem to mind too much. And we did bring him some food and cake at least. Sometimes Des got up to go dance with her guard, too. Well I guess he’s a ranger now, but still. It was nice that he was able to come to the party. All of the rangers came, the Captain had a lion mask and Rylad was a tiger again. He was roaring and kept trying to run out of the babies’ room. One time he tried to eat one of the tiny pumpkins and the Captain had to explain that tigers don’t eat pumpkins. I don’t know, maybe they do! Of course, Lin was also there, which meant Keyalenn was obsessing over her. She was there with the ranger with one foot, and they danced together. Then later on they went out to the garden and Keyalenn went over to the window to watch them, which I think is a little bit creepy. He said they were kissing, and nothing we said would make him feel better. He was talking about asking his father to arrange to marry him, because apparently his family has a lot of money. I am not really sure that’s going to work, I mean maybe if it was an awful lot of money. But if she really likes that other ranger (enough to kiss him at least), she probably won’t do it just for money. She doesn’t seem like that kind of person. Xarola asked if I’d marry some other girl just for money and I said I wouldn’t. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t either.

We got to dance a little, and we kissed one time. I made sure to eat a mint candy first!