[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.

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[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] 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] Risarra’s Report – Ratchet

[[ 881 words that don’t count, /cry ]]

Sentinel Highbough’s Report – Ratchet

The subject appeared on the second night of watch. The time was close to midnight. The subject was alone, and armed with two visible daggers (possibly more). He approached the general store and entered. Zhyra and I followed, and confronted the subject. Confirmed that he was Vaelarian and had sent the letter. He explained that he had a lead on finding his grand-daughter and time was of the essence. Claimed to have arrived from the Eastern Kingdoms via a mage’s portal, no mage was nearby. Still uncertain as to how he learned this information in the Eastern Kingdoms. Subject agreed to explain in more detail to Captain Avanniel. Went with the subject to order food at the inn. It was terrible. He mostly ate candy.

—-

I’m relieved that the old man is safe, but I have so many questions. His story didn’t make any sense at all. When I was checking the old reports, I saw that he’s been gone for over a year. Surely he could have contacted us in all that time? At the very least, his friends? I might have lied a little when I told him that Avanniel wanted to speak to him in private. Maybe she does, but she doesn’t want to admit it. It was the best thing I could think of on a moment’s notice, I didn’t want him to leave nor to get violent. He’s in there talking to her now. Talking, or “talking” I’m not sure. I kind of hope it’s the latter, then Avanniel won’t be asking me quite so many questions when I ask if I can go to Winterspring with Bear.

I’m still not exactly sure why he wants to go, it’s not going to be very pleasant at this time of year. And he seemed surprised when I told him about the sabers, so I guess that’s not the reason either. Vaelarian has been there too, or so he claims. I promised I’d look for any Tauren there, and speak to them if I get the chance. But he said he’s seen his grand-daughter, in the company of the blood elf. A steady shot should take care of that problem quickly, but maybe it’s more complicated than that. He’d surely draw attention, but he couldn’t think of a plan in a whole year?

Thankfully, we will only be here another day at most. We’re lucky, it could have been a week or more, depending how often Vaelarian checked the mail box. Did he really come through a mage portal? How did he meet a mage in Eversong? Isn’t that dangerous? What if he’d ended up dissolved into little bits, or stuck on the bottom of the ocean or something? I wouldn’t trust a portal. Oh, he told us that there are sentinels in Eversong, but they are called rangers. And they let men be rangers too, and they go on patrols with the women. I don’t know, I think that sounds like a bad idea. It’s bad enough when the druids are in town, what would it be like if they were on patrol too? Maybe it’s less of a novelty because they see each other all the time. Or perhaps male rangers aren’t considered attractive to female rangers.

I’ll be glad to get out of this place. The ocean is nice, especially at sunset and dawn, but the trees are scrawny and strange. There are goblins everywhere, as well as orcs and trolls, and it feels they’re always watching us. I think they gave us terrible food on purpose, I can’t think of another reason it would be so bad. Bear’s had bugs in it. Disgusting! Last night Vaelarian said he could read some of the Orcish and he ordered some kind of fish, except it was slimy and awful, not at all like the fish Bear caught in the stream. We mostly ate candy, but then Bear returned from hunting with a boar. I wanted to kiss him — well, I wanted to anyway, but especially for bringing us some real food.

I told him he didn’t have to come along, but he did anyway. I don’t think he was very happy about it, he was worried he’d trip over a goblin. If that happened, it would probably explode or cause a scene. And I felt bad for him trying to eat food with bugs in it. Talking to him didn’t really answer any of my questions. He just said that he’d tell me whatever I wanted, without actually answering anything. I didn’t know what I was supposed to ask, just things in general. I talk all the time and it feels like he always just listens. I did agree to stay at his camp though, at least part of the time. The other days, I’ll stay in Astranaar so I can get all of the reports and see Zhyra and Avanniel and the others. After we return, I’ll bring some of my things — some books so he has something to do while I’m away, and some cooking supplies. I still don’t know what it means. He says he likes me, I suppose that’s enough for now. I do like him. I let him stay in my room and I liked that too.

[Story] Ashenvale – Risarra’s Journal

Two important things happened, and I’m not sure about either of them. The first is that Avanniel got a letter from the old man, the one who she let to go look for his grand-daughter. He wrote that he is in the Eastern Kingdoms — which is where he’s supposed to be. A blood elf took her and is keeping her there. But Avanniel pointed out that the address on the envelope is a box in the goblin town on the coast. Is he actually there, and lying about where he is? Avanniel wants someone to go there and watch for him. If he’s expecting a reply, he will have to go there soon to get it. She also suggested asking the goblins about him, though I don’t know much about them, I expect that will take some coins. I asked who will have to do that, and she said she didn’t know yet. I don’t want to, it sounds awful. Goblins are terrible little things and I can only imagine how bad a town full of them would be. And it’s really far away. What if something happens? But if I get picked, I will have to go. There’s no way around it. Avanniel is concerned that he may have fallen under the blood elf’s control, as well. If he is, I’m not certain he would be able to write such a letter, but of course, if the blood elf is pulling the strings it is possible. It could be a trap, too. In the letter he asked about whether any tauren were in the area. That’s a very odd thing to ask, does he think they have her? Avanniel said she grew up with them, so she might return to them. But I haven’t seen any in the forest for quite a long time. I know there is a small camp at the border, but it’s too dangerous to go there alone. If she was there, I think she would have been killed by now. I will keep watch for any tauren on my patrols, but I don’t expect to see any.

Bear said that if I had to go to the goblin town, he would too. I thought that was very kind of him to offer, but I’m not sure Avanniel would allow it. I would feel a bit safer, though I know he wouldn’t want to stay in a goblin town any more than I do. Probably less, given how much he dislikes Astranaar. That’s the other thing that happened. I don’t regret it, I’d been thinking about it for a very long time and it was nice. But now I don’t know what it means. Bear was talking about moving his house to a different spot, and I think he was saying that because I wanted it. I know he’d be unhappy, not to mention the bears would have less room, and I don’t want either of those things. He has a good camp, and he’s already done a lot of work on the little house, I’d hate for him to give it all up just because I don’t want to walk as far. I do want to see him more often though, I’ll just have to get up in time to make it back to the barracks to report in time. Unless I got a hippogryph, but I don’t know where I’d keep it. And he doesn’t say things like Sorias did, I know they aren’t the same person but I guess I expected it a little. He does things though, he picked a whole basket of berries and I am taking the extras back for muffins and jam. Are we mates? I don’t know. I can’t exactly ask Zhyra about it and I think Avanniel would just roll her eyes.

[Story] Risarra’s Journal

The nights are getting cooler, and tonight we started baking sweet cakes for the ghosts. Sorias says that in Stormwind, the humans put on masks around the fall time. He said he’s never seen anyone leave out ghosts cakes. I wonder if he does. Probably not. He also wrote that if I see any more demons, I should go there. If I see any demons, I’m just going to kill them. It’s not necessary to go anywhere, and I wouldn’t want to leave people here with no one to look after them. Like Bear and Nim. I guess Bear would probably be okay, but there are plenty of people who need us to keep the forest safe.

I packed up some ghost cakes and a lot of dumplings and went to see Bear. Avanniel said that I should just tell him what I want, that men don’t understand hints and things like that. I guess she would know, and it makes sense. I also wore a dress, it’s the one I wear when I need to go into the temple.  It’s pretty but I don’t think it matches my hair very well, but it’s the only one I have and I got it secondhand anyway. Maybe one day I’ll make it to the market in Darnassus, but I have a lot of things I need to buy before dresses, like new boots and bow-strings.

He wasn’t there when I first arrived and I thought maybe he was asleep or something, but then he came up the trail. He said he’d been trapping down in the valley, but there were no rabbits anywhere. Something must have spooked them, I know goblins run machines down there and they’re very loud, or there could have been orcs. But I think orcs are usually too dumb to trap rabbits. I’m glad I brought a lot of dumplings, so he wasn’t hungry. They were making a lot for the ghost holiday, so there were four different kinds. We both like spider the best, but so do a lot of people, so I had to take some of the others too. There were chicken, vegetable, and fish ones. I also brought a little jar of the sauce, they’re not quite as good without the sauce.

Bear said he never left out ghost cakes before. I wasn’t sure if he was teasing me or not? But maybe they don’t do that in Feathermoon. They didn’t live in the town, but surely they had the same holidays? So I had to explain it to him, which was very strange. He asked if there would be any ghosts at the camp, and I said I didn’t know. Ghosts can go anywhere they want, I suppose. I said that if the ghosts didn’t take them, then his bears would surely want to eat them. It’s more just a way to show that we remember and honor them, as ghosts don’t really get hungry anyway. He seemed to like them though, he ate a lot. I remembered Avanniel’s advice and I just asked if I could stay, and he said I could. I think he might have been a bit surprised, but I can never really tell what he’s thinking. He hardly talks at all. I’m not used to that, and maybe that’s why I became uncertain again.

Because what if he doesn’t actually want me to stay, or what if I do — do I stay out here at his camp and go back every night? I’m not sure if I want to give up living in town with the other sentinels, I think I’d be awfully lonely. And what if it’s not what I expected it to be, or what if either of us change our minds after? I know it happens, but I think it would still be painful. But he’s worked very hard on his house — he even built little shelfs to put things on, and he’s been fixing it up for the winter. I still think it would be quite cold there, even with a fire inside. It did feel warm and safe with him there, and he does have very nice ears. I might have touched them a little. I just wish I knew how to be certain.

[Story] Ashenvale – Risarra’s Journal

I wrote my bear report and submitted it to Avanniel. I know she knows I wasn’t just observing bears, along with probably everyone else, but they didn’t say anything where I could hear it at least. I didn’t see very much of them, either. Maybe they didn’t like my smell and decided to stay away. I did see them at the edge of the camp at dusk when I was getting ready to leave. They ate some fish, which seem big and healthy, which means the river is doing well. I just wrote about their behavior and things like that, the female bear (Espen) doesn’t have any cubs, but she’s also a different type of bear I think. Bear said she’s from Northrend, and her fur is lighter in color, so it makes sense she may not want to have cubs with the other bears. Or maybe she’s just not sure about them yet, I can definitely relate there. I don’t know if he was talking about us or not, I can never really be sure. He did say he wanted to help raise a child if he had any. I’m not opposed to it one day, but I’m far too young to be thinking about that right now.

He had tidied up the camp when I arrived, not that it’s usually messy or anything but I could tell he’d straightened things up. Also his hair was long and unbraided, and had those little waves you get if you leave it braided for a long time. It looked nice. It made me feel embarrassed of mine, I used to have it long but it got to be such a pain having to comb and braid it all the time that I just cut it short. I can still tie it back a little, and it’s way easier now, but I admit it isn’t very pretty. If I was a priestess I would have time to sit and comb my hair all the time, but I’m not.

I brought the spider, and the berry muffins, and he also had some fish he’d caught before. He said he forgot he had them, how do you forget that? I think it would smell pretty bad to leave fish around, though I guess the bears would find them pretty quickly. I also am not sure where he got ice in the summer. We have a small shed for it, but by this time it’s usually pretty much gone. I know in the city they have ice that’s made by mages, but of course we don’t have any of those here, and I think most of the sentinels wouldn’t use it anyway. They might be right, and it has some magical residue on it, but when it’s really hot I think I’d take the chance.

We just talked about normal things while we cooked the food. Mostly about druids and places he’s been, things like that. I’ve never really been anywhere; to the edge of the forest and to Darnassus, but that’s all. I want to, someday, but Northrend sounded pretty awful. I don’t think I want to go there. He told me about his mother and how she really wanted him to be a druid. She died when Auberdine was destroyed, and he feels like she’d still be disappointed in him. I wanted to say that wasn’t true, but how would I know? I told him there are more important things, like being a good person and helping others. If she’s not proud of that, then I don’t know what else to say.

We watched the sun come up over the hill. It was so late I was practically falling asleep right there. I didn’t want to be rude, but I don’t know how he can do that, I have to be up right at dusk for my patrol every night. It was also awkward because I didn’t know if I was supposed to sleep out on the grass or what. There are some trees in the camp, but not many, and it would be difficult to sleep in the bright sun. He said I could use his shelter, which was okay, but then he said he could stay there too if I wanted. Did I? I said I did, maybe I just wanted to see what would happen. I’m not sure whose idea it was to kiss, maybe both. I haven’t kissed anyone before and I wanted to know what it was like. Now I know, it’s pretty good. Nothing else happened besides that though, but it was nice having him there, if a little strange. I was so tired that I fell asleep right away so I’m not sure what he thought about it.