[Story/Screenshots] Character of the Week – Risarra Highbough

[[ Risarra is a Sentinel in Ashenvale forest. ]]

Risarra crouched back on her heels as she watched Frostwing approach the fish. Bear had brought them back earlier that evening, and suggested that the hippogryph might be interested in it. Surely they didn’t eat fish often in Winterspring — any fish would have been safely under a layer of ice. But they were plentiful here, the bears ate them for every meal. The hippogryph was the most breath-taking thing that Risarra had ever seen, graceful and delicate yet at the same time powerful and ferocious. Her feathers were soft, and a thousand shades of blue, like shadows on the snow. The ones near her head were the smallest, and sometimes Risarra would find one of them in the grass and marvel at its perfection. Around her neck they grew long and fluffy, her wing feathers straight and strong.

Frostwing cocked her head and turned over the fish with her clawed foot, lowering her beak to inspect it. With a soft click, the grey beak closed down on the fish and then released it again. She was testing it, Risarra realized. “It’s okay,” she whispered to Frostwing. “It’s food.” This time, the fish disappeared down the hippogryph’s throat in a single gulp, and she fluffed up her feathers as she looked to Risarra.

“You want another one?” she asked, and Frostwing uttered a trilling chirp.

Risarra rose and walked back to the camp, where Bear was busy making a new table for the house. It was warm enough that he could work outside, and he was taking advantage of the opportunity before it started to rain. Frostwing followed behind her as she went to the drying rack and took another fish. The hippogryph gobbled it down quickly, so she took one more. She supposed that Frostwind needed it, they’d been busy training with the saddle and harness so Risarra could ride. Hopefully there would be enough fish left for the bears. Frostwing’s appetite seemed sated, and she settled down on the ground near the cabin, her legs folded neatly underneath her.

They’d only been together a short time, but Risarra already felt an overwhelming sense of pride and love when she looked at Frostwing. It was something she hadn’t felt since her saber, Magnolia, had died some years ago. She loved Bear, of course, but that was entirely different, and it had taken much longer. There was a great deal of doubt and uncertainty, because elves were much more complicated than animals. Frostwing looked to her as a friend and partner, protector and comrade, after only a few weeks. There was a purity and an innocence to her feelings, but they were just as strong as any elf’s. Risarra rested a hand on Frostwing’s side, and the hippogryph gently nibbled at it with her beak. She could have been looking for more fish, but Risarra preferred to believe that she was grooming her, the way she would another hippogryph that she was friendly with.

Risarra smiled and leaned against Frostwing’s soft, warm side to watch Bear work.

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[Story] Risarra’s Journal

It’s still hard to believe I have my own hippogryph. I keep going to the stable to look at her. As soon as I saw her in the paddock, I knew that’s the one I wanted. Not only is she the most beautiful hippogryph I’ve ever seen, she’s gentle and affectionate. Her feathers are white and silver and blue, like the snowy hills in Winterspring. I decided to name her Frostwing. I like to think that she likes me too, whenever I come to the stable I bring her a little treat, and she nudges my hand with her beak to get at it. I haven’t really had an animal friend since Magnolia — there was the bear that I helped back to health, but it wasn’t really the same. With Frostwing I feel that same connection, but at the same time, the fear that something will happen and we’ll be separated. But the breeder assured me that she’s a strong and confident flyer, well-trained and we shouldn’t have any problems at all. She said that Frostwing had obviously bonded with me. I haven’t tried riding her yet. I will soon, once she’d had a chance to settle into the stable. I want to take her somewhere quiet, away from distractions so she won’t be startled. Near the camp might be good, so she can get used to being there — she’ll be staying there when I do. There is a lake and plenty of soft grass for her to rest on there, though I might see about building a fence to keep animals away from her. Not the bears, but wild sabers and things like that.

The trip was nice. Feathermoon has so many people, and many different buildings. Their barracks are enormous! We stayed in a fancy room in a fancy inn. I was worried there might be druids there, but we didn’t see any. We ate in the restaurant, and they had a sampler plate will all different kinds of dumplings. Some of them I’ve never even tried before, so I tried to figure out what the ingredients might be. I’ll have to write down all my recipes so I don’t forget them. They also had a very nice sauce for dipping, just the hint of spice, Bear seemed to like it a great deal. We drank sparkling wine and had a berry cake. I brought him a book of poems, I thought he might like to read them while I’m away, or we could read them together. I think that would be even nicer. He got me a bracelet with a little bear charm and a hippogryph charm. I like the idea of carrying a tiny bear around with me all the time. There was also a candle that smelled like fresh spring flowers, Bear said he’d bought it at a shop here. I thought it might be a good idea to get more, because we can always use candles for the house, and it smelled so lovely. The shop was run by a strange looking woman, Bear said she was a draenei and she’d seen them in Northrend. No one else seemed to find her presence strange, so I thought little of it, but she had horns and a tail! To her credit, she spoke enough Darnassian to ask us what sort of scents we wanted, and soon I’d forgotten about the strange woman as I smelled all of the different perfumes and soaps. They were lovely. We ended up getting quite a few candles, as well as some soaps — I had a little money left over from buying Frostwing.

Once she’s accustomed to the route, I’ll be able to ride Frostwing back to the camp even when Avanniel is away. That means I can spend more time there, and I do like that idea. Bear talked about making the house larger, adding a kitchen and I suggested a little reading area like the cabins had in Winterspring. I feel happy and hopeful for the future, though I don’t know what it will hold I feel safer with Bear there.

[Story] Risarra’s Journal

Avanniel’s gone to Ratchet again to meet with Vaelarian. She stopped to eat with us before she left, and we were able to talk a bit. I asked if there was any news about finding his grand-daughter, it’s been quite a while and I’d think he would have at least seen something. I don’t doubt that he’s actually looking, but I do wonder if he’s dragging things out on purpose in order to be able to meet with Avanniel longer. Would he do something like that? I don’t know him well enough to say. I can more or less guess what goes on during their meetings, but I was surprised to hear her say that she considered seeing him after it was all over. I guess I never saw her as the sort to want to settle down, but maybe she’s feeling lonely. I can understand that. She said that he brought cake and wine for the winter holiday, that’s nice of him. Maybe he’d be interested in staying with her after all, though he’s always been skittish about town, just as Bear and Nim have.

We did talk about Bear a little. I told Avanniel how he’s been working on fixing the house up, it’s not that it was bad before but it’s nicer now. He’s put in a little stove and some shelves to store things on, which makes cooking easier. He’s also made it warmer, which makes me wonder how he weathered all of the past winters, I suppose he had his bears but  usually I think they don’t like to go inside buildings. Avanniel says that shows he’s interested, also that I was able to convince him to come closer to town. But I’m still not sure. She also said that he cares because he’s worried about me talking to the druids. I’ve told him a hundred times that he doesn’t need to worry, but he still does. Honestly I think he’s just interested in dumplings, and maybe the berry muffins. It took him years to get to where he is now, and even then I’m not sure anything would have happened if I hadn’t brought it up. Avanniel says that men are just like that, but I don’t think that’s true. The ones in the stories aren’t, and well — I’m sure there are others who aren’t too. She said I should just tell him what I want, and if he doesn’t want the same then I should just find someone else. I don’t think it’s that simple, if it was I would have already found one by now. Avanniel says I should look other places, like where? I guess Feathermoon or something, but there aren’t many there. I’m not giving up on Bear yet, though. He was already waiting at the camp near the town, with the fire already going and some fish roasting. I brought some of the muffins that I’d made, and he liked those a lot.

One of the other sentinels said that there were some hippogryph hatchlings in Feathermoon. They should be ready to be sold soon, though they’d still need training. I’m not sure how much one of them would cost, probably a lot. I wonder if Avanniel would be willing to help me buy one. And I’d like if Bear would go with me to Feathermoon. He probably knows his way around there, and he could make sure they don’t try to cheat me or something. Not that they really would, I think I’d just like him there for the company. I’ll have to ask if he’d be willing to go.

 

[Story] Ashenvale – The Extra Patrol

Bear had said the necklace wasn’t for wearing on patrol, but she couldn’t help herself. It was just so beautiful — the translucent crystal in countless shades of blue looked just like a miniature shard of ice. It hung around her neck on the fine silver chain. She hadn’t expected him to get her anything at all, in fact she didn’t know he’d even heard of the holiday. But then, he was the one who had travelled and seen things, not her. So of course he knew about Winter Veil. And she certainly didn’t expect him to go into the city to buy things — had they gone on the same day? It was possible, though Bear said he hadn’t seen the sweaters for sale. Risarra had bought one with a bear pattern sewn into it. The mittens and ear cozies he’d bought for her must have come from the same booth, unless there was someone else selling them. The Darnassus market was large enough that it was possible. Now she worried that she hadn’t got him enough. He seemed to like them, but they hardly compared to her necklace. Of course, Zhyra and Avanniel noticed it right away.

“So are you–?” Zhyra had prompted as Risarra sat beside her at the dining table.

Risarra shrugged. She still didn’t know herself.

Avanniel eyed them from across the table. “You’re still young, Risarra. You don’t have to keep the first fish you catch.” That was somewhat of an indelicate way to put it, but Avanniel wasn’t wrong.

“I know,” Risarra said, pouring honey onto her oatmeal. Still, it was a bit ironic coming from Avanniel, who was on her way to Ratchet to meet with a man, as she did every week. But it was true he probably wasn’t the first, either.

Sentinel Duskwing was injured, and Zhyra would be covering her patrol tonight. As Avanniel would also be absent, Risarra agreed to check in on Nimrathis for Zhyra. She knew it was likely in vain — he rarely showed himself even for her, and he trusted Risarra even less. But she had to try, and the dumplings might coax him out of hiding.

Frost clung to the leaves as Risarra pushed her way up the trail. She made little effort to stay quiet — he likely knew she was coming anyway, and she didn’t wish to startle him. He was even more skittish than Bear, and that was saying something. To her surprise, Nimrathis was out in the open, sitting cross-legged in front of his fire and watching her approach.

“Where’s Zhyra?” he asked.

Risarra moved closer to the fire, warming her hands in its glow. “She had to take another patrol tonight. But she asked me to check on you.”

“I’m here,” said Nimrathis.

She could see that. She untied the basket of dumplings from her pack and set it down on the ground. “Are you well?”

“Are those dumplings?”

Risarra nodded. She unrolled the rest of the things she’d brought — a clean new blanket, a small bottle of fruit wine, and some soft hide shoes. Why Zhyra insisted she bring them, Risarra had no idea — she had never seen Nimrathis put anything on his feet. He twitched an ear, looking over it all. “What is that?”

“Zhyra wanted you to have it.”

His expression grew wary. “Why?”

She didn’t really feel like explaining Winter Veil all over again, not when she still had so much left to do tonight. Rather, she thought she’d try a much simpler approach.

“Because she likes you. That’s why.”

Now he just looked baffled. Before he could answer, Risarra had slung her bow back on and started down the trail again.

[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] 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.