[Story] Thorns – The Shipment

Despite his attempts to distance himself from his kaldorei past, some nights Harrier still found it impossible to sleep. Most times that happened, he would find some work to do. The winter holidays were quickly approaching, the shop’s busiest time of the year, and he’d have to hurry to make enough to meet demand. He could get to that a bit later, though. Tonight he was expecting a shipment at the docks, the sort he didn’t want to unload in the middle of the busy morning. While Nash and the rest of the house still slept, Harrier put on his boots and cloak and went out into the chilly night.

He made his way across the roofs, not only because it was faster, but because he missed it. Maybe Nash was right, he had been too safe and boring lately. He preferred to think of it as not taking any unnecessary risks, but greater risk brought greater rewards. Hadn’t that been one of the first things he learned in Ironforge? The ships and their crews slumbered in the docks, only a few street lamps burned to light the way. Harrier made his way to a small ship on the end, its bow decorated with a leaping wolf. From its bared jaws hung a lamp, lit with a tiny green flame. Harrier rapped at the captain’s window, and a short time later he appeared on the deck. He was a gnome, Harrier hadn’t expected that. But he’d known plenty in Ironforge, and they were incredibly quick and agile, and stronger than you might think. They also had a certain knack for taking charge.

Harrier took some coins from his pocket. They would no doubt be the last, this was just to get things moving. “I heard you had a shipment for me,” he said, his breath steaming into clouds in the cold air. The gnome inspected the coins before dropping them into his pocket. Nodding, he motioned Harrier up onto the deck. There, the captain opened one of the cargo hatches and lit another lamp.

“First pick, just like you asked for,” said the gnome. “There you’ve got some orc weapons, axes and stuff,” he said, gesturing to a very long box along the edge of the cargo hold. “ Harrier wasn’t really interested in weapons — at least, weapons that large. They would be difficult to sell and would attract a lot of attention in the shop. The gnome also had a load of expensive fabric — not illegal, but he could easily resell it for a huge markup. There was a crate of books, they looked magical so Harrier opted to take those. Mages — and others — would pay through the nose for books, especially if they were of questionable legality. He was less interested in the goblin magazines, though he supposed he could sell them to kids who wandered in with their parents.

“Got anything from Silvermoon?” Harrier asked. The person who’d given him the gnome’s name had said he often did. He wasn’t exactly sure how a gnome managed that, which made it all the more impressive.

“Sure do,” said the gnome, hopping onto another stack of crates. “You got some mana crystals here,” he pointed. “Some Eversong wine and–” he paused and pried open the lid of a very small crate that was stuffed with straw. Harrier looked inside.

“It’s an egg,” said Harrier. What would he want with an egg? Unless it was made of gold or something.

“Not just an egg, it’s a phoenix egg.”

The elf had never had a pet, didn’t really have any desire for one, but he thought Nash might like it. He had no clue how to care for it though, let alone hatch it. “How do you–”

The gnome held up a finger and rummaged around in the straw, pulling out a sheaf of papers. They were instructions. Very detailed instructions. “Now, if you mess it up, I’m not responsible.”

“Understood,” Harrier said.

He gave the gnome the rest of his gold, while the captain called his crew to come haul the boxes onto the dock.

 

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[Story] Brewfest

Brewfest is my favorite time of year. It always makes me feel a little homesick for Ironforge, standing out in the snow surrounded by dwarves, eating cheese and sausage and drinking good ale for once. They sometimes get dwarven ale in Stormwind, but it’s just not the same. You need all the atmosphere to really make it taste right. In the past few years, it’s expanded to have all kinds of other ales too — ogre (yuck), troll (weird), and Pandaren (pretty good actually). It’s fun to try the different ones, they’re definitely different and unusual, but I always go back to the dwarven ones. I will say the Pandaren ale is interesting though, I think it’s made with a different kind of grain, and it’s quite strong. They have food stands too, the cheese and sausage are my favorite but there’s bread too. It’s good to have something to eat to help balance all that ale.

We all went, I think Pup is old enough to go with Nash and I, but Rose said differently. Maybe next year. I think it’s so they can keep an eye on him, as if she thinks I won’t? I’m not that irresponsible. I hope she at least lets him try some, he’s definitely old enough. Maybe cursed Gilneans react differently? Though I’ve seen her drink wine plenty of times with no problem, maybe it’s something you have to learn to control though. Either way, he was really excited about the ram racing when I told him about it. I hope Rose lets him ride one, watching is fun but actually racing is the whole point of it. Even when you end up landing on your behind in the snow. I thought Nash would be happy now that he’s got his dumb necklace back, but he seemed really quiet. I know part of it is that he’s worried someone’s going to notice that he’s not a human. It’s true that dwarves (and gnomes) are short and could see his eyes easier, but I guarantee they’re not looking at people’s eyes during Brewfest. Coin purses, maybe. But most everyone is just focused on trying the ales and watching rams and having a good time. There could be something else, there usually is, but it’s not as if he’s going to tell me about it.

I tried asking about how his visits were going. I don’t think he likes them, I figured he’d at least like the company of another elf. I wouldn’t want to visit some other elf just because they’re an elf, but he seems to want that connection to his past. And she seems nice enough. She’s interesting to talk to, that’s for sure. I wish I knew how she was able to keep everyone happy like that, it would sure make things easier. I’m pretty sure Nash wouldn’t be okay with everyone being all together like that, and I know for a fact that Rose wouldn’t. Even besides that, she must have some interesting stories about hiding in Stormwind too. Maybe she even has some tips for Nash — although he can’t do illusions. Which is why he hopefully keeps going for his visits, even though he says he hates tea. What has he got against tea? It’s all right.

[Story] Berwick’s Letter

Dear Hethurin,

Greetings from Pandaria! I know it’s been a long time since we have been in touch. Xyliah and I have been here looking for treasure. There are hardly any outsiders here anymore, I don’t think we’ve seen anyone at all once we left the shrine. Still plenty of bears, of course, but they just go about their lives as usual. I like that because it means there’s no one else here looking for stuff. We have enough now that I think we should return to Silvermoon and sell it, most of it looks pretty good but there’s a few statues that I think will bring a lot of gold. There are also some old books, I can’t read pandaren so I don’t know what they are about, but perhaps a collector might be interested in them. We will have to bring back some spices as well, so Tik can make noodles for everyone. They never seem to taste quite the same when we cook them though, do they? I suspect the bears have some secret ingredient they aren’t telling us about.

Hopefully we can find a bear here who can make a portal. If not we might need you to come, if you aren’t too busy of course. I guess the fall classes must have started up, so you probably have a lot going on there. I also have one other request, if it’s not too much trouble. Once we sell our current stock, I’d like to see if there are still any properties available in the Ghostlands. It’s fine if we need to fix it up — well, I’ll probably hire your builders if it’s too complicated, but I can do some basic things. Like painting. I thought Xyliah would want to be closer to the rangers, because that’s where her sister is, but she said it would be okay being near the school as well. She’s a bit worried about spiders getting in, so I think she wants to be able to have it warded. It doesn’t have to be too big, just the ordinary rooms and maybe a few extra. We’ll need storage for things we’ve found that haven’t sold yet. We also had the idea to give each room its own theme, like we could have a troll room and put hammocks in, along with a lot of troll pottery and statues and masks and things. She even said her father could make chairs that look like they’re made of bones. Wouldn’t that be neat? I bet no one else has troll chairs. At least not any elves. I hope we can have a Pandaria room, too. They’re some of my favorite statues. Xyliah wants our sitting room to have fossils, that’ll be fun too, especially if I can find a really big skull.

If there aren’t any houses that need fixing up, just a plot would be okay, but we’d have to hire the builders to help design it. I’m really happy that she’s finally coming around to the idea. It feels a lot more permanent if we have our own place, even if we’re not there all the time, it’s still a place to return to that will be really ours. Everywhere else we lived has always belonged to someone else. I know she’ll never want to really settle down, I wouldn’t either, but it’s good to have something that’s ours. And you know, if we ever do need any extra rooms for anything we’d be prepared.

Do you need any decorations for the school, or antique books or anything like that? We even found some old pandaren weapons, but I don’t know if they could still be used or not. They’re probably better suited to decoration. Oh, and a big gong thing. It’s really loud. We might keep that.

Your friend,
Berwick

[Story] Brambles – New Opportunities

[[ Set in the past, when Harrier first arrived in Stormwind. ]]

Sorias crouched between two narrow buildings, hidden by the evening’s long shadows. He was cold, sore, and starving — exactly as Blackbrew had told him he would be. The elf had parted with his former boss on good terms; Blackbrew had opted to retire and get out of the business at least for a time. He’d offered Sorias the tavern, but the tales of the city to the south intrigued him. Not that Ironforge was some back country village, but Sorias knew its buildings back to front, and in some cases top to bottom. Dwarves weren’t very good at climbing, but he still was, and it had proven useful plenty of times. He loved Ironforge, but he knew there was more out there, and he’d told Blackbrew of his plans. He’d warned Sorias that it wouldn’t be easy, that it was much bigger and more dangerous, and the gangs that ruled the streets there were even more bold. Stormwind wasn’t enclosed, and there were a lot more places to hide. Some of them had connections with the crown, and while that was also true in Ironforge, that carried much more weight in Stormwind. Still, Blackbrew wished Sorias well and told him he could always return if things got too difficult there. Sorias was certain he could make it, he’d survived everything else, hadn’t he?

But he’d seen immediately what Blackbrew had meant. The buildings themselves were oppressive, gleaming white marble reaching high into the sky, metal spires and iron gates in front of the expensive houses. And there were guards everywhere — until you got away from the center, at least. Sorias had intended to ask for a job, but as soon as he turned into one of the dark streets away from the guards, he’d been set upon. When he didn’t have any gold for them to steal, they beat him instead. It all happened so quickly, he hardly had time to react, and he’d always thought himself a decent scrapper. He limped back into the shadows to rest and make a plan. He couldn’t give up, not yet. Part of it was that he didn’t want to let Blackbrew be right, but he also knew he could do this. He just had to learn the rules — and learn the city. As night fell, he took to the rooftops and began to learn the layout; the routes he could take and the dangerous spots where he could be seen or could slip and fall. He didn’t dare yet enter a house, not until he knew the guard’s patrols and the good places to hide. There were also mages, something he hadn’t encountered in Ironforge, but he’d heard about. Blackbrew warned him they could have all sorts of spells guarding their houses; magical traps and alarms, or even worse. He soon learned that most of them preferred to live in the expensive houses near the mage tower, but not all of them. It was difficult to tell a mage’s house just from looking at it, some surveillance was required.

He stole from the market to eat, that was easy enough. Though he stood out in Stormwind just as much as he had in Ironforge, his sleight of hand was enough to grab something and disappear into the crowd. He didn’t take chances and took only what he needed, the merchants were just trying to make a living like he was. Besides, there were easier prey, he just needed to study them. Blackbrew would have scoffed at him, a common robber, lifting people’s purses as they walked home. It was important not to be seen, as the guards would surely catch on to a tall white-haired elf here among the humans. It was just temporary, enough to get on his feet, and there were plenty of people in Stormwind with heavy purses. He frequented the auctions, where customers had plenty of gold and were distracted by the barkers. It was good money, but too dangerous to do for long. He needed something more regular, more reliable and less likely to raise the attention of the guards. In the meantime, he rented a dusty little room near the cathedral, above a scribe’s shop. It was drafty and the roof leaked, but it was cheap — and safe.

Blackbrew might just be wrong after all, he thought.

[Story] Story a Week 33 – Monkey

“Hey Xyliah,” Berwick called across the clearing. “Come and take a look at this.”

They were enclosed on all sides by lush jungle, very like those in Stranglethorn, except the trunks were not wood at all, but a sort of tough reed. It was not nearly so warm here either, even now in the height of summer, the nights got chilly enough that they needed extra blankets. But it did rain more here, as they had learned on their first few nights. After their entire camp, including their bedrolls, got soaked, they relocated atop a rock outcropping. There were wild animals too, porcupines that waddled around the camp in search of food, and enormous moths, which were startling but harmless. Berwick had even seen a tiger once, at dusk, its eyes alight with the last remnants of the sunset. They were both armed in case of such dangers, but it hadn’t caused them any trouble. It was a unique place, somehow both familiar and foreign. Several years ago, right after his escape from Dalaran, they had lived here, but it was along the beach, and felt like an entirely different place than this. Berwick had finally agreed to return to the Ghostlands, but camping at the school wasn’t really what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to get back to hunting treasure, the one thing he’d ever really been good at. But it had been a lot more difficult than he’d imagined, and he worried that he’d lost his knack for it.

None of his old spots had produced much of interest, and while they’d found a few scrolls and pieces of pottery that were interesting, nothing yet in Pandaria held the promise of real money. Berwick was hoping that changed soon. They had enough to get by, but he wanted the feeling of permanence that their own house would provide, whether it was in the Ghostlands or somewhere else. Xyliah always said she didn’t need one, but he thought she should have one anyway. Besides, he was sure she’d like it once she got used to the idea.

Beneath the carpet of moss and vines, he’d found stone — that wasn’t so unusual in itself, but it had obviously been carved and shaped. The surface was smooth and rounded, and he could see some carved lines though he wasn’t yet sure what they were.

Xyliah brushed the dirt from her hands onto her pants and hopped down from where she had been digging. She’d already discovered a small stone chest — unfortunately broken, but the latch could easily be replaced — and some small jade statues. These were very common and not especially valuable, but people back home would probably pay well for ones with pleasing subjects or that were particularly well carved. “What is that?” she asked, pulling away some of the moss.

“Looks like it might be a statue,” Berwick said, scratching his chin. “Or at least part of one.” They both worked to loose the carved stone from its bed of vegetation, untangling the roots and vines from the cracks. Before too long, they found themselves staring at five long, carved stone toes.

“It’s a foot?” Xyliah said doubtfully. “Who would want a statue of a foot?”

No one, that’s who. And it was an odd foot, at that — the toes were extremely long, and one stuck out at an odd angle. Studying it, Berwich reasoned that it was meant to depict a hozen, one of the monkey-like people that inhabited these jungles. They’d not had much contact with them, thankfully, but he’d seen them swinging through the tops of the trees, their spears slung over their shoulders. They hooted and whooped, making their presence known to the entire forest.

“I think it’s been broken,” Berwick said, peering around the far end. The entire thing was massive, almost six feet in length. If it was only part of a statue, the whole thing must have been impressively large. “Maybe the rest of it’s here too–” he gestured around the clearing, to the other small hills. It would take hours to find and uncover them all, but Berwick’s heart raced at the prospect of it — a mystery statue, perhaps from a temple? And where there was one statue, there were usually others. He did not know if it would be valuable, but at least it was exciting.

[Story] The Tea Party

Nash has been keeping secrets. Well, just the one secret that I know about, if there’s more I don’t know about them yet. And it’s not as if he did a very good job about keeping this one, either – I asked go with him last time and he took me. Because really, it’s not a big deal. So why wasn’t he telling anyone? That’s the part I don’t understand. Of course I don’t expect him to tell me every little detail, but meeting with another sin’dorei living in the city? I don’t know, it just seemed like something people might want to know.

At first I didn’t know she was, because she had an illusion that made her look human. She must be a mage of some kind to be able to do that. We went over the wall of her house and into the courtyard and just walked into the sitting room like it was nothing. I can assure you I was confused by that point. She’s sitting there expecting us, and sipping tea. Well, she expected him. But then she said she knew who I was, because Nash told her who I was. He didn’t mention that before, either. I didn’t like it, I smelled a trap. She’d caught him breaking in after his necklace, and rather than attack him or turn him in, she decided she wanted him to come pay her social visits. I assumed of course that she meant something else by that, which again isn’t my business. Nash is free to do whatever he wants with whoever he wants, I just would have liked to know, is all. He said it wasn’t like that, but I think it would have been, if she had her way.

She made us tea and gave us cookies to eat. It was bizarre. She was really nosy and wanted to know a lot of things about me. She started out talking about how I was an elf, which is always my favorite subject. Like did I live in the forest, and why did I come here? None of your damned business, lady. And how I could seek out other elves here and talk to them if I ever felt lonely or something. Those elves aren’t my friends, I don’t have anything in common with them. Whatever their reasons for leaving are their own and they don’t need to talk to me about it. I’d rather not have to speak Darnassian, anyway. That part of my life is done, thankfully.

Then she wanted to talk about herself. That was okay, and I have to admit it was kind of interesting just because it was so weird. She ran away from home because her father wanted her to marry some guy, I can’t blame her for that. I’m glad that custom never caught on among kaldorei, though I can see them being all for that. The guy she ran off with was a worgen who was there studying dirt in the Dead Scar. Because he’s a researcher, she said. Okay. That’s pretty weird, though I know I can’t say anything because Rose is a worgen too. I’m just glad she doesn’t go around sniffing dirt clods. I wonder if Rose knows him? I mean it’s dumb to assume that every worgen knows each other — I don’t know every kaldorei. But it is possible. This lady must have spent some time in Ironforge too, because she was asking about my time there. And she has a girlfriend who is a dwarf. Again, unusual but it’s not like I didn’t spend some time with dwarf women while I lived there. Can’t really blame her. She also likes dwarven ale and Gilnean wine. So her taste isn’t that bad.

Nash said he hated going, and I don’t understand why he did. Just tell her he didn’t want to. Sure, there was a risk she’d turn him in, but I doubt she would take it given that it would put her at risk too. But I asked if she’d be able to do an illusion for Nash, like she had. Just enough that he could go without a hat. At first she said she couldn’t because she’d need to maintain eye contact with the subject, but  I asked if the necklace could be enchanted to do that and she said it could. Nash insists he doesn’t need it, and maybe he doesn’t, but it couldn’t hurt anything. The only thing she said was to avoid the mage district, because they’d know it was there. I think it’d be worth it, but she said she’d need to redo the spell every week or so. Which means Nash would still need to visit her, and I’m not sure if he wants to. Maybe he deserves having to sit and listen to her talk every week for not being honest with people. I don’t know why it bothers me, but it does. I’ve never lied to him, or to anyone I cared about.

He also told the lady that Rose is my girlfriend. I don’t know why he’d do that, unless it was just because he didn’t feel like explaining it. He knows well enough that she’s not. Do I wish she was? Yeah, of course, but that’s not going to make it happen. Believe me, I’ve thought about it a lot. If I thought I could change her mind after all this time, I would have tried it. Though maybe that lady has some ideas. It sounds like her two are fine with everything, so maybe she knows something that I don’t.

[Story] Story a Week 31 – Dull

The Harrier frowned at his knife as he went to cut the twine from the package of parts on his work-desk. It had taken some sawing to get through, and the ends of the twine looked frazzled and frayed. Though it wasn’t his best knife, it was still a good one — he didn’t own any that weren’t — and it held an edge well. It must have just been too long since he’d remembered to sharpen it. That, he realized, or someone else had been using it in the meantime. That was possible, Pup was the most likely culprit, though he had a blade (or two) of his own. Or Rose or Josie could have just grabbed it off his desk for quick jobs, they sometimes carried their own, but not always. What reason was there for them to carry a knife around the shop? Going through town was one thing, but not here.

The shop was safe. He frowned at that word, too. Safe was boring, safe was predictable, safe was — like his knife, dull. The Harrier fetched his sharpening stone before putting it away, so he wouldn’t be surprised by it being dull when he next reached for it. Nash had pointed it out before, but he’d dismissed the idea then. He was still juggling shipments at the docks, still smuggling and re-selling. He hadn’t gotten dull. But like a knife, you could never really be sure until tested — and he had to admit that he did feel dull. The shop had meant to only be a cover for their other activities, but it had been profitable enough to take up most of his time. Especially around the winter holidays — which would be coming up soon enough — he had to work on clocks and watches full time to keep up with the demand. The money was decent, not as lucrative as other ventures, but it was steady.

He drew the blade along the wet stone, hearing the satisfying rasp of it against the metal. But what was he supposed to do about it, exactly? He’d been away from the game long enough that he couldn’t be sure of his street contacts. Things like straight up robbery or blackmail were out, they were just too dangerous and too easily tracked back to him. More importantly, any risk he took would also come back to everyone else — to the shop, to Pup, to Rose. And to Nash. Being a sin’dorei in Silvermoon was dangerous enough. To thumb his nose at fate by committing illegal acts was something else. He couldn’t be the one responsible for Nash being discovered, and for the rest of them being arrested for hiding him. Nash always swore he was never caught, but if he found trouble himself, Harrier was certain that he wouldn’t turn the rest of them in.

But didn’t he miss it, just a little? He had to admit that he did. He missed the danger and uncertainty, his heart racing with anticipation in the moments before they moved. He missed his talks on the rooftops with Josie and Nash. He missed sneaking Pup out past his bedtime. It was a risk that had brought him to all of this, his failed attempt to rob Rose. He’d found something much more valuable, but what was he doing with it? Nothing, that’s what.

Nash still went out most nights, sometimes he came back and sometimes he didn’t. The Harrier never asked questions. But tonight, he’d ask to go along. Maybe an opportunity would present itself.