[Story] Valentine Shorts

Sorelle pinned the lace edging into place, making sure that it lay flat against the seam. There were only a few days until the ball, so she’d had to take a few shortcuts to finish her new dress in time. Salenicus was the one who’d told her about the ball, though she’d seen the paper hearts and ribbons being hung, she hadn’t paid it much mind. A relatively new custom adopt from the goblins, it was meant to be a day to celebrate love, but in truth was probably just a ruse to sell candy and flowers. Obviously, Sorelle had never had anyone to go with before, but this year she did. Salenicus had asked her, and she wanted a new dress that would match the ruffly pink decorations in the ballroom. She’d given Tik a list of what sort of fabric and supplies she needed, and he’d returned with a length of beautiful soft pink cloth, like rose petals. For a butler, he was fortunately good at picking out cloth that she would like. Or perhaps everything in Silvermoon was nice, and it was impossible to pick something bad. She’d never been to the shops there herself, though she desperately wanted to. The Headmaster assured her that the arcane guards could see through magical disguises, and they might ask her to leave.

Though it wasn’t especially complex, the lines were soft and flattering, and Sorelle was pleased with how it was turning out. There was enough fabric left for some matching bows — she made one for herself, and one for Xarola. Of all the students, she was the one who had been the most like a friend to her, talking to her and loaning her books. Sorelle thought Xarola probably wasn’t very fond of pink, but maybe she’d wear it just for the ball. The last little piece she made into a handkerchief for Salenicus. Of course, he couldn’t really use it, but she thought it might look nice tucked into his coat or armor.

“Lin! You’re a woman, can you help me?”

Linarelle lowered her bow and looked at the Captain, puzzled.

“What?”

Sath’alor held a sheet of paper. From what Linarelle could see, there were a lot of things scratched out and rewritten. “I want to know if this is a good poem for Nessna.”

“Shouldn’t you ask her that?”

“Okay, yes,” Sath’alor explained. “But if she hates it, then it’s not a good gift, is it?”

Linarelle bit her lip. “Is that the only thing you got her?”

“No, of course not. I got flowers and some chocolates, a bottle of wine… oh, and a book. From that one shop. Forget I said that.”

Linarelle nodded. At least if the poem was terrible, he had a backup plan. She laid her bow against the bench and sat down. “Let’s hear it.”

The Captain read from the paper. “An ode to Nessna. My dearest Nessna, you are the best-na ranger I’ve ever known. I’d be a mess-na if you don’t say yes-na to being mine. You’ll never guess-na how much you mean to me. I’m truly blessed-na.”

“Um,” said Linarelle. “Do you want me to be honest?”

Sath’alor nodded.

“It’s pretty bad.”

“How can it be bad?” Sath’alor protested. “It rhymes and everything. I mean, kind of.”

Still, as awful as it was, he’d clearly gone to a lot of effort. And he probably meant every awkward line. Would Nessna at least be amused by it? Probably. Linarelle had her own share of odd gifts from Sunashe, but that didn’t mean she loved him any less. “It might not be the best poem ever, but she’ll like it.”

Sath’alor brightened. “You think so?”

“I’m sure of it.”

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[Story] Story a Week – Family

[[ This is the last Story a Week of 2017. The book that I got didn’t end up being very useful and I stopped using it pretty early on. Next year, I think I’m going to steal my friend’s idea and focus on one character a week. There will certainly be a story, maybe some art or screenshots, to go along with each. I am making a big push to work on sewing more next year as well, so I think I can do both realistically. I hope. I’m going to need to make up a list of 52 characters though! ]]

The little evergreen tree stood in the corner of the rangers’ common room, covered in hand-made paper ornaments. Rylad had done most of them, and been enthusiastic with the glitter — Sath’alor was still finding it in places he’d never imagined finding glitter. But a few of the rangers had got into the Winter Veil spirit, cutting shapes from colored paper and hanging them with ribbons on the tree. He’d had to move a couple that Julan made onto the side of the tree that faced the wall, luckily no little eyes would see them there. They’d also folded white paper and cut it to form snowflakes, unfolding seemingly like magic from the ordinary paper. These were hung along the walls, and in the windows. Winter Veil might be a strange dwarf holiday, but it did serve to make the cold winter nights just a bit brighter. Besides, giving gifts was fun — especially to the kids. The pile of gifts beneath the tree had gradually grown over the past couple of weeks. Maerista had gone into the city and bought scarves and ear cozies for every ranger, he couldn’t imagine how much that had cost. She’d also got those sweaters for everyone who hadn’t already received one, because she said she didn’t want anyone to get too cold on patrol. Even Orledin and the other undead got some, Sath’alor wasn’t certain they were even able to get cold, but hopefully they would at least appreciate the thought. Unfortunately there weren’t any for the newest rangers, but Maerista promised she’d go to the city soon and get sweaters for them, too.

He and Nessna had bought toys for the boys, as well as some things for the other ranger babies. They’d even found a little soft alligator for Sunashe’s son, and tied a bright green ribbon around its neck. For Nessna, he’d bought a heavy fur cloak, made from Northrend shoveltusk hide. It was thick and waterproof, and would surely keep her warm on her patrols. Sath’alor hoped she would like it, she cared much more for practical things than jewelry or fancy clothes, but he still wanted to get her something nice. It was just difficult because she already had most everything she could need.

Rylad helped pass out the gifts. He was small, so he was kind of like a dwarf. He’d have to work on the beard before he’d pass for Greatfather Winter though. He was able to read the names on the packages and happily took them over to the person. Orledin put out a plate of fresh cookies, warm from the oven. They were shaped like snowflakes and were frosted with blue and white sugar. He must have been making them all night, there were several plates of them. Everyone cheerfully ate cookies while they tore the paper off their gifts. Some he hadn’t seen before this evening, there were some gifts to the boys from some of the rangers, and Sunashe had got him a block of wax for his bow strings. Nessna had got another map for the sitting room, with the new routes added on, and the estates updated — many had been bought and rebuilt since the Ghostclaw had first been formed. Arancon got a leather-bound journal and a fancy pen, but the package wasn’t signed and no one could say who it was from. Must have been Greatfather Winter. Or Sunashe.

They all seemed to be in a festive mood, eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate as the cold wind howled outside in the forest. He was proud of all of them, how far they’d come, and eager to see where the future would take them. They were a family — a large and unusual one, but a family all the same.

[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] The Ghostclaw – The Recruit

Hethurin appeared in my office. Fortunately I wasn’t working too hard or he probably would have startled me. It’s still startling to have someone just appear in front of you, but I guess you get used to it when you’re around mages a lot. I still wish he’d knock or something first. He did bring good news though, he said he had a potential ranger that he wanted me to meet in Shattrath. I didn’t know they had any there, I know there are a lot of mages and blood knights, but I agreed to come meet with them. Though we aren’t hurting for people, there are a lot of empty beds and we could always use more. I went through the portal with Hethurin and we started walking to the tavern. I remembered that place, I’d spent quite a lot of time there when I stayed in Shattrath before. It seems like such a long time ago now, and I guess it was. Thankfully if anyone recognized me, they didn’t say anything.

I didn’t see any rangers at first, until Hethurin pointed out the huge draenei. I thought at first maybe he was sitting on the ranger or something, but no. A draenei, an enormous draenei with huge horns and hooves and everything, and it wanted to join up with the Ghostclaw. I don’t speak Draenei, and he didn’t speak Thalassian, but all three of us knew enough Common to make it work — kind of. Hethurin translated mostly, he explained that the draenei’s sister would be going to the school to learn Thalassian and help the healers in town, and the ranger was her brother. He wanted to be close to her to ensure that she was safe, because they were the only family they had left after the orcs attacked them. I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for him, as well as admiring his dedication to his sister — anyone who cared that much couldn’t be too bad, I figured. The school is safe, there are wards and Theronil patrolling, so no harm would come to his sister. But sending a draenei out onto the roads in the Ghostlands is another matter. I didn’t want any residents to mistake him for a demon or something while he was out there.

The night patrol might be the safest option. I know it’s not easy for a living ranger, but I could split it into two patrols if there are two teams now. Or I could ask if one of them wanted to move to a daytime patrol — I have a feeling that Orledin would jump at the chance, especially if I let him patrol with Leinath. I trust both of them enough that nothing too improper would happen, and they’d both actually get their routes done. Hethurin asked for me what kind of experience he had, whether he’d used a bow or not. The draenei said he was, and he had five different ones. Five! I bet Sunashe will like him right away. I’m not sure about the others. He’s very different, but I do think he’ll do a good job and he says he has a lot of experience — 1,000 years, in fact. He doesn’t look that old, but maybe that’s not even old for a draenei. Hethurin said he thinks they are immortal or something, I don’t know if that’s true or not. But I think, despite his fearsome looks, that he’ll take his post seriously, I don’t know why he’d ask to go somewhere so dangerous if he wasn’t certain about it.

I need to talk to everyone — Nessna especially — but I said we’d be ready for him in a week or so. I think he’ll probably need two beds, but we have plenty, so that’s okay. Fortunately he has his own armor, which is good because we wouldn’t have anything that would fit him properly. If something needs repaired, I hope he can do it himself, because I’m not about to take a piece of draenei armor into the city. Nor do I even know what draenei eat, Hethurin suggested that maybe he could bring some of his own food so the change wouldn’t be too drastic. My cooking isn’t that bad. He did seem interested when I told him we had fresh cookies daily from Orledin — he also has a pet moth that needs bread. I’m sure Lin will want to talk to him for that reason alone. I feel like my instinct has usually been right about people, and I got a good feeling from him. I just hope the other rangers agree to give him a chance.

[Story] Story a Week

[[ Story a Week is back, since NaNo is done (for the time being). I have some more novel ideas, but I’m taking a break from long stuff for the rest of the month to get some sewing projects done. Uhh I guess it’s sort of a Thanksgiving story, but not really? ]]

Sath’alor finished buckling the harness straps on the hawkstriders and gave them one last check-over. The last thing he needed was one of them getting loose and having to chase it down through the woods. Though they had a barn, he hadn’t yet bought any hawkstriders for the rangers yet — they patrolled on foot, and frankly he didn’t know enough about hawkstrider care to be able to look after them himself. That meant hiring a stablemaster, and with everything else going on, it just hadn’t happened yet. But certain of the rangers — Sunashe for one — might appreciate being able to ride from time to time. One strider per ranger would be far too expensive, and their barn wasn’t that large. Maybe a few pairs that could rotate through the day. It was something he’d have to consider once he made up the yearly budget — that job was coming up soon, and he dreaded it every year. For today, he’d just rented the hawkstriders from the stable in town. Thankfully, the stablemaster also had a wagon for use. He’d asked one of the mages from the school for help getting a portal to town, but the rest of the trip had to be made over the roads. Though all of the mages probably could open portals directly to the ranger building, he thought it would be safer this way.

He picked up the edge of the canvas covering and peeked underneath. It was important that all of the ropes were firmly tied in place before they started moving. Any jolts or bumps might damage his cargo, and Rylad’s grandfather had spent a long time getting it just right. Satisfied that it was secure, Sath’alor climbed into the seat of the wagon and guided the hawkstriders down the main road. Originally, he’d planned the surprise for the winter holiday, but he felt this way they might get some use out of it before the weather got too cold. It also had to do with his conversation with Salenicus the other night. Sath’alor hardly considered himself an expert when it came to dealing with women, but things had worked out with Nessna, so he had to be doing something right. There was a girl at the school Salenicus had his eye on, but he wasn’t certain if she was interested. He also got the idea that Salenicus wasn’t being clear enough in his intent. If you’re too subtle, he told Salenicus, some other guy might move in while you’re waiting for her to notice. Admittedly, he wasn’t sure that an undead girl had many other suitors, but one could never be sure. She was a mage, so she might have some rich arranged marriage, or maybe someone she’d known from Dalaran. The point, Sath’alor told him, was that you should make your feelings known. If they weren’t returned, at least he’d know and wouldn’t waste any more time. He suggested finding things that she was interested in, and getting her a gift related to that. Or flowers, or writing a poem. Sath’alor couldn’t write poems either, but something from the heart was good enough. It reminded him how he’d first got to know Nessna better, how he was worried she’d think he was a creep or something. Frankly, he still couldn’t believe she was interested even after they’d been together this long. He was grateful that she was, their family was more than he’d ever hoped for, and he wanted to make sure that she knew how much she meant to him.

Vessen’s father had agreed to the project, and seemed especially pleased when Sath’alor wanted to include Vessen’s name as well. It was a heavy wooden bench, elaborately carved with different scenes on the surfaces. The back featured a family of lynxes running through the forest, a male and female and their cubs. Other sides depicted a ranger drawing a bow, a dragon flying through the clouds, and other things. All were bordered by a tangled vine with carved wooden leaves and flowers, and sealed with oil so it could be left outside in the weather. Their names were hidden in the designs in various places, and Sath’alor had asked that Vessen’s be included because he was part of their family too. He knew the perfect spot for it — behind their house, on the bank of a little stream and facing the forest. Sath’alor had bought some heavy metal spikes to help anchor the bench to the ground in case it got windy. He hammered these into place and then hurried to return the hawkstriders and wagon to town. If he hurried, he’d be back before Nessna returned from her patrol, and could bring her out back to see it.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Fishing

“Ann’da, can we go fishing?”

Sath’alor looked over the stacks of paperwork that covered his desk. Most were reports that needed to be read and filed, some were equipment requests, there might have even been a letter of inquiry in there, but he hadn’t got that far into the pile yet. Whatever it was, fishing sounded like a much better idea.

“We sure can,” he said, patting Rylad on the head as he got up. Perhaps he’d already known that his ann’da would say yes, because he had on his boots and coat. “Do you think Zaren would like to go too? I think he’s big enough.”

Rylad seemed to consider for a moment and then nodded. “Yeah, but he can’t hold a pole.”

“No?”

“He’d drop it,” said Rylad.

That was probably true. While Zaren had grown a lot, he was still little, and he was still at the age where he was more interested in eating things off the ground than much else. “I’ll help him,” Sath’alor suggested, and Rylad agreed to that plan.

Nessna was still away on her patrol, so he left a note that he’d taken the boys fishing with him. He also put on the scratchy new sweater she’d just bought for him. It would take some getting used to, but it was certainly warm. And it had lynxes on it. Sath’alor had never seen a sweater like that before, and he would have bought it if he had, so he was pleased with her choice. He wrangled Zaren into a hooded suit with a zipper, and helped him into his boots. Rylad could do most of it by himself, so he fetched the fishing poles and basket. They could stop along the way to look under rocks for grubs and worms for bait.

The forest was ablaze with autumn color, the once-dead trees having regrown some of their leaves over the past few years. Birds and little animals — squirrels and chipmunks — dashed and chirped overhead. Rylad delighted in stomping on every particularly crunchy leaf along the trail, hearing the satisfying crackle they made. The morning was chilly, but not too cold, and the day would grow warmer as it went on. It was a day that was practically made for fishing.

He baited the hooks and helped them get into the water. Rylad was an old pro at fishing, he gripped his pole and stared intently at the water, watching for any splashes or ripples. Zaren was more fascinated by the grub on the hook, but Sath’alor didn’t let him eat it. He had snuck some cookies in his pack though, and gave one of them to each.

Rylad had a lot of questions about fish, though. Sath’alor didn’t really know terribly much about them — his main interest in fishing had been finding food for his cats to eat.

“Do fish sleep?”

“Where do fish pee?”

“Does it hurt them to get caught?”

“Do fish have ann’das?”

Sath’alor hoped they might catch one or two — fresh fish with spices sounded delicious for dinner. But even if they didn’t, it had been a perfect day.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Sath’alor’s Journal

Nessna and I took the boys to visit her father at the healers’ in town. It’s only fitting since he (and Lani) were the ones who saved her in a similar situation a few years back. I’m sure it’s not a time that Nessna wants to recall at all, but it’s hard not to make comparisons. At least from what I have heard and seen, Isturon’s not as badly injured as Nessna was. He does have some felfire burns, but Lani is skilled in dealing with those. Actually, Nessna said he was arguing with Lani about how best to treat them. If he’s still able to be stubborn, he can’t be doing too badly. I’m glad he’ll be okay. We aren’t especially close or anything, but I know how much it would upset Hethurin and Nessna and the rest of the siblings if something were to happen, and of course the boys. They were rushing out the door as soon as we said the words “go visit grandpa”.

He did need to rest while we were visiting, though — Lani’s orders. It makes sense that he’s receiving a lot of visitors and it can be tiring. We’ll have to either come earlier in the day before he’s tired, or later in the evening after he’s eaten. Trying to keep the boys busy and not restless wasn’t easy, especially because they were hungry and we hadn’t brought anything more than a few snacks. Maybe we could stop and eat at the school on the way, though I hear they’re pretty busy of late as well with the new babies. It’ll mess up their sleeping for a bit, but I guess it’s worth it, I’m sure Isturon appreciates getting to see them as well. It also means I’ll be leaving the rangers alone more for a bit. Sunashe is normally the one who keeps everyone in line, but he’s attending to Lin and Tialan. I trust most of them not to get up to much trouble, except maybe Faeris and Julan. Nessna said Julan already went out on patrol in heels one time. I really should say something, because I can’t really afford to have anyone twisting ankles right now, but until then I guess it’s not hurting anyone. I can only imagine Sunashe’s expression when he finds out though. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone else takes charge, my bet would be Arancon.

Being there did remind me of when Nessna was recovering though, and how Lani wouldn’t let her get up or do anything. We’re going to bring some cookies or something for him to eat, and maybe some books to read. I really have no idea what kind of books he likes, Nessna said there are magazines about healing. I didn’t know such a thing even existed, sounds boring but if that’s what he wants, we can get it. I thought some adventure stories might be better, but that’s me I guess. And maybe flowers too, they are cheerful and make the room smell nice. I’d wanted to get Nessna some back then but I hardly knew her and I didn’t know if it was appropriate or not. And not everyone likes flowers anyway, especially from some guy when you’ve just lost your husband. I’m just thankful every day that she does, and she didn’t think I was some kind of creep.

It was good seeing Isandri too. Iannor is getting so big, I think he’ll have to start going to school soon. I don’t know what I’ll do when Rylad has to go, it’ll be strange not having him here. When Hethurin is less busy I’ll ask him about it.