[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] 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.

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

Had an unusual transfer yesterday. I guess he’s not exactly a transfer, but he was sent by the Spire. He was actually sent here instead of serving time in jail, I’ve never heard of it happening but given the situation it makes sense. I’m guessing they decided to do that because he’s already well-trained with a bow, which Sunashe was certain to point out. I know he prefers when the rangers use them rather than crossbows or close-quarter weapons. Another perk, he used to live in the area, so he already knows the roads well. It shouldn’t take him long to learn the routes at all. Of course I was curious as to what crime he’d committed. According to his papers, he was robbing people on the roads. It didn’t say that he’d killed anyone, which makes me feel a little better. I do believe in giving everyone a chance, but I’d certainly keep a closer eye on him in that case. As it is, I’m not too worried. After speaking to him, he says he only stole from rich people — makes sense, right? And there’s nothing much here to steal. He’ll have everything he needs. The Spire requests that his pay is sent to them for restitution, but I’ll make sure he has a little spending money of his own. I think he’ll make a great ranger, and getting him up on his feet will help everyone in the long run. Still, I kind of wonder what sort of reputation the Ghostclaw has, if they’re sending us criminals…

He seems to be settling in well. He found a bunk in the mens’ quarters and he’s impressed with Orledin’s baking already. I feel that if he wants to be here, he’ll try harder rather than seeing it as a punishment. It’s got to be better than jail, he has already said that. Sunashe was suitably impressed, and he’s not easy to win over. I’ve started him out on the targets just to get an idea of how much experience he has, but I’m sure I’ll be able to put him onto a patrol soon. I don’t know if they warned him about the demons or not, but I’ll mention it to him. I know Sunashe already told him about Orledin and Salenicus, I doubt he’s used to working with death knights but hopefully he will adjust soon enough.

It’s starting to get cold at night, I think we’ll get frost soon. Hopefully that will slow down the demons, I bet they don’t like the cold. I wonder if they have nests like spiders do? That would make it easier to wipe them all out at once.

It’ll be the winter holiday soon. I need to figure out what to get for Nessna — the boys are easy.

[Story] Story a Week 42

[[ Prompt: A tragedy that ends in romance

I was boring and re-used characters again, though I’ve written these events before and I don’t think they actually happened on the same day. Creative license! ]]

Sath’alor sat on a cot in the healers’ tent, waiting for one of the mages to make a portal to send him back to Silvermoon. It seemed they had been gone for a long time, but he couldn’t be sure. Every breath caused him to wince in pain. The man healer had been the one to look him over, press on his ribs and tell him that some were broken. Sath’alor had been bandaged tightly all around and told to report to a healer in Silvermoon if any further problems presented themselves. He knew he’d been lucky. When the proto-drake staggered back onto him, he was sure he was dead. Sath’alor had heard the sickening crunch as some of his ribs gave way, felt the crippling pain surge up his side. But someone had pulled him out from underneath and escorted him to the tent. He barely remembered it himself, until he was lying on the cot with Hethurin’s sister looking down at him. She didn’t scold him, but he scolded himself plenty. How stupid could he be, standing too close to the drake like that? What did he expect to happen? Now he was being sent home before he’d even really had a chance to help. It wasn’t even their war, this was between one orc and the rest of Kalimdor, but the elves had been dragged into it, all the same. No one really wanted to be there, and the conditions were terrible. Things had been much better back in Pandaria, but still there was some allure to the idea of being sent home as a war hero. That certainly wasn’t happening now.

Many had been injured in the siege, and worse. Every day rumors went around the camps about a unit being exploded from the crude iron bombs, or crushed in the tunnels beneath the city. It was a lot more difficult to hold onto his dreams of glory when Sath’alor heard about those. One of the newest rumors concerned a siege machine that had been driven over a unit of archers. That one was especially disturbing because it could very well have been his own unit. Judging by the commotion in the other healer tent, Sath’alor knew something must have happened since he’d come in; whether it was that or another incident.

When he awoke, he still wasn’t sure what time it was, but the sky outside was a great deal darker. He was no longer alone in the tent; one of the other cots was occupied and a man stood beside it. Sath’alor thought it must be the healer at first, and indeed the man’s hands lit with a soft glow in the darkness of the tent. But he was much older, his hair a dark brown rather than the other healer’s pale blond. He looked familiar, but Sath’alor couldn’t place him. The woman on the cot lay very still, he could not even see the rise of her breathing. He did recognize her; she was one of Hethurin’s sisters, who was a ranger as well. He knew very little about her, except that she once served in Eversong, and had a small baby back at home. He was no healer, but it looked as if she might not make it. She would need much more sophisticated healing than they could offer here in this dusty tent. It all struck Sath’alor as very unfair if she should die, leaving her child alone before he even really got a chance to know who she was. He doubted very much that she had come here seeking any kind of recognition — if she had a small child she should have been exempt from fighting though. Maybe it had been her choice, as it had been his.  

On his way out, the old healer glanced at Sath’alor and nodded briefly. They didn’t speak, but he could see the worry etched in his features. Sath’alor did not often pray, but now he did, that the mage would arrive quickly and the other ranger would survive to see her child again.