[Story] Winter Veil Postcards 2017

[[ I know it’s Thursday but I’m still doing Winter Veil stories instead! ]]

Terellion carried the brightly wrapped packages as they made their way through the Silvermoon market. Ordinarily he would have held Malwen’s hand, but his were both full — and hers were both sticky from the candy cane she was happily eating. He was sure to keep an extra close eye on her as they made their way among the stalls and crowds. They’d already bought some gifts for the students — lavish hawkstrider feather quills and inkwells — and some blankets and clothes for Galandil as well as Tik’s baby. Malwen had insisted that Narise get a doll of her own, and they’d settled on a soft cloth one with button eyes, in addition to a cuddly toy lynx. Terellion was sure that Narise already had one at home, but Malwen said that this one could be a big sister to the other, and watch after her. It was impossible to argue with that.

He set the packages down on one of the chairs and helped Malwen into hers. A morning of shopping and looking around built up quite an appetite. “We still need a gift for Arcan’da,” said Terellion, looking over the menu. “What do you think we should get for him?”

She was old enough now that Terellion thought she might be able to keep a gift a surprise, but even if not, Hethurin would like anything she picked out, even if it was strange. “Snails?” she suggested, over her sandwich.

The last thing that Terellion wanted were more snails in the house. Shelley and her enormous brood grew larger by the day, and they’d be indoors until the weather warmed in the spring. Even then, he wasn’t sure Malwen would be so willing to let them all go. “Um, well he already has Mittens,” he pointed out. “He might be jealous of another pet.”

“Oh,” Malwen said. “What about a dragon then?”

“A real dragon?”

Malwen giggled. “No, don’t be silly! Like a — statue dragon.”

Hethurin already had the enormous bronze dragon that stood at the entrance of the school grounds, but Terellion knew of a shop that sold small statues suitable for a shelf or desk. After he’d ensured that Malwen’s fingers were clean, they went in to look around.

“I like this one,” Malwen gasped, going immediately to a dragon cast in metal. Its pose was rearing up, a translucent orb of either glass or carved stone was set between its front paws. The orb had been enchanted to glow with a faint light, giving the statue a more lively appearance. “He could put it on his desk, because he’s a teacher.”

Terellion wasn’t sure if he’d really like it, but neither did he have any ideas for a present. He paid and added the very heavy package to the stack that he was carrying.

“What do you want for Winter Veil?” Terellion asked, once they’d left the store and stood in the square again.

He expected that Malwen would say dolls, or something for the snails, but she hesitated. “Well…”

Terellion looked at her curiously.

“It might cost a lot.”

“You can still tell me,” Terellion said. “It might not be that much.” Besides, they’d not even spent all the gold that Hethurin had sent them with, and if there was one thing he didn’t mind, it was buying gifts — especially for the children.

“The kids in the orphanage, I don’t think they’re going to get any presents,” said Malwen. “Could we take some to them? I know they’d really, really like some presents.”

Terellion set his boxes down and gave Malwen a hug. “Of course we can. That’s a wonderful idea. I need your help picking things out though.”

“Okay!”

He knew Hethurin would want to go along as well, not to mention he’d need the help moving that many gifts at once. They could go when Hethurin came to make their return portal, and he could already imagine how excited he would be — maybe even more so than the orphans.

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[Story] Winter Veil Postcards 2017

Leinath wandered between the market stalls, certain to keep hold of his coin purse at all times. He’d heard stories about pickpockets in the city, and if someone was going to pick pockets, it would be a perfect opportunity to do so. Everyone was distracted by the stalls full of gifts, the cheery music and decorations. Most of the stalls were staffed by goblins, at least in the front. It seemed anywhere things were being sold, goblins were there.

“Happy Winter Veil, friend,” one of them called. She wore a huge floppy red hat with a bell on the end, perched on one ear. “What can I help you find today? A nice sweater, perhaps?”

In truth, Leinath wasn’t really sure what to buy. He’d thought looking at the market might give him some ideas, but he just felt more confused. What were you supposed to get someone who couldn’t use most things? And he still wasn’t sure where things stood between them, so there was a balancing act of not getting anything too expensive or sentimental. The goblin hopped down and went around to the other side of the stall. “Some chocolates?”

Orledin couldn’t eat chocolates, but of course he didn’t want to tell everyone in the market that. “He’s uh, he’s a ranger, so something practical.”

The goblin nodded, her bell jingling. “Say no more!” she said, and disappeared behind the counter again. “What about these fine boots, crafted of the finest crocolisk leather?”

Orledin probably could use new boots, while his were still in decent condition, these were really nice. And practical. But it didn’t really seem very personal. He already had all the baking equipment he could ever need, and Pancat had a nice bed and collar. Leinath had thought about a pocket watch, because he didn’t think Orledin had one, but he didn’t want to give the idea that Orledin was always late or something. He definitely couldn’t go back without anything at all, though.

“I’ll take the boots,” said Leinath.

The library in Shattrath had an abundance of books about its native plants, and Sorelle had brought several back to her room to copy the drawings. They weren’t allowed to go too far out of the city, so she’d only been able to find some terocones and felweed, which grew practically everywhere. She’d carefully shaken the seeds out of the terocones and saved them in a little paper pouch, labelled with the name. For Felweed, a cutting was necessary, and this she kept moist in her fruit bowl, once she’d removed all of the fruit.

They would be going to the market today, and she hoped she’d find someone selling more seeds there. In Dalaran there had always been people selling flowers and herbs, so she guessed there would be something similar here as well. Even if they didn’t have seeds for sale, they would better know where to find some. She might have to get special permission from the Headmaster, but Sorelle thought he’d probably allow it so long as she went with a teacher.

As they weren’t allowed in the market alone, she asked Xarola to go with her. Aside from being her best friend at the school, she knew a lot about plants — at least Azeroth ones. She was interested in learning more about Outland plants as well, and was eager to visit the market with Sorelle. The fellow at the flower stand was one of what Xarola called fungus people, short and tiny with mushrooms sprouting from their body. Sorelle was fascinated by these — she’d seen some Forsaken who grew fungi, but that was more because of poor care than anything else. Were these people some kind of hybrid, or were they fully fungi? She would have to do more research when they got back to the library. He — or it — Sorelle didn’t think fungi had genders in the way that people do — had an array of very small potted trees lined up on the table. They were evergreens, similar to the ones that had surrounded Dalaran when Sorelle was a student there initially, but these were an Outland variety, probably the same that composed the forest around Shattrath. The bristles were dark green in color, clustered together into little branches that alternated up the trunk. The pots were wrapped in brightly colored foil, and the little fungus person gestured excitedly to Xarola and Sorelle as they approached. “Winter Veil,” it kept saying, and pointing to the trees. “Ten silver.” She thought that might be the extent of all the Common that it spoke.

The tree was alive, fully rooted in its pot, not cut. If cared for, Sorelle thought it could be kept in the greenhouse until the spring. It would look festive in her room as well, lit with magical lights and hung with ribbons and maybe some cookies from the party. Of course, she’d need to ask permission from the Headmaster, but since small pets were allowed, she didn’t see how he could object to a tree. She took the coins from her pouch and gave them to the mushroom person, picking one with a red foil pot.

[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] Story a Week – Beer

[[ My prompt was beer but it ended up being more about food… now I’m hungry! ]]

Tsi Ku stared glumly into her bowl of noodles. Normally the sight would lift her spirits; the thick noodles swam in a bath of hot, steaming broth, decorated with chopped vegetables and a sprig of herbs. They had even added in an egg today since the day was so cold, soft-cooked in the hot broth, the yellow center still rich and runny. She dipped her spoon in to taste the broth, and it was perfect, salty and oily and hot, but it just wasn’t the same. Her friend Aranae, the elf, had been gone for a very long time. She’d told Tsi Ku that she was going to visit her brother’s school in the Ghostlands, the same one they had visited for a wedding some time ago. She’d expected her friend to be gone a week, perhaps two, but it had been far longer than that. So long that Tsi Ku thought that perhaps Aranae had decided to stay, surrounded by familiar faces and not pandaren ones. Many times, she’d told Tsi Ku how they didn’t understand her, how her mother shunned her in favor of her brother, how upset she’d been there. So it didn’t make sense that she’d stay so long. Tsi Ku had written a few letters, but she might have got the address wrong — the Ghostlands were very far away and perhaps they didn’t have anyone to carry mail there. Or maybe Aranae had simply been too busy to answer. She’d said that she planned to continue training there, though Tsi Ku was uncertain how well she’d do on her own, without the supervision of the masters. Or — and this was the possibility that had caused Tsi Ku to lose her normally considerable appetite — she just didn’t want to come back. Something had happened and she’d changed her mind and not told anyone. She could at least tell her if that was the case.

The innkeeper’s wife approached her table, her paws wringing worriedly. “Is there something wrong with the soup?” she asked, looking over Tsi Ku’s still full bowl. “I can get you something else–”

Tsi Ku forced a smile. “No, the soup is good. It’s just — a little hot still, that’s all.”

The older pandaren nodded, though Tsi Ku thought she seemed unconvinced. Sure enough, a few minutes later she emerged from the kitchen again, this time with a plate of hot steamed dumplings, and a mug of ale. “Here,” she said, setting them down on the table. “You look like you need these too.”

Tsi Ku took one of the dumplings, still steaming, and bit into it. The soft white dough surrounded a center of hearty mushrooms and chicken, and she had to admit that it was the perfect companion to her soup. She gave the beer a sniff to determine its general flavor — just about every little inn had their own unique recipe, and tasted of the local ingredients that they used. Some were more harsh and strong, others light and fruity, usually they fell somewhere in between. Tsi Ku was no brewing expert, but like most pandaren had sampled many different brews and could identify the main notes. It had a rice base, like most — but not all — pandaren ale, and a slightly sweet fruit — winter peach, Tsi Ku thought. It smelled delicious, and in spite of her worries she felt her appetite begin to return. The innkeeper’s wife looked on approvingly as she picked up her spoon again to eat her soup.

Difficult decisions were always easier on a full stomach. Tomorrow, Tsi Ku would make the trip up the mountain to the monastery and ask there if anyone had heard from Aranae. If she was safe and not in danger, surely she must have at least told them of her plans.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Sorelle’s Diary

Shattrath has been really interesting so far. I’ve been before, but this was the first time that I got to go and see the dragons. In Dalaran, we’d see blue dragons flying overhead sometimes, but they were always very far away. Still, I remember sitting and watching them in the sky and thinking how beautiful they were. The ones here are beautiful too, in their own way. Their heads are pointed like a shark, and they have crystal spines on them. Hethurin said that they’re dangerous and not to get too close. That’s probably true of all dragons, but these ones especially look ferocious. The place where they live is dark and barren, the ground is just hard rock and there are no plants or trees anywhere. Green stuff comes up through the ground and I guess it must be lava, because I don’t think the people from Undercity brought it here. Crystals grow in large clumps all over and they are beautiful, these humanoid things with big claws scrape at them and eat the little pieces that flake off. Hethurin put us into pairs and we had to fill out a sheet with our observations. My partner was someone I’ve never even really seen before, his name was Amor-something. I just remember Amor because that’s what he wrote on his paper.

He probably wasn’t too excited about getting me for his partner, but he said he’s been here about six months and still doesn’t know anyone. After class he just goes straight to his room and doesn’t go to the parties or anything. I felt bad for him, I’m sure others would talk to him if he tried. He seems nice, he’s not undead or a human or anything that would make others dislike him, he just gets nervous. So maybe I could be his friend, kind of for practice, though that might make others think he’s weird too. I don’t know. We worked hard on our sheet, I tried to think of anything else we could add on for extra credit. He’s studying frost mainly, but he thought it would count toward our Arcane grade. Maybe it does, if so I hope we got good points on it. We even got a little piece of the crystal that one of the things chipped off while it was eating. I thought for a minute that Amor was going to eat it! That probably would have been really bad, aside from eating rocks, it was very sharp and who knows what kind of magic is in them. The dragons are almost transparent in places, as if they are fading out of existence. That might happen if he ate it! Anyway, I hope he didn’t mind being my work partner too much, and I told him he should go to the parties even if there are a lot of people. At least to eat the food, I would if I could. Normally he said he waits until everyone’s already left.

I told him about the greenhouse too, and he seemed kind of interested, though he didn’t want to be there when someone else was. Usually it’s just Xarola and Vyn, once in a while Tik goes in to get cooking herbs and things. I found a library in Shattrath about different plants here, and I’m going to try to get some seeds to take back to the school so I can try to grow them. I’m not sure if it will work, but hopefully at least some will sprout. I still don’t really know what’s going on with Salenicus, but at least I have something to keep me occupied at night.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Braedra’s Journal

Terellion and all the students are away on a trip to Shattrath. I’d still like to go one day, it sounds so exotic and interesting, and I’m sure they could use the extra help supervising everyone. Terellion always tells me breathless stories about the strange things there, the bird people and naaru and the refugees in the Lower City. I’ll certainly ask to go next time, but the winter holidays will be here soon, and I wanted to take advantage of having everyone away so I could get gifts. The babies are the easiest to shop for — they like any sort of bright and colorful thing, I think little Galandil will want something to chew on, and Narise likes soft things that she can carry around with her. It might be a good idea to get her a soft doll so she doesn’t try to take any of Malwen’s! She’s a little more difficult, only because she has so many dolls already. I feel that another would just be forgotten. Perhaps something to do with snails, her newest fascination. Terellion’s baking has made him easier to buy gifts for — I can find some pan or bowl in the shops and I’m sure he’ll like it. The girls are too old for “baby things” as they call them, like dolls and toys, but not quite yet grown ladies. I thought perhaps a painting set or books might be good. I’m not certain about those books the students read though, no doubt they’ve already snuck looks at them, but I’m not sure I want to encourage that. Then again, I remember borrowing my mother’s to take into the bath, and I think I turned out fine, so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Hethurin is a puzzle, however. He already has so much, and his tastes in robes (and other things, surely) run to the extravagant. But I do want to get him something that reflects how glad that he’s in Terellion’s life, and ours. I’m very grateful to him for allowing us to stay here at the school, and letting the girls attend classes here. It’s so nice to be able to see them more, rather than having to travel to the city and back every day. And of course, I enjoy helping to care for all the babies. They’re just adorable and I’m going to be sad when they move up to Lali’s class.

I decided to enlist Isturon for help on my trip. For one thing, I am sure he needs to get gifts too — he has twice as many children as I do, and more grandchildren. I also thought he might be bored sitting around the empty school, his house isn’t finished yet and it’s so quiet without the students here. We mostly need to go to the same shops, and we could get lunch there besides. As I was, he was having difficulty finding something suitable for Hethurin. I suggested that they could spend time together, perhaps doing something Hethurin enjoys, like fishing. They would have the chance to talk and just enjoy each other’s company. That’s something you can’t really buy. Isturon seemed to like the idea, and even looked at fishing poles in one of the shops. Maerista, one of the younger teachers, suggested that I buy sweaters for everyone. We saw the sweater booth in the market, they do have a great many of them. And it can get cold out in the garden, so I got one for Terellion to wear while he’s working outdoors. I had one ordered for Malwen with a snail on it, I think she’ll like that. I’ll have to return in a week or so to pick it up. I do enjoy the city near the holidays, it’s always decorated so nicely with the lights and ribbons. There aren’t many evergreen trees, so they usually use some other sort of branch, I know the dwarves use evergreens though. We went to so many shops that it was difficult to carry all of the packages, thankfully they have mages for hire in the market who can make you portals to get home. We did have to ride from Tranquillien, but that’s not far. I can’t wait to see what Terellion does for the winter ball this year.

 

[Story] Story a Week

[[ Trying to figure out what my non-Outlander SWTOR characters are doing. Here’s what Zamarra is up to! ]]

“Master Zamarra, are we lost?” Araalo asked, her eyes wide as she looked around the dark forest. Dense vegetation crowded around on all sides, and thick vines hung from the canopy above, making their passage difficult.

“Shhh!” hissed Malo, from behind her. “We’re supposed to be quiet.”

The twi’lek Jedi closed her navigation device — it wasn’t doing them any good anyway. Worse, its signal could be detected by anyone close enough. Zamarra could only risk using it for short periods of time, and even that was more reckless than she wished to be. “It’s all right,” Zamarra reassured the frightened youngsters, huddled together behind her. “We’re not lost, we’re — on an adventure.”

She’d managed to find five of them, dusty and bleeding and terrified as they fled the ruins of their school, destroyed in moments by the Eternal Fleet. It hadn’t been the target — the Fleet had no specific targets, it simply destroyed everything in its path. But force-sensitive children were in danger from many sides, and though she had no children of her own, Zamarra immediately took them under her wing. She had been an instructor, for a few years now, and it helped that they recognized and trusted her. It was very unlikely she could have convinced them to follow her otherwise, even if the world around them was crumbling apart. Her own ship had fuel and supplies to get them out of immediate danger, but after that? Zamarra wasn’t sure. Anywhere populated was dangerous, and her ship would easily be tracked by official channels. They needed somewhere remote, but those places were usually empty for a reason. Zamarra wasn’t much of a pilot, but her ship’s navigation was sufficiently automated that she was able to pick a point and go toward it. From the small port planet, they bought passage to this one — with only the few supplies they’d brought along. They would need to make their own shelter and find food on their own, something Zamarra wasn’t skilled in, but the planet readings suggested that it would be habitable, at least.

The dense jungles provided shelter from the rain — which was nearly constant, but at least it was warm. It also provided cover from any possible overhead probes, and the warmth might obscure heat detection. There were a great many small creatures that glided, slithered, and scurried through the jungle as well. Zamarra was certain they could catch enough of these to survive until they could clear some ground for planting. Where there were prey, there were certainly predators, and though they had heard some strange noises from the jungle, Zamarra had not seen any yet. Fortunately, she had her saber to protect them if needed. The five students were among the youngest at the school, barely just beginning their training. They wouldn’t be able to survive on their own, and Zamarra worried about being able to keep them safe. Though they were frightened, tired, and wet, they hardly complained. They looked to her for guidance, and Zamarra knew she couldn’t let them down.

Hutaxo, the little zabrak boy, perked up. “I like adventure holovids. I saw one like this one time, they were in a big jungle and they had to eat bugs for food.”

“Yech,” said Thisiri, her nose crinkling up.

Giving them a task to do was helpful in keeping them distracted from the danger at hand. “Can you remember anything else from the holovid?” Zamarra asked. “Like how to make a shelter?” Hutaxo nodded eagerly. “Stay where I can see you, and shout if you need help. Take Malo with you.” The two boys ran off to collect sticks and vines for their shelter. If they were away longer than a few minutes, she would go looking for them. Zamarra still feared the unknown dangers of the jungle, especially the predators. There could also be inhabitants here that she hadn’t yet noticed — though there were no ruins or towns that they’d come across, it was doubtful that the entire planet was empty.

“Let’s clear some of this ground so we can make a fire,” Zamarra said. The trees had formed a small natural clearing here, and the ground was relatively flat but tanged with vines and vegetation. It seemed a good enough place as any for a temporary camp, until she could scout the area more fully. The girls set to work, tugging the vines and roots free of the soil, piling the debris off to one side. It was difficult to tell, but Zamarra thought they seemed excited by the task. From their perspective, maybe it really was an exciting adventure. After all, they’d probably never camped in a jungle before. She couldn’t let her own fears overtake her mind, cloud her judgment or her resolve. Tonight she would take time to meditate and center herself, it had been far too long and she could feel the turmoil in her heart.

Part of that was worry about the others she knew. Was Malavar, her brother, safe? The Fleet had not spared the Empire its attacks, either. The last time they’d spoken over holo, he’d been researching some ancient artifacts on Voss. That was one of the places that the Eternal Empire had attacked — there were few planets that weren’t in its crosshairs. Zamarra believed that she would have sensed if something happened to him, but it was impossible to know for certain. They had a bond, but it was not as strong as it could have been. They’d spent so many years apart, only reuniting recently, and then they could communicate only with great caution. Though he had no loyalty to the Empire, the Republic still would consider it treasonous for Zamarra to contact him. They’d been using a hijacked signal, provided by Kif. She didn’t want to admit it, but she worried about him too. The routes between the planets were no more safe, with the Eternal Fleet patrolling there. She considered trying to locate him, but no doubt he had gone to ground as well — and he was much more skilled at it than she was. For now, the young Jedi were her focus.