[Story] The Ghostclaw – Leinath’s Journal

So things have been a little awkward since we stayed at the huts. We still bake every morning like usual, and we talk about baking things, and go on patrol and talk about normal things. But it’s almost like Orledin is pretending that nothing happened. I didn’t want to ask about it because I didn’t want to seem like I was being pushy or weird, but I finally decided that I at least wanted to know what was going on, even if it was bad. I mean, everything seemed fine, but you can never really be sure what someone else is thinking. Orledin said he just hadn’t wanted to seem like he was being too pushy, which I guess I appreciate. I feel a bit better now that we talked about it. He said it wasn’t weird or bad, which is mostly what I was worried about. I mean, I don’t know, it’s been years. Maybe it was really bad.

We talked about the past too, a bit. I said that I didn’t know if Erilan had been turned into a death knight. He could have, and I’d never know about it, but Orledin said he probably would have tried to contact me. I guess he’s right, unless he forgot — he said that can happen with some death knights. Or he was too scared that I’d reject him, which Orledin said happens a lot too. His boyfriend, who’d been living with him, said he was disgusting and left. But he still sees him because he’s the mage who comes to make the wards at the lodge. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t be friendly with someone who did that to me, but maybe Orledin’s a better person than I am. I’ve thought about it a lot since meeting Orledin. I’m pretty sure that I would be okay with it, like a second chance. Being undead is probably better than being all the way dead. Unless he’d really changed a lot, or something. But if I found out he was still around now it would be really awkward, so maybe all the way dead is better. That sounds really terrible. I’m not glad that he’s dead.

Some people don’t mind it as much, I think. Like Salenicus, he never complains and he goes back to the death knight place often, Orledin said. He helps locate other death knights, so he must be good at dealing with them. I’d never met one before Orledin, I just assumed they were scary and dangerous, I’m sure some must be, but regular people can be scary and dangerous too. We both think it’s weird that he likes humans, at least that one human at the school. Orledin said there are plenty of elf death knights at Ebon Hold that he could have picked.

I’m still not sure what happens now though, even if I know we’re proceeding. We can’t really stay at the huts all the time — we’re needed to bake in the mornings and as Orledin pointed out, they’re not warded. We could get one of the mages to do it, but it’s still pretty far from the lodge to travel all the time. Now that spring is here, we could ask for a cabin, but I’m not sure we’re ready for that yet. I mean, it was just one night, I don’t want to be jumping into anything without being sure. But it’s difficult to find time alone together, we have the same patrol but nothing can happen there. We also bake, but that’s not really good either, especially if someone comes in looking for cookies. Erilan and I never stayed in the same place for long, though we had one tent so I guess we were living together, in a way. It just felt like an adventure though, not like a big commitment. I’ll have to think about a place that Orledin and I could go that’s a little more private, but not too far away.


[Story] Smuggler Crew – Rishi

“There you are, Major, all fixed up.” The twi’lek medic had finished applying a medicated mesh, and injected the area around the site with a kolto infusion. “I’d tell you to keep off of it, but I know you won’t, so just try not to overdo it.”

Kazta’s upper leg had taken a pretty bad hit from the pirate leader’s blaster, while her armor had absorbed much of the force of impact, there was still enough to discolor her thigh into a nasty black-purple bruise. The actual wound looked bad, but once cleaned up it should heal without any problems. Not that she was going to take his advice about staying off it, either. There wasn’t time for that now. She was aware of the pain, but it wasn’t overwhelming, rather it seemed to anchor her back to the reality of the situation — one of their team was missing, and she’d left him behind. That stung far more than any blaster injury ever could. She kept replaying it over and over in her mind, searching for something she could have done differently. She could have stayed on the dock with Draiik, jumped down from the shuttle ramp, distracted them, something. Instead, they’d opted to get the slaves to safety and left the captain to fight them off alone. While she had some faith in his ability to shoot, the odds were against him. And she’d just left him there.

“Major? You feeling okay? You look a little pale.” Kif’s voice shook her from her thoughts. No sense brooding on it. What had happened had happened, now they needed a plan. Kazta nodded, sliding down from the makeshift table and stepping back into her armor. The twi’lek looked as if he was about to protest, but thought better of it.

The slaves they’d got out of Rishi were a mix of twi’leks, mirialans, humans and zabraks. Kazta had seen to it that they’d been fed, and after a trip to the refresher most of their moods seemed brightened. They were excited to leave Rishi behind and begin new lives, though they worried about others that they know. Kazta wanted to promise that she’d get them out too, but she didn’t want to mislead them. It had been difficult enough to move these ones without losses — she and Kif had left them behind while they returned to the camp to look for Draiik. They hadn’t found him, but they had found a recording of him being roughed up and then loaded onto a shuttle. And more importantly, they’d found Shani, safe and relatively unharmed. Kazta still didn’t feel any better about abandoning her, but she was thankful that Shani was back with them. One of the slaves said that he’d been working on a project in Tattooine, but he couldn’t remember any more detail than that.  It was at present the only lead they had, and Kazta was willing to search every inch of that sandy hell-pit if she had to.

Still, they needed more than just a name. Kazta had spent her free hours combing through her old reports — something about that pirate leader had seemed naggingly familiar. She hadn’t realized it then, in the heat of the moment, but after replaying it over in her head, it wouldn’t leave — like a catchy song. He’d been a beast of a man, huge and broad, well equipped with both heavy armor and firepower, in addition to a shield generator and who knows what else. The way he’d scowled when he climbed up out of the infested water, blood streaking over his wild grimace, jarred a memory in Kazta. On Rishi, he’d called himself the Enforcer, but she couldn’t find that in her records. She did, however, find a report from Belsavis. Kazta didn’t remember much of that mission, but there had been one prisoner who’d rallied an entire wing of his prison into a vicious combat force. Kazta’s squad had been called in to deal with the situation after the guards had taken some serious losses, and once they got there she understood why. The man was cunning, ruthless, and determined. She had no doubt that whatever he was tied to wouldn’t be unravelled easily. And now he had Imperial backing, likely Hutt as well. The compound on Rishi hadn’t been some temporary camp — they had turrets, walkers, ships, and a lot of manpower. Kazta knew that it had to be something big for them to spend credits like that. The slave, Carlo, had said it was a weapon. What kind of weapon would have to be hidden in the middle of a desert planet? And what kind of plans did they have for it? Now their crew, down one captain, had to try to stop them.


[Story] Character of the Week – An’shula Skyseer

[[ An’shula is one of my oldest characters. She used to live in Thousand Needles, until the floods from the Cataclysm destroyed her home.  No art this week as I’m busy with sewing!]]

An’shula had lived in Feralas for several years now, but it still didn’t really feel like home. The dense forest and still lakes were familiar to her now, she recognized the landmarks and all the tents of the town, but she longed for the village she could no longer return to. Most of all she missed the view when she climbed to the top of a rocky ridge, the sky painted in the palest blue, the clouds galloping across like a herd of white kodos. An’shula could still smell it too, the dusty smell of the rocks, the tough green scraggly plants that clung to the canyon walls, the fresh clear river below. As time passed, she worried that the memory would fade, that one day she wouldn’t be able to remember her old home at all. She had nothing tangible to hold onto, it had all been swept away in the floods. Down at the water’s edge, she’d walked many mornings looking for something that could have been washed up — some beads or a hatchet, perhaps a feather. But she never found any. Her village, her entire life, had been swept away somewhere and disappeared, just like that.

There was one thing in Feralas that tied her to home — the windserpents that dwelled in the dark corners of the forest. In the canyon, these had nested on the cliffsides, and An’shula would see them silhouetted against the bright sky, their bright scales shimmering. Most were shades of blue, the color of the sky in all its moods, but a few were clean, bright white. Sometimes she’d see a green one, vivid as the canyon trees against the dull, dusty rock. As soon as she heard that they lived here in the forest as well, An’shula sought them out. It could have been a trick, she realized, but she didn’t think that was the case. The people here were not her villagers, but they were good, and decent. They had been kind, offered her food and allowed her to stay, but she’d not grown close to any of them. How could she, when her heart still longed for those she had lost?

An’shula ventured deep along the tangled branches and heavy brush. How could the windserpents fly in such a place? She imagined their wings must get caught often, or were there sinuous bodies agile enough to weave through the dense growth? When she saw them, she let out a little gasp of delight. A pair with their nest of hatchlings, one of the parents had brought a small bird and dropped it into the waiting babies’ mouths. They seized and tore eagerly at the meal. Their scales were a bright, vivid scarlet, not at all what An’shula expected in the forest. Smaller scales of yellow and blue lined their bodies and the underside of their wings. They were bold and fearless, unafraid to be seen and unwilling to hide. The other adult sensed An’shula’s presence, pulling its head back into a striking posture and emitting a warning hiss. An’shula crouched further down in the brush to hide herself, and show that she was no threat. She was thrilled to see them, this echo of her old home, yet new and exciting as well. Had they too been pushed out of the canyon by the flood? It was impossible to say, but they had made their new home here, and now looked as if they belonged. If they could do it, couldn’t she? An’shula would have to adapt, of course, as they had. She would need to get used to living here in the dark and green forest instead of the wide, bright canyons. But as she watched the windserpents and their family, she was encouraged.


[Story] Xanaroth’s Journal

Aeramin came calling on me at home, which is a rare enough occasion that I figured it must be something important. Thankfully, Elara had just gone down for a nap so I didn’t have to try to corral her while we were talking. Normally she’s quite happy to stay in the sling, but of late she’s got the urge to explore and I have to keep a close eye on her at all times when she’s in such a mood. I’ve gone through and put up most of the things that could be dangerous, but babies can be extremely persistent, and sometimes I or Vallindra will forget and leave a glass out, something like that. Aeramin seemed curt and tense, and it took some prying to get the reason out of him. He wasn’t happy that I allowed Felarius to summon an imp, he believes that he’s not yet ready. How odd that he should be the one lecturing me about being reckless!

The summoning was performed under my direct supervision, in my work room. Felarius knows not to attempt it anywhere else. Maybe some of his skills are lagging behind, but I thought it would give him incentive to work harder, a reward of sorts. His rune drawings are excellent for a student of his age, and he is eager to study demon anatomy and physiology. His felfire lessons are perhaps not where they should be, but he is making progress. Aeramin seems concerned with his progress in regular fire class, but I believe it is just that Felarius lacks the same drive for that material. Any student will learn more quickly and easily when they find the subject exciting and interesting. That’s not to put the blame on Aeramin, of course, but I will see if I can’t instill the importance of a good fire foundation in Felarius.

I would never put Felarius at risk, nor Elara and Vallindra. I’m a little insulted that Aeramin would even suggest it. One imp, properly encircled and bound, behind a sealed and warded door, is not a risk. We’ll need somewhere more suitable — and away from my family — if Felarius is ever ready for anything more dangerous. To that end, Aeramin suggested that I take him to the void fields in Outland to observe the voidwalkers there. I agree that it would be a very valuable experience for him, he could get first-hand experience and observation from a safe distance. But I couldn’t bring Elara for that, and I’m not certain if Vallindra knows what to do to care for her on a daily basis. Aeramin offered to keep her for me, they apparently watched Imralion’s nephew for a few days, but I’m not entirely convinced of his ability in that area. There’s Hethurin of course, but I’d need to speak to him about it. I think he would probably agree, though he’s no doubt busy with his own students and the operation of the school. Still, I know he’s at least managed to care for babies successfully. I tried to speak to Aeramin about Lyorri, but he would have nothing of it. I can’t understand how he can feel nothing at all for her. Even if he didn’t plan for her to be here, she’s here now, and she’s part of him. I’m certain that Kes is caring for her well, she’d wanted a child for so long. I just hope Aeramin doesn’t regret it later on.

[Story] Smuggler Crew – Luck

“Looks like you lose again, kid.” Sergeant Wells smirked, leaning back in his rickety chair. For just a moment, Kazta wished it would collapse and dump him and his smug face into the dirt. She overlooked her cards, in the hope that maybe she’d added them up wrong — but no. If she didn’t know any better, she’d almost believe the other guys were cheating. But it didn’t seem possible; they were in a makeshift camp playing pazaak on top of an old shipping crate. Maybe her luck was just that bad.

Kazta got up from her chair, brushing the dirt from her boots. “All right,” she said. The other guys were still snickering. “I want a rematch later.” She fetched the bucket and scrub brush and stalked over to the parked walker, resting in the grass like some enormous grazing animal. Gambling for credits was against regulations, but the rules didn’t say anything about wagering other things. Loser of this game had to scrub down the walker, its long limbs and joints splashed with mud. Despite the humiliation of losing, Kazta didn’t really mind the job itself. There were much worse things the Sergeant could have made her do. And she knew there wasn’t any real malice behind their laughter; they were picking on her because she was knew. It’s just the way things went. Sergeant Wells cared about every one of his team, even if had an odd way of showing it sometimes. She was eager to go into the field again, and prove herself to him and the others. Their arrival on Taris had gone well enough, they’d repelled some Imperial droids from a farming settlement and constructed some water storage towers to replace the ones that had been destroyed.

Sergeant Wells had been killed on their next mission, a sniper’s bolt snuffing out his life in the blink of an eye. In the chaos, a togruta soldier they called Stripes was bitten by one of those wild, scrabbling humanoids that infested Taris. He was feverish and pale, even after the medic saw to him, and he had to be taken out by shuttle. They were told that he was sent home, but Kazta and the rest of the unit believed otherwise. Was it only bad luck that took Stripes and Wells, or was there more to it? Had she been spared and they taken for some reason, or it was it — like the draw of pazaak cards — just chance?

The memory of that game on Taris returned to her as Kazta looked over her cards on Draiik’s ship. While she would have preferred to pass the time in a more productive way, they’d insisted she join the game — and the ship wasn’t going anywhere until the upgrades were installed, anyway. There was still the war droid to be cleaned and restored as well. She lost most of her hands in this game, too. Even after all those years, her luck at pazaak hadn’t changed. But her luck — or whatever it was — in battle had kept her alive, at least thus far. Kazta couldn’t help but worry what lay ahead of them. Their odds were long, and she wasn’t sure how prepared all of them might be for an intense situation. She’d seen the Captain and Shani handle blasters, but cantina shootouts weren’t exactly the same as being under assault by a full Imperial force.

They wanted to talk, too, about their pasts and where they’d come from. The idea made Kazta uncomfortable, not because she didn’t want them to know, but because she didn’t feel there was much to be told. She didn’t want to talk too much about the fear and pain of those days before the Republic arrived, how they’d hidden in the dusty warehouse and eaten withered old rations and believed they were going to die as the shells exploded outside. She had stories from her missions, of course, but they were always edged with a hint of sadness, for those who had been lost. Some were lost on the field, killed or MIA, others had been sent to other units, on remote planets, and they’d just drifted apart. It wasn’t easy to keep in touch once they went their separate ways. But she enjoyed listening, though she believed they might be just a touch exaggerated for effect. Sitting around throwing cards and telling tall tales, it was almost like they were a real unit, at least for a little while. Kazta couldn’t help but worry, then, what their next mission might have in store for them.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Terellion’s Journal

Hethurin wanted to tell me about the date my mother went on. I keep trying to convince myself it wasn’t, but he thinks it was. I said he should have just refused to make the portal, but he thought Isturon would make a fuss and then just go ask Raleth or someone else. He might be right. I just don’t understand how she could want to go on a date with someone else. Didn’t she love my father? I am certain she did, so how could she forget about him so quickly? Hethurin said it’s because she’s lonely, but she has me, and my sisters. If Hethurin died, I am sure I wouldn’t want to look for anyone else, but then he said he’d want me to. I don’t know what to think about that. I kind of sounded like I agreed, but I don’t, and if he’s gone he won’t be here to know anyway. Then he said he wouldn’t find anyone else, so I don’t know why he thinks it would be okay for me. Hopefully I’ll never have to fnd out though. We can be old and go on dates in the city too, but that’s okay because we already knew each other.

Hethurin said it would be okay if it was a different woman. I still think he ought to try that secretary again, but Hethurin thinks she wouldn’t be interested. There have to be some other women around, like maybe Lilithel. He suggested my mother could meet Keyalenn’s father, I forgot about him. That’s a good suggestion, he’d probably like someone to talk to, except I hope he doesn’t just talk about hawkstrider racing the whole time.

And he’s also wanting to adopt another child. I told him I thought we should wait a while until they’re a bit older — we still have two babies. His answer to that is that we could adopt an older child, someone who would otherwise get passed over. I think it might be really strange to adopt someone who is thirty years old or something. I did come up with an idea I think he liked, though. I suggested we could sponsor one, they could come live here at the school and have their own room, and attend classes for free. That way they’d get an education, and be surrounded by friendly people. It’s not quite the same as adoption, but I honestly think it would be a really nice thing to do. Plus, once they decide to move on, we could have another one. Hethurin is going to have some rooms added on soon, once the builders start working.

I haven’t decided yet what kind of cake I want for the spring ball. Obviously it will have flowers on it, with the greenhouse I might be able to use actual sugared petals this year, I will have to talk to Sorelle and see if she can save some for me. I wonder if I could make a cake filling with violets? They don’t really have much flavor on their own. Maybe I should just stick with the strawberry. It’s also going to be time to let Shelly and her babies out into the garden. I’m afraid Malwen is going to cry when they leave. But maybe we can get her a different animal instead, like a real pet.

[Story] SWTOR – Xarlo’s Meditations

This time, hardly anyone came. That’s not too surprising, Knights and Masters probably have better things to do than listen to lessons. But even a Master can learn new things. Mine used to say that, and so did the one hosting last night, Bron. I tried not to think about what kinds of things they were doing. Probably fighting off the Eternal Empire’s droids or protecting innocent farmers from Sith. I wish I could be doing that. Not that I don’t enjoy the lessons, because I do.

There was a girl there, a mirialan. The good thing is that she is a padawan too! She doesn’t have a Master either, so we have a lot in common. I really hope she comes again, so we could talk more. I’d like to at least have someone to practice my saber strikes with. It’s easier for someone to see where you’re making mistakes than when you’re doing it alone. One other person was there. Can you guess which one? The former Jedi. She didn’t come with any of her friends this time, so it wasn’t quite so bad. Also, I think her presence must have some purpose. I think she’s meant to show me what would happen if I lose track of my training and my progress. So in that way, she’s really valuable and I’m glad she was there.

Since there weren’t many people, Bron decided to postpone the talk about sages, instead he wanted to talk about lightsaber strikes. Now that’s something interesting! I made sure to pay close attention to all the ones he talked about. The mirialan girl volunteered to go up in front of everyone and demonstrate how to do them. I wanted to, but what if I do it wrong?  My Master used to say we learn more from mistakes than from successes. Which might be true, but I don’t want to do them in front of everyone. Bron talked about the different strikes and what they might be used for. Some of them were awful and dangerous, and he said it means that you’ve given in to anger. I can’t imagine just cutting someone’s whole leg off or something. I hope I’m never in a situation where I have to do that.

I also asked about how to defend against Force attacks that aren’t weapons, like groundquakes or lightning. I think Bron liked my question, so that was good. He explained how you can use your saber to divert or absorb energy sometimes, or shielding techniques. It was all really interesting. I hope I’ll get a chance to practice some of them soon — I mean, not cutting people’s legs off or anything like that, but the regular moves. I don’t know if I want to holo that mirialan girl, she’d probably think it was weird.