[Story] Character of the Week – Irael Summerwind

[[ Irael is a young elf from Murder Row who got a scholarship to attend Fairsong Academy. ]]

“You should at least think about it, Irael.”

Irael gave her mother a sharp look. “This again?” Most evenings, Irael and her mother ate their supper together in the common room. It was simpler to eat what Tik and Terellion had made — and their food was delicious. Irael didn’t see the point in using valuable study time to cook or clean up dishes. And normally it gave her a chance to talk to her mother, but in the last few weeks, the constant pestering had grown annoying. She’d become fixated on the idea of Irael finding some nice mage boy from a rich family to marry, and she was convinced that her daughter would be well taken care of. It was a nice idea, but not realistic at all, and Irael thought her mother ought to know better. After all, she’d spent her whole life on the Row too, and things like that just didn’t happen for people like them.

Now Felarius had got onto it to, and Irael half suspected that her mother had conspired with him to coax her into the idea. She didn’t know him well, but she knew that he was the other scholarship student from the Row. Usually they talked about just normal school things — how they’d done on their exams, whether they were going to take any summer courses or not. Felarius had his extra lessons, and he wanted to take summer classes on top of that. Irael thought the enchanting class sounded interesting, and perhaps the botany class as well — that one shouldn’t be too challenging. It was good to allow yourself some easy classes now and then so she didn’t get too burned out. She worried that Felarius might be trying to do too much too quickly, though she could understand his desire. They wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t for the Headmaster’s generosity, and they wanted to use it to their best advantage.

But then Felarius asked if she liked anyone. It was an odd question, and she was’t sure why he was asking. No, she was here to study and learn, not to look at boys — the same thing she always told her mother when she asked. But he kept insisting that perhaps she just didn’t know yet, or maybe a new student would come that she couldn’t resist. The way he said it, Irael would have no control over her emotions or her actions, and she’d just be helpless to resist this mystery fellow. Irael knew that was nonsense. She’d never had it happen before. Felarius said that wasn’t proof of anything, but he was a guy. Even if some handsome and clever (and rich) mage student did appear, he wouldn’t want anything to do with her. Irael had seen plenty like that when she was trying to make it on the Row. Nice rich boys from good families didn’t want girls like her, at least not when it came to looking for wives. Felarius said she could just not tell them, but that was worse. It would mean she was ashamed of her past, which she wasn’t. Why should she be? There were no other options if you were hungry and poor. Besides, if she tried to hide it and it was found out later, then he’d be upset that she’d lied about it. It was better to be up front, that is, if the situation ever came up.

More than that, it seemed like cheating. Irael had got into a mage school on her own. Granted, she’d had help from the headmaster and Magister Firewind, but she’d beat out all the other applicants except for Felarius. She hadn’t just batted her eyelashes and looked pretty, she’d read books and practiced all on her own. She did all her lessons and practiced every day to keep her grades up and prove that she belonged here with the other students. Irael didn’t want to take the easy way out, she knew she could do it on her own — and she had. No rich mage student was going to take her own success away from her.

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[Story] Fairsong Academy – Braedra’s Journal

Dear Elthanni and Telaena,

The domes are even more amazing than I imagined! They’re far bigger, for one thing — you can see them from very far away as we rode over on dragonhawks. The dragonhawks here are beautiful, I had one that was blue and purple, and Isturon’s was almost black, with shiny green metallic feathers. He said that they breed them in different colors, like hawkstriders, but I wonder if they’re just different colors because of where they are from. Anyway, the domes are enormous, so large that you can fit a whole town inside of them, and there are several, at least five and perhaps more. They are pink, and I believe they are powered by a combination of magic and some kind of mechanical device. I think this device may help amplify the magic, or keeps it running so that a person (or ethereal) doesn’t have to maintain it as long.

Most of the people here are ethereals, I really don’t know how to explain them! They have no body as we do, rather they are made up of energy and magic. Some of them wear clothes in an effort to fit in better, but many just wrap strips of cloth around them however they please. They speak in a very unusual humming tone, and it can be a little unsettling at first, but they seem very eager to have visitors to their town. The inn is located in the biggest dome, and from our balcony we can look out and see animals grazing below. There are large deer-like creatures, and Isturon said that’s the sort of animal I ate at the restaurant. I feel a little guilty now, knowing how handsome an animal it is! The domes are important because the rest of the land is scorched by the magical explosion that tore it apart, there are no plants or water anywhere else. It made me wonder if we couldn’t build something similar along the Scar, to help encourage things to grow there as well. Most of the danger seems to be passed now, so perhaps it’s only a matter of time before it recovers. I think the damage to the land here was much more severe.

It might be a good security measure for the school, as well. Hethurin’s mother hasn’t been by again, has she? Isturon said that she might. If she does, I want you and Ter to leave her alone and not bother her. I don’t want any trouble with her. The trip is wonderful, but I do miss talking to you and Ter, and seeing the babies every day. I think it won’t be too much longer before we come back. You both did such a good job in the play! I hope you were able to get all of the paint off. I don’t know how I’d explain having two trolls for daughters.

Oh, I forgot to mention the food here. It’s very unusual! We’re going to bring some of it back with us so you’re able to try them. Ethereals don’t eat as we do, they feed off magical energy, so I think they have some odd ideas about what we eat. The menu has different sorts of “nutrition cubes”, they come in different colors which I assume are different flavors. I couldn’t even tell you what flavor mine was, but it was colored blue. Isturon’s was yellow, he said it wasn’t bad. Mine wasn’t bad, but I’m not sure I liked it as much as eating a nice meal. Then there are smaller ones, I’m not sure if those are meant to be dessert or something else, we didn’t think they tasted as good. I’ll let you decide whether you like them or not! The “refreshment crystals” were interesting too. I don’t know how they made liquid into a crystal, but they did. I think they were made with manaberry, it tasted a bit like them.

Aeramin was here too, with his husband. They said they were on vacation, though it didn’t seem a place that many people came for pleasure. Then again, we were, so maybe they had the same idea! I took your advice and brought up the subject with Isturon, at least I tried to. Maybe I’m the one who is missing things. I think the evening went well though, and he wants to go to the jazz club in Silvermoon when we get back. I’ve never been to one, but it should be fun, and if nothing else, we can dance and eat some non-cube-shaped food.

Love,
Minn’da

[Story] Thorns – Booty Bay

Our room is in a pirate ship, I’m not sure if it was a real ship that they turned into rooms, or they just built it to look like one. Either way, it’s perched up on a hillside, so it looks out over the bay. When the sun goes down, the sky lights up with all different colors, and it’s reflected on the surface of the water. You can just sit and watch it while you do nothing, but in my case I was putting clock parts together. It’s not really that I was bored, it’s just habit when I’m not doing anything else. Besides, if we want to stay longer, I’ll have to send some stock back for the shop soon. Summer’s not usually a busy time, but stuff does still sell now and then.

We decided to stay in and order food from the room menu, because we hadn’t done that before. Usually we’d pick one of the little spots along the dock to eat, though they mostly all serve the same thing — fish. It’s not really boring because there are a lot of different kinds of fish, plus there are a lot of different ways to cook it, or different spices. I’m surprised Nash hasn’t asked about cooking any yet, there’s no stove in our room though. They thought people would want a fake parrot made out of feathers, but not a stove. I guess a stove doesn’t fit with a pirate theme.

I got fried clams with chips, and Nash got some clams with pasta in butter and garlic. Both were good. You can also order umbrella drinks off the room menu, so we did that as well. I got one called a “shark bite” which has a candy shark filled with cherry juice so it kind of looks like blood. Nash was a little freaked out by it I think, I had to assure him I didn’t actually want to drink blood.

I can tell he doesn’t want to leave, and it’s understandable. I brought up the idea of opening a second shop here, since a lot of people come through the bay. I’m not even sure if it would even be possible — how much rent for the shop would cost, for one, and the more pressing issue of how I’d  make enough stock for both shops, especially in the holiday season. But then, maybe the bay isn’t as busy then — the weather’s rougher, so maybe summer is the busy season here. Anyway, it’s something I would have to talk to Rose about, to see if it’s even possible. Would it be bad living on the beach? Definitely not. And Nash wouldn’t have to worry about getting nabbed by the guards, either. He also insists that he’ll be able to help build soon, and I think he might be able. He’s already able to make some repairs and replace parts, and he’s going to try making his own clock with the shells he found on the beach. Maybe he’s a little slower than I am, but I’m sure he can catch up. I’d miss them though, and Pup. Maybe they could come visit now and then, it’s not that far away. I bet they’d all love the beach.

In one of the shops here they have stuff you can buy, like funny shirts, and also pirate shirts. I think Nash and I both need one of those, and maybe drinking glasses or something. Nash wanted me to pretend to be a shark, that boy is a little odd sometimes.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Letter from Braedra

Dear Elthanni and Telaena,

Today we’re at the outpost in Shadowmoon Valley. You should see it! I hope that you’ll be able to come soon, it’s so strange and exciting. The sky is covered with heavy green clouds, and sometimes you will see green lightning jump between them. It’s dark and eerie, and you can never forget you’re on another world. But it’s beautiful in its own way, too. The inn where we’re staying isn’t very fancy, I only saw one other outpost on the way there, and that was was built by orcs. I’m rather glad we aren’t staying at that one! So far we have the whole inn to ourselves, which is nice because we got our choice of rooms. We chose the top of the tower, there’s a large balcony so you can walk out and look over the fields of crystals. Yes, crystals! They grow all over the ground, the clusters are everywhere and some of them are taller than an elf. There are no plants of any kind there, so the animals that live there must feed on them. I imagine it’s very hard to eat crystals, but Isturon said the flayers have sharp claws that scrape bits of the crystal off at a time. With binoculars I was able to see some of them, the innkeeper said it was too dangerous to go out among them. They certainly look scary! They are about the same size as an elf, though much more thin and frail. They have very long claws attached to two hooklike hands, and they are very dark which makes them difficult to see against the cracked ground. I suppose that is for camouflage, for the dragons feed on them.

Yes, there are dragons here! Though they’re unlike any dragons that I’ve seen in books. Granted, I haven’t seen any in person so I can’t compare, but the dragons in books all look more or less the same. These have very angular heads with short snouts, and the most intriguing thing is that they are translucent all over — not just their skin, otherwise their bones and insides would show, but the whole of them. I don’t know if it’s due to the magic from the crystals, or something else. They’re certainly not ghosts, because I’ve seen them hunting and feeding on flayers, and ghosts don’t do that. Isturon said he believed some of them might have a nest, but I’ve been unable to find any with the binoculars. Of course, they’d probably build their nest somewhere safe and hidden from view. When we stop back in Shattrath, I’m going to see if I can find some books about these sort of dragons, Isturon said they are called “nether dragons”. I wish you could see them! They’re so ethereal and beautiful. They seem to have no interest in us or the inn at all, so it’s certainly safe to watch them.

The only worry I had was about infernals. I know there are demons in some other parts of the area, and the inn has areas of the roof that had clearly been patched. Isturon assured me that the building was meant to withstand them, but he was so nervous and shaken after I brought it up that I regretted it! He very narrowly missed being killed by one when he was on the islands, so I can understand his caution. Of course, I don’t want anything to happen to either of us. I suggested that we could stay in the same room because it would be safer in case one should fall. I assure you that nothing improper happened! We sat on the long couch and watched the dragons outside of the window. I must have fallen asleep there, because I woke later and he’d covered me with a blanket. I’m not sure if he slept or not, I feel a little guilty if I was the reason he couldn’t.

We will be heading out to the domes in Netherstorm next. As I understand, they are sort of greenhouses maintained by magical barriers in which they grow plants and animals. It sounds very exciting! Isturon thinks there may be some researchers there, I hope that’s the case. It would be so interesting to speak to them about their work here and what they’ve discovered. There’s so much that we don’t know about this place still. Maybe one day you’ll want to study here too? I could come and visit you. Just make sure your roof is infernal proof.

Love,
Minn’da

[Story] Character of the Week – Ornasse Evershade

[[ Finally it’s time for O, the Old Man, my main dude. As much as I like him, I don’t actually write him much because I find it difficult to get inside the head of someone who has lived for thousands of years. And he hasn’t really been doing much storywise – he’s happily living a quiet life with his family in Feathermoon. Here’s a story from when he was just a student, learning to enter the Dream. ]]

Entering the Dream was unlike anything else that Ornasse had experienced, and he found it difficult to find a fitting comparison. Maybe a little like slipping into a cool, shaded pool on a hot day — shocking at first, but then soothing and comfortable, and the longer you stayed, the more reluctant you were to leave. But there was also a curious feeling of separation from his physical form, which lay in the barrow on its bed of straw and blankets, the knowledge that he was somehow  removed from it, yet it kept him tethered as well. Ornasse thought otherwise one might roam the Dream forever, opting to stay rather than return to the waking world which was so much more drab and dulled. Surely there must have been some who had done it, but he didn’t know how. He wasn’t ready to escape the waking world just yet, either. It had its appeals too — mostly food. While he didn’t hunger in the Dream, he sometimes missed the scent of dumplings steaming over the fire, or the taste of berries with cream.

This was his second time Dreaming, again led by his shan’do and a handful of fellow druids that he had deemed ready for the journey. He had guided them deep into the barrow, lit the herbs that filled the underground chamber with fragrant smoke, and showed them the way to enter the Dream. When they arrived, they were stunned and disoriented, and he stood watch to ensure that no one bolted in a panic, or otherwise hurt himself. After he’d roused them back in the barrow, they’d had a lesson about what they had experienced, what they would do differently when they returned. Soon, he would step back and allow them to cross over on their own, only present to protect them from danger and guide their path through the primeval forests. When Ornasse entered, he saw his shan’do perched atop a rock outcropping, in the form of a shaggy white cat. Taking the cue from his master, Ornasse shifted as well, the change coming even more easily within the Dream, perhaps because he was outside of his physical form. He surveyed his surroundings with his keen feline eyesight, taking in the jumble of new scents. Two other students were present, so he had not been the first, but he was also not the last. The students gathered, sitting patiently on panther haunches until they had all made the journey.

Ornasse’s whiskers trembled with excitement — what sights awaited them here? Their first trip had been to this clearing, but they had not left it. The tangle of brambles and brush beyond remained a mystery. But they had passed their first test, and their shan’do now led them deeper into the Dream, squeezing through an imperceptible gap between the vines. One by one, they followed after him, their sleek feline forms easily navigating the dense forest. Ornasse could intently feel every branch and leaf that brushed against his side, every pebble beneath the pads of his feet, the beetle that crawled over them. He could smell his master, and the other students, their musky feral panther scents, he smelled the green leaves warming in the sunlight, the sweet flowers opening from their buds. Further away, he smelled deer and rabbits, moving somewhere out of sight. The world before his eyes exploded in a kaleidoscope of greens and yellows, more shades than he’d ever imagined possible. Here, his senses were more intense, stronger and more keen. Ornasse thought it might take some time to adjust lest he feel overwhelmed by it all at once.

The large white cat led them down to a stream, and Ornasse began to recognize the familiar landscape beneath the tangles of leaves and brush. This was the stream they crossed on the way to their lessons, but here it rushed higher and swifter. The water smelled fresh and clean, and in its depths, Ornasse could see fish resting in the shade. This world, their shan’do had told them, was the true expression of their forest. What they saw while awake was the pale, meager shadow, but they could use such landmarks to navigate in the Dream. Just how far did it go? Ornasse’s whiskers twitched again excitedly. Could one travel the whole world within the Dream? What did the other places look like? He longed to explore on his own, but there were lessons to be had first. They would be given permission to roam where they liked soon enough.

He had one last thing to show them. He indicated that they should follow, and they climbed a steep hill, one that was often used by sentinel scouts to watch for danger. On all fours and with sharp claws to dig into the earth and moss, they ascended the slope easily. Once at the top, Ornasse’s breath caught in his throat at the sight of an enormous green dragon. They, like the druids, were capable of entering the Dream while their physical body remained behind. Ornasse had never seen one before, and he was awed and a little frightened by the size and power of it. Her sinuous coils shimmered with bright green scales, her enormous head crowned with sharp horns and her mouth full of jagged teeth. Yet the dragon did not threaten them, rather it seemed to recognize their shan’do and greeted him gently, then all of the students in turn. Around her, a clutch of hatchlings fluttered clumsily in the air — they couldn’t have been more than a few days old. Were they, too, able to Dream so young? It must be so, they were so intimately tied to the Dream that it was second nature to them. They did not have to work at it for years as elves did.

As he had before, Ornasse returned to the waking world feeling exhausted and humbled by what he had experienced. They would remain longer next time, perhaps seeking some threat that needed to be dealt with. The green dragons stood vigil, but they could not be everywhere at once. Ornasse did not know what sort of things they would see on their next trip, but he wanted to be ready.

[Story] The Ghostclaw – Astiria’s Journal

I don’t think anyone really notices that I’m here at all, but that’s exactly how I like it. I am still trying to sort things out and find my place. Even though I’ve patrolled in Eversong for years, I’ve just now been assigned a patrol, and that’s because Anorelle is away on a trip. I’m taking over her slot for the time being. It’s first thing in the morning, which I like because then I have the whole rest of the day to practice. I’m much further ahead of many of the other rangers, having already gained some skill with the bow, but I’m not sure what else Sunashe is looking for. I’m not here to cause trouble though, so I’m doing my best to be patient. It was terribly boring just sitting around in the quarters with nothing to do.

So far, things seem a lot more casual here. I don’t mean that the rangers don’t take their patrol seriously, but it seems everyone has a lot more freedom on their off hours. You don’t have to report in, and the captain is more lax about paperwork than my old one. I suppose that’s an effect of being further away from Silvermoon. A lot of people there were simply after the prestige of being a ranger, or their parents had sent them out because they had no other prospects. Here, it seems like everyone genuinely wants to be at this post — I can’t imagine anyone staying out here if they didn’t want to be. There are also rangers that would never be allowed in Eversong, like the undead, and the draenei. As long as they do a good job, they don’t bother me. Another thing that’s new to me is the spiders. Evidently they do it every year, and it makes sense, but it’s not a very pleasant job. But they make it into kind of a party, and we had food afterward, Orledin even made cookies with spiders made of icing after.

There aren’t many other rangers in here, either. There’s Yara and Kavia, and Anorelle was in here but she moved to Arancon’s house in town. Sorrowmoss has a bunk, but she’s very rarely in it. I’m not sure where she goes during the day, but it’s not here. She isn’t one for talking either, which makes me like her already. I imagine that a patrol with her would be straight-forward and efficient. It’s not that I dislike any of the others, it’s just that they want to know things that I don’t feel like answering. I know they’re just trying to be friendly, or make small talk, there’s nothing malicious behind it. At least, I don’t think so. I don’t want to lie, but I don’t really want to talk about myself very much either. Not the recent past, anyway. I’m sure with time it’ll be easier, but I still have too many feelings about it right now to think clearly. Nessna said there’s a man in the town who you can talk to about problems, but I’m not sure if I could do that either. Then again, maybe it would help to get everything out with someone who won’t discuss it — Nessna said anything you tell him is considered private.

[Story] Fairsong Academy – Braedra’s Letter

Dear Elthanni and Telaena,

I promised Terellion that I would write and make sure everything is all right here, so please be sure to tell him that you received my letter. You don’t have to let him read it though, if you don’t want to. I know he’s still a little strange about everything, and I don’t want to make him upset.

This is such an unusual and interesting place! I hope that Hethurin will allow you to go along on the next trip. I know it’s usually only the magic students who go, but I don’t see why you couldn’t enjoy it too. I’m going to insist on going along too, so you can always stay with me if he says no. Much of the city has these very strange dome-like buildings, they don’t have any bricks or seams that I can see, it’s almost as if they were put up in one piece. The place we’re staying now was settled by elves, so it looks almost like a little replica of Silvermoon, though it’s much less crowded, and the plants look different. The city itself is surrounded by these very tall trees, Isturon says there are all sorts of animals out there so I don’t expect we’ll be going out there. I do sometimes sit and watch from the balcony to see if I’m able to see any though. So far I saw a moth that was as large as a dragonhawk! It was really something else, I thought at first that I’d dreamt it. The food here is unusual too, but so far everything I’ve tried has been good. I think I could easily get used to staying here, if we didn’t already have the house of course. But perhaps we could get one for trips? Isturon mentioned that Aeramin has a house here, many of them seem to be empty so I don’t think it would cost too much to get one.

We came into Silvermoon last night for the orchestra, because we had our tickets. There are so many mages here, that it didn’t take us long to find someone to make us a portal. I felt a little underdressed in my plain robe, everyone else — including Isturon — looked so fancy and extravagant! I suppose we’ll have to go shopping for robes soon, won’t we? The orchestra was so wonderful. Our seats were close enough that we could watch all of the musicians playing. Many of the songs they played were traditional Eversong melodies, songs that I remember hearing and singing when I was younger. Of course they sounded so much more elegant and impressive when played by a full orchestra, but it was still lovely to hear. I’d love to go again, but I’m not sure if Isturon liked it very much. He said it was “pretty good”, which is usually something people say when they expected something to be bad. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into it. What do you think he meant?

Tomorrow we’re going to visit the dragons! I really hope we’ll be able to see one. He said that they can be seen from the inn, we’re going to try to get a room on the highest floor. It’s too dangerous to go out of the grounds, not because of the dragons, but other things called flayers. I’d think it might be dangerous because of dragons too, even a friendly dragon might mistake an elf for food from far away.

I still can’t tell how things are going. He’s polite, but he doesn’t really like to talk about anything personal, either about himself or me. And he wanted to invite Ter to come visit. Of course I don’t mind seeing him, but isn’t it strange to invite him to a romantic trip? Maybe it’s just a friend trip. I can’t really be sure. Oh, I bought some things for you in the market, I hope you’ll like them. There are so many interesting things to see there! We’ll have to go when Hethurin brings the students.

Love,
Minn’da