[Story] Story a Week 35 – Grey

The Gilnean countryside in winter was a study in grey, as if the driving rain and ceaseless winds had washed all trace of color away. But it seemed even more dreary than usual, as Marjolaine stood barefoot and shivering in the mud. How had she come to be here, in the middle of the bleak woods, her shoes gone and her hems torn? She couldn’t quite remember. Looking down, she saw her nails were dirty, traces of mud and blood beneath them. Had she fought with someone? Her body ached all over, with every step she could feel the complaining of her muscles. There were some bruises, she thought, but for the most part it was the ache of exertion rather than injury. Had they gone for a ride? She could not see any of the horses in the fields, though they could have gone to seek shelter from the freezing rain. She wanted to herself, but she could see no buildings closeby. If they were here, they had no lamps burning to light the way through the grey.

She had ridden the trails in the forest hundreds of times, so it should have been familiar to her, but there was a strangeness to the way everything looked. More than that, she could smell everything — not only the ordinary things like mud and the smell of rain on the plants, but the distant smell of smoke, and the smell of a deer. How did she know it was a deer? She wasn’t sure, but somehow she did. There was another smell too, something feral and musky — and there were several of them. It reminded her a bit of the stable after the horses had returned, but somehow more menacing. She didn’t smell any horses.

What had happened? She tried very hard to remember. Her head ached vaguely, but she didn’t think she had struck it. There had been a storm, she remembered that. She had gone around and secured all of the shutters of the house, and the stables as well. She remembered the icy wind tearing and rattling, howling around the corners and hollows. But there had to be something else. Where was everyone? All of the servants, the stablekeepers and cooks? All of the  other people in town? It was as if the dreary grey had yawned and swallowed all of them up.

Marjolaine followed the banks of the stream, knowing that it would lead to something eventually. Dirty snow, half-melted by the movement of the water, was piled along either side. The mid-morning sun shone weakly through the clouds, doing little to warm her. She thought she was near the mill, but she wasn’t certain. Would anyone be there? It was unlikely, but she had to hope. At the very least, she could get dry and perhaps find something to eat. Her stomach felt like a twisting void inside her, as if she hadn’t eaten for weeks. She knew she had, they’d eaten roasted quails right before the storm blew into town. Or had they? Was it possible that she’d been sleeping for days, like that story she used to listen to as a girl? She supposed it was.

A branch snapped, impossibly loud in the still forest. She turned to see a shaggy grey figure emerging from behind the trees, followed by others. Two, or three — so four of them in all. That wild, musky smell surrounded them and their eyes burned like embers in their long faces. But she wasn’t afraid. They had come to find her. She knew, all at once, that she was one of them.

Advertisements

[Story] Story a Week 30 – Graveyard

Curiosity brought Stormpelt further away from the town. She had seen very little of her leader and his family, though she sometimes saw them from afar. There was a little hill she liked to sit upon and watch the town; they were mostly awake at night, like she had been once. She still feared the people with the sharp spears, though they usually did not approach unless she got too close to the town. The pup was big now, old enough to come out of their den and run on his own. Stormpelt saw him sometimes, with his mother. She could not be certain, of course, but they looked happy to her. They didn’t need her to protect them any longer — they had the town and the people with sharp spears. In fact, they probably never thought of her at all, and the realization left her feeling restless. Was it sadness? Perhaps it was, or something like it. Her first master had betrayed her, leading her to this place in between alive and dead. Now it seemed the second had forgotten her. That was not as bad, but it still hurt. Stormpelt did not wish to give up on him just yet, however. He had saved her, and she had sworn to follow him and keep him and his family safe. There could be danger lurking here that she had missed, she could not afford to be complacent. 

Dawn rose over the dense forest, illuminating the dew that clung to the grass and low brush. Stormpelt knew it would not be long before the leaves began to turn color and fall to the ground. Then the rain and the wind would come, and she would have to seek shelter. While she could not really feel the cold, being wet was still unpleasant, and Grub Grub preferred to be warm and dry. The trails of deer — and perhaps their predators — were visible through the grass where the dew had been brushed away by their passing. Stormpelt faintly remembered the smell of them, the excitement of finding a path and calling to the rest of her pack, noses all to the ground as they hunted. Those days seemed impossibly long ago, just a fading memory. One day she would be dead longer than she had been alive, and she worried that she might forget everything good from those days. She did her best to hold onto them, but scents were the most difficult. No matter how she tried, she could not smell them as she did then, they were dull and faded.

Stormpelt moved past some crumbling stones, in a place she did not recognize. She knew the stones had been put there by people; they were carved and arranged into buildings and pillars. Or they had been, once. Now they were a jumble, overgrown with vines and thorns. Why had the people left? Stormpelt didn’t know, and the stones gave her no answers. The grass grew soft and green between the stones, and she thought she might rest there among them, not that she had to, but because it was so lovely with the morning sun. Something caught her eye though, further back beyond the ruins of one of the buildings. More stones, but these were not fallen, but stood on end in the earth. Words were carved into them, and though Stormpelt could not read them, she knew at once what they were. She had seen such stones back in Silverpine. They were graves, marking the places where bones lay beneath the earth. A place for the dead to rest at peace, not to wander as she did. Stormpelt went among them carefully, her nose to the ground. She took care not to knock any stones over or stand where she thought someone might be. What would they think, if they could see her? But she knew they could not. They were somewhere else, wherever people went when they were really dead. She liked to think they were warm and happy and peaceful, wherever they were. They could not feel cold or wet or abandoned any longer. Even so, she felt a strange sort of kinship with them. They needed someone to keep watch over their resting place. She could guard the stones, pull the vines from them and put them upright if they fell over. She could ensure that no people came to walk over the bones or dig them up. She would be their guardian and their keeper, for as long as she was able.

[Story] Story a Week 10

[[ Prompt: Obsession ]]

Uldred removed his spectacles and rubbed his eyes. They ached, and the pages in front of him were swimming. Perhaps it was time to turn in for the night. Only a little oil was left in the lamp, and by its struggling light he could see that the hour was well past three. Sighing, he gathered the papers up into a stack on the desk and placed a book on top so they wouldn’t blow away if he opened the window later in the morning. He’d just have to continue then, once he’d slept and had something to eat. The most frustrating thing was that he knew he was close — he had to be — it was only a matter of untangling the complicated web of spells before him. If a spell could be cast, its reverse could also be cast. It was a fundamental principle of magic.

That boy is obsessed, he recalled his father saying, when he first got his hands on magical theory books. Uldred used to read them by a lamp very similar to this one, sitting before the grey window-panes streaked with rain, a warm blanket all around him. He remembered the awe and wonder those books brought to him, the eagerness to learn and experiment for himself. Maybe he had been, Uldred conceded, because he couldn’t go to proper lessons. The books were all he had then, and proved a valuable resource now. Though of course he’d graduated to much more advanced subjects than magical theory.

The Stormwind streets were empty and quiet at this hour, but Uldred knew things still moved there, out of sight. Rats and stray dogs, thieves and cut-purses stalked the shadows, hunting. In Shattrath, Uldred hadn’t had to worry about such things, at least as long as he stayed on the upper tiers, but Stormwind was a much different place. It had taken some time to get accustomed to a city again. His room was on an upper floor, so he could leave the window open for air most of the time, though a truly dedicated thief could get in — if he’d had anything worth stealing. Rumors of elves infused with demonic magic had brought him back here, but thus far he’d been able to learn very little about them. He’d not seen one himself, nor found any books on the subject. Even if he did find one in the flesh, Uldred rather doubted he’d be allowed to conduct the sort of experiments necessary to learn what he needed to know. As they were elves, he might have more luck in one of their cities, but it was more likely they were driven into hiding, as he and his fellow summoners had been. Walking about the city stinking of fel energy was not a wise plan. But he had to find one. All of his years of study had moved him forward, but not far enough. There was a piece of the puzzle still missing, only Uldred wasn’t exactly sure what shape it was, or what it looked like. At this point, he wasn’t entirely sure what the end result was even supposed to look like.

He changed into his sleeping robes, and blew out the lamp. Even if he was able to finish his work, what was it going to accomplish? Would he not be the same person he was now? Would he be hailed as a great scholar and recognized for his achievements? Likely not. Would it bring his homeland and his mother back? Certainly it wouldn’t. But he persisted because he had to, because he had seen it this far and had worked too long to stop now. And partly out of habit. Without his work, what else did he have? On another night, this question might have kept him awake. But Uldred was asleep nearly as soon as he pulled the blankets up over himself.

I got my order from AcornPress, and they are now available in my Etsy shop! They’re a little more expensive than I had hoped, but that is because they are printed front and back. I am really impressed with the quality as well as the turn-around time to get these done. They also have clear instructions on how to set up your files. I would definitely recommend them!

etsy_charm_group

If you would like some druid charms of your own, please check it out! You can get them individually, or the set of all five. They measure 1 inch (3 cm) high.

[Story] Story a Week 34

[[ Prompt: A story about loneliness

I have two characters who are very lonely, and both are undead! Sora, the mage, and Stormpelt the worgen. I chose Stormy because she’s needed to help watch over Feathermoon while Ornasse is away. ]]

They had all forgotten about her.

Stormpelt had roamed the woods for a long time. How long exactly, she could not be sure. She did not have to sleep, so she could not count the days easily. In this dense forest, the seasons ran together — it never got very hot in the summer nor very cold in the winter. It was either wet, or not wet. She could not feel the cold, though she enjoyed laying out on a warm rock in the afternoons. Stormpelt could not remember how many times she had done that.

Sometimes she saw others, but not often. If she got too close to the town, she’d see the ones with the sharp things. Stormpelt didn’t like those, so she was careful to avoid them. There were others sometimes, the big ones that smelled bad, but she could not remember the last time she saw one of them. The most interesting were the small people, in their makeshift camps. Once Stormpelt came across one as she roamed, and she had to stay and investigate because she had never seen anything like it before. They had food hanging out, meat and fish and berries drying on racks, and though they looked delicious, Stormpelt had no need of them. She found a place to rest and waited for them to return. What she saw surprised her. They were covered in fur, and they smelled warm and alive. They chittered excitedly to each other, eating together around the fire. Stormpelt felt a stab of emotion — she wasn’t exactly sure what, at first. Remembering her own pack, guilt for what had happened since then, a desire to be among these small strangers. But if they were like any other living people, they would not want her there. They would snarl and show their weapons and shout at her. No matter how much they might be alike, there would always be that one difference between them.

She had almost been welcomed, by the leaf-person and his mate. He had saved Stormpelt in the fire place, tended to her burnt paws and brought her back to safety. Stormpelt could tell that they were still wary, but they had been kind to her. She remembered how they used to wash her and comb her hair. They had a tiny pup, and Stormpelt would help watch over him while he played. He must be a lot larger now. Stormpelt wasn’t sure she would recognize him now, but she would surely remember his scent. But she hadn’t seen them for a very long time, since they had arrived here in the forest. They lived in the town, safe inside the strong buildings, but Stormpelt was not allowed there. Had they forgotten about her? It was likely so. They had their own lives — real lives, not the strange version that Stormpelt had, somewhere in between alive and dead. She longed to see them again, not only to see that they were safe, but for that sense of belonging. It was the thing she most missed about her pack — aside from Frostmoon, of course.

At least she still had Grub Grub. He, at least, had never left her. She withdrew into the cool darkness of her den, curling around herself. Grub Grub liked the warmth of summer, he was more active and hungry, and searched her open paw for the berries she had brought him. Berries weren’t his favorite food, he preferred meat, but he hungrily ate them, all the same. Stormpelt had just laid her head down to rest when she heard the whisper of feathers outside her den. She perked her ears curiously.

“Worgen?” a voice called, and Stormpelt’s heart leapt. It was the leaf person. He hadn’t forgotten about her after all.

[Art] ToV Doodles

Over the summer I raided with my friend’s guild, since my own had stopped for the expansion. They were so nice and fun, I’m sad that I probably won’t be able to go with them again for a while because our raid nights are the same. Maybe a bit later in the expansion I will be able to!

Here’s two little quick drawings I did of the raid leader and one of the other healers!

tov_bubblestov_stoned

[Story] Story a Week 32

[[ Prompt: A story about a curse ]]

A screech like metal on stone announced the drake’s arrival into the clearing. Uldred watched it descend anxiously, the great leathery wings folding up over its back. Its prey was alive — stunned, but still moving. He’d made that mistake the last time he sent it out; the drake had swallowed it whole like a snake. This time, he’d waited until after the drake had fed before trying again. They shouldn’t be disturbed here. Uldred had searched for days for the right place in the forest. He hadn’t seen any of the giant insects here, nor the stalking reptiles, and there were no paths or villages close by. And there were small trees to tether the subject to, just in case.

The drake stood over its prey, its burning eyes watching Uldred intensely. He rubbed the smooth scales of its forehead. “That will do nicely. Thank you.” The drake was so huge now, grown rapidly from feeding off the creatures in this very forest. It was hard to imagine him as the weak, scrawny whelp he had been, on the edge of death. He still couldn’t understand how a creature that appeared to be undead could grow and thrive, either — but that was research for another time. Uldred’s subject was finally here.

Book knowledge and practical knowledge can be much different, and curses in particular were something that must be studied first-hand. But Uldred had little luck cursing small animals — often, they didn’t work as expected, and of course he could not ask the subject to describe what it felt. An aware subject, capable of speech, was required. Certainly there were dozens of people that Uldred would have liked to practice on, but most of them still lived back in Stormwind. Someone would surely notice if something happened to them, and he didn’t have a suitable place to work, either. For all its quirks, Shattrath was much better. Especially out here in the woods, away from the guards and the prying naaru. Uldred still wasn’t sure if they could know everything that happened in the city, but it was better not to risk it.

Seeing the bird people in the market had given Uldred the idea. He knew they had small settlements all around the walls of Shattrath. They were capable of speech, though rough, and no one would blink if one of them were to go missing. He wouldn’t even have to capture it himself and worry about being seen or attacked, the drake was large enough to carry one off — they were much lighter than they looked. The one that the drake had brought looked thin, too, or perhaps that was an illusion caused by the disarray of its feathers. It was alive, but the trip in the drake’s mouth hadn’t been easy. It stirred and, seeing the drake again, moved to get up. Its broad snakelike head struck and seized the bird again in its teeth. “Hey! Easy now,” Uldred said, frowning. He didn’t want to have to find yet another one. Quickly, he picked up the rope that he had left in the middle of the group of trees, and bound the bird’s hands with it. He’d had to research that too, and Uldred still wasn’t sure he’d got the knots properly, so he tied extra, just in case. The bird’s claws and beak looked sharp enough that it could probably cut through the rope, given enough time. So Uldred had to work quickly. The drake snapped its jaw and tossed its head before lifting off again, probably to find something else to eat.

The bird person’s small black eyes fixed on Uldred with a harsh glare. “Why,” it hissed, the feathers around its head rising. “Let go!”

Uldred didn’t answer, picking up his small notebook. Which one should he start with? There were so many, it was difficult to choose. Fireos? No, that would be too dangerous with trees around. Petrifesco? Maybe, but the subject would be unable to speak. Horribilius? Too loud, would surely attract attention. Arachiteus? Uldred scratched his chin thoughtfully. Hopefully it would attract only normal-sized spiders, and not the immense ones that lived nearby. It was worth a try. Carefully, Uldred recited the spell, sure to get every syllable correct. All magic was dangerous if done improperly, but especially curses.  He held his breath, watching.

Nothing happened.

Frowning, Uldred read over the spell again. He was sure to speak clearly, and in a firm tone. That was important for spells involving demons, it couldn’t hurt here either.

Still nothing. The bird’s eyes flashed, as if it was laughing. As if it knew.

Flustered, Uldred tried the spell on the next page. Then the next. None of them would take. Did the bird have some kind of magical protection? Or — the thought came to him with sudden clarity. Was the bird already cursed? It seemed fine, in fact it seemed to be gloating in Uldred’s frustration. Uldred snapped the notebook closed and stuffed it into his pack. All that research, wasted. He would have to find another subject, but he didn’t know where. He called for the drake, Naxitarius. This one would have to be taken care of.