[Art] Art Fight

Finally got my tablet going again! Here are a couple recent favorites.

artfight_aimor

Aimor the Worgen – LavenderArts

 

artfight_redbud

Rumenthlay Redbud – Salavante

 

artfight_vlvarg

Ylvarg Voreclaw – KrocutaKaiju

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[Story] Character of the Week – Marjolaine

[[ Formerly a Gilnean noblewoman, Marjolaine led a small crew of criminals in Stormwind before they opened the clock shop. While she works at the shop during the day, she and Josie return to their farm in the Elwynn countryside in the evenings. ]]

It was their first spring on the farm, and even Marjolaine hadn’t quite expected how alive it would feel. The surrounding trees bloomed with soft new leaves and sweet-smelling buds, the warm breeze carrying the scent on the air. Birds busily built nests for their hatchlings who would be arriving soon, and there were babies everywhere on the farm. Cute little yellow chicks followed their mothers through the bright green grass, dotted with wildflowers. There were wobbly little white lambs and even a brown calf. She was struck by just how much like home it made her feel, in spite of looking different, that feeling of life and growth was the same. Not the dreary, rainy home of the estate, but the farm where she’d grown up as a child, riding the horses bareback through the fields and forests.

She’d  have to take Blackjack out to check the fences soon, there were probably repairs needed from the winter winds, or any wild animals looking to come in for an easy meal. Marjolaine couldn’t help but think of her conversation with Nash last night, and just how miserable he’d seemed. He seemed to have no faith in fences, said the farm would feel more like a prison to him than the walls of Stormwind. Some people preferred the city, to be sure, but she was certain that he’d grow to love it if he gave it a chance. Here, he could walk around freely, without having to hide. But he firmly refused to leave the city, insisting that he wanted to learn to cook and help in the shop in order to feel useful. And for what? Probably to try to please that elf, who probably didn’t care either way. She felt bad for him, but she could also see that he didn’t want to hear the truth — at least, not from her. She urged him to talk about it with Harrier, though she didn’t expect it would go well. But at least he wouldn’t be trying to be something he wasn’t, in a place he didn’t feel like he belonged.

Out in the yard, the chickens came running in anticipation of being fed, the little fluffy chicks hurrying behind them. Nash was afraid of chickens, he said, and she found that funny. If he came out to the farm, he could keep one of the chicks, and she was sure he’d be won over in no time. They were curious and clever, even affectionate. While the chickens were busy eating their grain, she went into the little house and collected the eggs, still warm in their nests. Marjolaine had promised to bring some with her to the shop, so Nash could make omelettes. She didn’t know how he was doing with cooking, but last night he’d successfully put a clock back together. She did have doubts, though, about whether he’d be safe in the city. He said he’d fallen the first time because he’d fallen asleep after crying. What would stop that from happening again? Nash said that now he cried in the bathroom instead. That was only a short step away from crying on the roof. And he shouldn’t be crying at all. That wasn’t how love was supposed to be, and though she tried to explain it to him, the message didn’t seem to get through. He’s making you miserable, she wanted to say, that’s not love. Find somebody who makes you happy. But though she said it, she knew it wasn’t just that simple. Still, he’d be better off here than crying in the bathroom. Hopefully he’d figure it out for himself sooner than later.

[Story] Thorns – The Cheese Shop

Temperance looked over the shelves of cheese in the shop, not really certain where to start. She didn’t usually go to the market often, usually the little kitchen in the cathedral was stocked by the cook or her workers. But it was rainy today, and not many people were about the square, and it gave her a reason to keep her hood up. She hadn’t expected that Nash would like cheese so much, but then there was very little she knew about him. Though he’d turned down the suggestion that he remain in the little basement room for now, she liked to be prepared in case he came to visit again. Besides, she could always eat it if he didn’t.

There were so many delicious smells that it was a bit overwhelming. The tables and shelves were all stacked with cheese in every size, shape, and color. She could recognize some of the names, but others she’d never heard of, no doubt from places far away. Thankfully, the man behind the counter was helpful, offering her a tray of little samples. What did she need the cheese for? Was it a party, a special dinner, for sandwiches or baking? Temperance decided that hosting a guest was entertaining, even if it wasn’t in the traditional sense. She told the shopkeeper that she wanted a variety of different cheeses for her guests.

He brought out a wedge from a wheel that had to have been enormous, and sliced an impossibly thin slice with a little silver knife. It was delicious, firm and nutty with a pleasant aftertaste. She bought some of that, and some of the strong hard cheese, some of the kind with holes that Nash said he liked, and some more of the soft cheese to spread on bread or crackers, because she liked that kind best. There was one with little bits of herbs made into it, which had a lovely flavor.

Would he come back again? Temperance wasn’t sure. He was talking again about wanting to leave, but he had nowhere to go. He couldn’t go to Silvermoon, and he said he found the forest scary. That amused her; though she could agree that the forest back in Duskwood could sometimes be frightening. The roads were impossibly dark, with no lamp-posts, and the trees grew dense, their branches reaching out from the darkness. Things lurked there too, dangerous things that she’d rather not think about. But the forest outside of Stormwind was bright and open, true that there were bandits along the roads, but she knew that patrols rode along them regularly. Didn’t elves live in the forest? She supposed not all of them did. Nash had told her about Silvermoon, how it had been destroyed by the Scourge in the attacks. He didn’t much like her idea that they should repair it, but perhaps they had been trying and it was taking longer than expected. From the way he said it, so many elves had died that they wouldn’t be able to live there, even if it was rebuilt. Marjolaine said something similar had happened in Gilneas — the city stood ruined and empty now, and those few who had escaped were cursed. Just like she was.

She’d agreed to speak to her on Nash’s behalf. He was worried that she was angry with him, and didn’t want him there. Temperance was certain that wasn’t true, the woman had never been anything but patient and kind with her. It had to be just a misunderstanding, but if Nash heard her say it, there could be no doubt that he was allowed to stay. The rest of it was more complicated. Temperance thought the elf — Harrier — didn’t sound like a very nice person. She couldn’t understand why Nash wished so much to stay with him. When it came to giving advice, she was certainly the wrong person to ask. She’d never lived with someone like that, nor even been close to it. Perhaps it was more difficult to make decisions when you were, maybe your feelings got all tangled up in things and you couldn’t be objective. That was certainly possible. She thought about asking to speak to him, but she didn’t think she wanted to. Unlike Marjolaine, he seemed distant and cold, and something about him unsettled her. Maybe all elves were like that — kaldorei at least. Nash wasn’t like that at all.

With the basket under her arm full of cheese, Temperance ventured back out into the rain.

[Story] Thorns – The Patient II

Sister Temperance didn’t mean to eavesdrop, at least not really, but sounds echoed down the empty stone halls in the lower levels of the Cathedral. She kept the door of her own room open to better hear anyone who might be descending the stairs, and if her patient called out in pain or needed anything. It had been so many years since she’d had a patient, and she missed it more than she liked to admit. It wasn’t just the break in monotony, though that was a large part of it too. Since coming to the Cathedral, her days varied very little; each day was like the one before, and inside the seasons never changed. The windows were of colored glass, worked in geometric patterns or important historical figures, they were meant to look beautiful, rather than show what lay outside. It’s true she could have left at any time, but where would she go? What would she do? The village would never welcome her back, and she know only a handful of people in Stormwind.

Tending to the injured elf gave Temperance something to do, a focus outside of herself, and she was diligent in her care. His bandages were checked and changed regularly, as were his sheets and the straw in his bed, she ensured he always had food and medicine. Since waking up, he’d liked the little number and word puzzles, and she’d brought some books that she thought weren’t too boring to read. When they’d spoken before, the elf said he didn’t have anywhere else to go, and she suggested that he could stay here. It might not be what he was used to, but it would be safe. And she’d have someone to talk to — or at least, to listen. The elf didn’t do a lot of talking, but that was fine. Just his presence, another living soul nearby brightened her spirits, gave her a purpose and direction she’d lacked. In her old chapel, she’d known everyone who stepped over the doorway, treated them like her own kin. Things weren’t like that here, but she could at least treat this elf, who seemed to have no one either.

But then his friend had come again, the tall and lanky kaldorei who had delivered him that first rainy night. Temperance still didn’t trust him, he seemed shifty and as if he was hiding something. And though she hadn’t really meant to, she overheard them talking — Nash wanted to leave the city, go somewhere far away, and the kaldorei told him not to. She could at least agree with that — traveling anywhere with his leg in that condition would be reckless. If it didn’t set properly, he could be unable to walk comfortably for the rest of his life. Though she couldn’t hear all the words, the tone of the conversation was clear — there was more to their relationship than just working together. When she went in later to check on Nash, they were sitting very close together, the smaller elf having fallen asleep against the kaldorei. She hurriedly took the dishes and excused herself, but she was angry. Who was he to just show up and ruin everything, especially after he hadn’t bothered the first day? Nash had probably asked a hundred times when he was going to visit. He needed time to heal, and he would be safer here — running off would be foolish for more than one reason. But his leg was responding well to the treatment, it likely felt much better, and Nash would try to walk on it soon. Even if she warned him not to, she was certain he would try. And then he’d want to leave, healed or not. She couldn’t really be upset at Nash — she would have left too, if she could. But she couldn’t, and soon he would be gone, and everything would go back to how it had been before.

[Story] Thorns – The Patient

Sister Temperance peered through the doorway into the small room, her footfalls silent on the cold stone floor. The elf was still asleep. Glancing down the hallway to ensure that it was empty, she entered and pulled the door closed behind her. The plate on the little table beside the bed held only crumbs, which was also good. She’d need to bring more bread and cheese from the kitchen, and make up another pot of broth. That he was hungry enough to eat was an encouraging sign, and the food would help him heal.

Marjolaine had knocked at the door of her chambers very late the night before, her cloak pulled tightly around her in the freezing rain. She asked if Temperance would be willing to take in someone, as a favor. Even if she had not owed the woman her life, Temperance would have accepted. Marjolaine was sparse with the details, saying only that he’d escaped from the Stockades and it was important that he not be discovered by the guards. And he was an elf, Temperance learned a short time later, when the kaldorei delivered the patient to her doorstep, wrapped in a blanket. The sort of elf that wasn’t supposed to be in Stormwind. But Temperance wasn’t afraid of him, how could she be? He was so thin and so pale, she could feel the heat of infection burning in his broken leg.

She made up a bed in one of the downstairs chambers, where no one except the rats usually ventured. While he still slept fitfully, she washed and re-bandaged his leg, applying an ointment of crushed herbs that would hopefully reduce the pain and swelling. It would need to be set properly soon, but she wanted to wait for the infection to subside before she tried. She was uncertain whether it would or not, it had been left untreated for quite a while, and it could turn worse just as quickly. She would just have to wait and pray for the best; she had some training in healing but had rarely dealt with such a serious injury.

He awoke disoriented and frightened, but she explained where he was — that he was safe — and a friend of Marjolaine’s. He wanted to know how he’d got there, and whether the elf had come by looking for him. In fact, he asked several times. No, he hadn’t said much when he left the blood elf here, yes he was allowed to visit, no he hadn’t mentioned the blood elf’s pets. Temperance found him rather frightening, he was tall and had a predatory air to him, but she promised that she’d wake her patient if he came by to see him. She tried, a little, to understand how a blood elf had found himself in Stormwind, but she couldn’t make much sense of his answer. He’d come looking for work, but why here, so far from home, in a land that was dangerous to him? And why would he stay here?

Because it felt like home, he’d said, and he had people here. It was a sentiment that she could understand, even if she couldn’t really relate. She missed her home, but like the elf, she could never return there. Stormwind still felt a bit strange, even after all this time, but she felt safe within the Cathedral. And it would be safe for him too — she very much doubted that the guards would be searching the Cathedral. If they did, there were countless little rooms and places that the elf could hide, and who would suspect a priestess? He would be safe here until his infection subsided — he’d have clean blankets and bandages, food and medicine and she’d bring some books down from the library for him to read. If he wanted, she’d talk to him too — which she looked forward to probably more than he did. It had been a very long time since she’d talked to anyone at length, prayers didn’t really count.

[Story] Thorns – Temperance

Marjolaine paused as she entered the cathedral, stepping into the dim candle-light, scented faintly with incense. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been here, and she had the distinct feeling of being watched, that everyone would somehow know she didn’t belong. The morning light illuminated the stained glass windows, throwing colorful shadows across the floor. They reminded her, suddenly and jarringly, of the cathedral in Gilneas.

“How may I help you this morning?” a soft voice asked behind her. It was a priestess, one of the older ones. Marjolaine supposed she didn’t have any studies to do this morning.

“I’m looking for Sister Temperance,” said Marjolaine quietly. Her voice seemed impossibly loud in the stillness of the cathedral.

The priestess seemed surprised by the request, but smiled politely, gesturing to an alcove off to the left. “She’ll just be down those stairs.”

Marjolaine nodded and thanked the priestess before descending the narrow stone staircase. There she found Sister Temperance, as promised, in a candle-lit alcove. She looked up from her book as Marjolaine approached. She wore similar robes to the older priestess upstairs, bright white with crisp lines, and a white ribbon around her neck. Marjolaine knew that covered the scars on her throat from the attack that had cursed her.

“Marjolaine, this is a surprise,” said Temperance. “Please, sit.”

She took the small stone bench across from the table. It was as if they meant to make everything as uncomfortable as possible. Marjolaine already felt more nervous than she had when stepping inside. While it may have been Harrison’s jaws who delivered the cursed bite, it was her hands who had set him free. She could have killed him, but she hadn’t. And her leniency had led to Temperance’s situation. Did she blame Marjolaine for that? Surely Kor would have told her. Her expression was impossible to read.

“I know,” Marjolaine said, twisting her gloves in her hands. “I’ve been busy with the shop.” It wasn’t really a lie; the shop always had high demand for the winter holidays, but it had been years since she’d come to the cathedral. The excuse felt weak, and she was certain that Temperance knew it. “How have you been?”

Temperance gestured to the walls around her. “I am safe here. I’ve been able to continue my studies. They have prayers every morning and evening.”

Though serene, her eyes held a hint of sadness. Regret, perhaps.

“But?” Marjolaine asked.

Temperance sighed. “I do miss my old chapel. The town. I miss–” she hesitated. “I miss how things were before. It was so much simpler.”

Though she was much happier here — she had her own life, and the shop, and Josie, Marjolaine knew what Temperance meant. Even she missed the grey rainy days sometimes, the sense of contentment and innocence. Would she go back, if she could? Probably not, but she could certainly understand the desire. And being cursed was a lonely business, a terrible and dangerous secret. Even if one was able to control it — most of the time — there was always the chance that it could harm someone else.

“You should come to dinner sometime,” Marjolaine suggested. “You could meet everyone. Maybe for one of the holidays, we’ll have too much to eat otherwise.”

Temperance smiled, a small and wry smile. “That is too kind of you. I will consider it.”

Marjolaine hoped that she would accept. And she hoped that she wouldn’t invite the smith along with her.

 

[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.