[Art] Zaethir

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[Story] A Baby for Phaa

The baby had reminded Zaethir of a promise he’d made, probably when he was half-asleep, about getting a young animal. Phaa agreed it would be good practice in order to get used to the idea of an actual baby, but animals were nothing like babies. For one thing, animals didn’t scream ceaselessly for no reason. For another, they were a lot more fragile and needed a lot more attention. You could leave a young animal alone for hours and it would probably just sleep, as long as it was full and warm. Zaethir was comfortable with animals, even young ones — he’d raised several in his time as a tracker.

But babies? Babies were another matter.

Zaethir thought that a worg might be a good choice, they craved attention in the way that a real baby did, and they could usually be trusted to pee where they were told. Besides, he didn’t have a worg, and if they didn’t screw up raising it too much, it could hunt with him. Probably Aerivain would have something to say about it. Phaa didn’t say what they should do if one “baby” ate another one.

But it was the wrong time of year for worgs. Like most baby animals, they were born in the spring, and the snows still clung to the shadowed places in the forest. Zaethir would have to look in warmer lands if he was to find a puppy at this time of year. Relanos had already gone home to his parents, so Zaethir didn’t feel too guilty about leaving Phaa alone for a day or two. She kept asking where he was going, but he told her it was a surprise. She might be annoyed now, but he knew she’d forgive him when he came home with a cute little pup for her to dote on.

He had to pass through  Stormwind, it was the only way. He’d heard the stories though, and avoided looking at or talking to anyone while he was there. The enormity of the city was intimidating, and he was all too happy to climb onto the gryphon and fly away into the open wilds. Worgs often prowled the lands surrounding Blackrock Mountain, and that’s where he headed. He easily found signs of adults — tracks and even half-devoured meals — but finding pups would not be so easy. They were well hidden against predators, and well guarded by their ferocious mothers.

As it turned out, finding a pup was simpler than he thought. At the outpost, he asked a dwarf with a sooty beard whether he knew of any worg dens. “Oh aye,” the dwarf said, jerking a thumb back toward one of the buildings. “Whole mess of ‘em in there, mother got dead somehow.” Zaethir had an idea how, but he nodded. The pups were in a crate, yelping and climbing over one another. Most were a flame-red in color, but one had black mixed in as well, giving it a rather unique appearance. Zaethir was pleased to see that one biting its siblings and generally causing havoc. He would be perfect. He gave the dwarf some coins for his trouble, and headed home again.

[Story] Candy Hearts

[[ I wanted to do some little Valentine’s Day story things. I decided to use the in-game candy hearts as inspiration. Even if two of them are basically the same 😛 ]]

I’ll follow you all around Azeroth! Vassanta took the neatly wrapped box from the goblin and dropped a couple of extra silver into his palm. Last year, she and Vajarra had just arrived in Darnassus, and she thought the gaudy decorations were supposed to be there. And when she’d met the tracker in the temple, she thought he was an arrogant boor — and that he was trying to impress her sister. Vassanta was happy to learn that neither of those were true, though she didn’t mind the decorations so much now.

Inside the long narrow box were a set of finely-crafted truesilver arrows, fletched with pure white feathers. The goblin assured her that she was supposed to shoot them at the person she fancied, but Vass thought that was silly. She already had Jaeyn, and she could not imagine someone more daring and cunning and handsome than he was. She had a far better idea for the arrows: they’d go hunting with them, maybe at the orc camp where they’d gone that very first time.

They had hunted many things in many places, but she remembered that evening best of all. Even if he hadn’t yet noticed the way she watched him – or maybe he had, but was afraid to say something. He’d had other things on his mind then, important elf things, much more important than one draenei. She thought he was happier now, hunting with her, wherever they wished to go. And she thought he’d like the arrows.

You’re mine! The naaru had said it was so. They were together now, though O’ros had seemed hesitant at first. The naaru had asked him a lot of questions and spoken in its vague way. Zaethir wondered if they asked questions of everyone like that, or only elves. He didn’t dare ask Terivanis. The two kaldorei still didn’t care much for each other, though Zaethir was less worried now that he’d try to give Phaa some potion or other while they sat too close together and talked. From what he’d seen, the druid was busy preparing for his shop.

Zaethir had already got Phaa a necklace, as was customary for a courting gift. The goblins said that she would like any of the wares they were selling in the little booth in Darnassus. He frowned and looked over the dresses, if one could call them that. They were barely scraps of fabric, held together by ribbons. And as much as he liked them, she certainly couldn’t wear them in front of the Sentinels. But he supposed she could wear one at home. The blue one was nice.

“Do a lot of women like that one?” he asked, pointing to the dress in question.

The goblin leered widely. “Sure they do, pal.”

Zaethir considered it. He tried to look at the price tag without the goblin noticing. “Draenei women?”

“Absolutely. I’ll give you a good deal on it.” Without waiting for Zaethir to answer, he started to fold the dress and put it into a heart-shaped box.

Zaethir hoped that he was right.

All yours. The boats would be in Darnassus again. Tathariel remembered riding them last year, sitting close to Jaellynn on the bench that was really too small, but that was probably the point. There were a few other couples on the lake as well, but not many. Jaellynn had been so worried that everyone would stare at them, but no one did — at least not more than usual.

She frowned. Maybe he wouldn’t want to go back. Truthfully, she was hesitant about it as well. So much had happened, and a death knight — even one like Jaellynn — was not really welcome in Darnassus. She wasn’t worried about what people might think. She’d heard the cruel and thoughtless things people said about him, and no doubt about her for associating with him, but they didn’t dissuade her. It wasn’t true. He was no monster, he wasn’t cruel or evil, he had a heart and feelings just like anyone. Better than most people, in her experience. Though they’d just gone away on their trip recently, she wanted to do something else for him.

The most obvious answer was of course another of the dresses that the goblins sold. She’d got a red one last year, and it was still one of his favorites. It wasn’t a very interesting idea, though he’d surely like it. Maybe the black one this time. He liked the little candies too, the ones with words written on them in common. Tathariel thought they tasted terrible, but he ate them all. Or maybe they tasted better because of the words. I love you, they said, and All yours.

Maybe they could find another boat to ride. Not on the coast near their house — naga still slithered up and down the beaches. But perhaps in Feathermoon.

I’m all yours! Terivanis was so busy these days that Vajarra wondered when he ever slept. Probably never. The stock of soaps and perfumes had grown to an impressive amount, taking up a good portion of the common room of their house. They could open any day now, but he insisted on making more. Vajarra thought he might be anxious about the actual opening, but she couldn’t be more excited.

Sure enough, she found him outside behind the house, stirring the large barrels of ash for the soap. “You need a break,” she said, kissing him gently.

“But I’m almost–”

Vajarra took his hand and led him down to the moonwell. He glanced back toward the house but finally agreed to go with her. Some days he was like this, distant and thoughtful, and others he was charming and sweet. He still struggled with a lot of things, she knew, though he didn’t share all of them with her. She folded her legs under her and sat leaning against his side, still holding his hand. The druid smiled briefly at her.

He wasn’t what she had imagined when she thought of the future. He was an elf, for one thing, and a druid. Vassanta always said she’d pick the biggest, most obnoxious paladin for her mate. That would probably be true had they not gone to Darnassus. The whole trip had been Vajarra’s idea in the first place. Maybe that was part of the naaru’s plan. She didn’t doubt anymore, though he might not always tell her, she knew that the druid loved her and would always look after her.

You’re the best! Farahlor was screaming, his little face wrinkled up and his eyes squinted tightly closed.

“What did I do?” Ornasse asked, exasperated. He’d tried to hold the infant for just a minute while Kelanori got into the bath, but his son was having nothing to do with it.

“You didn’t do anything,” Kelanori said gently from the other room. “Try walking with him. And talk to him.”

Babies were frightening. Ornasse had never seen Tathariel as a baby, but if she was as loud and messy as her brother, maybe that wasn’t so terrible after all. He immediately felt guilty for thinking so. It wasn’t Farahlor’s fault that his father was clueless. He patted the baby’s back gently, walking back and forth in the doorway.

“He likes you better,” Ornasse pointed out. “You’re his mother.” He hoped Kelanori wouldn’t take too long.

He could hear her getting into the hot water, salted with mineral salts. He would have liked to join her there, as he had before Farahlor arrived, but that wasn’t really possible at the moment. At least he’d stopped screaming, and was now sucking on his fingers, looking up at Ornasse with his bright gold eyes. He was awfully cute.

“Maybe for now,” Kelanori answered. “Just wait until he can walk, then you two will run off into the forest and I won’t see you for days.”

It was hard to imagine him being fully grown, though it would happen eventually. He was already much larger than he had been when he was first born. He’d grow little by little until overnight they’d notice he wasn’t a baby anymore. Kelanori knew how to take care of a baby, thankfully. He didn’t have the first clue. It really was astounding that none of the males in Darnassus had noticed her — before he arrived, anyway. A priestess of her considerable talents and poise, and not to mention her beauty, surely couldn’t have gone un-noticed. She insisted that no one looked, but Ornasse knew that couldn’t be true. She just hadn’t known it. And she explained it away by saying that she was picky.

Whatever the reason, he thanked Elune for bringing her to him — and for allowing her to give him the son he’d always wanted.

Be mine! The Harrier stopped to look in the shop windows as he passed through the streets. He didn’t really intend to buy anything, he was just killing time. Lots of dresses, as usual, but in every shade of red and pink. There were a few black ones, too. This goblin holiday seemed to be all about getting lucky. Not that he minded terribly.

He touched the flower-twined band inside his pocket to be certain it was still there. One of the signs in the shop window said “Be Mine”. What a strange thing to say, as if you could ask for something like that. Mine, as if she belonged to you, like a shoe or a glass. He knew how much Rose fought against that word. In his mind though, she was, wasn’t she? His what? He wasn’t sure how to explain it, he’d stumbled when he was talking to Blackbrew about it. His Lady, his woman, simply his.

But she wasn’t, not in her mind. If that were to change, it would be a very gradual process. Maybe it was already happening. He couldn’t very well ask, or he’d ruin everything. He’d keep the band safe until he was sure.

Hot lips. Latahlali had gone to the park to practice with the flame. Raleth had gently insisted that she not do so inside, with her propensity for exploding things. The last thing he needed was his house burning down. It had been a trying few days for everyone. He was doing his best to keep her studies moving forward, even if they were the last thing on his mind.

He was certain she had no idea how beautiful she was. Last night she’d unbraided her hair and wore it long over her shoulders, with the deep red robes he’d bought for her. In spite of the danger from her grandfather and their worry about the missing Highborne, all he could think of was taking her in his arms and kissing her.

She asked if he liked her. He said he had, but that wasn’t true. You like toast with jam. He adored her, he thought for certain that he was in love with her, but was afraid she’d be frightened off. And perhaps he was a little frightened himself. It was easy to forget that Dalaran was not like the rest of the world. Others might not approve, and in the case of her grandfather, violently so. He thought of his own father, and he could only imagine the things he might say about it. Disgracing the family name, as if there was any honor left of their name to tarnish.

Kestrae and she had been talking about gifts, and Lali said she’d give him one in a few days. He knew what he wanted to buy for her, he’d seen it walking home past the shops. It was expensive, but what else was he going to spend his gold on? And when had he had the opportunity to buy gifts for someone like her? Never. He’d stop by the shop, and perhaps he’d peek into the park to see how Lali’s flames were coming along.

I LOVE YOU. Berries had managed to coax Stormpelt into the town, at least close enough to wash her. She picked the twigs and bits of bark out of her coat, and combed her mane with the nice brush that felt good, like fingers scratching. Then she put new ribbons in, pink ones this time. Berries smelled warm and good, like home. Some of that was the smell of the pup. He was too young to play yet, but soon she hoped she might be able to play with him.

Berries smiled and gave something to Stormpelt. It was small and hard.

“You eat it,” Berries explained. “Look, it has words on it. It says ‘I love you’.”

The worgen held it to her nose and sniffed. If there was any smell, it was too faint for her nose now. She poked her tongue out and touched it to the candy experimentally. It didn’t taste like much of anything, either. Berries smiled and shook her head. “You don’t have to eat it,” she said, stroking Stormpelt’s mane. “I don’t think they taste very good either.” She gathered up the brushes and ribbons and went back up to the house.

Stormpelt studied the thing in her hand. She could not read, but Berries had told her what it said. Love. She knew what that was. That was when Leaves and Berries sat close together and hugged. When she and Frostmoon would hide together under the roots of a tree when it rained. When he touched his muzzle to her ears gently and licked her brow. She picked up Grub Grub and put him into her hand. The worm touched the candy briefly but showed no other interest in it. Did Grub Grub love? Stormpelt was not sure. He liked to be close to Stormpelt, but she thought there was more to love than that.

It was the way Frostmoon looked at her, the way they ran fast fast together underneath the full moon, with the pack but yet not with it, just the two of them. Stormpelt and Frostmoon against the world. Except it wasn’t anymore, now it was just Stormpelt. His eyes looked at her the same way, but they had fear and confusion too. He didn’t understand why. She didn’t know either.

Stormpelt crouched down in the soft dirt. She scraped some of the soil aside, and dropped the candy into it. Carefully, she covered it again.

[Story] Feathermoon

The rumor among the Sentinels was that the crazy old harpy would be gone soon. Everything was supposed to be back to normal after the baby left, but that hadn’t happened. He’d tried to explain it to the other tracker, Jaeyn, and he’d tried to explain it to the crazy harpy herself. No one wanted to listen to him, so he just sat back and watched.

So long as no one was yelling at him anymore, that suited him fine. His mother was the one in charge of overseeing the “prisoner”, and he’d heard something about a mage. Maybe people liked mages in Darnassus, but not around here. But they couldn’t undermine Tyrande’s ruling, and they had to let Aerrissa go. Why lock her up in the first place if they were just going to release her? It made no sense.

And that stupid paladin had come back, too. Why did he have to talk to Phaa all the time? He couldn’t understand what they were saying. She giggled a lot when she talked to him. Zaethir remembered how upset she’d been when he didn’t want her talking to Terivanis, so he knew better than to forbid it. But he didn’t like it, not one bit.

Phaa wanted to go and see one of the naaru at the Exodar. Terivanis said they could hear your thoughts, and see your past. That was an unsettling thought; sure he’d mostly been a good person, but he’d made his mistakes, like anyone had. Several of those mistakes still lived in Feathermoon, and would certainly complicate things if Phaa should find out about them. And what if she had secrets that she hadn’t told him about? He knew about the shadows, but only on the surface. Generally he didn’t trouble himself with magical and religious matters, but what if she was involved in something dangerous? Would the naaru tell him?

And what if he wasn’t good enough? He was just a tracker, he wasn’t anyone special. He had no important connections — aside from his mother who could barely stand him. He didn’t have any special skills or a lot of money. What if they decided he wasn’t good for her after all? What if Phaa decided she wanted a tail after all, like the tail on that paladin who was always walking around with it hanging out?

He had so many questions, and he hoped this naaru would have some of the answers. Zaethir picked up his bow and whistled to his saber, who yawned and shook her head before rising. “Let’s go find Phaa,” he told her, and she bounded off toward the town.

[Story] Baby Talk

Zaethir crouched in the hills above the orc camp. Well, he knew the orcs had used it recently; the fire pit had been covered with dirt and they’d made a half-hearted attempt to hide their tracks, but orcs weren’t very clever at that. He hadn’t seen them yet today, though, nor did he expect them to show up. He had pulled out some pieces of leather and was sewing them into a pair of bracers. Mostly, he wanted an excuse to get out of the house. Sure, the kid was cute, but he smelled and he drooled, and worst of all, Phaa expected him to hold him. He didn’t know the first thing about kids, and if he dropped it or somehow messed it up, he didn’t want to have to deal with his creepy undead father.

Thar’adeth paused in her grooming to give him a dark look. He knew she wasn’t exactly pleased with the arrangement, either, but she had at least played with Relanos. Arivain had been smart enough to hide for the entirety of the baby’s visit, only coming out for meal times. And of course now Phaa wanted one, that’s what he’d worried about from the moment he heard she’d be watching him. She said she didn’t, but he knew she did. It was too soon, he was too young, he didn’t have the first clue how to take care of a baby. The only consolation was that he knew that stupid jerk druid would be getting the same plaintive looks from his draenei.

The tracker had also found signs of the worgen near the camp. He’d almost forgotten about her, having only seen her in town the first day they arrived. She’d gone into the woods and disappeared. Zaethir wondered if she was unhappy, or if she simply preferred living out in the forest again, as she must have at some point in her life. She wasn’t quite a person and wasn’t quite an animal, so he couldn’t read her desires as he could a wolf or other animal. There were plenty of places for her to rest, and plenty of food to eat — but then, a dead worgen doesn’t need to eat or sleep, does it? Maybe he ought to mention it to the old druid, but he was busy enough with the new baby.

He’d enjoyed their talk the other night, though. It wasn’t often that he could speak with a druid without earning looks of bare contempt from the sentinels — or the druid himself. Ornasse was old, but circumstances had made him soften on a few subjects. Maybe he didn’t mind male trackers so much, since his daughter was a druid. That, and she was married to a dead guy. They were supposed to return tonight, to pick up Relanos. Zaethir looked forward to things going back to normal.

[Story] Baby Talk

The black saber crouched at the edge of the cliffside, his greying muzzle pointed out toward the ocean where Feathermoon once stood. He had considered going to hide there, but he thought the sentinels might recognize him, and he didn’t want to have to speak to them right now. Their questions were tiresome. It’s not that he was hiding, exactly. It’s not that he didn’t love his son — or his grandson — it’s just that both of them together was a bit much. Both of them, together with all of their care-takers. It was all just a bit too much woman and baby in one place. He needed to get away to clear his head.

His ears twitched, and he swiveled his head around to see a large blue-striped frostsaber regarding him warily. The animal snorted in warning, baring her teeth in the beginnings of a snarl. It was Thar’adeth, that tracker’s cat. A few moments later, Ornasse heard the other elf, stepping up to stand beside the frostsaber. He laughed quietly and ruffled her head. “Relax, Thar’adeth. It’s just a druid.” Zaethir looked him over, scratching his beard. “An old one. Probably hiding from the crazy sentinels, am I right?”

Ornasse released the saber, letting himself shift back into his usual elf shape. There had been a time when he spent most of his nights as a saber, but that had been a very long time ago. The blue-haired tracker blinked in surprise. “Oh! I didn’t recognize — sorry,” he said, tugging Thar’adeth back a few feet. “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

It was strange how little they’d talked, considering how much time they’d both spent at the shrine, and now at Feathermoon. Ornasse knew the tracker had gone to the Firelands, and was the one who had found him when he’d become separated from the expedition. He felt guilty for not speaking to him more, though Ornasse got the impression that he wasn’t normally a man of many words. “You aren’t,” he said, gesturing to the rock beside him. “Please, sit.”

Zaethir looked at the rock, and then to Ornasse again. His ear twitched again. “Are you sure?” He seemed anxious, and Ornasse’s suggestion seemed to have made him moreso. Hesitantly, he propped his bow against a tree and sat down next to the druid, still stroking the frostsaber’s head. She had half-closed her eyes and now purred quietly.

“How do you like Feathermoon?” Ornasse asked, searching for a topic of conversation. He didn’t know much about the tracker at all, other than the fact that he was with Phaa, and had a menagerie of blue animals at his call.

The tracker’s expression fell, and Ornasse realized he’d said the wrong thing. “It’s… I didn’t plan to come here again,” Zaethir said, pushing a stick through the dirt. “Some things have changed, but most things haven’t. But she likes it here, so…” he shrugged meekly.

He wondered if Phaa knew about that. Probably not. There were things that men keep to themselves, and he wasn’t about to go tell Phaa about it either. Zaethir glanced over at him. “How come you’re out here on the ridge?”

“Oh,” Ornasse said, not having expected the question. “I was observing the naga on the island and–” The tracker was watching him carefully. Ornasse didn’t think he believed him. He sighed. “Fine, I was hiding.”

Zaethir grinned. “Hah, I knew it. Those sentinels are crazy. They’re even looking at that short jerk, I bet they never leave you alone.” While that was more true than he’d admit to Kelanori, he shook his head.

“No, it’s just that Kelanori and the draenei are a bit…” Ornasse hesitated, searching for the right word. “Occupied.”

“Oh,” Zaethir said, suddenly understanding. “With the babies? I know what you mean. Phaa’s obsessed, more like.” He started to push his stick through the dirt again. “I don’t know how she can find diapers and throwing up so interesting. I’m too young–” he glanced at Ornasse again. “Uh, no offense.”

Ornasse shook his head, grinning. “None taken. But that’s exactly what I mean. One is all right, but two together… I don’t know how Kelanori did it.” Or their father, Ornasse thought, until he remembered that the twins’ father hadn’t been there. He felt a stab of guilt for thinking about Farahlor that way, and glanced back down toward the town.

“We should go back,” Zaethir said, following Ornasse’s gaze.

“We should,” Ornasse agreed.

The tracker took out a flask and opened it, offering some to the druid. “In a little bit.”

[Story] Mother

It wasn’t that he didn’t know where his mother was. He knew exactly where Captain Mirindir Starfang, Feathermoon Sentinel, was staying. Zaethir had just chosen not to go to that particular part of the forest. But by now everyone in town knew he was here, and that busybody Sanaraliel hadn’t helped matters any. He was going to go speak with his mother, he assured her, he just didn’t know when. She folded her arms and glared at him until he agreed.

Though he hadn’t spent much time here, it was long enough that he could find his way without looking, if he had to. The mainland had been spared the brunt of the Cataclysm, and was largely unchanged aside from some crumbling buildings. Zaethir smirked as Thar’adeth bounded off into the deep woods to hunt. He wished he could have gone with her, instead of going to speak with that harpy.

The house where his mother lived now was not the one he had grown up in. That house had been a humble two rooms, and when he was too old to sleep in her bed, he’d had to make do with the floor. That’s when he started sleeping out in the woods, and his mother hadn’t objected. She’d risen considerably in station in those centuries since he’d left home, now a captain of a unit of Sentinels. Her house was two stories, with regal pillars framing the entryway, vines curling down the stone walls. It stood a little way outside of the new town — Zaethir wondered if she’d somehow plotted with Deathwing to plan that — down a winding path through the ferns. A rack held drying smoked fish in the middle of her neatly-tended herb garden.

He scuffed his feet on the stone and cleared his throat, trying to make his arrival as obvious as possible. No one came to the doorway. Maybe she wasn’t home.

“Mother?” he called into the still darkness.

But she was home. He heard the soft jangle of mail armor as she rose and came to the door. Even at home, she wore it. Eternal vigilance, she was fond of saying. The enemies of the kaldorei never rest. Zaethir knew she would take them off, before she slept, but he guessed she probably kept some blades under her pillow.

His mother looked neither surprised nor pleased to see him. She inclined her head briefly, gesturing him inside to the sitting room. A large, heavy pair of glaives were mounted crossed on the wall, along with several other various blades. Zaethir looked them over with mild interest as he waited for her to say something.

Zaethir always remembered her with a severe expression, but it seemed to have grown sharper with age. Perhaps it was just the lighting. He shifted nervously in his chair. He probably should have worn his good armor, he thought.

“What business do you have here?” she asked finally, her silver eyes glinting like ice.

He wasn’t sure how to answer that. Best to start at the beginning. “I met some druids on Hyjal and they wanted to come here,” Zaethir said, trying to keep his ears from twitching. “And Phaa likes it, I wasn’t sure where else would be safe–”

“Is that its name?” Mirindir said, the distaste dripping from her words. “I should have known no proper kaldorei would tie herself to you. At least it’s not a -human-.” She sighed, rubbing a temple with one hand.

Zaethir’s ears pressed backward. He reminded himself they were backwards here, not as worldly and experienced as he. There was nothing to be gained by getting angry. “Could you at least meet her? She’s very curious about you.” His mother’s brow arched up sharply at that. “She’s a very skilled healer and she helped the druids at Hyjal. I know you’d like her if you can look past the — you know.” Zaethir made a gesture around his head suggesting horns.

She studied him for what seemed a very long time. “If you two are truly staying here,” Mirindir said, sounding resigned, “I suppose I might as well.”

Zaethir smiled a little. It was a better reaction than he’d hoped for. And maybe once Phaa finally met her, she’d never want to see her again.