Archive for the ‘Story Time’ Category

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Chapter Ten: Allies

October 31, 2008

Blade Edge Mountains

She drifted lightly on a bed of clouds, the breeze gently rustling her feathers. Far below the battle field glowed in a fiery haze. A strong gust of wind lifted her sharply and the scene fell away. Banks of clouds floated past, the light of the setting sun drenching them in color. The beauty and tranquility seeped into her soul banishing the fear. She relaxed into the current and let it carry her higher. Here, among the clouds, she was safe at last.

“Sharpclaws, wake up!” The imperative was accompanied by a rough shake. She opened one eye then shut it quickly,

“Just five more minutes, Don. Just five …”

“You said that five minutes ago.”

With a groan she opened both eyes and peered pitiably up at him,

“Does this mean I’m not dead?”

“Not yet, dear. Now get up. It’s your turn to make breakfast.”

She had half a mind to tell him exactly what he could do with his breakfast and go back to sleep. Anticipating this, he reminded her of their urgency.

“Sunrise was an hour ago. We have to get moving soon or we’ll lose the trail.”

Memories of the last few days flooded back and she was suddenly very much awake.

“I’m going for water, will you be all right?”

“I’ll be fine. Just hurry back.”

She rose and gingerly took a step toward the fire. Every muscle ached and painful blisters had formed where her leather boots chafed the soft skin. A simple healing spell would have relieved the pain, but after days in the wild resources were scarce. What mana she had left was needed for basic survival. Worse than the physical discomfort was the fear that wrapped itself around her heart. She couldn’t give in to it now. Lives more precious than her own were depending on her. By the time Don returned, breakfast was ready.

Throughout the long day they followed the trail left by their quarry. It was slow going. The terrain was rough and they were forced to move cautiously so as to avoid unfriendly wildlife. Late in the afternoon they entered a narrow ravine. There was little shelter to protect them from the elements or unfriendly eyes. As night drew its shadows across the ground, Don came to a stop. She could tell he was uncomfortable in this place, but he dared not risk losing the trail in the dark.

Grateful for the chance to rest, she sank down and removed her boots. They were stained with blood from the ruptured blisters. She wrapped bandages around the sores and wished again for a mana draught. Seeking a diversion from the pain, she studied Don as he built the fire.

Accustomed the rigors of the wild he had fared much better than she. He was tall for a human and well-built, his muscles hard from years of wearing plate armor. He carried his sword with the easy grace of one accustomed to battle. His features were strong, his gaze direct, his eyes surprisingly gentle for a fighter. The light from the fire caught in his golden hair and reflected off the polished metal of his armor. Even after all these years the sight of him still made her heart turn over.

They ate their meager dinner in silence, both too tired for conversation. At last she summoned the energy to ask the question that haunted her,

“Do you think they are still alive, Don?”

There was a long silence. She had learned long ago that he never spoke without thinking, never gave an answer without considering it carefully. When he spoke it was with conviction,

“I do.”

Her spirits lighten ever so slightly.

“Get some rest, Sharp. I’ll keep watch.”

Too tired to argue, she curled up beside him and closed her eyes. He ran his hand lightly over her hair.

Long after she had fallen asleep he remained at her side. His heart ached for her. A healer unaccustomed to the rigors of the wild she had suffered much but she never complained. The wind had picked up; the fire was beginning to die down. He removed his cloak and tucked it closely around her, then rose in search of more wood.

As he approached the shadows outside the firelight, he saw the outline of two figures in the darkness. Reflexively, he drew his sword and lit the ground with a ring of holy fire. The light revealed two night elves standing before him. The taller one had long flowing white hair and appeared to be roughly the same age as Sharpclaws. She held a crossbow loosely in one hand and the other rested lightly on the head of a tiger. The other elf was young. Tattooed lines marked her face. Her form was shrouded in shadows the light could not penetrate. He eyed them warily.

The taller elf addressed him in the common tongue,

“My name is Teaka and this, she indicated her companion, is Kess.” Her gaze flickered to Sharpclaws who lay sleeping beside the fire. “We do not often encounter others of our kind in this place. May we offer you some assistance?”

Her voice was gentle, her eyes kind. His instincts told him she could be trusted.

He lowered his sword and the ring of fire dissipated.

“It has been a long time since we encountered friends. We would be grateful for any assistance you can provide.”

As Don and Teaka conversed in hushed tones, Kess shivered in the chilly night air. Keeping an eye on the sleeping elf, she approached the fire. Standing in its circle of warmth she studied the elf. Her hair, a deep shade of blue, fell in a long braid over her shoulder. One foot peaked out from under the cloak that covered her. Seeing the bandages, Kess drew closer.

At that moment, Sharpclaws awoke. Finding a shadowy figure standing over her, she bolted upright brandishing her staff.

“Evil spirit! I’ll send you back to the abyss.”

She swung wildly at the girl whose hands began to glow with dark energy. Brotherdon quickly stepped between the two.

“She’s a friend, Sharp, not an evil spirit. Her name is Kess.”

Sharp continued to stare at the girl with mistrust and Teaka stepped forward, extending her hand in a gesture of friendship.

“We are here to help, we mean you no harm.”

Teaka’s feline companion gently rubbed against Sharpclaws who relaxed and tentatively stroked the creature’s soft coat. Teaka continued,

“We have a shelter not far from here. May we offer you a warm meal and a safe place to rest?”

Sharpclaws smiled brightly, all memory of evil spirits forgotten.

“That would be lovely, dear.”

***

It was evident that Teaka and Kess had fared well despite the inhospitable region. Their shelter proved to be a spacious cave, well insulated and nearly invisible from the outside. Soft animal skins lined the floor and there was an abundance of fresh meat. For the first time in many weeks, they ate their fill.

Afterward, Brotherdon shared their story.

“We were part of a small band fighting the Legion in Shadowmoon Valley. We had taken heavy losses and were trying to recover when we were attacked by a Pit Lord. Our band was destroyed, only four of us escaped.”

He paused, emotion clouding his deep blue eyes. Sharpclaws squeezed his hand and picked up the tale.

“My brother fights with another group in Outlands. The last I heard, he was in Netherstorm. We headed that direction, intending to join him. We got as far as Blade Edge Mountains when we were attacked by a band of Dark Trolls. Don and I escaped, but our two friends were taken. We’ve been tracking them for two days.”

“Tracking Dark Troll?” Kess was incredulous. “It’s a wonder you are alive. You should thank Elune you survived this far and get out of their territory as quickly as you can.”

Sharp shook her head,

“We won’t leave them. We have lost so many that we love in recent days. We will not lose these also.”

“What you are attempting is suicide. The dark trolls are feared even among their own kind. They worship dark magic and sacrifice their victims to evil spirits – no doubt the reason your friends were taken. If you pursue this course you will share their fate.”

Brotherdon met her gaze firmly,

“We will not abandon our friends when they need us most. If that means we share their fate, then so be it.”

Kess looked at him in exasperation. “Are all Paladins bent on self destruction, or is it just the blonde ones?”

“Kess!”

“I’m sorry, Teaka, but this talk of tracking Dark Trolls and mounting suicidal rescue attempts for friends who are probably dead, is ridiculous.” She turned back to Don, “You are a fool to attempt this, and worse than a fool for allowing Sharp to accompany you.”

With a faint hiss her form dispersed into shadows. For a moment her eyes glowed in the darkness, and then she was gone.

Teaka sighed,

“Please forgive my friend. She is not herself these days.”

Brotherdon smiled kindly,

“There is nothing to forgive. It has been a long time since anyone cared about our fate.”

Teaka studied him in the firelight,

“Please consider carefully what you intend to do. Kess was not exaggerating about the Dark Trolls. If you pursue this course, it will most certainly be your end.”

***

Kess sat alone in the predawn hours. She relaxed in the darkness that wrapped her in its folds. She drew comfort from the silence that remained unbroken save by the soft sounds of the night creatures. During her time in the wild, she had learned to greet the night as a friend.

She sensed rather than heard Teaka’s approach. They sat together in silence as they so often did, both wrapped in their own thoughts drawing comfort from the other’s presence.

At last Teaka’s gentle voice broke the silence,

“They are determined to go through with their rescue attempt.”

“I’m sure the Trolls will be delighted.”

“They don’t stand a chance without our help, Kess.”

“They don’t stand a chance even with our help, Teaka! If they are foolish enough to throw their lives away, that’s their affair. There is no reason for us to do the same.”

“You’ve done things even more foolish for the sake of friendship.”

“That was a long time ago, Teaka.”

“Not so very long. There is another reason we should help them.”

“What’s that?”

“Sharpclaws brother, the one they were going to join, is Sorinn.”

It had been ten years but the images were as clear as the day they met.

The cold stone corridors, a frightened child crying alone, his hand extended in friendship.

Through that first agonizing year at the orphanage, he had been at her side. In time she came to love him as she had the brother she lost. After completing his training at the Academy, he joined the battle against the Legion. Eventually, she joined him. In the years that followed they served together through countless battles, healing side by side. Though responsibilities often kept them apart, the bond of friendship formed in those early years had never wavered. It bound her still.

She sighed in defeat,

“Alright, Teaka. I’ll do it for him.”

Her one consolation lay in the knowledge that Dark Trolls never left survivors. This time, at least, she wouldn’t be left alive to face the memories.

***Commentary on Chapter Ten***

Sorinn is Don’s brother in real life. Sorinn was one of the earliest members of our guild and has long been a dear friend. At his suggestion, Don and Sharpclaws (a married couple) joined us after their small raiding guild broke up.

Don has a brilliant mathematical mind and I rely heavily on his theorycrafting since, as I’ve stated before, I have no skill in that area. Don and Aleathea are the only Prot Paladins in the guild and we have shared many pleasant hours discussing strategies, gear and all things tankadin. Ironically, Don and Aleathea look like brother and sister in game. Both are blond haired blue eyed humans with almost identical gear.

Sharpclaws is one of those people who everyone loves to be around. She is the “guild mother” and the one everyone goes to when they need to talk. She is also one of our core healers.

Don is one of our raid leaders and both are officers in the guild. They are also two of our dear freinds. Sharpclaws often jokes that she is in love with Romer and I always tell her I have a crush on Don.

Don and Sharp attended Blizzcon this year which put them ahead of us in geek points. We hope to even the score next year.

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Chapter Eight: Journey to the Past

September 17, 2008

Swamp of Sorrows

Maggee gazed out of the window watching the girl gracefully work through the moves of her morning kata.  She turned at the sound of approaching footsteps.  Seeing Deakan, she reached out a hand inviting him to join her.  She could see the lines of care etched in his face. 

Since the night Skelto brought Aleathea to them her husband had scarcely left the girl’s side.  The long torturous months of recovery had taken their toll on both patient and physician.  At times Maggee doubted recovery was even possible.  Despite the challenges, Deakan refused to give up and thanks to his skill and the girl’s determination they had proved Maggee wrong.  In time it appeared that her injuries would heal completely … all except for one. 

Sounds from the garden drew her attention back to the window.  Skelto announced his presence with a loud greeting and Aleathea, her face alight with pleasure, turned toward the sound of his voice.  He crossed to her and, after a few moments of conversation, placed her hand on his arm and led her from the garden.  She heard Deakan’s soft sigh and slipped her hand in his. 

“She has made a remarkable recovery, Deakan.  No one could have done more for her.  You have to accept that some things are beyond even your ability to heal, my love.”

He knew she was right but the knowledge did not ease the ache inside.  He had tried every treatment to no effect.  From the day she regained consciousness and through all these months she had lived in darkness. 

As a healer there was nothing more he could do for her, but as a friend there was.

Ironforge, two days later

He maneuvered his way carefully through the shadows until he reached the Hall of Mysteries.  On the far side of the Hall he recognized his destination.  He crossed the distance and knocked quickly.  The door was answered by a middle aged Dwarven female.  At the sight of him, her composed features registered shock.

“Deakan!”

Glancing around, she motioned him to enter then hastily shut the door. 

“Were you seen by the guards?”

“I don’t think so.”

She studied him curiously, “I never thought to see you here, my friend.” 

He started to speak but she stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“Time enough for explanations later.  First, make yourself comfortable while I brew some tea.”

Deakan sank gratefully into a couch and relaxed for the first time in many hours.  A creature leaped into his lap and he recognized Socks.  He rubbed the cats head with pleasure.  Catti had proudly declared Socks the best mouser in all Ironforge and had taken great pleasure in the creature.  Helliott had scoffed at Catti and taken great pleasure insulting the cat – although Deakan had observed him petting the creature when he thought no one was watching.

Deakan smiled at the memory and allowed his thoughts to wander back almost one hundred years to the day he met Catti.  It was the day he entered the Ironforge Academy of Higher Learning.  Catti, a third year student, had been the first to welcome him and had taken him under her wing that first day.  Over dinner that night, Catti introduced him to Maggee, a first year student like himself. 

The moment Deakan laid eyes on the pink haired gnome he knew he would never love another.  She led him on a merry chase, but made sure he caught her in the end.  Through all these long years she had been at his side.  This morning when he took his leave she had known where he was going.  Only the slight catch in her voice betrayed her concern.  When he looked into her eyes they were clear.

The aroma of tea leaves filled the air and Deakan recognized the Nightbloom leaf.  It was Helliott’s favorite.  Following strict instructions from his father, Deakan had looked up Helliott upon his arrival.  The other dwarf was a third year student whose family moved in the same exalted circles as Deakan’s.  His father considered Helliott a suitable companion.  Not sharing his fathers preoccupation with social status, Deakan was prepare to dislike Helliott on principle.  He was surprised to find instead a kindred spirit.  Throughout their years at the Academy the four friends were inseparable. 

Upon completion of their studies, Deakan and Maggee married and all four remained in Ironforge.  Deakan opened his own practice and soon was recognized as a physician of renown.  Catti and Maggee stayed on as instructors at the Ironforge Academy.  Helliott founded the great Bank of Ironforge.  Over the years their friendship remained steadfast and hardly a day passed when they did not enjoy one another’s company.

Socke stirred in his lap and he returned to the present to find that Catti had returned with the tea.  He took a sip and smiled at her.

“As good as I remember.  No one can make it like you, Catti.”

She flushed with pleasure.  They reminisced about old times until finally Catti set her tea aside and studied him curiously.

“Why have you come back, Deakan?”

“I need to see Helliott.”

Her expression grew sad, “He’s gone, Deakan.”

Deakan stared at her in astonishment, “Gone?  Helliott left Ironforge?  But … the bank!”

“Not long after you left he resigned from the bank.  Within a year it was gone.”

Deakan sat in stunned silence as Catti continued.

“Most people believe a falling out with his partner was responsible, but I think we both know the truth…”

Seeing his expression she broke off, “I’m sorry, Deakan.”

He smiled faintly, “It’s all right, Catti.  Do you know where he went?”

“I heard a few months ago that he joined Brothers in Arms, a group fighting the Invasion in the Outlands.  Their headquarters is in Shattrath City.  You should be able to find word of him there.”

They sat together in silence as he digested the news.  Finally, with a look of regret, he rose to go.

“I’m sorry I put you in danger by coming here, Catti.”

She smiled warmly, “I’m glad you came – and don’t worry.  The King knows better than to mess with an old woman like me.”

He grinned, “Aye, you always knew how to take care of yourself.”

They embraced and he turned to go.

“You risked much in coming here, Deakan.  I will pray the Light grants that which you seek.”

He made his way cautiously to Stormwind where he arranged for transportation to Shattrath City the next day.  Once that was settled he secured lodging at the Gilded Rose Inn.  His room was comfortable and the food as good as he remembered.  Relaxing in the familiar setting he felt his tension ease.  As night drew its shadows across the room his mind wandered back along paths long forbidden.

It was the night of the Winter Festival.  The High Seat was crowded, the throne room converted from a seat of judgment to a seat of merriment for the evening.  The musicians were in rare form; the dance floor a blur of whirling figures.  He was leading a breathless Maggee off the dance floor when Helliott caught his eye. 

Leaving Maggee and Catti in animated conversation he wove his way through the crowd toward the royal dais.  Seeing his approach, King Bronzebeard welcomed him heartily.  After some polite questions regarding the health of the royal family, Deakan launched into a discussion of his latest medical discoveries and his plans to implement them for the benefit of the population of Ironforge.  The King, always interested in plans that involved the welfare of his people, was deeply absorbed in the conversation and did not notice his youngest daughter stealing out of the room in the company of Helliott. 

Deakan and the King remained engrossed in conversation for much of the evening.  It was late by the time Deakan made his excuses and headed for home.  Outside, Helliott was waiting for him just as Deakan knew he would be.  The Dwarfs features were composed as always, but there was a sparkle in his eyes that betrayed him.  Deakan grinned, “Congratulations friend.  I told you she’d say yes.”

The next night he was awakened by a royal messenger bearing an urgent summons.  The King’s youngest daughter had fallen deathly ill.  The malady was one Deakan had seen only a few times before.  He tried every treatment he knew refusing to leave her side even to eat or sleep.  Despite his efforts the princess died three days later.  Half mad with grief, the King blamed Deakan and banished him from Ironforge on pain of death.  Consumed by guilt, he had taken refuge deep within the Swamp of Sorrows, cutting off all ties with the outside world.  He had not spoken to Helliott.  He never knew if his friend blamed him.

Deakan returned to the present to find the room in darkness.  Disquieted by his memories he rose and left the inn.  The gentle night breeze cooled his flushed skin.  The light of countless stars reflecting off the water softened the darkness and soothed his troubled spirit. 

Ten years ago he had failed a patient and the guilt had nearly destroyed him.  He would not fail again.  He would find a way to help Aleathea.  And perhaps, in lifting her darkness, he would find a way to lift his own.

***Commentary on Chapter Eight***

As mentioned in previous commentary, Deakan and Maggee are a husband and wife couple in real life.  Helliott is a friend whose wit and intelligence has been a source of entertainment and enlightenment over the two year friendship we have enjoyed.  Catti’s character is based on one of my husband’s alts.

This chapter is a departure from the norm in that it does not reflect any actual in-game events and it deals mostly with Deakan instead of one of my characters.  Perhaps because it was written as pure fiction,  not related to any real events, it was one of the most enjoyable chapters I have written.  I enjoyed imagining the world through the eyes of a character, Deakan, who is not my own.

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Chapter Seven: Remembering

September 17, 2008

Feralas

A fine mist moistened his face as his robe fluttered in the breeze.  From his vantage point on the bridge he had a perfect view of the sheer rock face, a majestic backdrop for the waterfall that plunged to the rocks far below.  The roar of the water drowned out all other sounds and he did not hear the charger bearing down on him until the last moment. 

Startled from his reverie he leaped out of the way just as the horse and rider thundered over the spot where he had stood an instant before. From an undignified heap on the ground he watched as the rider leaped to the ground in a fluid motion.  The sun glinting off flashing plate armor momentarily blinded him.

When his vision returned he saw the rider’s helm was gone and a cascade of golden hair swirled around her like a shower of Dreaming Glory petals.  She dropped to her knees, her green eyes filled with concern.

“Are you injured?”

At the sight of her kneeling beside him he suddenly found that he was short of breath and his voice caught in his throat.  Taking this as a bad sign she produced a healing draught and helped him to drink.  Removing her gauntlets, she expertly examined him for injuries as she spoke.

“I’m sorry, I was in such a hurry I didn’t even see you there.”

Her touch rendered him pink with embarrassment and he squirmed away, “I’m fine.”  His voice came out in an embarrassing squeak.  Clearing his voice, he attempted to salvage his dignity,  “Really, I’m not injured.  Please don’t trouble yourself.”

She hesitated, “Are you certain?”

“Yes, yes I’m fine.” He picked himself up and dusted off his robe.  “I was just about to enjoy a picnic lunch.  Would you care to join me?”

Judging from her expression he guessed she was unaccustomed to impromptu lunch invitations.

“Surely you occasionally break from terrorizing small gnomes to enjoy lunch?”  She heard the smile in his voice and the look of concern in her eyes was replaced by a  sparkle of amusement.  “Well, I suppose so.”

“Excellent!” He produced a picnic blanket from his backpack.  “I am well known in these parts for my conjured biscuits.  They are the best you’ll find for miles around.”

“She smiled wryly, “I suspect your reputation has something to do with the fact that you are the only conjurer of biscuits for miles around.”

“And you’d be right on that account.  Not many of my kind make their home here, but I value a quiet life and the beauty of this area appeals to me.” 

She looked up at the waterfall, noticing it for the first time.  “It is lovely here.  I don’t often stop to enjoy sights like this…” he caught the wistful expression that passed across her features. 

“Then, I’m afraid you’re missing out on a good deal of life, Miss.”

She turned and smiled at him.  Until this moment he had considered sunrise over this valley the most beautiful sight in the world.  Now, he wasn’t so sure.

“My name is Aleathea.”

“Mine is Romer.  Do have another biscuit.”

That day marked the beginning of a friendship unlike any he had known.  She lived worlds away from his quiet cottage nestled in the foothills of Feralas.  As a high ranking commander of the Alliance forces her days were filled with battle.  They met on rare occasions when she could slip away.  In their time together she found a brief respite from the pressures of leadership and the war that consumed her world.  Gradually he taught her to slow down and enjoy the unexpected moments of beauty and joy that presented themselves. 

As he learned about her work at the battle front he came to understand that his comfortable existence was made possible by the sacrifice of others.  In time, all the things he loved most began to lose their appeal.   His solitude became lonely rather than comforting.  The joy he once felt at the beauty of nature was replaced by sadness that she could not share it with him.   The small cottage that had felt so comfortable now felt confining.  At last the day came when he realized that all the things he loved most in life were empty without her.  On that day he left his old life behind and joined her at the battle front.  From that time on they had never been apart … until now.

Tears mingled with the water droplets on his face.  As much as the memories hurt, he welcomed them.  In this place he could still see her face, he could still hear her voice, he could still feel her presence.  In this place her essence remained.

The sound of an approaching rider stirred him from his thoughts.  From a distance the figure, clad in plate armor, appeared so similar to Aleathea that for a moment his breath caught and he felt a wild hope.  As the rider drew near he saw her dark hair and the cut of her armor marked her as a healer.  He closed his eyes against the pain and turned away.

“Romer?”  Her quiet voice broke the stillness.

“I don’t know anyone by that name.  Please, be on your way and leave me in peace.”

He hadn’t spoken with anyone since Aleathea’s death and he had no intention of starting now.

“Romer, I need to talk to you. It’s about Aleathea.”

He turned sharply, “Who are you? What do you know about her””

“My name is Avetar.  I was at Marshall’s Landing the night of the attack.” 

He caught his breath, “How can that be … no one survived.  How could you have lived and she …” he broke off as emotion shocked him.

“There were civilians at the camp that night.  After the soldiers fell she stayed and fought to give us time to escape.  I was on the last gryphon to leave.”  Tears pooled in her dark eyes and she continued, “She saved me.  She saved us all.  I thought … you should know.”

She turned to go, then hesitated and looked back.  “Your friends need you, Romer. I think Aleathea would have wanted you to go to them.”

Long after she had gone he stood motionless, remembering her words.  He knew she was right.  He had cut himself off from everyone in his pain.  He had lingered here afraid to forget.  Aleathea would not have wanted this.

In time the memories would fade.  There would come a day when he could no longer see her or hear her voice or feel her presence … but she would not be gone.  He was wrong to think that.  The essence of Aleathea was not contained in these things. 

She would not have considered her final actions heroic.  Her final moments reflected a lifetime of choices that made her the woman he loved.  Courage and compassion, that was the essence of Aleathea and it was for this she would be remembered long after her image had faded from the memory of those who had loved her.

Her fight was over, but his was not.  It was time to return and take up the battle once more.

***Commentary on Chapter Seven***

Romer was my husbands first Alliance character.  Aleathea was my first Alliance character.  The two of them shared many in-game experiences and no story about Aleathea would be complete without a look at their history and relationship.

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Chapter Six: New Recruits

September 17, 2008

Shattrath City

Avetar stared in wonder at the magnificent city rising around her.  The light that radiated from its center bathed everything in gentle light so that the city seemed to glow from within.  Outside, the clamor of street vendors rose to a dull roar while representatives of every Horde and Alliance race passed her.  Many rode strange flying brooms and giant metal contraptions the like of which she had never seen.  An exotic looking elf with purple hair swooped low over head.  She jumped back nearly colliding with a Dwarf standing close behind her.

He chuckled merrily, “Ye ain’t from around these parts are ye?”

The sight of a two headed bird perched on his shoulder took her off guard.  “Um, yes … I mean no … that is … I’m not from around here.”

He addressed the bird triumphantly, “Hah!  What did I tell you.  I’ve an eye fer the newbies I ‘ave.  Can spot ’em a mile away.”  Turning his attention back to her he smiled broadly.  “Never fear, pretty lass.  I’m here and I don’t intent to let ye out o’ me sights.”

“That’s very … thoughtful of you I’m sure.”  She extended her hand politely, “My name is Avetar, what might your name be?”

He looked around in bewilderment, “Me name?  Well now, that’s an interesting question.  I had a name once … it’s been a while.”  He looked inquiringly at the bird.  “Trachela, what were it them folks used to call me?  Eh, speak up!  Ah yes, Fishbulb it were!  Me name be Fishbulb.”  He grasped her hand and pumped vigorously.  With a wink he added, “But you, me dear, can call me The Bulb.” 

She retrieved her hand and backed away, “That’s very kind of you, but now I think I’d best be on my way.”

He fell into step behind her.  “And where be ye a goin’ in such a hurry young lass?”

“I am heading to BIA headquarters.  I’ve come to join the fight against the Legion.”

He stopped abruptly and brandished his axe.  “The Legion, mighty dangerous folk they be.”  He glanced warily around as if expecting a Fel Reaver to appear at any moment.  “Not safe fer a wee lass like herself to go alone.  I best go along and keep ye outer trouble.”  He lowered the axe to Avetar’s relief.

“Now tell me, which way be we a goin’?”

“Well, I don’t actually know…”  she looked around helplessly.

“Pardon me, I don’t mean to intrude, but did you say you are looking for BIA headquarters?”

Avetar turned and saw two night elves standing close at hand. “Yes, we are.”

The speaker stepped forward, “Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Sartoss and this is my sister Sahra.  We are also headed to BIA headquarters to offer our aid.  Would you and your friend care to join us?”

Fishbulb looked as if his eyes looked as if they were about to pop out of his head.  “Elves!  And beautiful ones at that!  Wherever yer goin’ count me in!”

Shattrath City, BIA Headquarters

Greenthumper looked over the roster of new recruits and smiled to himself.  Each one showed excellent potential and would make a welcome addition to their ranks.  He studied the names mentally reviewing each new member.

Avetar, a young Paladin from Stormwind showed great promise as a healer.

Fishbulb, a Dwarf hunter from … well, even he didn’t seem to sure where he was from.  The best anyone could make out was that it involved a lake somewhere.  Despite his memory lapses he was the best shot Green had ever seen and after observing his skill with traps he was ready to forgive any oddities.

Sartoss and Sahra, twin sisters from Darnassus.  Sartoss exhibited excellent leadership skill and, with proper training, would become a fine warrior.  Greenthumper made a note to recommend her for officer training.  Sahra was trained in the Shadow path.  She was quieter than Sartoss and her gentle personality and kind disposition made her a favorite among the recruits.  Both sisters had studied at an exclusive school in Darnassus and their family was well known in Elven high society.

Their arrival was closely followed by that of Helliott, a middle aged Dwarf who had once owned the largest bank in Ironforge.  No one knew for sure why it closed but rumors were as plentiful as fleas on a Tauren.  The Dwarf was a prolific writer, widely acclaimed for his best selling scroll, “Useful Macro Patterns and Paradigms.”  Green made a note to ask sometime what a macro was.  It seemed a popular topic among the academic crowd.

Rounding out the list of new recruits were Morghana, an adorable gnome warlock.  Spanky, an earnest young warrior who had traveled from Draenei lands to aid their fight and Lukes, a Paladin seasoned in combat and a master of the blade.

In recent months they had suffered heavy losses and the reinforcements were badly needed.  Each new member brought their own unique personality and talents and as a group they brought new life to the team.  No one could take the place of the friends they had lost, but new friends made it easier to go on.  He sighed and wished as he so often did that Romer were here.  Training the new recruits had been Romer’s greatest joy and it was times like this when he missed his friend the most.

A gentle knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. 

“Come in … Avetar, how good to see you.”  She was obviously ill at ease and he smiled reassuringly.  “What can I do for you?”

“Can you tell me where to find Romer?”

The intensity in her voice told him her request was prompted by more than idle curiosity.  He sighed heavily and motioned her to sit with him. 

“Romer disappeared the night the Legion invaded.  It has been months since any of us have seen or heard from him.”

She looked up at him and the plea in her eyes twisted at his heart.

“I have to find him, Greenthumper.  I have to talk to him.  It’s about Aleathea.”

***Commentary on Chapter Six***

At the time I wrote this chapter we were about a year and a half into the BC expansion.  By this time, most of us had maxed out our characters and so the alt invasion began.  Almost all of the characters introduced in this chapter are alts of my friends. 

I enjoyed weaving some guild jokes (Fishbulb’s origins & Helliotts macros) and a bit of my guildies personalities into the characters.   Avetar is actually one of my own alts.  Yes, I have two Paladins.  It’s a long story.

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Chapter Five: This Last Goodbye

September 17, 2008

Shadowmoon Valley

The battlefield lay shrouded in darkness.  Deadly silence hung over the place where only moments before the sounds of battle had echoed.  A traitor among their own had led them into the Legions deadly trap.  One by one her friends had fallen before her eyes.  In the end she alone had survived, protected by Micahja’s ultimate sacrifice; his death shielding her from harm and assuring that she would live to warn the others.

Kess knelt among the bodies, vacant shells of those who had been so strong, so vibrant, so full of life just moments before.  She cradled the body of Ariahna in her arms and shivered from a chill wind that swept through her very soul.  As the last light faded from her friends eyes, memories of the family she had lost years ago flooded back.  Why was she always the one left behind to carry the memories, haunted by dreams of those she had lost?  Micahja’s words came back to her, reminding her of the charge he had left her with.

“You must go back and warn the others.  You must do this or more lives will be lost and our deaths will be for nothing.  Don’t let that happen, Kess.”

Through the remainder of the long night she gathered the bodies of her friends; as the sun sent its first rays across the sky, she lit the pyre.  Kneeling beside the flames she recalled their faces, seeing them as they had been in life one last time as she said goodbye forever.

Shattrath City

Kneabiter knelt beside the bed and gently took her small hand in his.  They  had been through so much together.  Sometimes he forgot how young she was, still a child by Elven standards.   There was no use wishing fate and dealt differently with them, but still he wondered what it would have been like to have lived in a time of peace, free from the constant fear and endless goodbyes.

“I was so naive.”  Her soft voice recalled him from his thoughts.  “I believed if I devoted my life to healing I could save those I loved.  I believed I could stop death and find a way to keep them with me … I was wrong.”

She looked up at him and the haunted expression in her eyes unnerved him.

“I failed them, Knea.  So many that I loved.  They died right in front of me and I could not stop it … I could not save them.” 

Her voice broke and he gathered her in his arms, holding her close until the tears subsided and she grew still.  Slowly she pulled away and when she spoke again her voice was steady.

“I can’t stay.  Each time I lose another friend a part of me is lost with them.  It could have been you yesterday.  It could be you tomorrow.  I can’t stay and watch you die too.  I’m not strong enough.  I can’t keep saying goodbye over and over.  Please don’t try to stop me, Knea.  Let me say this last goodbye while I have the strength.  Let me go.”

Sanctum of the Stars

Teaka greeted the dawn as she so often did astride her gryphon high above the Sanctum of the Stars.  The beauty of the rising sun set against a backdrop of falling stars and rainbow tinted clouds took her breath away.  There was a wildness and freedom up here far above the troubled world that lifted her spirits and gave her strength to face the challenges of the day. 

She was surprised from her reflections by the appearance of a gryphon bearing a familiar figure. 

“Kneabiter, I’m not used to seeing you out so early.”  He drew closer and her smile faded, “Knea, what is it, what’s wrong?”

“Kess is gone.  She left alone last night.  Teaka, she has only trained as a healer, she doesn’t know how to defend herself in the wild.  She will not survive alone and unprotected.  I would leave my command and go with her myself but she will not let me.”  His voice broke and she saw how much it had cost him to let her go.  “Will you go after her, Teaka?  Watch over her, protect her, keep her safe.”

Her hearth ached for him.  She smiled gently and laid her hand on his.

“Set your mind at rest, my friend.  Since I first met Kess I have loved her as my own daughter.  As long as I live, no harm will come to her.” 

He relaxed at her words and a great weight seemed to lift from his small shoulders.  “Thank you, my friend.”

As her gryphon moved away his last words came softly carried in the wind.

“Tell her I will be here waiting for her … always.”

***Commentary on Chapter Five***

This chapter was written during the saddest period of my WoW life. 

A guild split, initiated by a trusted officer and friend, almost destroyed us.  Many of my friends left the guild and I felt their loss as keenly as I would the loss of any real life friendship.  At times I contemplated walking away from the game. Through the support of friends such as as Deadsong, Laniken, Teaka, Deakan and Maggee I came to realize the rewards of friendship are worth the risks, but it was hard to see during this time.

It has been a year and a half since those events occurred and the memories are still painful.  It is a reminder that, while the world in which we interact with one another is artificial, the relationships themselves are not.  The emotions we feel and the ways in which we influence one another are every bit as real as anything experienced in the real world.

It was around this time that I re-specced Kess shadow in a dramatic departure from her exclusively Holy experience. I fell in love with the dark side and never went back.

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Chapter Four: Resting at Last

September 17, 2008

Swamp of Sorrows, 3 days later

The Core Hounds had pursued her for hours through the darkness.  Their searing breath on her neck, their exultant roars reverberating through the caverns.  They were almost on her when suddenly the ground gave way and she was falling.  The darkness was illuminated only by a red glow rising from the sea of molten lava below.  She screamed in agony as she broke the surface.   Waves of lava washed over her as the current slowly dragged her under.  She tried to fight but her armor weighted her down; trapping her within a sea of fire.

Watching the tormented figure Skelto wondered if saving her had been an act of kindness or cruelty.  Deakan wrung another cool cloth and gently bathed her face.  Despite his untiring efforts, he had been unable to bring down the raging fever or bring her out of her  delirium.  The priest sighed heavily, “If the fever doesn’t break soon we’ll lose her.  She’s burning up from the inside.”

Maggee laid her hand gently on his shoulder, “Get some rest, dear.  You’ve done all you can.”

Observing the couple Skelto was reminded of the day he happened upon their hut deep within the Swamp.  His pet, Dor, was injured and Deakan had surprised him with an offer of help.  Thus began an unlikely friendship that had lasted many years.  

Their past was a mystery.  He knew only that Deakan had once been a physician of renown and Maggee a respected and powerful mage instructor.  For reasons unknown they had disappeared from public life and chosen to live in seclusion.  They never spoke of their former life and, respecting their privacy, he never asked questions.  Over the years they had won his respect many times over and he knew if anyone could help the injured Paladin, it was them. 

After the others had gone to rest, Maggee found herself alone with the girl.  Over the last three days it had been apparent how desperately she fought to live.  Nevertheless, the convulsions that racked her body steadily increased and her cries of pain were growing weaker. 

She wished, as she had so many times over the last three days, that she could have known this girl in life.  Tears burned in her eyes and she ached for a friend lost before she had been found.  Another convulsion shook the girl, her cries of pain little more than a whimper.   Reaching out, Maggee took the girls hand in her own.  The skin was so hot it burned to the touch, but Maggee did not let go.  She would stay, offering what comfort she could, until it was over.

She broke the surface knowing this time was the last.  She had time only for a gasp of air before the waves knocked her back.  The current dragged her under and she no longer had the strength to fight.  The sea of magma closed over her for the last time.  Beyond the reach of rational thought but propelled by a will, forged through a lifetime of determination, to go on fighting, she reached toward the surface. 

A hand caught hers.

The current struggled to wrench them apart but the hand held steady.  Then, slowly, it began to pull her up.

The convulsions stopped suddenly and the girls hand relaxed in Maggee’s grip.  She sighed softly and was quiet.

Maggee felt her heart drop.  “Deakan! Hurry!”  The Dwarf was at her side in an instant.  “Something has changed … I think it’s over.”

Deakan knelt and examined her intently.  “Aye” his voice was grim, “It’s over.”  He looked up at them and a smile broke across his broad face.  “The fever has broken.  She is resting at last.”

***Commentary on Chapter Four***

Deakan and Maggee are two of our dearest friends in WoW.  A fellow married couple with almost as much geek cred as us, they have encouraged and enriched us through their friendship over the last two years.  Their presence has been a source of support both in and out of game and we are planning a meeting in real life soon.

Deakan plays a holy priest, Maggee a frost mage.  Romer, my husband’s character, is also a frost mage and Aleathea is a prot Paladin.  The four of us delight in 4 manning heroics and Deakan, fantastic healer that he is, has kept Aleathea alive through many a bad pull.  There is no healer I trust more, and it was natural that he would be the physician to treat Aleathea in the story.

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Chapter Three: Courage and Compassion

September 17, 2008

The scent of burning flesh permeated the air, acrid smoke swirled through the decimated camp and the ground trembled beneath the advancing Core Hound.  The shield that had protected her through the last attack was gone; time was running out. 

Fighting back the darkness that crept into her vision, Aleathea struggled to her feet.  Her gaze rested on the fallen soldiers.  They had fought with courage and honor.  They had sacrificed their lives to buy time for others to escape.  She could not fail them.  She had to go on fighting just a little longer.

Waiting until the last possible moment, she lit the ground with a ring of Holy fire and leapt out of the path of the oncoming beast.  The Hound, caught squarely in the flames, roared in pain.  Enraged, it turned and exhaled its fiery breath directly at her.  At this close range even her aura afforded little protection from the assault of the flames.  Her armor glowed white hot and the burning metal seared her flesh.  Smoke filled her lungs choking her as she collapsed in flames. 

She was dimly aware of the Hound as it towered over her, its monstrous head blotting out the sky.  She could not see the Gryphons.  She did not know if it had been enough, but she had nothing more to give.  As the Hound descended, darkness closed around her and carried her away from the devastated camp.

***

Hidden by a rough outcropping, Skelto watched the scene play out before him.  He was intrigued by the small figure battling alone and an unaccustomed emotion stirred when she fell for the last time.  With a sharp command he sent Dor charging at the Hound.  His bear distracted the beast, diverting it from its victim and drawing it away from the camp.  The Orc cast a wary eye around the camp and, satisfied the other Hounds had moved on, crossed the distance and knelt to examine the body.  To his surprise she was still alive, although judging from the extent of her injuries she wouldn’t be for long.

Of all the Alliance members he hated Paladins the most.  Their self-righteous attitude and smug superiority disgusted him.  He should leave this one and get out of here while he still could.  But even as he turned away the memory of her charging the Core Hound alone held him.  Her actions had displayed courage such as he had rarely seen even among his own kind.  She didn’t deserve to die like this. 

He turned back and examined her injuries more closely.  She had already slipped into shock; her breathing rapid, her skin pale and cold to the touch.  Where could he take her?   He wasn’t likely to be welcomed in an Alliance city, but he would never make it to a Horde city in time. 

The roar of a Core Hound nearby reminded him of their vulnerable position and the need to act quickly.  Calling to Dor, he wrapped her gently in his cloak and lifted her in his arms.   He would worry where to take her later; right now he needed to get moving before the Hound returned and finished them both.

***Commentary on Chapter Three***

Several months into the BC expansion I started playing Aleathea again and so I returned to my story. 

My husbands first WoW character was a Horde hunter named Skelto.  He could not convince me to roll Horde, so he abandoned Skelto at level sixty and rolled Alliance with me. 

I decided to introduce Skelto into the story as a tribute to his original character.  He has recently returned to his roots and is leveling Skelto along side Dor, his faithful bear companion.