Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nine-Letter Word for Shy

((Image chosen to represent character is a Canadian singer, Natasha St-Pier. This short short is meant as an introduction.))

. . . . . It was nearly six in the afternoon and, in the short days of deep winter, that meant it was quite dark outside. The broad windows which let in light for us to use during the day were merely glassy walls now, occasionally reflecting back to me the glimmer of candlelight. Only the archivists were trusted with flame among the royal collection - and even then only in carefully crafted, closed lanterns which extinguished themselves immediately upon leaving the vertical axis. It was some clever design from Siovale, certainly.
. . . . . I hardly cared that it was dark. Evenings were the only time I could really get much done, since no one cared to wander the Royal Archives in the pitch of night. I had claimed for myself a broad oaken table on the upper floor of the archives, my notes set neatly before me as I cross-referenced the sections of Shepherd of Knowledge: Shemhazai's Founding with the handwritten notes - some hundreds of years old - about the companions of Elua. Oh, alright, so Shepherd of Knowledge: Shemhazai's Founding was still a working title. I hadn't actually completed it yet. That's why I was here, alone, nose-deep in ancient dust.
. . . . . There was a thud behind me. I shrieked and rocked back in my chair, pushing away from the table as I tried to find the source of the sound. Of course, working in lantern light had left me night-blind and I could barely see the bookshelf behind me, much less anything else. "Hello?" I called out. "It is after hours..." Only silence in reply.
. . . . . Then another sound, a scuff like a boot toe against the tile floor. I turned towards the noise, still blinking night-blind eyes as I tried to make it out. "Hello?"
. . . . . A figure materialized out of the shadows, limned golden by my lantern's fire. He was fair, blond, and gawky of limb despite surely being near my own age. "Oh, thank goodness you have some light. I...uh..." The young man trailed off and smiled wryly at me. "I fell asleep in the stacks and I can't find my way out."
. . . . . Oh for Elua's sake, I thought, twisting my hands at my waist as I tried to smile through the interruption to my work. "You're upstairs. Here, I can lead you out." I turned back to the table and picked up my archivists' lantern. It would take me fifteen minutes to lead him all the way to a portion of the royal grounds which was well-lit at night, but the last thing I wanted was further interruption. "Sh-shall we?" I grimaced at my stammer and tried to gesture for him to walk before me in the circle of light cast by my lantern.
. . . . . I still had time to work on my thesis. Morning wasn't for eleven more hours.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Third Charm

((The character of Zera-Marie - I told you there'd be similarities - is represented by a Roma child captured on film by "maksid" on Flickr, mildly altered in Photoshop by me.))

. . . . . At least, I thought as I hiked my skirts up so I could fish beneath them and produce my right slipper, I had the foresight to run off at a nice time of year. Truth be told, I could not fault the warm spring nights or the sunny, flower-filled days. Terre D'Ange is a beautiful land to be lost in, even in its poor sections. Dusk painted the stones and daub and wood shop walls of the street in pomegranate and wine as I turned my little leather slipper over and shook a pebble out of it. The stone stoop upon which I sat was still sun-warm even through the three thin skirts layered atop each other I wore. I'll just...enjoy this...a moment... I thought drowsily, leaning my left shoulder against the door post.
. . . . . "Oy!" came a gruff call followed rapidly by a bristly whack between my shoulder-blades. "Out of the doorway, Tsingani brat!" The mistress of the shop shook her broom threateningly at me as I tumbled forward with my slipper in hand.
. . . . . "A thousand apologies, good woman. May Blessed Elua smile upon your kindness," I murmured in fluent D'Angeline, hopping on one foot until I had my slipper back on, then sketching a curtsey of, if not impeccable grace, at least genuine humor at the scowling woman. She muttered grumpily at me and took to her stoop with a vengeance, as if to remove some trace of my dark skin left on her lily-white D'Angeline masonry. I was confident she would not sweep away the small blue bead I'd dropped in the crack at the edge of the door where it met the street - a little charm to cause the gaze to slide off of one, useful for sneaks...devastating for businesses.
. . . . . Missing the slow, seeping warmth of the stone stoop, I pulled my shawl tighter against my shoulders and continued up the paved street. It was my first night in the City proper and I'd been quite used to the warm breeze of spring across the meadows, which all these close little buildings blocked, their shadows too long in dusk and chilling the air before it was properly full dark. A delicious smell drew me ever uphill, a scent built of warm air, puffed flour, hot butter, and a hint of some herb I could not yet identify. While I puzzled through it and walked up the street, the steady warning ring of shod hooves on paving alerted me to listen harder. It was coming from behind and to the left. I was on the right side of the street, and therefore it would pass without concern. Indeed, in short order, a chestnut roan of middling quality and high pride - if the lift of her head was any indication - and a well-dressed lady sitting sidesaddle trotted up the street. I kept at least fifteen yards from the demon in horseflesh, pausing my walk to allow it full berth.
. . . . . Pausing put me in the unfortunate way of several jostling, loud young men whose wine-and-strong-cheese scent momentarily overwhelmed the complex, yeasty scent I'd been following. One young man raked his dark eyes down my young body and broke from his group. Smiling unctuously, he sidled up and dropped an arm down atop my shoulders. "A little kiss, youngling? For a man off of to war on the morrow?"
. . . . . I wanted to rush from under his arm and straight into a cold bath at his touch, but it would be deeply rude of me to wish him true ill if he was off to defend his fair city. I could not find it in me to begrudge him drunken revels, slimy or no, and so I smiled brightly, rose up on the tips of my toes, and kissed his cheek. "For luck, brave soldier," I said, ducking free of his arm with a deft turn. His companions laughed at how easily I'd eluded him and a shadow passed across his eyes.
. . . . . "You call that a kiss? Come give me a proper send-off, Tsingani wench!"
. . . . . It's a shame I wished him genuine luck, I thought as I caught my skirts up in my hands and took off running at a full sprint up the street. There were hoots and shouts behind me, as well as more laughter, but no sound of pursuit. Still, I did not slow until that delicious smell intensified so much that the mystery herb in it became apparent. Tarragon, for courage... I stopped in a darkened doorway to catch my breath, my right hand pressed against my charms to silence their rattle and heave.
. . . . . "Well," came a deep, slightly scratchy voice behind me, "come in then, and have a roll."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Winter Eyes


((I've gotten involved in yet another role-play universe, but this is one is a first for me. Rather than being based in a freeform world or a game world, it's set in the world created by Jacqueline Carey in her Kushiel's Legacy series. I feel conflicted about writing so derivative a piece of short fan-fiction, but it was Carey herself who promoted the group on her Facebook page and led me to find them, so I can't imagine that others writing inside her world bothers her too much. Besides, it got me fairly inspired to consider the "other" characters to inhabit such a world, so I'm giving it a shot.
Regular readers of my work will recognize similarities in the characters. Standard practice in this group is to use a picture of an actor or model to represent the character, so this one is represented by a picture of Tilda Swinton. I probably won't burden my story blog with much about this character as it's forum-based RP threads instead of the story format I use for WoW characters.))

. . . . . If there has ever been a season for me to be most fond of, it is winter. Though the sun is high and small, it seems to lend such a crisp-edged sparkle to the land in winter.
 . . . . . Of course, when your livelihood is grapes, this is not an acceptable fondness. There was no one to scold me for it, however, as Rienn and I hurried down the colonnade just as the bright eye of the sun was making the dawn sky blush with its studied gaze. I had taken great care in choosing warm woolens and in tucking my scarf ends into my sweater so they could not tangle in aught.  
. . . . . "There he is!" Rienn cried in as hushed a voice as an excited five-year-old could manage. Our steps hastened until we stood at the edge of the courtyard, awed to silence as we watched Father's new Cassiline bodyguard perform the steps of an intricate yet - obvious to even our young minds - deadly dance. Brave in our sojourn from the beds we were meant to be in, my brother and I stepped out as a piece, our little chins lifted with confidence.
. . . . . "We want to learn," I said, my voice breaking across the rime-touched stones of the courtyard.
. . . . . "Teach us, please!" Rienn followed, more entreaty to sweeten my haughtiness.
. . . . . The Cassiline did not even pause the flow of his steps, continuing on in what seemed to us to be interminable quietude until the form he had been in was completed. I could not even hear hastened breaths from him, though he had been in deadly earnest moments ago. While our presence seemed not to surprise him in the slightest, his brown eyes widened when they alighted upon me - and the way I had bound my shoulder-length hair up in a club in imitation of his own black locks. But he shook his head and fixed his attention upon Rienn, beckoning him over. "Only boys may, youngling. You should get back to bed before you are caught out."
 . . . . . Rienn looked at me, his grey eyes imploring. What could I do but nod? When I did, he darted from my side to stare up at the Cassiline in awe. I turned away.  
. . . . . And promptly ducked behind a column, down along the courtyard wall, over to a decorative shrub some ten feet from where we had entered, and crawled beneath it. From my boxwood shelter, I pressed my tiny hands between my thighs to warm them as the Cassiline began showing Rienn how to move his body. Quickly, my brother shed his coat and scarf, the activity warming him to a sweat - while I refused to give into the impulse to shiver for fear it would shake my hiding place and reveal me. Though more frozen than I imagined possible when I escaped my warm blankets that morning, I watched. The clear, sparkling air of winter was my magnifying glass and yet the window pane I pressed my face to. Separate I may have been, but I am nothing if not ever observant.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kingsfall

A collaboration with the player and writer of Eredis Orill.
Written while listening to Pompeii and Arise by E.S. Posthumus.

((I just realized that my magnum opus, the longest piece I've written in a decade or more, isn't on this blog. Since it was co-written with Eredis, it's on his blog but I think it belongs on mine too. So here's the big one, and ironically posted on the fourth anniversary of the founding of the Knights of Menethil. We wrote this piece collaboratively over two years, e-mailing it back and forth. Coincidentally, this work formed the beginning of our relationship in person. And seriously, pop those music links open in sequence in another window or something and give them a listen; they really frame the pacing of this piece.))


. . . . . . Golden dawn light limned the sails and almost lent beauty to the war-torn, ice-battered boat docked at the harbor at Valiance Keep. The dawn light struggled in vain against the puffs of sooty steam from the ship’s main power source, the coal fires banked while the ship sat at anchor. On the wooden docks, activity bustled as quickly as if it were well after noon. Pairs of deckhands carried large wooden crates between them from the ship’s hold to the land end of the docks while a leather-skinned man with a flat nose which took up half his face and wearing a grimy quilted coat, screamed threats in a voice more suited to the penguins on the ice floes than the visage of a grizzled old bosun. 
. . . . . . The bosun hadn’t been up more than three hours and he was already in high dudgeon – stuck on the docks like a common longshoreman instead of up in the rigging where he belonged. “If’n ya go droppin’ those crates in ta th’ water, ya best be ready ta jump in afta ‘em, ‘cause those black-‘earted deaders are worse th’n th’ frigid sea!”
. . . . . . A low, raspy voice came from over his left shoulder and about two feet up, “My heart is more of a navy shade, vhat parts of it are not yet vorm-eaten.”
. . . . . . Leathery brown skin visible between a gray woolen cap and an equally bland scarf went slightly green-tinted. “Naga’s tits, ‘ow’d ya sneak up on me wit’ those ‘ooves?”  
. . . . . . “Practice,” the draenei female in heavy plate armor behind him said with a strained chuckle. A brisk wind off the seawater ruffled her short, tarnished white hair but did nothing so kind as to bring extra color to her stiff, ashen ebon-gray face. The glint of dawn off her bladed pauldrons showed the inordinate care she took for her armor. Not even the sea mist or the coal smoke marred the battle-pocked surface. Slung across her back rested a most curious large axe – the blade’s runed edges and the crossed nails hammered into the pommel seeming to hold a fresh-from-the-forge glow despite the winter’s chill.
. . . . . . “Vhen zis is done vith, I am goink somevhere tropical and green,” she muttered to herself, just loud enough for the bosun to overhear. “Perhaps I can convince zat damned dead elf to lose herself in Stranglezorn.” Frowning suddenly, she reached underneath her right pauldron, plated fingers scraping noisily between her breastplate and the shoulder armor as she pulled a small, stiff, blackish-navy worm from the gap allowed by shoulder articulation. “My blood vorms are all frozen over!” she grumbled. The small frozen worm was dropped into a black leather pouch strapped to her belt.  
. . . . . . The bosun turned greener still, harrumphed, and tried his level best to ignore the looming deader at his back and her gruesome parasites. “Watch it, ya addle-pated, bow-legged bilge rats! Tha’s expensive damn cargo!”
. . . . . . Shaking her head, Commander Valdiis left the bosun to scream imprecations at the crew and followed a pair of deckhands up to the land-side of the dock where Major Eredis Orill and the ship’s captain were deep in negotiations. Valdiis presumed it was about payment for shipping and unloading all these supplies for the unit, so she cocked a plate-covered hip against a tall crate and waited. The dockside smelled of stale fish, frigid sea, and coal steam – the mélange sharpened by the winter’s bite that almost made the air itself sparkle with frost. Floating almost innocently in the steely-gray waters were the tips of much larger floes of ice, interspersed with the occasional fin of something predatory and suited to frozen waters.
. . . . . . It wasn’t until one of the deckhands came over to Valdiis and sheepishly motioned for her to abandon the crate that she was leaning on that she stopped sniffing the air and daydreaming about warmer climates, and started paying attention to what the Major and the ship’s captain were saying to one another.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Safe Passage

Written while listening to Female of the Species by Space.


. . . . . It seemed like only seconds had gone by before a loud banging on the door rousted Zurine Haizea from her nap. Startled awake, she leapt out of the swaying hammock set up in the corner of her temporary quarters, her lithe frame moving from prone to upright in an instant. By dint of willpower alone, she did not flail as she gained her balance on the gently rolling wooden floor; it would not do to flail about, even when no one could see her. A lady did not flail.
 . . . . . The banging on the heavy wooden door separating her quarters from everything else began again. “One moment, please,” she called out, taking care that her voice carried the appropriate unhurried, low pitch of a woman unconcerned with urgency. She raked her fingers through her hair, giving it an artful tousle around her face before she strode across the room and lifted the latch free. A short man in salt-stained linen stood before her, his fist still upraised as if to further abuse the already-beaten planking.
 . . . . . The expression on his face said it all, really. He had not been among those to see her get on the ship.
 . . . . . Zurine's smile was dazzling, white teeth framed by titian lips set into swarthy skin which was never-the-less as smooth as whipped caramel for all its sun-darkened color. Her sable hair formed gentle waves on either side of a face too strongly-featured to be called aught but handsome. All together, she knew what effect the features she had been graced with had on many men, and she was quite satisfied to use this set of tools as she would any other – ruthlessly. After a moment of the sailor's dumbstruck silence, she let her pleasure at startling the man subsume itself into a warm inner glow she kept to herself and a pleasantly expectant expression, the strong brows set above her citrine eyes coming together faintly. She almost regretted using the full measure of her looks against a man who likely did not see enough of women as it was. Almost. As the moment drew too long, impatience set in and she let subdued, melodious tones convey her displeasure at being woken from her nap: “What is it, mariner?”
 . . . . . That seemed to finally bring the man to some semblance of sense. His raised fist became a pitch-sticky hand to run through his sun-bleached hair – which only served to pull several strands of it out and spike the rest unattractively – and cleared his throat. “Beggin' y'r pardon, m'lady. Th' cap'n sent me...” He trailed off, his gaze dropping to her chest where a pale gold cambric blouse demurely covered all but a hint of cleavage. Not that his gaze had far to fall – he was nearly as short as she at five-foot-two. She cleared her throat delicately and his murky blue eyes snapped back up to her face. “Ah. That is... 'E wanted a word, 'e did. Sent me t' fetch y'r ladyship.”
 . . . . . “I will require a moment.” With that, she firmly shut the door in the sailor's face and turned back to her room. She needed something which carried just the right balance of femininity and expense while not looking precisely fragile... There. That was perfect. From the wooden armoire bolted to the wall of her temporary quarters, she removed a long black jacket, the dark gabardine wool embroidered with intricate gold thread at the cuffs and down the lapels. Two gold hoops from the locked box on her desk – similarly bolted to the wall – went into the tiny scarred openings on her earlobes, placed by tradition on her seventy-seventh day of life. A glimpse in the wavy silvered glass attached to the front of the armoire door showed her the effect she'd made, and she was satisfied.
 . . . . . The sailor had moved to the wall across from her door, propping up the polished planking of the hallway with his paltry shoulders. He had to be the lookout, to get so much sun like that and yet remain so scrawny. As she closed the door behind her gently, he snapped to attention and tugged on the bottom of his linen shirt.
 . . . . . “My moment,” Zurine said quietly, “is not quite up.” Aware of the curious eyes on her wool-covered back as she moved, she rapped her knuckles lightly against the door set some several feet down the hallway from her own. As if he'd been waiting for her – and knowing his hearing, he probably had – her companion opened his door before the echo of her last knock had even faded. No words were exchanged as he simply ducked his head a bit to clear the door lintel and stepped out of his temporary quarters, closing his door behind him as gently as Zurine had. With a gracious wave of her hand, Zurine indicated that the sailor should lead the way as Zigor Itzal fell in behind her, his capacious shoulders nearly brushing either side of the hallway and his dusky hairless head bowed slightly to keep from doing the same to the ceiling of the hallway. His presence was a familiar comfort, and the lightest of touches between her shoulder-blades – just below the fall of her hair – was all the communication necessary as they both followed the sailor to answer the captain's summons.

 . . . . . “As I'm sure you can see from the map, milady, our charted course has become more dangerous than originally plotted when you boarded and paid for passage. With the risks to my men, I'll be up front with you – I'm going to need more coin for this voyage.” The captain of the Lyssa's Tryst braced his weather-beaten hands on either side of the navigation map spread out on his desk and took a deep breath before trying to look the lady in the eye again. There was something deeply unsettling about her golden gaze, like she didn't blink quite often enough perhaps; he couldn't quite explain why it was so hard to meet her eyes. Years of similar post-boarding scams had taught him, though, that to own this fight, you had to look your mark in the eye with flinty resolve. The frozen citrine of her eyes knapped his flint, shoving his gaze away as easily as if the giant behind her had physically directed his ocular challenge elsewhere.
 . . . . . “It's the storms, milady. I'm sure you can understand...” Captain Garmon was proud of himself for keeping the tremor out of his voice even as his cheeks flushed in shame at being unable to hold her gaze.
 . . . . . With her slight frame, the rough-hewn chair across his desk dwarfed her, yet somehow seemed a primitive throne under the force of her presence. “What I understand, Captain,” she remarked quietly, “is that you are attempting to take advantage of me. Do you know why Mister Itzal travels with me, Captain Garmon?” Lazily, she lifted one hand and flicked her wrist so that two fingers caught his attention and bounced it up to the mountain standing behind her chair. Even though his neck was bent to avoid hitting his bald head on the planked ceiling above him, the colossus did not need to be able to stand tall to look intimidating; a narrowed look from eyes too ice-pale to be real was enough. Captain Garmon gulped as the petite woman settled her hand back on the chair's armrest and continued, “A lady alone is all too easy to victimize, her virtue and coin her only bargaining chips. With Mister Itzal at my side, I have rather improved my negotiating position. Don't you think?” The smile which graced her carmine lips held mirth, but there was nothing warm about it.
 . . . . . “The storms could drive us onto the ruins before we reach safe harbor, milady,” the Captain tried again, not looking at either of his passengers as he leaned over the map and pointed at the warning sketch of crumbling pillars just outside the Sanctum Harbor. “My men are taking a great risk to sail when such weather threatens.” A whisper of breeze was all the alert he got before the realization struck that he could not take his hand away from the map of Lion's Arch now. Quivering in the wood of his desk and piercing the stiff cuff of his broadcloth shirt was a finely-made dagger. From the way the light of the lanterns in his quarters gleamed off the blade, it was sharpened on each side and well-oiled.
 . . . . . “Then I would hope,” murmured the swarthy woman as she reclined in her chair, “that your helmsman is highly-skilled, yes? Don't jerk your hand about like that; you might accidentally get a bit of devourer venom on your skin. Now, we will be getting to Lion's Arch precisely in the condition – physically and monetarily – as agreed upon when we boarded, won't we?”
 . . . . . Captain Garmon froze – and not voluntarily – as the devourer venom which had brushed the inside of his wrist wormed its way into his bloodstream and took over his nervous system. A series of loud cracks had him looking up before his eyes froze too, gaze locked in terror at the leather-wrapped hands of the giant as he placed an open hand over a fist and cracked his knuckles, then switched hands and repeated the gesture.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Busted

This series of short stories has been written in response to in-game occurrences. A new mercenary company with hot-shot spies has cropped up to threaten Division Eighty-Four as the sole intelligence arm of the Knights of Menethil.

. . . . . "Do you know how loud a heartbeat is in a place that never has one?"
. . . . . Grinning impudently, the petite woman in scuffed grey leathers dropped down off the stone ledge running about nine feet above the floor of the hallway in Acherus. Both her hands were clasped in front of her as she rocked back on her heels and bent at the waist like a schoolgirl with a secret. "Fiiiiine. I know I ent sneakin' up on you f'r nothin' anyway, boss." As inconspicuously as possible, she melted back into an alcove.
. . . . . The death knight whose walk she interrupted paused to press a shoulder to the wall as he adjusted the fit of his pauldron. "There's a reason I have you use the crows."
. . . . . "Aye, aye. But I didn't wanna be tellin' Norm this 'un an' he'd have t' write it up an' everything."
. . . . . "Out with it."
. . . . . "One o' y'r wolves came sniffin' about me earlier today. Saw me send that crow-gram this afternoon."
. . . . . "Did he now?" A gauntleted hand came up as the death knight inspected his armor for - and brushed free - a bit of dark explosive powder.
. . . . . "Knew my name, boss. My description. Now how'd a man o' th' grave be findin' that? You ent sellin' me out, are you, boss?" Instead of sounding threatening, she sounded scared. Small, fragile, and scared.
. . . . . The gauntlet produced a cupcake through some mystical feat of prestidigitation, and just as miraculously, a small hand covered in a fingerless grey leather glove made the cupcake disappear once more. "I assure you, if you cross me to that point, you will be aware of it." The chill in the response brought an audible gulp from the shadows which had nothing to do with the consumption of baked goods. "Have you considered that you gave your name and a description was taken when you signed on at SI:7, and that SI:7 was raided some months back? By now, those files are on the open circuit." Another fearful gulp. Unfazed, the death knight checked the hang of the spines writhing on his belt. "As a strictly undercover operative, your cover is getting thin."
. . . . . "I c'n change th' look up!" came a swift protest.
. . . . . "That is not the issue. I know you are more than capable of that." There was a pause as one of the hapless mooks stuck on foot patrol marched by, his expression speaking of tedium unshaken by the Brigadier standing in the hallway while he adjusted one of the straps on his chestplate. "Who was it that approached you?"
. . . . . Between bites of cupcake, she answered, "Looked li' -mmmf- you a bit, 'e did. Wot with th' -nomm- spines on 'is belt. Ebon -mmfle- tabard, hood up. Right 'bout six tall. -mmwah- Tips of 'is fingers were pale, an' he said 'is spines came from Northrend. Seemed t' imply he an' I shared a home, if you catch my meanin', but he ended up tellin' th' gal - roundaboutly, mind - that 'e was concerned with th' Knights 'Ebon or Menethil' which makes me think 'e's yours. A right wolf though - said it 'imself a few times. In th' business with a brother. I ent knowin' you had brother pairs."
. . . . . "What 'gal'?"
. . . . . She took a breath of still, fetid, chilly air and continued, "He was approached by a gal with a hood, gave a name of 'Esleca Desarc' an' claimed 'Crusade' an' 'Verdict.' She wanted unfettered access to Acherus from him in turn f'r givin' up info on some 'fel friend.' Mentioned problems with someone wot you lot ran into in th' Enclave. Had a fancy paper she said was from th' Highlord wot she gave 'im." There was another breath in the shadows.
. . . . . "Th' dead fella said he'd have an associate send a letter." Her tone was almost despondent, not a far cry from the earlier fear in her voice.
. . . . . "Send up a crow when it arrives."
. . . . . There was a sigh. "Can I 'ave another cuppy-cake?"
. . . . . As if by magic, a second one appeared. "Consider this report paid for."
. . . . . "Of course, boss!"

-----

. . . . . Twilight painted the newly-reinforced walls of Light's Hope in pomegranate and wine, the red haze from the plagued lands to the west deepening the strained sunlight as it slouched on the horizon. Bone-tired and rattled, Ilva finally crawled into the small traveling tent nestled at the base of the southern wall.
. . . . . "Oy, budge over. I need room too, y'know," she groused at her companion, already in the tent. She crawled on hands and knees into the peak-roofed tent, her slim shoulders brushing one of the heavily slanted fabric sides as she tried to find space on the wool-packed sleeping mat she shared with Norm. For his part, he lay on his stomach, ignoring her in favor of some complex wiring diagram. She took care to put an elbow just above his kidneys as she flipped over onto her behind; he grunted and scooted over two inches.
. . . . . "What'cha readin'?" Wiggling and twisting, she began unwinding the mottled gray cloth and leather she used for shadow-work.
. . . . . "High-yield, shaped seaforium charge," Norm muttered absently.
. . . . . "Ooo, talk dirty to me, Badge," she joked, flopping onto her back and lifting her hips so she could peel her tight leather pants off. Something in her left pocket made a crunchy sound. There shouldn't be anything to make a sound like that... She stilled, a frown pulling her brows together as she worked a hand into her pocket and pulled out a crumpled note. "Wot...?" Propping herself on one elbow, she stared blankly at the squiggly lines. There were less of them than in the report she'd sent up by crowgram earlier in the day, and she knew she'd sent that paper up. What, then, was this? She smoothed it out on her thigh, then thrust the paper under Norm's nose, between his eyes and the wiring diagram. "Nooorm! Wot's this say?"
. . . . . With a gusty sigh which spoke tomes upon tomes about annoyance, Norm pulled the note out of her hand and held it farther from his eyes so he could read it. "'Don't take it personally, but I didn't have time to chat.' Chat? 'Meet me for a drink sometime, and I'll explain the particulars that my "knightly" brother hinted at.' A drink?! Signed, 'The Black Wolf.' Wot the-...?" A feral growl resonated from Norm's throat and Ilva stilled on instinct. "You been sniffin' around other men, Ginny?" Her back hit the wool sleeping pad as self-preservation took over and she exposed her belly and throat in submission. A heavy thigh slid over her legs, pinning her down, and a sword-calloused hand spanned her neck. Norm's breath was hot with rage as he bent his head and snarled in her ear, "You smell like cupcakes an' death, li'l Rabbit..."
. . . . . Swallowing hard pushed her throat against his hand, but she couldn't help gulping for air before trying to explain. "It weren't like that, Norm. Honest! There was this stiff - one o' bossman's men - asked a moment o' time. I just put my back to a tree an' heard 'im out." Twelve years of strict training over her body's responses was the only thing which kept her from stiffening in alarm as she realized that someone must have slipped that note into her pocket after she sent the crowgram. She'd not been bumped, felt a brush, or even a breeze. The tree didn't even rustle. No one was that light-fingered! "The stiff must've magicked it into my pocket, Norm. I swear I didn't do nuthin'. I ent into bangin' coffins. I swear it."
. . . . . The hand on her throat didn't move. "You been a doxie before."
. . . . . "I ent been one f'r years an' you know it, Norm." She whined pathetically as he set his teeth on her ear and tightened his hand just shy of enough to make her dizzy. "I wouldn't be givin' you lover's notes t' read me," she reasoned, "I ent stupid."
. . . . . There was more of the wolf in Norm's voice than the man as he growled in her ear, "You gonna meet this man for a drink?"
. . . . . "Ent particularly keen on it, no."
. . . . . "You said this stiff's one o' th' Baker's?"
. . . . . She tried to nod, but stopped when her chin bumped his hand.
. . . . . "I got a plan..." Norm mused.
. . . . . Ilva breathed a deep sigh of relief as the angry wolfish man released her and went back to his wiring diagram.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Stables

((Saving a piece from forum creep. The prompt was to write about our mounts.))

. . . . . As the cursed thing he was, the mysterious adjunct weaponsmith for the Light's Blade remained so far removed from his own people that he did not even know they had stables - and even if he had known, he had long since sworn off most visits to the Aldor tier after High Priestess Ishanah had declared him unworthy of even a simple traveler's blessing. Hadeon did not want what stained his soul to touch those exiles who remained in the Light, so he kept to himself until the loneliness and solitude grew so overbearing that he terrified himself by seeking a few hours among the Light's Blade. Given the images which regularly assailed his mind whenever he was in the shining city, he tended to avoid Shattrath altogether most of the time. No, his mount - like his rider - lived alone and isolated.
. . . . . Zangarmarsh lacked the memories and images many other places on Draenor held for Hadeon, and so it was a smallish cave in the southern mountains of Zangarmarsh where he and Thubaab kept some semblance of residence when he was not in Stormwind or Ironforge, picking the brains of the dwarves for alloy research. Hadeon was a latecomer to metalworking, but the lack of a need for sleep and the need to bide his time until he could fulfill what he remained in this tainted shell to do meant he had gotten quite good at it over a short span of years. What had been a hobby in life was an all-consuming mission now. Scattered around the cave were linen and wool sacks of different ores and powdered minerals. A stack of books - some bound up in leather, some in linen, and some truly more hastily-bound paper than anything else - sat next to an extinguished lantern on the cave's dirt floor. A broken shard of mirror rested as a paperweight atop an intricate chart of the material properties of the various phases of elementium and obsidium at temperatures above ambient.
. . . . . In the farthest corner of the cave, dried rushes from the marsh had been scattered to make a comfortable place for the immense greenish-brown elekk to rest. A stand wrought of artless scrap adamantite held a feed sack high enough for the elekk to eat comfortably. Several thick blankets (which smelled of an elekk) were neatly folded near a large shovel (which smelled like the other end of an elekk). Thubaab was clean, his food fresh, and he was free to wander out of the cave and into the marsh as much as he liked - which wasn't terribly often, since he never could get himself proper purchase on the swampy land which started about a quarter-mile from the cave.
. . . . . At this very moment, Hadeon has planted a backside covered in thick, protective metalworker's leathers on the cave floor next to his settled elekk. He leans back to rest against the beast's broad ribs. The adamantite fused to the back of his left shoulder is chilly - as always - but Thubaab has long since learned to tolerate it as the price to be paid for pats and hand-fed glowcaps. Thubaab is exceptionally fond of the glowcaps. "Looks like a lot more'n I thought made it," Hadeon muses aloud in the sort of Common one expects to hear from lowly soldiers. "I think the shock of it made 'em looney, though." Thubaab snorts a response which could mean anything from 'By Velen, you must be right, old chap' to 'Shut up and give me another glowcap.' It's probably the latter. Hadeon rolls his eyes skyward for a moment and mutters, "It's already been 'stablished that I'm crazy, so don't even start that conversation again." Thubaab gets another glowcap. It is late afternoon and, except for the dead man talking to himself in the cave and the occasional excited wuffle of the elekk seeking treats, quiet. Rather typical, really, for any given snapshot in the life of this exile among exiles.

((In my forum RP post about our mounts, I wrote about some of the metallurgy journals Hadeon keeps. Inspired by Vitaska and powered by a whole lot of tracing, cool fonts, and awesome brushes from DeviantArt, I decided to try my hand at reproducing one page of his journal. Huge props to anyone who knows where I found that diagram from (hint: my materials science class inspired it), and even more bonus points if you know why the point Hadeon circled is important.))

A Strange Voice in Shattrath

((Archiving a written IC reaction to an in-game RP to save it from forum creep.))

. . . . . Driven to the extremity of loneliness, the decayed, angry adjunct smith for the Light's Blade left his elekk Thubaab with a bucket of glowcaps to keep him happy and braved a forty-minute walk to Shattrath City. He hated it there - all those memories and ghosts haunting the place - but he needed the company in ways he had not comprehended when he was living. Never again would he be the gregarious, social creature of his last twenty-seven thousand years... Yet he found his grip on himself faltered if he spent more than a few months in isolation.
. . . . . A rock jamming into the crevice of a permanently-cracked left hoof forced him to stop just shy of the northern bridge into the city. He cursed as he bent to dig it out, and that's when he heard the whisper: "Death is so vivid in my mind now that I fear it has drowned out the memory of anything else. When will we be free? Is anyone coming?"
. . . . . Hadeon glanced skyward and - well out of earshot of the bridge guards - muttered a response in flawless Orcish which was both vocal and a mental sending, "Retz? Quit messing with me. I thought we agreed you would shut up." There was no reply.
. . . . . The stone cleared from his hoof, he set out across the bridge, stopping halfway to peer down at the Lower City below. A ghost bloodied in vivid, glistening navy was milling in the throng of living traders and refugees, and made his stomach - or what was left of the icy, decayed mass where it would have been - roil. "Damned cesspool city," he muttered in Draenei, ducking away from the edge of the bridge before the ghost could look up and notice him. Once across the bridge, he headed around to the nearest entrance to the Terrace of Light. The walking dead man had stood before A'dal twice; it was agony, sheer skin-flaying agony. Standing in the entryway with part of the wall to shield him, he grit what remained of his rotting teeth together against a burn like lying face-down on the coals of a forge and tried to remember what it felt like to bask in the Light.
. . . . . Then it came again, several voices whispering at once: "To find the stalker, you must ask the earth she walks upon. Beg the wind she is carried by. Bargain with the water she bathes in. And beseech the fire of her heart. The answers shall come in the land of the ancestors..."
. . . . . Hadeon looked skyward again and backed away from the entry to the Terrace, his large, gnarled hands coming up to press the linen wrappings around his biceps into his cracked skin. Wasn't me, goat. Angrily, he hissed and backed away farther, heading towards the Scryers' Tier as he thought fiercely in Draenei towards the unknown source, Nether-blasted ghosts! Get back to the Lower City cesspool where you belong!
. . . . . And then the tenuous mental connection he held to the Light's Blade erupted into activity, assailing him with more voices - all of which had heard the same speech about this stalker. It almost felt like the days of sharing cramped spaces on the vessel with his vindicator detail. Before he could stop it, a sob tore from his parched throat. The noise itself was enough for him to clamp down on his control, strap some mental steel to his backbone, reassert the chill of death on the soul trapped inside. Still, the terrible maw of solitude gaped behind him, ready to shred his control again. Tentatively from behind the thick mental wall he kept between himself and his comrades, he reached out for the first time in...ever: "Would you like aid?"

Speculation on Draenei Fashion

To save a few bits of work from forum creep, here's some of my speculation on draenei fashion.

Re: Attire
. . . . . I've often envisioned the casual attire of the draenei to be a version of the salwar kameez ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salwar_kameez ) modified with pants that either wrap instead of pull on or which are loose enough overall to accommodate hooves. In general, I figure the ladies are often in dresses (many female NPCs are, but this could just as easily be a Western gender norm thing) and that most pants are either wrap pants or lace up the sides somehow.

Re: Ornamentation
. . . . . Gypsies were often covered in gold and jewels because that was all they had. As nomads, they had to carry all their possessions, and so they carried their wealth on their wrists and ears. Argus may have been paved in precious stone, but everywhere else, it's relatively useful and portable currency.
---
. . . . . Evidence for why I think Draenei society could reasonably be theorycrafted as highly ornamented and elaborate - drawn from archaeology.
Anklet with Golden Bells Purple metal (khorium?), yellow beads made of blown glass which is usually more ornamental than drop glass, and gold bells.
Carved Harp of Exotic Wood Exotic woods as opposed to common ones indicate a tendency towards ornamentation again, and now we know music included harps and bells.
Dignified Portrait Oil portraiture shows some skilled - if cheeky - painters.
Fine Crystal Candelabra Dripping with crystals, chains, and ornate scrollwork, this is clearly an item more decorative than functional even though it does have function.
Baroque Sword Scabbard "Almost distasteful in its ornamentation" the text says. Again, draenei like their flash. And they had weapons for magical or ceremonial use.
---
. . . . . Even if it's "almost distasteful" from a draenei view, it's still heavily ornamented and draenei. Somebody, if just Aunt Nehaanu, liked it. So an argument for a trend in ornamented vs spare could be made. Maybe we've got minimalist modern draenei and fussy baroque draenei.
. . . . . (Hadeon had a friend who wore so much flash that when she told her friends over drinks one night that she wanted to be buried with her jewels, he joked she'd have to hire more coffin bearers.)

Re: Cultural Appropriation in Fashion Choices
. . . . . As a sociologist with some training in facets of cultural appropriation, I don't think what we're doing is so egregious, really. Admittedly, most of my training is in criminology, though. I don't think all parties in this discussion are necessarily from the same cultures themselves, so accusations of cultural appropriation come off as a little excessive.
. . . . . Also, I have no problems with envisioning my characters in the same type of clothing I wear.

Re: Fabrics
. . . . . I would be more comfortable with the idea of cottons if there were any mention of them in game. Instead, it seems that linen, wool, and silk are the natural organics on Azeroth, and whatever passes for fibrous material on Draenor (those reeds in Nagrand?) has to be woven with nether magic of some kind.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Your Character's Loot Table

((Still saving posts from forum creep.))

. . . . . This is inspired by a Moon Guard forum post I saw a long time ago. I'd give credit, but really, it was so long I don't even know who posted it.
. . . . . Whatever the cause may be, your character is slain in battle! Your killer rifles your corpse for loot; post here two/three items which are found on your body. (The stats don't have to make sense for your class, just your character if you design something with stats.)


Hadeon
[Bag of Fire Pellets] (epic)
Trinket
+84 Stamina
+147 Agility
Equip: Chance on taking melee damage to explode in a fiery inferno which does 6885-8490 fire damage to all enemies and allies in an 8 yard radius.
"It's like carrying live explosives, but smaller!"

[Holey Breastplate] (uncommon)
Chest
+226 Stamina
+390 Strength
Equip: Increases your expertise by 172.
Equip: Decreases your fire resistance by 20.
"There's a hole in the back of this armor.

Valdiis 
[Filigreed Orb] (uncommon)
Neck
+ 93 Strength
+ 140 Stamina
Equip: Each melee hit which lands on you has a chance to grant +40 Strength for 35 seconds. This effect stacks up to 10 times.
"A righteous orb wrapped in mithril filigree, this necklace appears to be in pristine condition."
(It would be found around Valdiis's neck, but tucked beneath her breastplate and gambeson to keep it from view.)

[Black Leather Bag] (rare)
Trinket
+ 143 Agility
Equip: Increases your ability to creep others out by +87.
Use: Play knucklebones! (Use will randomly /roll 2d6.)
"When given a light shake, this bag rattles like dry bones - many small, dry bones."
(This would be found attached to Valdiis's belt by heavy leather loops.)

Rosoe
[Headdress of Pearls] (common)
Head
24 Armor
+ 16 Intellect
+ 25 Spirit
Equip: Increases your spell power by 21.
"Each pearl in this very long strand appears to be a different type."
(This would be found wrapped around Rosoe's right horn and dangling down to her shoulder.)

[Pile of Trinkets] (poor)
"This bundle of tangled cords, beads, strings, and wooden charms is useless to you."
(These would be found en masse around Rosoe's neck.)

[Musty-smelling Bag] (common)
22 Slot Bag
"This bag is usable after you dump the pile of musty dead leaves out of it."
Alternate flavor text for herbalists: "This bag is usable after you remove the abundance of dried fadeleaf from it." (Gain 18 Fadeleaf.)
(This would be found tied firmly to Rosoe's belt.)

Diyos
[Bronze Hairstick] (uncommon)
One-Hand Dagger
51-87 Damage
(69.7 damage per second)
+ 38 Intellect
+ 21 Spirit
Equip: If your hair is long enough to wear this and you are male, you feel strangely un-self-conscious about it.
"A dual-duty item - this dagger can also be used to hold your hair out of your face!"
(If not found holding back this priest's mass of curly hair, the item would be found pressed into the back of a golden holy symbol worn around his neck.)

[Scrap of Netherweave Cloth] (poor)
"The owner may have been using this as a handkerchief. Ew..."
(Likely, this was found in a chest pocket sewn into Diyos's robes.)

[Friendship Bracelet] (common)
Wrist
"This faintly-glowing strand of purple beads is well-worn."
(This would have been found on Diyos's left wrist.)

Site Write Entry: Finale

Prompt: If a picture is crooked, you might adjust it on the wall. If your clothes don't fit, you might adjust a button or a hem. But sometimes we have to make major adjustments in our lives. Have you ever faced a difficult situation that required making adjustments? What adjustments did you make and what was the outcome? Describe to us the good and the bad as needed from the(se) adjustment(s).
Rectifiable Flaws and the Stubborn Dead

. . . . . A cold wind danced up the raw skin on her back. She would have rolled over to protect the wounds, but that would put her left shoulder – which of all the damage was in far worse shape – on the ground. She would have edged just under the shelter of the tent – or as far as her tether would allow – but the surly females inside would spit and kick until she left. Once, she had been the sort of hardy which could endure nights outside with no shelter, but she was withering now. With a soft hiss as she pulled the shreds of her wool tunic against her back by motion, she pillowed the fusing scaleplates of her forehead on her thickened forearms and tried to sleep.
. . . . . It was the kind of cold which, back in the swamps of Zangarmarsh, would have forewarned crunchy footing and a rime on the shorelines, but these fields and forests seemed too dry for such easy frosting. It would have to be colder for hoarfrost to settle here, somewhere south and west of a field full of stones planted in the ground. As Valdiis sought sleep, she idly wondered what the humans – for that was the word her captors used for the short pink two-legged creatures – were trying to grow there. Contemplating a life of growing and tending flat, round-topped stone crops was just boring enough to allow her to drift off.
. . . . . Although it was dark, the black sky sullenly lit by a waning crescent of a moon, she could see a little when the thudding ground awoke her. It seems this place was damp enough for rime, because everything bore a fine coating of icy white, including her own body. Shivering, she pushed herself up, standing as far from the tent pole as her tether would give and trying to straighten her stooping spine as she cast about for the source of the repetitive thumps. It sounded like marching.
. . . . . A flash of icy blue erupted on the north-east edge of the camp. Warriors who ate, slept, and bathed (rarely) in their armor tumbled out of tents, already armed, charging towards the now very audible noise of marching feet. Her hands itched for a blade, a mace, even a sturdy stick, but they'd learned early on to keep her away from anything she could weaponize, and with her hands bound in front of her, the best she could manage was to make a club out of her fists. There were screams – some of pain, some of abject terror – and moans – of dying and of... She couldn't place the other tone. It was moaning, yes, but it held a different desperation than that of a dying warrior, a desperation like hunger pain. Weapons were definitely clanging, and the fighting was tearing through the camp.
. . . . . She turned and wrapped a leg around the tent pole. Her hooves were tied too close to allow kicks, but perhaps if she threw her full weight on the wood embedded in the ground... No luck – all she managed was to throw herself onto her knees, hard. “A fine way to die,” she muttered to herself, “tied to a Nether-blasted tent pole.” She hoped this battle was the humans come to kill the orcs for raiding their food shipments, but she couldn't quite fool herself that the humans wouldn't just kill her for being in the camp too.
. . . . . That hope didn't last any longer than it took for the invading force to reach the far side of the camp. The marching hardly seemed to lose a beat as it moved over the ground. For the first time, Valdiis found herself going blank in battle. Marching inexorably towards her was a fleshless pile of bones, more or less in the shape of a human, holding a sword menacingly in hands which should not function in such a fashion.
. . . . . If she was to die tonight, it would not be on her knees! Rage lit a fire in her head and she wobbled upright, facing the skeletal creation. Icy blue fire flashed along its joints and she reasoned that must be how it was held together. In for a facet, might as well be in for the whole crystal, she thought, roaring a battle cry as she lunged towards the creation as it lifted its blade. Some bone which would have equated to a forearm for her – and so was probably similar on this thing – met her teeth and she bit down as hard as she could. Bone splintered, shards jabbing upward into the roof of her mouth and nailing her tongue to her jaw. Valdiis's scream of agony was cut short as the blade slid across her throat.

-----

. . . . . The Words themselves were foreign, but it was not the sound made by the Words which was necessary. It was the will dominating her soul which gave the directions. The Words were just meaningless nonsense added in. With such Words pressing down on her soul all the time and similar words spoken by those around her, it was not terribly long before she knew the languages spoken around her. Eventually, she knew the language of the Words which was spoken by the humans well enough to suit what she was used for.
. . . . . When it was required that she speak – which was not often – the voice she used was not produced by physical means of breath through lungs and throat, shaped by mouth and tongue. It was with a precise, flawless voice deeper than her own with a brooding echo; the voice was powered by necromancy, but born of rage.
. . . . . As the Words became fewer and fewer, farther away, she found that she desired to use her own voice. But it did not function. She had no voice at all.

-----

. . . . . “Ugh, must you persist with that stupid accent?” The sergeant rolled her eyes and stormed away, her tail hanging limply behind her. Valdiis took a small amount of satisfaction in knowing that the insipid little twit she had to salute probably lost her balance regularly.
. . . . . “Oh look, another slow learner,” drawled the arcanist in her brilliantly red robes as she leaned on the edge of a barstool and eyed Valdiis up and down. “We've only been here five years already, darling. Do pick up the pace.” She nudged her companion with an elbow and laughed.
. . . . . “Don't your people, er... Well, aren't you supposed to be ridiculously intelligent?” It was only a second before the private realized his gaffe and shrank back from the narrow-slitted glare Valdiis was giving him as she stalked forward and loomed over the short little human man.

-----

. . . . . Commander Valdiis of the Knights of Menethil sat on the edge of a fence on the farthest corner of the tournament grounds, watching the jousting matches from afar as she let the roars of the crowd cover for her. “Zuh,” she breathed, growling when it came out wrong. “Tuh. Heh. ... Zeh. Dammit!” Every time she pushed the tip of her tongue against the back of her teeth to make the Common's “th” sound, her palate gave way and squished, giving the syllable a z-like buzz. Other syllables were equally difficult for her heavily-damaged mouth to form, regularly emerging as -ink where there should be -ing and so on. In Draenei, such syllables either did not exist – such as the w sound – or were so rare that she knew quite enough substitute words to avoid mangling her own language, but Common used these Nether-blasted sounds all the time. “Tee. Aitch. Sszuh.” Her fist slammed down on the fence railing. She tried again.
. . . . . Of course, she could just rely on her necromancy, on the voice generated by the stores of power in her undead shell. Some perverse whimsy found that to be unacceptable. It was probably the same whimsy which had made her a terrible candidate for anything but the most physical of endeavors while living. To rely on magic to perform an action one was perfectly capable of performing with one's own self was cheating. No, she had a voice of her own – and a will of her own – and naaru be damned if she wasn't going to use it, flaws and all.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Site Write Entry #38: Recycling

Prompt: June 13, 2012 - In an odd conversation, you and a friend are discussing the real afterlife. Your friend is convinced you will die and reborn as something else. To indulge in their chatter, what do you tell them? What is your character reborn as?
. . . . . "Got any nines?"
. . . . . The delicate priestess sitting across from him stared intently at the fan of cards in her hands, making quite a show of studying each one until - with a sudden ray-of-light-cutting-through-the-clouds smile - she stuck her tongue out at him and pointed at the dwindling pile of cards between them.
. . . . . Frowning, he picked up the top card, then crowed with glee as he laid down all four in his hand. "I win this round!"
. . . . . With a feigned pout, the priestess neatened the fan in her hand back into a stack and placed it back on the discard pile, which the darkly tanned farmboy immediately scooped up with the draw pile and began shuffling. As he shuffled the cards, he glanced over at the graveyard visible on the other side of the lake from the bench they were sitting on. A few of his own were buried there. He looked at the priestess. "Are any of your folk there?" A tilt of his head towards the graveyard indicated his meaning.
. . . . . The priestess shook her head and leaned down to sift her fingers through the soil for a moment.
. . . . . "A bit more 'return to th' earth' type, aye?"
. . . . . She nodded at him.
. . . . . "Y'know, we Gilneans leave grave goods with our ancestors. Just to remind 'em who their family is an' such. So they protect us an' don't get angry." He kept shuffling the cards, but thoughts of how close he'd come to death himself when the land broke had him chattering. If he was talking, he wasn't in danger of dying. "Some folk think what trinkets they leave will be used by the ancestors in the afterlife. I figure different, though. Ain't one t' sit around an' twiddle my thumbs for eternity, even if it is in the Light. I figure there ain't enough souls t' go around all the time, so they keep comin' back to be reused. Makes more sense to me." The priestess shrugged at him, but she was leaning forward slightly, one of those beautiful long ears twitching. So he went on. "I come back? I figure I want to come back as a ten-thousand-year-old kaldorei druid. I'd love to have all that knowledge in my head! Be able to commune with beasts an' plants an' sleeping dragons..."
. . . . . She let him natter on for a while, politely not rolling her eyes at the idea of coming back already old, then reached out and touched his hands mid-shuffle, reminding him that he was holding up the next round with all this talking. He turned a dark brick shade under his tan, blushing fiercely. And she just smiled.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Site Write Entry #37: Excuses

Prompt: June 12, 2012 - The word excuses.
. . . . . I didn't do this site write entry because warm nights and fast motorcycles distracted me.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Site Write Entry #36: The Big Time

Prompt: June 11, 2012 - Your character's greatest accomplishment thus far.
. . . . . Some might call the empty chapel with its smashed pews and old bloodstains creepy or frightening. Were she in her usual frame of mind, Ilva would probably agree with them. But at this moment, just for now, she was sitting in the best place on Azeroth.
. . . . . Because she'd just pulled the con job of her life.
. . . . . It was everything she could do to restrain her giggles as she cradled the hefty sack of coin in her hands. It would not do to giggle and alert the Ebon Blade fellows still searching for her to where she'd skipped off to after speaking to their leader, a worgen she'd started thinking of - fondly! - as Fuzzy. Oh, things were clear now. Fuzzy wasn't the leader; he was under the baker man. The baker man paid her a small fortune for a rush delivery job into the dark recesses of Acherus. Then she'd turned that into double-hazard pay plus bonus with a few empty promises of aid to Fuzzy. So she'd had to sell out the boss...a little. He wouldn't get too upset with her when she told him she'd mentioned that he sent her to Fuzzy. After all, they worked together! When bossman was feeling alright.
. . . . . The wide grin on her face slipped a little, a moment's worry for her now second favorite employer. Something was wrong with him, but it was very hard to worry when he gave her two thousand golds (a sum which took her six months to save up for the parts for that fancy air machine she'd made) to carry a box. She liked that kind of wrong, instead of being paid in cupcakes and sums in the forty to four hundred range.
. . . . . No! She would not allow worry to ruin this moment! Wedging herself further underneath the shattered remnants of the cleric's podium, Ilva dipped her fingers into the pouch - it was nearly as large as a grapefruit! - and petted the gleaming coins within. They clinked. Answering the clink, she heard a faint sigh as a Scarlet Crusader skull under the podium with her finally gave out from the vagaries of time and crumbled into dust.
. . . . . Shrieking would be undignified and get her caught. It was no worse than having a spider crawl across one's nose while hiding in the shadows of a tavern's rafters. Nevertheless, she got as far as opening her mouth before muting the impulse to scream as she darted out of the decrepit old chapel and headed for the hills of Tyr's Hand, money pouch clutched tightly to her chest like an infant.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Site Write Entry #35: A Crying Shame

Prompt: June 10, 2012 - Your character finds someone a crying mess. They explained their life is miserable and they cannot stand the fact someone won't change despite countless encounters to try and help the troubled party. What does your character do?
A Crying Shame (or Dear God, This One Stumped Me)

. . . . . "Would you like a flower, miss? Free flower for a pretty la-..." The girl with a large basket of flowers on her arm trailed off as her intended vict-...er, giftee looked up from the bench. The 'miss' was actually a 'mister,' though his slight frame and luxurious golden locks were almost as easy to mistake as his lightish red dress-...er, robe.
. . . . . For her part, no one would mistake Ilva for the night elf she was dressed up to be, but that was part of the fun, really. She smeared violet pigment on all her exposed skin, wore what she best assumed those pretty elves would wear, tied long purple feathers on her ears, and skipped about as Thaylidel Florabottom, flower girl extraordinaire. Naturally, it made people smile, and her bright nature led them all to assume she was simple. Miss Florabottom picked up a lot of gossip around the Cathedral this way.
. . . . . The effete fellow sitting on the bench near the fountain squinted at her through puffy eyes set above damp tear tracks on his rounded cheeks. He sniffled a bit and seemed confused by the flower held out to him.
. . . . . "Free flower, sir, to cheer you up?" Thaylidel Florabottom's voice was gentle and her smile sunny.
. . . . . "Er, no. I'm allergic." He bent his head to wipe his face on his sleeve.
. . . . . Suddenly, that purple-smudged face was back in his vision. She'd dropped down into a crouch to look up at him. "Hey. Hey. What's wrong, mister?"
. . . . . For several moments, he blinked dumbfoundedly at the oddity of it all. "No... No one bothers with that."
. . . . . "I do! Here, budge over." The purple girl crowded him until there was space on the bench for her to sit down. "It helps to talk when you're sad."
. . . . . The way she said it reminded him of an eight-year-old repeating adages from her parents in order to sound wise. It was rather hard to turn down. "There's this boy..."
. . . . . Ah, Cathedral District. Most stories started this way, really. Once the man in the lightish red dress had explained about his best friend and said friend's unceasing habit of betting on racing turtles, Ilva - or, rather, Thaylidel Florabottom - grabbed him by the hand and unceremoniously dragged him out to Canal Street for a cupcake and perhaps a contract to rig the turtle races.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Site Write Entry #34: Best Gift Ever

Prompt: June 9, 2012 - Describe the greatest gift given to your character.
. . . . . Click. Click. Click! Three separate deadbolts engaged, shutting the room off from all but the most determined of invaders. Two chains - one high, one low - slid into catches across the jamb. Thump! A wooden bar as thick as a human male's arm fell into holders on either side of the heavy oak door. Physical securities in place, Valdiis allowed herself a moment to sag back against the door's support and pinch the bridge of her nose between two gloved fingers. Years of innate paranoia allowed her only a moment though, and she dropped her hand to turn and trace the intricate series of runes around the jamb, imbuing them with runic power to activate the series of anti-magic enforcements and life-triggered frost spells.
. . . . . Besides herself, one single person in Azeroth knew of the existence of this place - and that was because he'd sold it to her. Given the enemies the command staff of the 1113th had made, she took great pains to keep it that way. Everyone needed a bolt hole.
. . . . . As safe as she ever would be, Valdiis turned and paced across the single room cabin hidden in the mountains of the Hinterlands. For a time, she'd rented rooms at inns, rested in garrison barracks, or set up in the unit's own offices - but she never felt secure enough to rest in those. Here, she held something of a sanctuary. The dead did not require sleep, but at times when the stores of necromantic energy had been deeply depleted, a brief respite where nothing more taxing than "holding soul to corpse" was required was of definite usefulness.
. . . . . She lifted her right arm and slackened the leather straps holding her heavy plate pauldron down, sliding the loosened piece free without fully releasing the straps. Without a squire, it helped to keep the armament half-fastened. The pauldron was set carefully on a padded wooden stand, followed by its mate. Plate metal curls of elementium-saronite alloy around her upper arms were next. Catches on the left side of her chestguard were released and the hinged carapace removed, revealing a thick, padded black gambeson underneath. The remainder of the plate armor joined the collection on the armor stand - minus the heavily-engraved vambraces on her thickened wrists. Even the gambeson was peeled off and tossed in a tub of wash.
. . . . . Stripped down to a sleeveless linen shirt of some indeterminate pale grey shade and canvas trousers of a slightly darker hue - as well as the ever-present vambraces - Valdiis stretched her hands over her head in the solitary room. Her elbows cracked, the joints protesting the abuse of undeath and the weight of her malformed forearms. A blackened stain rested over her sternum, marring the linen shirt but providing a stark backdrop for the gleaming filigree cage resting on a length of mithril chain between her breasts. She rolled her shoulders with another series of cracks and protests from the shell forced to operate long past its normal ability to do so, and walked over to the cot resting in the corner of the tiny cabin.
. . . . . Although it caused a faint sizzle against her flesh for her to do so, she wrapped the stubby, blunt-clawed fingers around the mithril filigree cage dangling from her neck for a moment, reassured by the sting of it. That reassurance was part of a ritual of reminders of who she was and why she operated so. The grape-sized pearly orb inside the intricate mithril filigree had long, long since lost all but a glimmer of the righteous Light it once radiated, but that was enough. She dropped the orb against the sooty background of her shirt and stretched out on the cot, grateful beyond the capabilities of measurement or even language itself for the trust which had been given with that single pearly orb.
. . . . . Brothers of the blade were forged in war and as fickle as from whence the next thrill of battle would come. Brothers of the blood were a choice of loyalty forced by fate and only as reliable as their upbringing could hope to teach them. But brothers of the heart, ah, those were the ones you could hand your entire existence to and believe in their drive to shield and shelter you as fervently as you would do for them. And it began with a gift of trust.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Site Write Entry #33: Impulse

Prompt: June 8, 2012 - Describe something your character does impulsively.
. . . . . Five months had passed, and she was well aware that she'd been naught but trial and trouble for her doctor. The kaldorei druid was quite good at concealing the distaste in his gaze when he looked at her, but the Canal Street Baker himself had been teaching her to read faces for almost two years. Xeremuriis had never dared ask the source of it, but she sensed it wasn't personal - that is, that the druid's distaste was not for herself alone but something of her type. She had no real idea which type of hers was the problem - baker's girl, draenei, youth, shaman, patient, or crazy - but she knew it lurked behind the clinical detachment with which Doctor Laurenhall treated her. Oh, sure, he had a pleasant bedside manner; flashes of it sprang up from time to time when he forgot to look at her as a case study and remembered she was just a young draenei girl. But in the end, he didn't like her and didn't want to be around her any more than was necessary, though he probably believed he hid entirely from her.
. . . . . She felt stable once more. She felt like herself. There were no voices whispering in her head any longer, and the taste of saronite in her throat was a nightmare with no substance. The desire to do violence to herself or others had left her, allowing consideration for others and remembrance of her vow to love all as the Light itself should love to return to her mind.
. . . . . The salty, cleansed waters of the Veiled Sea washed against her hooves as she walked down the beach, bending from time to time or darting into a retreating wave to retrieve a prize from the sand. Ekanos Laurenhall perched on a dune overlooking the shoreline where he could keep his patient in sight and still work on his treatise on saronite poisoning. Xeremuriis ran her hands through the waters, the burbling of the elementals tumbling over each other in their eagerness to reach the sand drawing a smile from her. Standing again with another of the treasures she was collecting, she reached a hand up to her neck and undid one of the myriad leather thongs tied there. She used her body to shield her activity from the doctor, though he watched her far less closely now that she no longer attempted to injure herself. Still, she didn't want him to see what she did just yet. It was a surprise.
. . . . . A natural eye for measuring and estimating which had been honed by her apprenticeship with Mister E. told her where to tie the knots off so it would fit, and how much slack was needed to thread each glimmering shell onto the leather as she braided the thong. One for gratitude, one for love, one for safety, one for patience, one for knowledge, and one for healing - not her healing, but his. This last was an iridescent purple snail's shell, a tiny water elemental - hardly more than a droplet - had agreed to take up residence in it in exchange for her offering of honeyed bread. She coaxed it carefully, told it about the healing wave magic she knew from her training as a Seer, and whispered encouragement and gratitude when it agreed to help her.
. . . . . Hooves in the sand are surprisingly quiet, so it was only her sun-lengthened shadow falling across his feet - bared and dug into the warm sand - which announced her presence. Ekanos paused his pen to look up at his patient as she beamed a bright, sunny smile and dropped to a crouch beside him.
. . . . . "Hold out your left hand."
. . . . . "Why?" He managed to not snap the word, but only just.
. . . . . "Please? I promise nothing untoward."
. . . . . As she'd recovered, she'd become more whimsical and less impulsively dangerous, so he braved her request and held his left hand out towards her, palm up. Before he had a chance to protest it, she was tying a leather bracelet around his wrist. It was braided, the thong a warm brown, and six small shells of varying style adorned it. The bracelet was saved from looking like something a child might make only by the elegance and intricacy of the four-part braid. There was a small push of magic in it, but so tiny it would take a moment's study to puzzle free; it didn't seem dangerous or tainted, however. The druid blinked at the draenei girl a few times.
. . . . . "Thank you." In a flash, she bent down to kiss his wrist over the knot she'd tied in the bracelet, then hopped to her hooves and dashed back into the surf. What an odd, impulsive child...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Site Write Entry #32: The Message

Prompt: June 7, 2012 - Today's topic is open. Whatever you want to write about, go for it.
. . . . . Quite a large stack of paperwork had been awaiting her at the small desk she maintained in Acherus when she finally felt like herself enough to deal with some of the day-to-day background business of the 1113th. Ever since the tragic and unexpectedly sudden demise of their auditor, Commander Glou, the amount of paperwork in the unit had decreased dramatically, but there was still correspondence to go through and requisitions to handle.
. . . . . Adroitly, she slid a hand under the stack and flipped it over, going through the papers from oldest to newest in her usual fashion. As she was entirely alone in her office, she didn't bother restraining her annoyed growl when she found the enlistment paperwork relating to a new recruit four papers below the potential recruit's request for interview and after she'd penned a response and couriered it off by ghoul. Captain Redamous was getting far too efficient and competent these days, and it was really a shame he no longer wanted to be a Captain in the unit; his thirty days' notice of resignation of his position was coming up soon. A dark smile settled on her lips as she contemplated just what sort of comeuppance the competent Captain who thought he could simply resign was going to be getting.
. . . . . She dealt with a handful of coordination overtures from other units within the Ebon Blade and diplomatic responses from the Argent Dawn. Her mouth twisted downward as she considered penning an apology to Captain Meysha of the Brotherhood, but she decided to handle that in person. One Knight out on training duty had brought back several large bolts of netherweave from Outland and dumped them in stores at their barracks; a ghoul was sent to carry those down to a living courier in Light's Hope with a note as to how she intended the cloth to be put to good use - and warnings to keep all mention of undeath out of the transaction.
. . . . . Then there was something unusual in the stack: a missive penned in her native tongue. Typically, letters written in Draenei were delivered directly to her personal inbox as only three of her own people wrote to her and none dealt in unit business. She did not recognize this flowery hand with its request for meeting while referring to her and Orill by rank. Was this from the Elysium's leader? Was one of her elder brothers injured and unable to contact her? No, the letter would be more urgent, and their leader was named Khai'xur. Perhaps it was from the Sha'nash, then; among that group, her unit had no official contacts, but this didn't read like a diplomatic overture. This letter spoke of "a few updates" casually, as if she should know the writer. It set her teeth on edge.
. . . . . Over the last few years, Orill had spent time enhancing her knowledge of all things mysterious in paper. She would never be up to his level in the artistic side of penmanship and forgery, but that was more from lack of aptitude than lack of study. But just because she could not apply the physical craft did not mean she couldn't apply the deductive reasoning which went along with it. Turning the parchment over in her hands, she tested the weight and thickness of it - low quality, inexpensive, courier-grade paper. The address was written in the same flowery Draenei which meant some ghoul would've had to take it to a translator to get it to her - probably one of the Ebon Blade guards on duty. It was near the top of her stack of paper, meaning delivery had been within the last two days. She turned it again and inspected the handwriting - a native writer and likely a female or effete male from the flourishes and excessive curlicues, not heavy-handed as the nib hadn't pressed enough to emboss the paper, and right-handed in a mild hurry if the faint smudge pattern of ink on the signature was being read properly. It was signed by a "Miliam" which was a suitable enough name for an exiled one, but not a name she recognized. It was also signed "Azeroth Messenger" which led her to believe the one writing it may not necessarily be the one requesting the meeting.
. . . . . Curious... And unsettling.
. . . . . She penned a short response requesting that further contact be made with specific availability for this mysterious meeting and had a ghoul take it down to Light's Hope; someone there would have seen this messenger, or perhaps said messenger was below awaiting response. A second note, hastier but no less precise and neat in its Common script, was carried off to the Frost Quarter with her observations for Orill. Funny how quickly she re-adapted to the work.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Site Write Entry #31: Confessional

Prompt: June 6, 2012 - Confessions. Your character is brought somewhere by or against their will to confess something they are guilty of, carrying in their heart and/or withholding from the enemy. Is the confession simple or did the secrets have to be ripped from your flesh? Explain what happens and whether your character breaks.
. . . . . One of the worst parts of being immersed in life on the streets was being subject to the vagaries of life on the streets. You go and do everything you can to set up your reputation in the proper circles and let it be known that you run with the rest of the gutter-scum, and then some new bucks come into town not knowing the rules and think they'll be Billy Badass and nab themselves a merchant's wife for ransom gold.
. . . . . Ilva blinked several times at the wan torchlight in the dusty cellar. It wasn't so much that it was bright, but that after several hours with her hood over her head down to her nose and her runecloth bandages wrapped over her eyes, the return to vision was eye-watering. The goose egg throbbing on the back of her skull didn't help either.
. . . . . "Oy," grumped one of the looming shadows, "who's yer man? Bet he's gonna pay a pretty peck f'r you, ain't he?"
. . . . . "You can't ransom me, you twit," she groused, still too busy blinking away tears to focus on any of the four shadows in the room.
. . . . . "Cow patties, I cain't!" Her peripheral vision had recovered enough to show her a thick-fingered hand reaching out and plucking up the fabric of her robe over her knee. "I been watchin' you make trade deals all afternoon down dockside. You'll fetch us a right fine sack o' coin. So who's yer man?"
. . . . . "You ent gettin' squat off me, ninny-noggin, 'cause I ent worth it!" Ilva shot back, wriggling her arms behind her as she tested the amount of play in the ropes tying her to the rickety chair. Two of the four shadows around her moved off, clearly taken aback by her street-savvy response.
. . . . . But Thicky here just wasn't all that bright. He set his fingers on either side of her chin and lifted her head. "Mebbe we take our piece outta yer hide first, then we get yer fella payin' f'r his pretty wife back." Although she was taking pains to keep up her blind ruse and not focus on his face, the leer was fairly unmistakable.
. . . . . With a tone usually reserved for talking to the hard-of-hearing, the elderly, or the very young, Ilva gritted her teeth and asked, "Which group you runnin' with?"
. . . . . "Wot?"
. . . . . "Which. Group. Are. You. Running. With?"
. . . . . Thicky - who was less an indistinct shadow now and more a broadly over-fed, slobbery-lipped roller with limbs - dropped his hand from her face and stuck his chest out like the lumps on his chest were muscles; she was very good and did not giggle at his cleavage. "Ain't nobody we answer to in this town! We of the Grey Goose follow our own code!" 'Grey Goose' had to be the stupidest gang name she'd ever heard. What sort of moron named their gang that? "An' as its Upright Man, I say I'm ransomin' you - to yer man or a flesh trader." That answered that question. "Just as soon as you squawk out who."
. . . . . "That ent how it works in a big city like this," Ilva tried to patiently explain. "There's alliances 'twixt parties, affiliates and alliances to be maintained. You don't go nabbin' on another's turf an' expect not to be answerin' for it." Her head rocked to the side as Thicky laid a meaty palm to her cheek with the force of a Tram car. Pausing speech for a moment, she darted her tongue to the left side of her mouth and checked that none of her teeth wiggled. All solid. "Ow," she whined, then went on, "Like here. This is Canal Rats territory. They ent as violent as, say, Sanguines get, but they ent gonna be too pleased at poachin'."
. . . . . "Oy, boss," one of the two who'd stepped back dared to venture, "I don't think she's some merchantman's skirt."
. . . . . "Shut up, Galdir," snapped Thicky. He grabbed her robe again and gave it a good tug, trying to rip the skirt free.
. . . . . "Hey! Woah! Ho there! Ent none o' that!" Ilva protested, twisting in the chair she was tied to. "Look, I'll squawk, alright?" A breeze made one of the torches gutter and she got a whiff of cigar smoke, mint canes, and the faintest hint of fur; in order to cover the inevitable faint clanking, she made more of a show of wiggling in her chair so it creaked and groaned. "I ent wantin' to divulge this, see, and I ent a fan of sellin' out those wot keep me safe, so I'm only tellin' you who my man is...'cause I expect you're 'bout to meet 'im."
. . . . . A heavily-armed and armored brawler leaned a plate-covered shoulder on the doorjamb and tipped an invisible hat at the thief tied up in the chair in the cellar. "Oy, Rabbit, wot'd you get into?"
. . . . . "Just tryin' to get home, Badge." (Eredis's entry #32 immediately follows this incident from Badge's point of view.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Site Write Entry #30: A Story

Prompt: June 5, 2012 - Your character to asked to retell a story before their own audience. What story do they tell and how does it turn out?
. . . . . "Did I ever tell you about the time my mentor and I saved our town from famine and became the famous heroes we are today?" The campfire between them crackled merrily as the beautiful, delicate creature across from him shook her head. For a moment, the soft swish of her green locks captivated him and he forgot what he'd been saying. Oh, right, amazing her with his heroic deeds!
. . . . . "So there was this terrible drought, see? Ent a drop of rain for nigh on three seasons, and all the food was shriveling up." As he launched into his tale, he bent his head back to the task of peeling the oddly-orange sweet tubers which were to be tonight's dinner. "In Hanglington-on-the-Rocks, we grew potatoes. Not like these here," he held a peeled sweet potato up, "but fatter, yellowy ones. Quite famous for them, really. Whole country knew that potatoes grew in our village." He nodded sagely as he began to slice, recalling the cheerful shouts of Oy, potato grubber! and Ent you from thet place wot ent nothin' but taters? "Without rain, though, the land was parched and the food weren't growing."
. . . . . The priestess pinched two elegant fingers together and plucked a tuft of bear fur off her purple robes. He coughed uncomfortably at the idea that he'd mussed her up and continued, "Wilmot - that's my mentor, see - and I were the village's only harvest witches. It was up to us to ensure the fields were fertile and the harvests hearty! So we had to get some water before everything died." The sliced sweet potatoes went into the pot of water boiling over the campfire. "Wilmot and I went through every book he owned on harvest magic. We even wrote some letters out to other witches like Marl and even Celestine. It took us two months of research and ritual preparations, and even in those two months, ent a drop of rain. Even the people were startin' to get thirsty." Onions joined the boiling water and potatoes, and through the haze of tears in his own eyes, he felt like he'd been stabbed in the heart to see the ethereal lady across from him with wet tracks down her graceful pink cheeks.
. . . . . For a moment, he fancied she cried over the plight of his people - then he realized they were both crying because of the onions and he went on, "My pops advanced me the golds I was to get on finishin' my training, and we spent it on the last of the ritual supplies we needed. Wilmot and I went out into the tater fields on a night in Hay Moon - when we should've been harvestin' them shrivelly roots - and set up our circle." Long green stalks of a juicy plant he'd heard called 'celery' were chopped and in the pot, though he saved one out to stir with. "The White Lady - that's wot y'all call the big moon, right?" Firelight danced over her gentle features as the priestess nodded at him. "She were big an' full that night." His accent got stronger as he got into the story and lost himself to the country boy he'd been. "We carved our symbols into the ground easy on account of the dryness, set candles up in the four corners of the circle." Busy adding pepper to the stew pot, he entirely missed the priestess's expression of consternation at the idea of corners in a circle. "We called the watchers, raised up a whole heap-load of power, and called to the gods for rain."
. . . . . He paused for dramatic effect, glancing up from his cooking at the delicate flower warming her hands across from him. She nodded encouragingly. "And damn - uh, darn! pardon my language - if they didn't crack open the sky and start it rainin' on us. Washed our ritual circle clean away and put the candles out. Everybody in Hanglington-on-the-Rocks came out and were dancin' 'round in the rain. So we maybe had to worry 'bout floodin' later 'cause it rained a week and a half solid, but hey, town weren't dry no more. And it was all up to me an' Wilmot! We're heroes, see?" He puffed his chest out and struck a pose with the stalk of celery in the air. The lovely priestess tucked a piece of hair behind one long, pointed ear and smiled. Inside, the farmboy melted; he'd do anything for that smile.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Site Write Entry #29: Drive

Prompt: June 4, 2012 - How does your character push forward?
. . . . . It was everywhere - dripping from necks, sliding on wrists, dangling from ears, even jangling around ankles. Some digging company had a fancy gala ball celebration and if anyone knew how to do fancy, it was folks who pulled things out of the ground and shined 'em up. Everyone was dressed in their shiniest finery, and Ilva simply could not take her eyes off the glitter as she walked around clustered groups of laughing people with a tray, offering them drinks.
. . . . . Ordinarily, she avoided Ironforge. It was a touch warm and the enclosed, underground city reminded her uncomfortably of a jail cell - not, that is, that'd she'd ever been nabbed and forced to endure one. In addition, if the bossman got word of her pulling any work around these folk, he'd slice her ears off, feed them to her, and then start on the torture. This company had been expressly forbidden to her for any work - for or against - when she hired on.
. . . . . But the lure of the glitter was too much.
. . . . . There. That group was on round six. They had to be feeling pretty darn good by now. A giggling young human lady lurched as she reached for one of the drinks Ilva was serving, knocking into the "waitress." Ilva caught her, though the drink spilled on her dress. An earbob ended up in her pocket.
. . . . . A particularly spry dwarf caught her around the thigh and grinned; Ilva wasn't entirely sure, but she thought she saw a wink somewhere in that beardy mass. As requested, she gave him a dance - whirling on the floor like waltzing with a partner some foot and a half shorter was not a challenge at all. (Not that anyone else recognized it as a waltz, as neither party actually knew how to dance.) It was six hours later that he noticed he'd dropped his coin pouch somewhere.
. . . . . Several older ladies - though still far from matronly - stood in a circle on the side, gossiping and chattering like a flock of birds. Hands waved and fluttered, curls were fingered, hair was tossed, laughs were faked (or not). Somehow in the melee, one of the waitresses handing out some delightful pomegranate and Dreaming Glory mixed drinks slipped in a joke which had the whole sewing circle doubled over in laughter. She slipped out with a necklace up her sleeve.
. . . . . The Rush suffused her and she grinned broadly, setting down her fifteenth empty tray and becoming suddenly quite scarce down a service hallway to the Tram. Weighted by her newest acquisitions, Ilva felt light as a feather as the Rush lifted her spirits and her heels with the pure fuel of adrenaline and accomplishment, driving her forward.