The Tales of Quirkheart & Gotthold: The Longest Night ~~ Duskwood Chapter Five

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After speaking with Clerk Daltry, Quirkheart and Gotthold face the challenge of recovering the documents needed to solve the mystery of Stalvan Mistmantle. It’s a long shot, but the only one they have. 

~~~~

“Now,” Gotthold said, scanning the immediate area as they left the town hall, “we just need to get out of town before Ebonlocke gets nosy.”

“It’s my job to be nosy,” a familiar voice said.

To Gotthold’s credit, he barely flinched when she spoke, though his eyes did go a bit wide for a moment.

“Friend Gotthold, now would be a perfect opportunity to inquire about the perceived flavor of the Commander’s pants,” Quirkheart stage-whispered. “As stated before, none of my research into human clothing indicates what flavor designation they would have and whether that flavor would be sour.”

There was a surprised spluttering from the Commander as she stepped out from the shadows. She’d been in the corner where the stairs met the town hall entrance, instead of at the bottom of the stairs where she normally stood.

Gotthold turned a shade of crimson darker than even the scales of the dragons from the red dragonflight, and tilted his head back beseechingly at the sky.

Why me? he asked mournfully.

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” Commander Ebonlocke said firmly.

Gotthold looked down at her from his perch at the top of the stairs, and grimaced when he was confronted with her scowl. Her name was an apt description of her hair, dark, with the long locks parted down the middle. And just like most of the sunshine-deprived of the area, her skin was ghostly.

“Now, what business did you have in the town hall, outsider?” she asked, one hand steady on her weapon, while her other hand was in a fist and planted on her hip. Her shuttered lantern was on the ground nearby, flame snuffed out.

“Just chatting with your clerk about local history. Fascinating stuff, really,” he said, trying to be as vaguely truthful as possible.

Her scowl deepened, and her lips pursed.

“Once again, based on my study of human facial expressions, I would say she does not believe you, friend Gotthold,” Quirkheart said, her head tilting to look up at him.

“Yes, friend Gotthold, it would indeed appear that she doesn’t believe you,” Ebonlocke mocked.

The only reason Gotthold remained friendly (ish), was that her tone was aimed more at him than Quirkheart.

“You caught me. You were nowhere to be found, and we were looking for another job.”

It was still a sort-of truth, but the way Ebonlocke’s jaw tightened said she wasn’t buying what he was selling. Then her eyes landed on something beyond Quirkheart and Gotthold.

“Detlev!” she shouted.

When Gotthold followed her line of sight, it landed on the man they’d had the chat with in the tavern. The one with the ogre’s face.

“Yeah?” he answered, stopping so suddenly his buddies ran into his back.

“It’s, ‘yes, ma’am,’ to you, Detlev,” she corrected him. It sounded more rote than anything else, as though this were expected as opposed to something she truly cared about. “These two are looking for something to do. I received a report about some worgen menacing travelers near the Rotting Orchard, and Calor has been knocking down my door to get someone out there to do something about it. Take our fine adventurers from Stormwind out there, and see if they can make themselves useful,” she finished, then grabbed her lantern and walked away.

“What? No! I–” Detlev tried to say, and held out a hand as though to stop her.

Ebonlocke didn’t even break her stride, and disappeared into the gloom behind the nearest house.

When Gotthold looked back at the man, his hands were in fists at his side, and he was glaring daggers at the pair.

“Well–” Gotthold started.

“Not a word from either of you,” Detlev said, stabbing a finger at each of them. “Get your mounts and meet me at the south road out of town.” With that, he left his two very drunk friends leaning on one another as he headed for the stables.

“Well, this is a fine kettle she’s gotten us into,” Gotthold grumbled. “The only good thing about this mess is we needed to go there, anyway. She could have just given us directions.”

Quirkheart looked at the ground, then back at Gotthold. “We are not in a kettle, friend Gotthold. We are standing on the stairs of the town hall.”

“It means we’ve been put into a dilemma, Quirk,” he explained as they made their way down the stairs, then past the drunk, still immobilized pair.

“Ah, yes, friend Gotthold. That would appear to be correct. We will need to accomplish both tasks set before us. How do you propose we search for the documents without arousing suspicion?”

“We’ll need a distraction,” Gotthold said as they made their way to the stables. Then, a really awful, wickedly perfect idea came to mind as the wooden structure came into sight. “What’s that thing you’ve been researching recently?”

The blue glow of Quirkheart’s eyes brightened. “You mean the capability of sentient creatures to augment power through emotion, and what role it plays in–”

“Yes,” Gotthold interrupted her before she could continue, “that’ll do. I want you to enlighten our companion on that research and anything else you can think of.”

Any kind of non-stop chatter would likely do, but when Quirkheart started throwing big words into the mix, the effect would be too great to overcome.

“Of course! However, what will we do to distract him?” she asked, her head tilting quizzically, then there was a whirring sound. “Oh, I perceive your intention, friend Gotthold. It is rare for a layperson to fully grasp such concepts, and it will be a sufficient distraction while you search for the documents.”

“Exactly, my friend. A perfect plan, and the perfect person to execute it,” he said, then bent down to pat her shoulder.

He could have sworn he’d seen her blush, but in the perpetual darkness it was difficult to tell.

The Tales of Quirkheart & Gotthold: The Longest Night ~~ Duskwood Chapter Four

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Upon investigating talk of a man disturbing the townsfolk, our pair meet Tobias Mistmantle, who is searching for his missing brother. Thinking they can kill two gulls with one shot–helping the man find his brother, and seeing him off for the townsfolk once they do–Gotthold agrees to help. Now they just need to figure out what happened to his brother without being kicked out of the town themselves.

~~~~

“Where do you think we start our search?” Gotthold asked, as the town came back into view.

“It is my understanding that records are kept in libraries or clerk offices, friend Gotthold,” Quirk said. Despite her much shorter stature, the mechanical nature of her legs let her keep up with Gotthold’s longer stride with ease.

Gotthold responded with a rumbling hmm, as he rubbed  a thumb along his jaw in thought. “I don’ think this place has a library or clerk’s office–it’s not big enough.”

“Then the closest approximation would be the town hall.”

He snapped his fingers and grinned. “Good thinkin’, Quirk. Now we just gotta make sure that Ebonlocke don’t catch wind of what we’re doin’.”

“Why would that matter, friend Gotthold? We are attempting to help a citizen, perhaps even two.”

He grunted and shook his head. “Look, these people got the feel o’ Drustvar about them, and that makes them mighty superstitious. If their anchors are twisted in a knot over this Stalvan guy, chances are they won’t wanna talk about him, for fear of bringing something bad down on their heads.”

“That behavior is illogical, and unhelpful,” Quirk observed.

“That’s just people for you.”

“What does this have to do with Commander Althea Ebonlocke?”

“Well, I don’t fancy she’ll want us pokin’ our noses in this business. It makes people mighty angry, scared, or both. When it comes to her, my money’s gonna be on angry if she finds out about this.”

“It has been my observation that sentient beings, who exhibit such emotions in the face of their illogical behavior, are likely to be both angry and scared, rather than one or the other,” she said, her softly glowing eyes illuminating the darkness in front of her.

“Aye, you’re not wrong. Anger like this stems from fear, but I still don’t want to cross the commander,” Gotthold said. ‘Or say anythin’ like that to her face,‘ he thought with a grimace. People aren’t made commanders in forlorn places like this without knowing their way around a fight, and the commander’s blade looked sharper than her tongue.

As they made their way back into town, Gotthold kept his one good eye on the lookout for the commander, but she didn’t appear to be in the square right at that moment. When they made it past the fountain and into the entrance of the town hall with neither hide nor hair of Ebonlocke showing up, Gotthold breathed a sigh of relief.

“Perhaps this human with the unkempt mustache and tube brush eyebrows can tell us what we need to know, friend Gotthold,” Quirk offered.

“I beg your pardon?” Tube Brush asked.

Quirk’s description was, as usual, incredibly accurate. It was why he never asked her what she saw when she looked at him. He wasn’t a vain man by any stretch, but her observations could be brutal at times, even for him.

“And our pardon you have,” Gotthold said, ignoring the man’s affronted expression. “We’ve come here on business, and were wondering if you might know where we could get our hands on some local records.”

The man sniffed, and lifted his nose in the air to look down it. “I am Clerk Daltry, and any information you might seek would come through me.”

Gotthold suppressed a groan and the desire to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Of course you are! You’re clearly a man of prominence, which was why thought it best to speak with you about the matter,” he said, trying to recover the ground they’d lost with Quirk’s comment.

Clerk Daltry’s watery blue eyes narrowed. “Is that so? You wouldn’t say it’s because I’m the first person you came across once you entered the town hall?”

“Ah…” Gotthold fumbled. He wasn’t a smooth talker, but even for him this was awkward.

“Clerk Daltry,” Quirk said, thankfully addressing the man by his name this time, “we come here seeking information on one Stalvan Mistmantle. Any help or documents you are able to provide will be conducive to our search.”

Fear flashed through Daltry’s eyes. He took a small, involuntary step backward, and brought the ledger he was holding up to his chest, as though to hide behind the blue, leather-bound book.

“You want to know about Stalvan?” he asked, his voice strained.

“Aye. His brother asked us to help track him down, and we decided to help, if for no other reason than to get an answer and get him out of everyone’s hair.” That wasn’t the real reason, of course, or at least not the main one. If they were going to spend a substantial amount of time here, getting in good with the locals was never a bad thing. What he said didn’t have to be completely true, just not a complete lie.

Daltry lowered the ledger and glanced between the two of them. “You’re not the first, you know–outsiders looking to help, that is.” Then he sighed, and looked around his small space, occupied by more barrels and pots than books. “Even if I wanted to help, you’re out of luck. Worgen broke into the town hall the other night, tore the place to shreds, and stole most of my archives!” There was outrage there, tempered by sadness. This was a man who liked what he did, and in his eyes monsters had taken that away.

“Oh!” Quirk said, her exclamation as close to excitement as she got. “We recently returned from helping disperse the worgen of Brightwood, and I discovered these documents while we were there. I thought they might be important,” she said, digging in her pack.

Gotthold had to suppress another groan. “Quirk, you think everything you find while we’re out is important. If you weren’t a mechagnome, you wouldn’t be able to haul that pack around without tipping over.”

“Was I not correct in my assumption, friend Gotthold?”

Despite how innocent the question sounded, there was an undertow of gloat there ready to drag him under, so he just glowered at his companion.

“By the Light! You were able to return from confronting those monsters? I must admit I’m shocked,” he said, gingerly taking the papers from Quirkheart. They were a little worse for wear, but the sheen in Daltry’s eyes proved that didn’t matter to the clerk. “Thank you for returning this to the archives.”

“Your thanks are not necessary. Will these tell us what we need to know about Stalvan?” she asked.

Daltry hesitated, then leafed through the pages. “Not completely.” He looked back up, then between them. “If the two of you are that serious about this, I’ll help you.”

“Sounds good. What else do you need?” Gotthold asked.

“The beasts gather in another place–the Rotting Orchard.”

“Sounds delightful,” Gotthold said sourly.

“Indeed. The other documents I need might be there, if they haven’t eaten them, or what have you,” Daltry said distastefully. “Find those, and I just might be able to give you the information you need.”

Gotthold nodded. “We’ve got a plan, then. We’ll be back with your documents, Daltry. Let’s go, Quirk.”

“I wouldn’t lay any wagers on the success of this,” Daltry said.

Gotthold just laughed, and clapped him on the shoulder, making the clerk stagger. “You Duskwood folks keep sayin’ that, and we’re gonna keep provin’ you wrong.”

With that, the two of them left the town hall.

~~~~

The Tales of Quirkheart & Gotthold: The Longest Night ~~ Duskwood Chapter Three

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After completing the tasks set by the townspeople, Quirkheart and Gotthold retire to the local tavern for a well-deserved rest. However, Gotthold’s unease lurks in the back of his mind. The more time the pair linger in this town full of whispers, secrets, and dark glances, the more Gotthold is determined to get to the bottom of what’s haunting Darkshire.

~~~~

“These wolf kebabs aren’t half bad,” Gotthold said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “Though, I don’t think I care for Duskwood spider any more than I do Drustvar spider.”

The Scarlet Raven Tavern wasn’t terribly lively, but given the state of the area, Gotthold hadn’t expected it to mirror the bustling establishments of Stormwind. Still, the food was hot, the moonshine had a decent kick, and the roaring fire drove away the air’s perpetual chill.

“They are not as satisfying as Mecha-Bytes, but they are sufficient for keeping one’s energy levels within acceptable parameters,” Quirkheart said in pseudo-agreement.

When the food was brought to them, she’d pulled a canister from her pack and sprinkled something that looked suspiciously like rust flakes onto the meat. Gotthold had seen what passed for ‘food’ on the floating isle of junk, and it wasn’t anything fit for consumption by anyone but the mechagnomes and their ilk. Instead of commenting on Quirk’s opinion about the food, he raised his empty bottle toward the barkeep, asking for another. The barkeep nodded, and Gotthold turned his attention back to his food.

“–stirring up trouble again. I wish he’d just leave,” grumbled a patron behind Gotthold.

He slowed his chewing and stilled his movements. His mother had taught him eavesdropping was impolite, but his nan said that’s only the case if you’re caught.

“Have you said anything?”

“No! Of course not.”

“You’d think he’d get the message by now. Hasn’t that family caused enough pain?”

At that point, the tavernkeep walked up to their table, and put a new bottle of moonshine on the table.

“Everything turn out okay?” Tavernkeep Smitts asked, removing the empty bottle. The man was stiff as clothing covered in seawater and left to dry in the sun, and his expression was pinched.

“Aye,” Gotthold said, a pleased smile cracking his craggy features. “Best wolf I’ve had in ages, and the moonshine is almost as good as the brews back home.”

The tavernkeep’s shoulders relaxed, and a wan smile graced his face. “Well, it’s hard to compete with someone’s homeland, but I’ll pass the compliments along.”

“Thank’ee,” Gotthold said, picking up the new bottle and giving the man a nod.

Once he’d walked away, Gotthold stood up.

“Is it time to leave, friend Gotthold?” Quirkheart asked, looking up from her meticulously clean plate.

“Not quite yet, Quirk — I need to check on something,” he said, and headed over to a table with three men hunched over their plates.

They looked up at Gotthold’s approach, their eyes narrowing and mouths flattening to thin lines.

“Hello, gents. Fancy a chat?” he asked, waving the moonshine bottle at them, and laying on his thickest Kul Tiran charm.

The biggest one of the lot, who was furthest away, with a face ugly enough to scare an ogre, said; “No.” His tone was deader than his dark eyes, and almost as menacing as the hams the man had for hands.

“Now hold on a minute, Detlev,” the fidgety man closest to Gotthold said. His bloodshot eyes were darting between the bottle of moonshine and the man–Detlev. “There’s no harm in chatting.” The man already reeked of liquor, and his words held a slurred edge.

Gotthold would need to tread carefully here. It didn’t take much to incite restless and dissatisfied townsfolk toward reckless action, and he didn’t want to start any fires he couldn’t put out.

Keep ’em in hand, Got, or you’ll be drownin’ in fists and blood. The words of his old mentor echoed through his mind, from one of their many tavern trips in his younger days.

“Of course there’s no harm!” Gotthold said, clapping the man on the shoulder.

The fidgety man wheezed in response, his eyes widening just a hair at slight show of strength.

“I just couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and thought my companion and I could be of some help,” Gotthold said, and put the bottle firmly down on the table.

The fidgety man, and the other who’d been quiet during the whole ordeal, both looked to Detlev. If looks could kill, Gotthold would be as skewered as those wolf kebabs, but Detlev must have seen something in his companion’s expressions, because he waved a hand for Gotthold to sit.

“Thank’ee. Now, who’s this person who’s causing problems?”

~~

The cabin in front of them was a shabby, one-room affair on the outskirts of town, not far from the gryphon roosts. As the two approached the front door, there was movement inside–a steady thunk of boots, moving back and forth in the small space.

When Quirkheart knocked on the door, the steps stopped, and there was a long moment before a man opened it. He was handsome enough, with blond locks and blue eyes, but his face was lined with worry, aging him beyond his years.

“Yes? What do you want?”

“Name’s Gotthold, and this here’s Quirkheart,” he said, jerking a thumb toward Quirk, who waved. “And we heard you was causin’ a spot of bother for the townsfolk.”

The man’s expression immediately turned to fury, setting off a spark of life in his eyes that wasn’t there before.

“I have done no such thing! They refuse to tell me anything about my brother, and I’m just trying to find out what happened to him,” he shouted at Gotthold. By the end, his chest was heaving, and he’d taken a step toward Gotthold without realizing it.

Gotthold kept his expression calm, and he could tell the moment the man realized he was nearly close enough to bump…well, not chests. Gotthold was getting a bit round in the middle these days, but the principle was the same. The man’s eyes widened, and he took a step back, covering his face with his hands.

“I’m at my wits end here,” he said, shoulder shaking. “I received this letter from my brother, and when I showed up, the townsfolk told me he was dead, but refuse to say anything else on the matter.”

Gotthold’s heart twisted. He wasn’t sure there’d be a town left standing if he’d been treated the same in regards to his sister.

“The people of this town would very much like you to vacate the premises,” Quirkheart stated, when Gotthold said nothing. “How can we bring this situation to a peaceful conclusion?”

The man looked up from his hands, face wet with tears, and sighed. “I will not leave until they tell me my brother’s fate, and they refuse to do so. Perhaps the two of you could be mediators and look into this? I’ll be more than happy to get out of everyone’s hair once I know the truth.”

Quirkheart and Gotthold shared a look, then both of them nodded.

“Aye, we can do that. What are your names, by the way? They refused to tell us.”

The man scowled once again, but said; “I’m Tobias Mistmantle, and my brother is Stalvan. They act as though speaking my name or my brother’s is some kind of curse.” At that, he cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders. “Thank you, by the way. It’s been a while since anyone has spoken to me with any kindness.”

“Bein’ kind costs you nothing in the long run. There’s always room for mean later,” Gotthold said with a grin.

The man managed to crack a small smile in return. “Too true.”

“Should we depart, friend Gotthold?” Quirkheart asked, heading toward the door before he could respond.

Instead of answering, Gotthold waved to the man and followed Quirk outside. Once they were out of earshot from the cabin, Gotthold shook his head.

“He spoke of a curse, and I can’t say I disagree. This whole town’s got a bodement hanging over it, mark my works,” Gotthold said, then spat on the ground and made an X across his heart.

“Do you have data to support your hypothesis, friend Gotthold?” Quirkheart asked.

“Of course not, Quirk,” he said, rolling his eyes. “It’s just a gut feeling.”

“Then there is nothing to substantiate this ‘bodement’ you speak of. It is likely just the lack of sunlight I mentioned earlier effecting your brain chemistry. We should focus on gathering all information related to one Stalvan Mistmantle, so that we may assist the townspeople and the outraged crying man in the most efficient manner possible,” she said.

Gotthold just sighed and said; “As you say, Quirk.”

~~~~

The Tales of Quirkheart & Gotthold: The Longest Night ~~ Duskwood Chapter Two

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Having arrived in Darkshire, Quirkheart and Gotthold were quickly put to work by the townspeople and local militia known as the Night Watch. However, Gotthold is unsettled by more than just the endless night, as whispers of heresy and evil ring in his mind as they head out to complete their tasks.

~~~~

“There seem to be a substantial number, friend Gotthold. However, they are spaced out in such a way, combined with the low visibility, that we may efficiently cull their pack,” Quirkheart observed.

They hadn’t gone far from the town before encountering the Nightbane worgen. In fact, all they’d had to do was crest the hill to the west before finding them. Gotthold had gone into a prone position, and waited for Quirkheart–who didn’t really need to crouch–to use her mechanized-enhanced sight to scan the area.

“It still don’t sit well, this killing worgen,” Gotthold grumbled.

“Do you wish to enter into a discourse with them, friend Gotthold?” she asked, facing him.

Her mechanized goggles glowed a cold blue, and the soft whirring of her arms and legs was barely discernible over the wind rustling the leaves overhead. Her armor and tabard were cut to keep from interfering with the gears that powered her every action, and she was always moving in some form or fashion. Despite her analytical nature, though, it was the slight head tilt along with the question that proved, deep down, mechagnomes still harbored echoes of their gnomanity.

He turned from Quirkheart to scowl at the worgen down the hill. He wasn’t big on moral quandaries, in engaging in them, or thinking about them. Yet, here they were.

“Maybe, but we should be–”

There was a soft whoomph of sound, followed on its heels by a much louder thud, as Quirkheart leapt right into the camp of the two worgen below them.

Gotthold’s eyes widened. The worgens yelped and snarled in shock at the sudden intrusion, and they scrambled backwards to get away from the tiny creature who stood before them. One of them barely missed singing themselves on the campfire, dancing away from the flames just in time.

“Greetings, worgen of the Nightbane pack, I am–”

Two things happened at once: one of the worgens rushed forward, claws raised in the air to slash downward at Quirkheart, and Gotthold, who had charged down the hill not long after Quirkheart, intercepted the blow with his axe.

The worgen yowled in pain and staggered back, clutching the remains of its bloody paw. After that, things turned from bad to worse for the surprised campers. By the end of the encounter, there were two dead worgen, and Gotthold was swearing between strained breaths.

“I hate running,” he groaned, sitting down heavily on a log not far from the camp. The handles of his two, two-handed axes weren’t far from his reach, and he kept one wary eye open as he drank from his water skin, just in case more showed up.

“You have not been following the exercise regime I created for you, friend Gotthold,” Quirkheart observed, standing at an angle from him, her back to the hill they descended. She scanned the night around them, not looking at him as she spoke, and certainly not out of breath with nary a hair out of place. While her words were nothing more than observation, Gotthold could almost detect a slight air of accusation in them.

“I’m too old to spend my days runnin’ around in circles that go nowhere, for no better reason than the pleasure of bein’ prepared to follow your fool-lead into battle. Why’d you do that?” he asked, his annoyance getting the better of him.

“You said you wished to enter a discourse with them–”

“I said ‘maybe’,” he interrupted her, “and if you’d have let me finish, I would have suggested a more cautious approach than leaping into their midst and scaring the fur from their hides.”

Quirkheart turned her attention to the corpses of the worgen. “Their fur is intact, friend Gotthold.”

Gotthold put his elbows on his knees, and his face in his hands, while muttering; “Tides give me strength.” Then he sighed, and stood from the log. “Either way, I think we can safely say these worgen are not from the same stock as King Greymane’s people.”

“Yes. They do not appear to have been cured of their mindless state,” she agreed. “Does this mean we will do what the man with impressive sideburns has asked of us?”

Gotthold scanned the darkness around them, his thoughts still not settled about the men who spoke of heresy and claimed righteous justification for their actions.

“Yeah, but I want you to keep a weather eye on, and a keen ear out for anything shady,” he said, and picked up his axes.

“Based on data collected before our arrival, the weather patterns in the area remain unchanged–”

“Nevermind, Quirk. Let’s just watch each other’s backs, eh?”

“From my limited understanding of human colloquialism, you want us to make sure that nothing unfortunate happens to each other, correct?”

Gotthold couldn’t resist a small smile. “Aye, Quirk–that’s what I meant.”

“Then we will do so, friend Gotthold.”

“That’s the spirit. Now, let’s get this over with. Those wolf kebabs won’t make themselves.”

“Of course not, friend Gotthold. Food requires at least some level of–”

Gotthold turned from the camp and headed deeper into the grove, with Quirkheart and her chatter trailing not far behind him.

 

The Tales of Quirkheart & Gotthold: The Longest Night ~~ Duskwood Chapter One

The woods are gloomy, dark, and dead, and our intrepid adventurers, Quirkheart and Gotthold, have finally arrived in Darkshire. Soon, they’ll find that not all is as it appears in this cursed land, and if they wish to see daylight again, they’ll need to keep their wits and weapons about them.

 

~~~~

“I don’t know, Quirk–somethin’s a bit dodgy ’bout these Duskwood folks,” Gotthold observed.

He’d stationed himself not far from the fountain in Darkshire’s town square, watching passerby. Everyone went about their business with a wire-tight wariness in their posture, and their eyes moved with a constant sense of vigilance bordering on paranoia. When their gaze landed on Gotthold–who was clearly not from around these parts–the skin around their eyes tightened, and more grim frowns than grimaced smiles greeted him.

“The term ‘dodgy’ is not quantifiable, friend Gotthold. Though evidence has proven that a lack of sufficient sunlight can negatively impact the moods of sentient beings. Perhaps these fine citizens merely need more sun,” she informed him.

Gotthold did his best not to bury his scarred face into his calloused palm. “Quanti-whatever, or not, this place gives me the same willies Drustvar does. What did that Commander want us to do? I want to get the job done and be gone before this gloom sinks into my bones.”

Quirkheart had moved about the shabby town, seeing what was to be done. They’d been sent to Duskwood from Stormwind, though the call board had been rather thin on the details. When they’d arrived, they found a land and people shrouded in eerie darkness, roads patrolled by people bearing torches and swords, and dilapidated buildings surrounded by dead countryside. It was a wonder anyone lived here, and subsequently it wasn’t a wonder that ‘thriving’ wasn’t in their vocabulary.

“Gloom has no capability to–”

“Quirk,” Gotthold said, stopping her before she could get much further.

“Yes, friend Gotthold?”

“What did the Commander want?”

“The Commander has tasked us with culling the Dire Wolf population surrounding the town. The death of at least twelve wolves has been requested. However, given my research of human facial expressions and speech patterns, I would calculate that Commander Ebonlocke has determined our success rate will be below a preferable percentage.”

Gotthold grunted. “She don’t know us then, do she? Wolves should be easy enough. Anythin’ else?”

“The man with black sideburns that are at least thirty-seven percent thicker than the average human male has expressed his concern over the efficacy of a group known as The Night Watch.”

“You mean the group led by Commander Sourpants? Why?”

“I cannot confirm whether or not Commander Ebonlocke’s pants can be designated as tasting sour. None of my research into human clothing–”

“Quirk,” Gotthold said. “Why does the man with impressive sideburns have concerns about the Night Watch?”

“Rationale unclear. He spoke of the expulsion of evil and heresy to keep the citizens safe, and that if we wished to assist him and one called Master Carevin, we must prove ourselves worthy.”

“Sounds like the hogwash some of the crazy tidesages spout off about,” Gotthold spat. There’d been a rare few tidesages Gotthold had gotten along with over his long life, and when people with power like that started talking heresy, people tended to start swinging in gallows.

Before Quirkheart could ask about why tidesages would be talking about the water pigs were washed with, he stood up straight from where he’d been leaning on the corner of the smithy, and said; “What do we have to do to prove ourselves worthy?”

“Kill Nightbane worgen, with the death of at least seven being sufficient.”

Gotthold frowned. “He say why these worgen deserve to be killed?”

Wolves was one thing, but worgen were allies of the alliance. Gotthold wasn’t sure he wanted to start off his journey of the Eastern Kingdoms in the Stormwind Stockades, all because some crazy, backwoods fanatic asked him to kill King Greymane’s subjects.

“He stated they were ‘monsters’. It is my understanding that some of the worgen never regained their sanity. Perhaps these worgen are some of those?” Quirkheart suggested.

“Mayhaps,” Gotthold said, still wary. “We’ll take a look-see for ourselves and decide what to do when we come across them. Is that all?”

“The cook at the inn has also offered us food, and the recipes of local delicacies, in exchange for a harvest of wolf and spider meat.”

Gotthold’s ears perked up at the mention of food. You didn’t get to be his size without harboring an appreciation for good cooking, and though spider wasn’t his first choice, the wolf recipe sounded promising.

“We’ll already be killin’ the wolves, and we’ll keep an eye out for the spiders. You ready to head out?” he asked.

“Yes, friend Gotthold–I am ready.”

“Then let’s be off.”

~~~~

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories ~~ Monk

(This one isn’t so much a micro-story because it’s almost 2k words, but we’ll fudge a bit for the sake of the series’ title)

 

 

So-Ra knew Zheng was in trouble. Again. She knew it the same way her yehyeh knew the rain was coming when his knees ached. Except with Zheng it was a churning in her gut like a hundred snakes coiling around each other, and she bit her lip to keep a nervous laugh from escaping.

When she’d woken from her afternoon nap, he was gone, and though he’d left no note there was only one place she was likely to find him: the bar. Before heading out of the room she grabbed her staff, not knowing what she’d encounter when she found Zheng. When she got to the door of their room, the raucous noise from the downstairs and upstairs drinking areas made her pause. However, it was a particularly loud voice that caused her white and grey ears to twitch.

It was nearing dusk, and as she made her way across the plank bridge to the second floor of the Salty Sailor Tavern, she found the bar full to capacity with pirates. So-Ra didn’t have any particular issues with pirates, per say. However, when the barkeep in Orgrimmar suggested this place to Zheng, she didn’t believe he’d done so from a kind, helpful place. Zheng had, to be fair, annoyed the orc with all his talk of pandaren brews. Zheng, oblivious to the orc’s growls and bared teeth, had jumped immediately on the idea, and So-Ra reluctantly followed him out of The Broken Tusk.

“Pirate brew, Ra! I can’t wait!”

Zheng was excited to hop on one of the zeppelins on the middle rise of the Horde city, and then grab a couple of wyverns from Grom’gol down to Booty Bay. If So-Ra was being honest, she enjoyed flying over the lush jungles, as the salty, humid wind made her nose twitch and eyes water. It was a vast improvement over the smell of ale she swore would never leave her nostrils, but all too soon it was over.

After all the travel, the two agreed to a nap before he’d drag her down to the bar. Apparently, the excitement had been too much for him, and he’d left her upstairs. While she’d been snoozing away, there was no telling what kind of trouble he was getting into.

She nimbly made her way through the first set of tables, avoiding patrons who were already well into their drinks, and stopped dead in her tracks at the top of the stairs that led to the main floor. Zheng wasn’t difficult to find, being the only pandaren, but even if they’d been in a bar back home, she’d be able to pick him out. His onyx black and ash grey fur wasn’t too terribly common among the black and whites and reds. His short hair was pulled back with a spring blue tie that matched his eyes, one of which had a black marking that made him appear as though he perpetually had what furless races called a black eye.

“—and I only managed to make it away from the hozen with nothing but my staff. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing.”

So-Ra rolled her eyes. If there was one thing Zheng enjoyed almost as much as new brew, it was new people to tell his stories to.

The tauren next to him, whose fur closely resembled Zheng’s in color, threw his head backward in an uproarious laugh. His steel nose ring glinted in the cheery lantern light, and his one, ivory horn gleamed dully. The other was broken close to his skull and capped off. When he brought his head forward again, he raised one of his large hands and clapped Zheng on the shoulder.

This was where it all went to pot.

When the tauren hit Zheng’s shoulder, it caused him to take a step back and knock into a goblin sitting on a stool. When he hit the goblin, the goblin’s face was knocked into his drink, and he came back up, spluttering and coughing. While coughing, he knocked his drink over, which spilled all over the back of the dwarf next to the goblin. The dwarf shouted and jumped back, knocking into the table closest to the bar. The wood of the table against the wooden floor let out an unholy screech, and the jarring motion knocked every single drink over onto the group of human pirates.

It was like So-Ra was witness to the worst-luck game of dominoes, and with each event her horror and panic grew like a balloon ready to pop.

There was a moment of silence from all who witnessed the event, and then the brawl started.

So-Ra made her way down to the main floor, dodging and slipping through a crowd full of jabs, kicks, and elbows. More than once she used her staff to deter anyone foolish enough to square up on her, and one hit was usually more than enough. When she finally made it within sight of Zheng, she stopped in her tracks and clenched her fists around her staff.

Back-to-back with the tauren, the two of them were laughing and throwing punches as though this were all part of some grand game. However, before she could get through the rest of the crowd to Zheng, there were cries of genuine pain instead of the grunts of a brawl, rippling from the front door. So-Ra turned just in time to deftly avoid the spiked mace of one of many of the town’s bruisers pouring through the door.

Zheng and the tauren hadn’t noticed yet, though, and both managed to take a hit or two that had So-Ra cringing. Not just from the imagined pain, but from how much work it was going to be to heal the two fools.

The bruisers went about their work, sussing out what happened with practiced efficiency. In short order, Zheng and the tauren were thrown from the tavern without so much as a by your leave. So-Ra, though, had started upstairs the second after the first mace hit landed. She gathered their things, since she was reasonably sure they’d be asked to leave, anyhow, and made her way outside after not finding them at the bar.

Despite the smell of fish and seawater, So-Ra’s keen nose managed to follow the scent of blood from outside the tavern door to one of the ramshackle shops. The sign on the door proclaimed; ‘Closed! Go Away!’ in a way that came off as very goblin, and she shook her head at the general lack of manners the race possessed.

When she ignored the sign and knocked, a grumpy voice called from the other side; “Go away! We’re closed! Don’t you know how to read?”

“I’m here to help,” So-Ra said, just loud enough for her words to travel through the door.

“It’s So-Ra!” Zheng said, his words slurred. Though if it was from drink or injury, So-Ra wouldn’t know until she could see him.

There was some scuffling, and as she waited for the person on the other side of the door to open it, she shifted the heavy packs on her back. After more time than she deemed necessary, the door finally opened.

In the doorway, and backlit by the lantern in the room, was a grumpy goblin face to match the grumpy voice.

“Yeah? Whatdya want?” the male goblin asked, and tilted his pointed chin up so he could meet So-Ra’s blue eyes with his black ones.

“To heal these two idiots, unless you have another trained healer at your beck and call. If so, I’d be more than happy to leave them to you,” So-Ra said, biting the words off in clipped tones. Then she smiled wide, meeting his sharp-toothed scowl with her own set of sharp canines.

“Oh, cousin, please don’t be that way,” Zheng mournfully slurred this time.

Probably drink instead of injury, then, if he was sounding that put out at her.

The goblin growled, but then moved aside to let her in.

The sight in front of her made her grimace inwardly. There was blood, of course, but pandaren, and apparently tauren, had tough hides. So, despite the maces being spiked the damage was minimal. Still, it wasn’t the busted knuckles, swollen faces, or cuts that had her frowning.

It was the fact the two of them were leaning on one another and giggling. Like two sprites who managed to get into some brew and set about causing mischief in town.

“Monag and this fluffy monstrosity busted through my door not a few minutes ago. They’ve done nothing but cackle like drunk witches since. I’m guessing the state they’re in has to do with all the bruisers running toward the tavern?” the goblin asked So-Ra.

So-Ra nodded, and set her packs down. She didn’t want to know how the goblin knew what a drunk witch cackled like, but she’d take him at his word. She was sure stranger things happened across the lands outside of Pandaria.

“He is not a fluffy monstrosity, Syxkes. He’s my new friend. Zheng!” Monag said between breathless laughter.

The goblin, Syxkes, snorted and shook his head.

“You got anything to put them under?” Syxkes asked, his tone pleading.

“I do, but it will have to come after the sobering potion. Combining a sleep potion or magic with drinking is a good way for someone to never wake up again,” she explained, and started pulling vials from her pack.

Her ears twitched at the goblin’s grumbling, which sounded an awful lot like; ‘Well, that wouldn’t be the worst thing if it shut them up,’ but she ignored him.

After she gathered the correct vials and administered the sobering potions, the two males were far less amused and groaning in pain.

“Oh, So-Ra, you’re so cruel,” Zheng said, leaning forward in a sitting position on the floor, holding his head between his hands.

“Hah!” she said, her voice sharp enough that the two males’ ears flattened against their skulls.

“Please, not so loud,” Monag whispered, his deep voice rumbling through the small room.

She simply harrumphed at this, and went about healing them. After the worst of their injuries were seen to, she handed them their sleeping potions. A wry smile crossed Zheng’s face as the two of them lifted the vials to clink them together.

“Here’s to new friends and good brew,” Zheng said.

Monag lowed his agreement, and the two of them downed the potions. Not long after the two were fast asleep, their snores near to rattling the windows from their panes.

So-Ra shook her head. “Males,” she said in a long-suffering voice.

“Hey, not all of us are idiots,” Syxkes said, affronted.

So-Ra graced him with an apologetic smile. “You’re right. My apologies. Do you mind if I sleep here with them?” she asked, not wanting to impose on the goblin any more than they already had. Though, she wasn’t sure where she’d go if he said no.

“Nah, go ahead.” As Monag let out a particularly loud snore, Syxkes shook his head. “Better you than me, anyway. I’ll be here in the morning to open shop, though, so you’ll all need to be out by then,” he warned.

“Of course, and thank you for your hospitality,” So-Ra said, and bowed.

Syxkes waved her off. “You shut them up. That’s payment enough.” Then he took a set of stairs behind the counter up to the second floor.

So-Ra pulled out her mat and laid it down in front of the door, just in case she didn’t wake up in time to avert whatever disaster Zheng would try to get himself into next. As she drifted off to the chorus of familiar and new snores, though, she was smiling.

World of Warcraft Micro-Stories: Demon Hunter

People make so many decisions on any given day, to keep track of such things would court insanity. Other times, decisions are so monumental yet irrational, they are by their very nature insane.

Arlithria would go out on a limb and say that choosing the demon you’d eat the heart of qualified as such. Of course, all choices leading up to the heart consumption were merely stepping stones on the path of madness she was now on. Without one stone, one single decision, the path would have crumbled. But with hindsight comes regret, and she would not entertain such weakness. A lack of conviction in this endeavor would surely lead to death.

So, she chose the demon. She drank the blood. She ate the heart.

Darkness took her.

Then came the visions. The whispers. The fire.

World after world. People after people.

Slaughtered. Burning as her blood burned now. Her screams of agony blended in with their cries of anguish, until the cacophony of it would drive her mad. No matter how loud it became, though, she could still hear it. The voice. As though the demon she’d consumed exhaled its hot breath down the back of her mind, eating away at her thoughts just as the fel did the same to her body.

Your struggle is pointless. Your fear fuels us. This power is unending, unyielding, and it will consume you as surely as it has all those who came before, and all those who come after. None can stand against our might.

She slipped further into herself. Retreating. Trying to find some small spot of solace.

Here, another voice whispered.

She paused. This wasn’t the demon.

Here, it said again, the word like a cool breeze running over her, keeping the fire at bay.

Just for that reason alone, she followed, pursuing any kind of reprieve she might find.

There! In the deepest recess of her being, there was a tiny spot so small, she would have missed it if not for the voice. When she touched it, they began to speak, the words resonating in her like the beating of a drum.

Remember, nothing is forever. We Night Elves learned this harsh lesson when Nordrassil was sacrificed, trading our immortality for the defeat of Archimonde. So, in a way, the Burning Legion has shown us its demise is possible. They say they do not yield, but bending is not breaking. Sway with the power, but do not be swayed by it. Have faith, love. Some day they will fall.

The voice faded, and with it the reprieve from the fel.

This time, though, she was ready. She pulled the fel to her, wrapping it around her, around her soul, and accepting the flames as they burned almost everything that was her to ash. She let it take many things, but she moved with the power, directing it the way she would her nightsaber. As they moved, she slowly banked the flames. Containing them. Letting them cradle the two things she would never give up: that one, small spot, and her conviction to see the end of the Burning Legion.

As the last lick of fel settled into her, subsumed with her soul, the demon snarled.

No!

It was too late.

When she opened her eyes, with the demon’s howls echoing in her mind, she smiled triumphantly at the demon hunter standing over her.

“When you can stand, we will complete the ritual,” he said, and walked away to inform the others that she was awake.

Every bit of her ached, as though she’d been through a battle in the waking world and not just within herself. She went to move, but pain shot through her like lightning, and her hands clenched against the pain. One of them closed around something that bit into her skin. A fleeting moment of confusion raced through her mind, and she slowly raised her hand to her face. In it was a small pendant, the azure gem glowing like the deep lake waters near her old home. The home destroyed by the Burning Legion.

Her smile softened and she closed her eyes, brining the pendant to rest on her forehead. When she opened them again, for one of the last times before she would complete the ritual, determination glowed in them as surely as the fel.

“We will gift the Legion with their final deaths, love. Azeroth will not fall.”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Hunter

A chill wind blew over the mountain, kicking up little flurries of snow in its wake, and Drekxan was never more aware of how very far from home he was. Or how much he hated the cold. Growing up in the Echo Isles, where the heat was like a living, breathing elemental, meant his appreciation for areas where winter was eternal left him shivering and grumbling.

Bodrer needled him endlessly about it, saying his blue skin was a sign Drekxan was doomed to forever be sent to the coldest regions of Azeroth. Drekxan said he was rather mouthy for someone who couldn’t reach the top shelf without help.

However, the weather wasn’t responsible for the ache deep in his bones or the icy fingers of sorrow clenched around his heart. He was crouched in front of one of the shrines around the back of the Trueshot Lodge. Its were candles perched on an old stump and magicked to remain alight no matter the weather. In front of the stump, within easy reach of his calloused fingers, was his weapon. He ran a hand lovingly over the wood, remembering how it had fashioned itself into a bow at the first moment he touched it. Titanstrike, vessel of the Thunderspark, and a weapon to harness the souls of storms.

Dead.

His hand stilled over the lifeless wood, and a sharp pain lanced through his chest. He grimaced, and curled his fingers into a fist and away from the weapon. A soft whine sounded from next to him, and he looked over to his wolf, Shanzin. His hand went to the animal’s head, running it over the course, white fur that matched Drekxan’s hair perfectly, and offering what comfort he could.

“I know, mon. I know,” Drekxan said, and sighed.

They’d done their part in the war to stop the Legion and the mad Titan, Sargeras, and what did they have to show for it? A big sword stuck right into the heart of their world, and wounds that would never heal that had nothing to do with Silithus.

Shanzin sighed back at him, and nudged the bow with his nose, whining again.

Drekxan was a hunter, and as such he acknowledged the cycle of life and death with the reverence it deserved. This wasn’t his first loss, and it wouldn’t be his last, but some bonds went so far into the soul, recovering seemed impossible beyond their loss.

When Hati had heeled to his hand, the lightning wolf’s sparks running over his arm with warm tingles, he’d been breathless with awe. Being the keeper of Thorim’s wolf was an honor Drekxan never dreamed in a thousand years he’d be bestowed with, and Shanzin had taken to the older, blue wolf like a surf crawler to water.

From one side of the Broken Isles to the other, and even to another world, the three of them had been through thick and thin, and survived. Then, Magni Bronzebeard had called for him once more, and with his words asked Drekxan for something more valuable than his own life: Hati’s.

It wasn’t so much Hati himself, but the power of the Thunderspark, which was needed to drain the death magic from the Titan’s sword before it killed their world. One life for thousands.

And still, he’d hesitated.

He was not ashamed to admit it. What were people he’d never met in comparison with a companion who’d kept him alive through the very worst the Burning Legion had to offer, and more?

In that moment of indecision, Hati had butted Drekxan’s hand with his head. Drekxan looked into the eyes of a creature who understood far beyond what any mortal one could, and realized Hati was telling him it was okay, and to let him do this one, final task.

So, he did. When Drekxan raised Titanstrike toward the sword, Hati faced the cursed blade and lifted his muzzle, howling his defiance toward the heavens. Shanzin followed suit on Drekxan’s right, and their cries intertwined and echoed out across the dunes.

And as the last spark of Hati drained away, leaving the Titankstrike empty in his hands, Shanzin’s howl carried on, alone, lamenting the loss of his friend.

They’d returned to the Trueshot Lodge after that, awaiting further orders from Magni on how to save Azeroth. Drekxan, who was by no means a young troll, was weary. Not only of the cold and endless wars, but of the never-ending death. The cycle was sacred, yes, but looking into Shanzin’s dull eyes that mirrored Drekxan’s feelings, perhaps it was time to leave the Hunt to those younger than him. Those not worn down by constant loss.

“Ach, there you are. Thought I might find you here.” Bodrer’s thick brogue broke through the haze of Drekxan’s thoughts.

Drekxan grunted. “Whatcha want, Bodrer?”

Instead of answering, the old Dwarf looked over Shanzin. “Still?” His question was not condescending, but quiet and pensive.

Drekxan merely nodded, at which Bodrer sighed. “I came to tell you that a message came from Orgrimmar for you, marked urgent.”

Drekxan snorted. “They always be thinkin’ dat their business is urgent.”

“It came directly from your Warchief,” Bodrer said, his voice going low.

At the Trueshot Lodge, there were no allegiances except to honoring the tenants of the Hunt, which the Huntmaster—currently Drekxan—was chosen to uphold. That Sylvanas was calling for him, specifically, did not bode well in Drekxan’s mind, and sat uneasily in his stomach.

There’d been some business Drekxan had stayed well away from, concerning a certain tree, but he knew it was only a matter of time before she’d demand to see him.

“I not be wantin’ ta get tangled in her web. I follow da Hunt. Nothin’ more,” Drekxan said.

Bodrer let out a barely perceptible sigh. “Still, it had news that might interest you,” he said, a small flash of mischief in his eyes.

“Oh? Ya been readin’ my mail again?” Drekxan asked.

Bodrer didn’t even have the grace to look abashed as he shrugged, and a smirk tugged the corner of his mouth. “You don’t read it, so someone should.”

Drekxan harrumphed. “I let ya be readin’ it for me, because gossipin’ makes ya happier than a boar in mud, dwarf,” Drekxan said, amicably.

Bodrer laughed his agreement, but he’d never admit to such out loud. “Any way, it spoke of a new land: Zandalar.”

Drekxan, whose attention had strayed from the dwarf as he pet Shanzin again, jerked his head over to lock on with Bodrer’s warm, brown eyes.

“Truly? Zandalar?”

“Aye, and I hear there’s plenty of land to be explored—warm land. A jungle, swamp, and desert, respectively,” Bodrer said, putting the emphasis on warm, as though he were trying to lure a wounded animal with the promise of something delicious. “Maybe even a few dinos,” he continued, doing his best to cheer his friend up.

It worked. Drekxan perked right up, his eyes shining with life for the first time since he’d come back from helping Magni.

“Dinos, ya say?”

Drekxan’s first pet was a raptor, like all other troll hunters, and though each beast was unique and worthy in their own right, Drekxan would always have a soft spot for dinosaurs. However, when he looked back at Shanzin, who hadn’t perked up one bit since Bodrer had shown up, his excited shriveled like seaweed left too long in the sun.

He sighed and his shoulders slumped, but before he could open his mouth to respond, a small, faint pulse raced along his awareness. His eyes snapped to Titanstrike.

“It cannot be,” he whispered. However, when he looked at Shanzin, he was even more surprised to find the wolf’s head up, ears forward, and eyes trained on the bow.

When Drekxan laid a hand on the weapon, there was still nothing. At first. Then he closed his eyes and focused all his senses until…There! It was distant, like trying to hear someone speak in the middle of a storm on the other side of an island, but it was there.

“What is it?” Bodrer asked, anxious and concerned.

When Drekxan turned back to look at the dwarf, he had a wide, fierce grin on his face.

“A promise from a friend.”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Rogue

 

This was the last time Kavea took a job from that slimy goblin. He always managed to have her track down the scummiest customers, and the scum tended to accumulate in the seediest, filthiest, and most vermin-infested holes in all of Azeroth.

It didn’t help that her mark—Durrant—seemed content to drink the inn dry instead of go to bed. But there was nothing for it, so Kavea drew her hood further down, sighed, and waited.

***

Just after three in the morning he finally staggered his way up the stairs. Kavea followed after tossing a few coins to the barkeep for her drink, plus a few extra for the potential mess upstairs.

With her steps so light that falling snow was cacophonous in comparison, she made her way to the top of the stairs, and watched him enter the last door on the left. After he went it, she crept down the hall and listened at the door. What sounded like a sack of potatoes landed on the bed with a groan. She waited in the shadowed hallway for her keen blood elf hearing to pick up the steady, deep breathing of sleep before she slipped into the room. He hadn’t even locked the door.

The only reason his attack didn’t catch her off guard was because she’d learned to never trust only one sense, and she’d been scanning the room as she entered. Kavea jumped away from his sword and to the right side of the small room. She had just enough time to draw her daggers and cross them at the hilts to stop his downward swing. He was strong. Stronger than someone who’d been drinking since noon had any right to be, and it sent her to a knee.

“At least Grexo sent someone pretty after me this time. I was getting tired of cutting up the ugly mugs of his enforcers,” Durrant said, his voice like gravel and with a smirk on his face.

Kavea just scowled and turned his sword away. They fought, and at first Kavea tried to keep the ruckus down, but eventually had to give up stealth in exchange for surviving. They each had shallow cuts over various body parts, and Kavea was getting more suspicious by the minute as her poison seemed to have no effect on Durrant. However, she was slowing, and it wasn’t long after that she stumbled. His sword came down, and her eyes widened before everything went black.

***

Kavea had the worst headache, and for a moment she wondered if she’d gotten into her father’s stash of winter ale again. Then she remembered her father was dead, and by all rights she should be, too.

She cracked open an eye to see the face of a worgen sporting black fur with a white muzzle standing over her.

Kavea muttered a curse and scowled. Grexo hadn’t told her Durrant was a worgen. “Well, that explains why my poison wasn’t working.”

Durrant grinned. “It’s a helpful thing when you have rogues constantly trying to kill you.”

“Why am I alive?” she asked, cutting to the chase. She didn’t see the point in bantering with someone who would likely kill her soon.

Durrant shrugged. “Seemed a waste. You lasted the longest against me, and if Grexo didn’t tell you I was a worgen, he meant for you to die. Since he seems to want both of us dead, I thought I’d make you an offer.”

“Oh?” she asked, quirking a pale blonde eyebrow.

“Work with me, and eventually we can both get back at that green greaseball.”

After a moment, Kavea met his wolfish grin with a devious smirk. She didn’t trust the worgen farther than she could throw him, but as they say: the enemy of my enemy is today’s ally, and tomorrow’s prey.

She’d never liked that goblin, anyway.

“Let’s discuss terms.”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Priest

 

The dead were numbered beyond count, and many had passed to the Light. Or the Shadowlands. Ashalien shuddered at that thought, and then she pulled a sheet over a face far too young to have met any end, let alone one that left fully half his body charred to the bone.

“Another dead before they even set foot in the tent. Why do they keep bringing them?” Ashalien’s fellow priest, Devonna, asked, more mournful than angry.

“Because they have hope,” Ashalien said, and then closed her eyes to say a prayer over the child soldier. With each word, the impact of the war weighed heavily upon her shoulders like Dwarven plate armor.

Just as she was finishing, there was a commotion at the entrance of the tent.

“No, we can’t take anymore,” Devonna said, her voice firm.

“Please, Priest! All the other tents are full, and you’re the only ones that can help!”

There was such desperation in the voice, Ashalien paused, the final words of the prayer not passing her lips. A flutter of something soft, like the feathers of an infant bird, brushed against her soul.

“Let them in, Devonna,” Ashalien said, before she’d even thought to say it.

She levitated the dead boy’s body off the cot and to the side, freeing the bed. There was no time to change the sheet, if the situation was as dire as it sounded.

The two who came to the cot were covered in mud, blood, and likely worse, with one carrying the other.

“Thank you, Priest; he’s my younger brother,” the one carrying the other said, his voice soft and choked.

He gently laid his burden on the cot. The younger boy—though neither were long beyond their first shave—groaned as he touched the bed.

“Meus—”

“Hush, Zane. We’re with the healer,” the older brother, Meus, consoled.

“Peace, Zane,” Ashalien soothed. Then she sang, her voice soft and airy, weaving the healing and soothing magics of the Light through the Hymn.

Zane’s face relaxed, and a peaceful smile graced his lips as he looked up at her, and made him appear even younger. Instead of grimacing, as she wanted to do because of his age, she smiled back. Even as she saw the fatal wound, cutting him deep across his belly, which was followed closely by the smell of rent bowels, still, she smiled.

Meus sucked in a breath at the sight, his eyes going wide with shock, and filling with tears of bitter hopelessness.

The fluttering was back, but this time more insistent, and the familiar comfort of the Light infused her very being, making her glow.

“Fear not, Meus,” she said, and his eyes snapped up to meet hers.

His jaw dropped open at the sight of her, and his heart thundered in his chest. He did not want to give in to the soaring sensation trying to break free from him like a bird from a cage. That road led only to pain. But with this priest glowing with so much Light, it was as though she’d swallowed the sun…It was difficult not to submit and open that cage.

Her hands hovered over Zane, and the Light moved from her to him.

“For you do not hope in vain.”