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.”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Druid

 

Pain. Pure, unadulterated pain lanced along her nerves as though every fiber of her body were cut by an infinite number of daggers. She gasped and fell to one knee, digging nails into her chest in an effort to loosen the phantom grip squeezing her heart. Black spots danced in her vision like the devilish Grells, gleefully rejoicing in her torment.

She was not the only one. Other druids in Moonglade were falling as she had, and gritting their teeth against the onslaught of agony, while still more were writhing on the ground or passed out. The lowing of the Tauren was woven in with the growls and howls of the Worgen, as well as the guttural moans of the Trolls and wails of her fellow Night Elves. The screeching of the hippogryphs was so high-pitched it was a wonder her ears did not bleed, and they thrashed about in their nests. Even the dragon, Aronus, was not spared from whatever occurred, having fallen into the small moonwell it hovered over with a roar.

Lynithe Skyshadow’s tears fell to the fertile ground, and when she placed her palm to the dirt, the very earth trembled beneath her hand. Something was wrong. So very wrong. Her first thoughts flew to the giant sword impaling Azeroth in the wasteland of Silithus, but this was something else. Something far closer to home. She snatched her hand back, and for the first time she became a druid she did not want to connect with the earth. Fear thrilled through her as though her blood were turned to ice, and it crushed her throat, making it difficult to breath.

When she managed to stagger to her unsteady feet, she stumbled toward the Shrine of Remulos and the Keeper himself. She and the others could not concentrate enough to shift to their faster travel forms, and instead made their way on foot and en masse down the road, leaving Nighthaven. Lynithe was one of the first to reach the Shrine, but the Keeper held his silence until the last druid managed to lumber their way to the back of the group.

“Keeper!” someone called from the midst of them. “What has happened?”

Lynithe watched as the very grief of the earth poured from his gently glowing green eyes, leaving tracks of tears over his amethyst skin.

“It is Teldrassil,” he said, his rumbling voice full of despair doing nothing to curb the growing horror within the hearts of all present. “It burns.”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Paladin

 

Whispers in the ranks, or what was left of them at any rate. The reality was bitter ash on the tongue and a poison in the mind. The wretched undead had taken everything and infected the land. The devastation they wrought had been beyond imagining—yet still they came. Wave after wave. They didn’t stop and they didn’t rest. The dead had no need for such things.

*We must defeat the Scourge at all costs.*

No one could say who started it, but there was a hardness the in the eyes of some that wasn’t there before Arthas’ betrayal. Before Uther’s death…A sharpness of the soul that would cut down the enemy as surely as it would the person wielding such a lethal blade. No sacrifice was too great, and no one was too great to sacrifice.

*Some costs are too high.*

Could they live with themselves? To wage such a war bordered on insanity, and the line between madness and reason was thin at the best of times. These were not the best of times. Sorrow filled the eyes of some of the others, as though all the world was not large enough to contain their heartache. It was a time for much mourning.

*Decide…*

Righteous vengeance or compassion? Follow the Light. Supplicate. Bare your soul. Give your life to the cause. Both ask, but which path is madness and which is deliverance?

*Choices…*

Hone the blade of Judgment and hold it to your throat. Pray to the Light. There is no turning back.

“So, what say you, Paladin?”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Mage

 

The faded, crumbling pages of the cracked, leather-bound tome were so fragile, Karsten dared not breath too forcefully lest the pages fall to ruin. Of course, the knowledge in the book was not the only thing in danger of falling apart. The tower, built far too close to the edge of a weather-worn cliff, was in danger of toppling over the edge if he so much as put one foot in the wrong spot.

“It has to be here,” he growled softly. He closed the book, carefully, and put it down in the growing, neatly stacked pile on the sturdy, but rotting, table at the top of the tower.

Just as he moved to pick up another one, the hairs on the back of his neck prickled and he froze, but he dared not turn around. Giving the wayward energies attention only made them stronger.

It was a reckless mage that didn’t clean up leftover magical energies, and the former owner of the tower had been such a practitioner. Left to its own devices, such magics would be pesky at worst, but given the magical pursuits of the less-than-sane owner of the tower…It would be best if Karsten finished his business here. The faster the better.

As he reached for the book again, a menacing hiss sounded from behind him. He glanced over his shoulder, nonchalantly. He then decided that he deserved some commendation for the fact that he kept a bored, neutral tone, instead of having his sandy blond eyebrows fly from his face in shock.

It was a large, oozing blob formed from an amalgam of magics, ranging from fire to fel. Where its drippings fell to the floor from what Karsten assumed was its mouth, it ate through the already corroding stone.

“It was too much to ask that this would be a simple task, wasn’t it?” Karsten sighed. He then snagged the book, shielded himself, and blinked through the window toward the crashing waves eating away at the cliff.

The roar of the blob as it lunged to bite Karsten, followed by a howl of displeasure and crashing of the tower as it fell into the merciless ocean, did little to assuage his foul mood. The resulting wave from the tower’s demise didn’t hurt him, but shields kept out magical and physical damage, not seawater.

He thought about slogging his way to the shore before making a portal, but then had a better idea. To be fair, the person who’d sent him on this inane task deserved nothing less than what Karsten had experienced. He held the still dry tome above his head, and with a wicked grin started the portal spell.

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Death Knight

 

The rattle of bones churning in the dry ground offered a hollow, delicate melody, like a wind chime caught in a breeze created by the damning sighs of the many people she’d killed. “Such sweet music,” she crooned. Her glowing, ice blue eyes flashed in anticipation as she pondered the grave before her.

The tombstone was so old no one living would be able to decipher the weather-worn stone, and for the first time in years she smiled. It cracked her bloodless lips and revealed a set of sharpened teeth, which were almost as startling as her exposed bones and minimal skin.

“Rise,” her raspy voice called, and the one in the grave before her had no choice but to do as she commanded. “Rise,” she urged, “and obey.” The final word held power like thunder, and was like the cracking of a whip.

As the rotting, putrid ghoul heaved its way from the earth as though it were being spat out, it quivered at the feet of the creature in front of it. “Come,” she said, her voice full of compulsion like lightning striking at what was left of the ghoul’s brain. “We have much work to do.”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Shaman

 

Melancholy hung in the air, giving the grief of those gathered a weight that could be breathed in, sitting heavy in the chest like a crushing stone. Their Chieftain had died in glorious battle, and the gathered mourners were howling their despair to the moon hanging full and low in the sky.

Torchlight bathed the deceased’s many wounds and countless scars in an orange glow. Even in death, his grim visage spoke of a life of hard-won victories and hardship. He’d carved a better life for his people from this land like a skilled butcher, and they had flourished under his command.

The first indication that something was amiss was the hissing. Then, slowly, murmurs rose from the back of the crowd like the rising tide, and the crowd parted in a reverent wave. Snakes, nearing too many to count, slithered between all those gathered to coil at the base of the dais where the Chieftain lay. Their eyes glittering in the low light, they stilled, and waited.

Following on their tails, a woman walked with an almost lyrical step, as though there was music only she could hear. Hips swaying, her dusky purple skin glistened with sweat, and the ornamentation of carved bones around her neck clattered softly as she moved. She studied the Chieftain’s body with keen eyes.

Then, a husky voice came from the depths of her hood; “Da whispas of da loa hold true: his spirit lingers here, waiting for a guide back ta his body.”

Shock reverberated through the crowd, followed closely by a sudden burst of hope. The shaman pulled her hood back, revealing a thick braid from the top of her head trailing down to her mid-back with the coloring of the azure waters of the sea. Her hands began to glow with the soft green of growing things in the spring, as though she wove the very magics of life to her will. It bathed the Chieftain in a pale light.

“I be havin’ a vision of da future, love,” she whispered softly, so only he could hear. “It not be ya time ta die yet!”

Fan Fiction (World of Warcraft): The Greatest Gift

Chapter One

The air was bitingly cold, and Lyriah Moonstrider’s breath misted out in front of her. She shivered, and snuggled her face further down into the soft, brown wool scarf wrapped around her neck. It had been a gift from her mother and father in preparation for her father’s most recent business trip to Northrend.

A low yowl sounded at her feet, and Lyriah looked down at her shivering companion.

“Oh, Titian,” Lyriah said, and huffed out a laugh.

The little lynx’s black tufts at the end of her ears, and mane of reddish-brown hair moved with the gusts of wind. There were flakes of snow caught in it, which she shook off in annoyance. She had her oversized paws tucked underneath her, and her short tail circled as far around her as she could manage. Her glowing, green luminescent eyes, the same color as Lyriah’s were closed, and the lines of black fur that ran from them around her muzzle looked like dark tears.

Lyriah sat down cross-legged on the cold, wooden planks of the Wind Rider Master’s landing deck, setting her simple, but lovingly crafted bow down at her side. She opened her heavy coat and pulled the little lynx onto her lap, and wrapped her jacket around the chilly creature. The lynx snuggled down, and began to purr, the rumbling going through Lyriah’s chest.

A low, disapproving chuff came from nearby, and Lyriah glanced up from the top of Titian’s head to her mother’s lynx, Vermilia.

“Hush now; she’s only a kitten,” Talonia Moonstrider chided the larger pet.

Vermilia twitched her tail, and then began cleaning her paws, ignoring Talonia’s admonishment.

Talonia chuckled. “Stubborn creature.” Her mother was tall and thin, as most Blood Elves were. She had long, onyx-black hair pulled into a high bun at the back of her head; ‘You don’t want hair in your face, spoiling your shot.’  Since she wore no makeup, the light dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks were visible against her lightly tanned skin. She also wore no jewelry; ‘Running through the brush with jewelry on is a good way to get an earring caught on a branch.’

Mother and daughter wore similar outfits of dark brown leather, from their boots to their helms, while their hooded cloaks were a drab, olive green. Her mother’s were finely made, having won them through perseverance and countless battles with enemies ranging from ogres to elementals, while Lyriah’s were crafted to look like hers. They had also been a gift after Lyriah’s beginning hunter training was complete.

It was Talonia’s bow, though, that Lyriah admired. The grip was covered by an ornate shield with the Blood Elf crest on it. The limbs of the bow were painstakingly carved wood of phoenix heads facing the shield, while further down they were embedded with gems, and glowing with an eerie Fel light. The tip and recurve were made of two talon-like protrusions on each end, swirling with the same vivid energy, with the bowstring connecting two of the four talons that pointed back toward the wielder.

Lyriah glanced at her own bow, and though she loved it—as her mother had made it for her—she couldn’t help but wish for her mother’s. Though as a newly minted hunter, as well as only just turning eleven, there was a snowball’s chance in the lava flows of the Searing Gorge that would happen.

The wind picked up momentarily, and when it dropped her father’s voice drifted over to the pair. He was negotiating their passage with the Wind Rider Master to Sholazar Basin. Though he’d been given coin upfront for travel expenses, An’dras Moonstrider was not above negotiating to bring the price as low as he could manage. It was a habit he’d picked up from one of his colleagues, a Goblin by the name of Baxraz Copperblast; ‘Never pay full price.’

The patient Tauren’s low voice wasn’t audible, even to Lyriah’s long ears and their sharp hearing. Though from her father’s gestures, he wasn’t getting the calm, yet stubborn, woman to budge. Talonia was tolerant of her husband’s acquired quirks, but it was always easiest for Lyriah to gauge her mother’s moods by the body language of Vermilia, whose tail was now thrashing the air. Vermilia let out another low growl, this one far more annoyed. Her father turned and caught sight of the lynx. His long, platinum blonde eyebrows shot up to his hairline. Though they couldn’t see his eyes behind his engineered goggles with their scope on one side and glowing magenta glass on the other, she had no doubt they widened in alarm.

He chuckled nervously and turned back to the Wind Rider Master. Then he ran his left hand through his short, spiky hair, and handed the coin over to the Wind Rider Master with the other. She counted the coin, and nodded to An’dras. At the Tauren’s smile, it didn’t take a rocket engineer to know the steadfast woman had won, and likely still would have, even without Talonia’s annoyance.  Lyriah hid her own smile in Titian’s mane.

Talonia turned an amused look down at Titian at her daughter’s movement. “Worry not, kitten. Where we’re going, you’ll be plenty warm, if not in excess.”

An’dras strode over to them, rubbing his gloved hands together, either from nerves at his wife’s mood or from the cold. It was difficult to know which. His clothing was a hodge-podge of leather, patched here and there by her mother. He’d often come home from a lab accident, with holes burned through by fire, acid, or whatever concoction he and Baxraz were attempting to perfect. Such a substance was the reason they were on this trip in the first place.

He’d come home one day, grinning from ear to ear, his hair still smoldering at the ends.

“We’ve done it!” he said, and lifted Lyriah up, spinning her through the air.
She’d been dizzy when he sat her back down. Titian growled at her father’s exuberance when Lyriah stumbled and had to catch herself on the edge of the table.

“Done what, dear?” her mother asked calmly, handing him a damp towel to extinguish his hair. She was well rehearsed in this routine.

“We’ve finally come up with a substance to combat the humidity damage experienced by machines! Weslex will be pleased,” he said, and laughed.

Her father and Baxraz were top-notch mechanics and engineers, who also dabbled in concoctions to help their machines and weapons run better, faster, and smoother. It was a side-business to their primary one, to be sure, but it seemed to bring them joy, not to mention numerous injuries and the need to reconstruct their lab every couple of months.

“And Weslex was…?” her mother prompted him. He had so many clients, ranging from both factions, it could be difficult to remember them all.

“The flying machine mechanic and flight master for Hemet in Sholazar Basin.”
An’dras didn’t take note of the cutthroat flash in his wife’s eyes at the mention of Hemet’s name.

Lyriah sucked in a breath and her eyes widened at her mother’s predatory smile. Even Lyriah, as new to being a hunter as she was, had heard of Hemet.

“Hemet, you say?”

At the inquisitive tone in his wife’s voice, An’dras froze, just now realizing his mistake.

“Uh,” he started, and thought—only briefly—about trying to take back the name, but there was nothing for it. “Yes?” he said, hesitantly.

“Hah!” she exclaimed, and hit a fist in the palm of her other hand. “I can finally shut that loud-mouthed braggart up for good.” Then she looked down at Lyriah, her grin still feral and triumphant.

“Time to pack, dearest. We’re heading for Sholazar Basin.”

 

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