“Two days? I missed her by two days?!” Jael’andra slammed her fist onto the workbench.
“Whoa whoa whoa!” Sputtervalve cringed as an enormous jar of bolts rocked back and forth before tipping onto the bench and spilling across the wood. “Listen, lady, you asked if she was through the Outpost and I told you. No reason to be tearing this place apart!” He whistled sharply and a handful of non-descript goblins tumbled into the workroom to clean up the hundreds of scattered bolts. Jael’andra, sufficiently humiliated by her childish behavior, joined them in their work.
“I’m sorry, it’s just… well, anyway. Did she say where she was going? Or even what direction she was heading? Anything?” She scooped a handful of clinking steel into the righted jar. “Really, even a direction would be helpful.”
“She headed south-ish, that’s all I know. Not the gabby type, is she? Don’t think she said a full sentence while she was here.” Sputtervalve shook his head. “Nope, not a clue, lady. Wish I could help, really.”
“No, no, that’s fine. South… ish. I guess that works.” She rose from her crouch and dropped the last of the bolts into the jar before shouldering her pack.
Sputtervalve cleared his throat noisily, holding out a flat palm. The elf sighed and dropped a gold piece into his outstretched hand, which was quickly secreted about his person. He flashed a very toothy smile as she turned to go.
“Wish I could help, lady!” Sputtervalve called as Jael’andra strode away from the Outpost.
Crossing the Northern Barrens was unlike anything Jael’andra had ever undertaken. Accustomed to the forests of Eversong, the tainted but still lush woods of the Ghostlands… even the vibrant plains of Nagrand during the campaign against her former king… Jael’andra was thankful she had thought to refill her extra water skins at the goblin outpost. The heat was stifling and being midday, her body was quickly reaching its boiling point.
Jael swung herself up onto a low-hanging branch of one of the few trees in sight and easily pulled herself higher into the tree. She secured her pack on the stout limb behind her and lay back, sipping at her water skin. The oppressive heat of the sun was diluted but not completely thwarted. She shook her head and stuffed the skin back into her bag. It was simply too hot to travel by day. She had little choice but to grab a bit of sleep while the sun baked the Barrens around her.
When she awoke, it was dusk.
She was immediately aware of movement beneath her.
Turning ever so slightly, she cast her keen elven eyes to the ground.
A cat. A very large one. An extremely dark male lion.
Cursing her luck, she considered her options. Outrunning him was unlikely, if not completely impossible. Distracting him, equally hopeless. She had little meat, all of it dried, and none of it appetizing to such a large carnivore. She was well and truly up a tree.
She was losing Melana’s trail with every passing moment. Something had to happen.
With a silent prayer, Jael’andra readjusted her position in the tree to begin her descent. The hulking male lifted his thick mane, his startling golden eyes meeting Jael’andra’s wary gaze. She gained her footing on the nearest branch and the lion rose, now quite intent on the top of the tree.
Jael’andra began whispering quietly calming words in Thalassian as she began the slow, deliberate climb to the ground. The lion was curious, yes, but not appearing to coiling to spring the moment she was within reach.
After an eternity of about ten minutes, Jael’s feet touched the dry grass. The lion stuck his head around the tree to keep her in sight.
“You’re alone,” she whispered in Thalassian, examining the huge black lion before her. He dipped his head slightly. She took a half-step towards the cat. He didn’t move. “Where is your pride, hmm?” she murmured, stepping a touch closer. The lion stood his ground but didn’t fall back into a defensive crouch. So far, so good, she thought. “I’m alone, too. It seems we have much in common.” She lifted a calming hand towards the cat, who cocked his head slightly. He took a step forward and Jael tensed for the attack, cursing herself for taking this risk.
Her fear melted away as the cat nuzzled against her hand, closing his shining eyes. She sighed in relief and ruffled his mane slightly.
“I guess we’re not alone now, are we?”
“I don’t believe I will ever grow accustomed to your silence, Morrisa,” Duncan murmured, lightly swirling a beaker of a thin, violet, faintly luminescent substance. “So many others… well. They all talked. Incessantly. And though I wished for silence, I never realized how… odd… it could be.” Another moment of methodical twirling of the glass distracted him. “Yes. Hm. Quite odd indeed.” He carefully poured the now-pulsating fluid into a thin glass dish and watched it closely.
“I don’t have much to say,” the girl said simply, cigarette bouncing between her lips with each word. “Talk is cheap, as they say, no?” She returned her attention to the thick volume before her, lovingly caressing the edges of the pages as she read.
He grunted in agreement, eyes transfixed by the throbbing mass in the Petri dish. “But I talk to you,” he said, sniffing. “I have told you much of my travels and… adventures, shall we say? I’ve taught you so much.” He prodded at the purple glob with a thin metal tool and the entire thing deflated, never to stir again. He sighed. “You’re an excellent student and quite the apprentice, Morrisa, but is it so much to ask for a little conversation?”
He rolled his eyes. “When I saw you in that inn, I knew you had so much… potential. So much promise. And you have exceeded every expectation!” He unceremoniously dumped the dish into a small bowl of equally-failed specimens. “You have progressed so quickly, beyond the level of students with years of training, not just your scarce few months. I give you everything and yet you spend your waking hours with your nose buried in every book in my library.”
He slid from his stool and turned to face her. Morrisa was completely enthralled with the book before her. Her cigarette burned, now quite ignored, in the ashtray next to her. Her wine glass, still nearly full, was frozen halfway from the table to her lips. She scarcely blinked. Sighing again, he crossed the room quickly. “What are you even read… oh, fel.”
She looked up at him with two deep pools of unending blackness. “Him,” she said simply, tapping a slender finger on the book.
He snatched the book from the table and closed it with a snap, the ancient spine creaking in protest. “No,” he said matter-of-factly. “No, Morrisa. You are a quick study, truly, but that is a bit… beyond you.” The subtle change in the arrangement of her features instantly told him that he had gone about this completely wrong.
“You took me on as your apprentice, yes?” she asked, snuffing her cigarette and lighting another. “For my talent, for my ambition. Not my lack of ambition, no?” He rolled his eyes, shelving the book as she continued. “If this is not ambition, than what is, Duncan? Shall I tell you I will summon a pit lord upon your laboratory? Of course not.” She inhaled deeply, her body tingling as the heady blend of her smoke rushed through her. “No, this is well within my grasp and you know it.” She sidestepped him and snatched the book from the shelf. Flipping it open, she spun the page around so he could see. “The steed will be mine.”
The gnoll sat hunched on the fallen log, huddled against the ghostly, eternal twilight that hung over the Ghostlands like a shroud. He (or she, it was rather difficult to discern the genders of gnolls) poked the dying fire with a stout stick, stirring what remained of the precious embers.
Twelve bright green eyes studied the grotesque form hunched a dozen or so yards away. Five very sharp arrows pointed at the gnoll, two of them quivering softly. At a barely audible command, the arrows whispered free of their respective bows, three finding their mark.
The unfortunate gnoll, taken unawares, rolled off the log and onto the soft undergrowth of the woods.
An elven woman rose silently from the brush from which the arrows had come.
“Well done, Jai’talor, Kalendra, and Rilanon,” she hissed as the named elves beamed up at their tutor. The other two hung their heads as Jael’andra’s gaze fell to them. “Cel’andras and Malaquin, we will discuss your costly miss when we return to the city.” She shouldered her quiver, watching the clearing. “Gather your weapons, our three successful students will be making our next…”
Silence. She held up a slender hand and the students at her feet immediately froze. A sound, not far off and clearly attempting to conceal itself. Jael’andra dropped to a crouch and nocked her bow in the same motion, shaking her head almost imperceptibly at her students.
In an instant, the huntress was gone, silently stalking the source of the sound through the damp underbrush. She paused to listen for the soft crunching of leaves, her long ears twitching. There! She twisted around and caught a glimpse of movement. Inhaling the scent of her prey, she crept closer.
The height of the intruder coupled with the scent of sweet mana berries gave Jael pause. She peered through the leaves and cringed. She rose from the bushes and pressed the tip of her arrow against the elf’s neck.
“It’s not safe to be out in the middle of live exercises, Zenarra,” she growled as the startled elf froze. “We’re not out here shooting straw targets, you know.” She lowered the arrow and held a finger to her lips as the quaking elf spun around.
“I didn’t want to come out here!” the newcomer groaned miserably. “I know I shouldn’t be here, Jael, but Zandine has summoned you back to the city. She didn’t explain much but it must be important if she would send me all the way out here!”
Jael’andra dropped her arrow and cast a look back over her shoulder. “There are still many gnolls in the area, Zenarra. Come. I will gather the novices and we will return to the city at once.” She pointed at the girl’s city shoes. “And do try to be quiet. These ones aren’t yet ready to take on an entire pack of these slobbering beasts.”
A short time later, the trainer and her students mounted their hawkstriders at Tranquillien’s stable. Cel’andras and Malaquin, thankful for Zanarra’s distraction, urged their birds to the back of the group and tried to sink below their classmates.
Jael’andra gave the group a preoccupied once-over before urging her strider up the path to Eversong at a brisk pace. Zenarra, caught off-guard at Jael’s sudden departure, flipped the reins to encourage her own mount to catch up.
“What could it be?” Jael’andra mused aloud, her sleek brown ponytail bouncing in time with her bird.
Zenarra shrugged, matching the hunter’s pace. “I don’t know, but like I said, it must be important. Something about a Kil’andra? Tiv’ondra? Melana? Something like that.” Zenarra was shocked into a fearful silence as the color drained from the hunter’s face.
“Melana?” she asked quietly. “Do you really think she said that?” Zenarra frowned, shaking her head in confusion. “I mean it, Zen! Is that what she said?!” The younger elf drew back in surprise.
“I… I don’t know, Jael’andra! Maybe? I’m sorry, she’s was so abrupt in her message about someone she thought she had found!” the girl replied quickly. “I don’t even know who she was talking about!”
Jael’andra sighed, giving the hawkstrider the reins.
Zandine tried to calm Jael’andra’s tirade.
“Jae, really!” she sputtered, using the extremely familiar form of her fellow trainer’s name. “We don’t know for sure! The information is spotty at best and completely made up at worst. It came from a goblin!”
The pacing huntress waved a hand at the teacup proffered by Zandine. “Trustworthy or not, I warned you that I would investigate any lead, Zan! Anything! If she is alive… or… or even if she isn’t, I will find her!”
Zandine sighed, sipping from the refused cup of tea. “She went through the Portal, Jae. How likely do you really think it is that she just popped back up on Kalimdor? Out of the blue, no warning, so long after Kael’thas was finally defeated?” She set the cup on a table and stepped closer to the nearly-distraught hunter. “You assumed her dead for this long. I knew we shouldn’t have sent her description out with our scouts! I knew any tiny inkling of her supposed whereabouts would get you all worked up!”
Jael’andra pushed away from her peer. “I warned you,” she said again, almost flatly, “that I would go if there was even a shred of a shadow of a chance. And this is it. This is the first we’ve heard in years. I’m leaving for the Barrens immediately.”
The girl perched on a chair at a table in the back of the inn, methodically separating the leaves from a pungent assortment of herbs and stacking them in neat little piles. Her thin fingers made quick work of the task, expertly stripping the plants of all usable parts before flicking the useless stems into the fireplace. She appeared extremely intent on her work and never lifted her concentration from the table.
An old man sat across the nearly-empty inn, watching the girl with the same intensity. His eyes roved over her tanned, slender body, not at all concealed in the form-fitting blood-red robes she wore. Her hair, cropped shorter than shoulder length and flipping out at the end of spiky layers shifted in subtle shades of blue and black in the shadows cast by the fire. He watched the gold bracelets around her nearly-skeletal wrists clink and sparkle in the lamplight as she deftly divided the plants into stacks on the worn wood tabletop. A blood-red gem dangled from her delicate throat on a dainty golden chain and he mused in passing that it must be cheap costume jewelry, being used to garner her somewhat lacking bust some attention.
He was still gazing upon the girl when she turned slightly to dig into her pack. She produced a tiny box and inside, she found small rectangles of whisper-thin paper which she promptly set on the table before setting about mixing surprisingly exact amounts of the herbs atop the little white scrap. The burly old man snorted to himself in realization: the waif was rolling smoke! His suspicion was confirmed when she rolled the paper into a thin tube and quickly twisted the ends.
He had had enough of watching the youth and strode purposefully across the room. “I doubt yer old enough to be smokin’ that, eh?” he chuckled thickly, setting his ale on her table. “A pretty lil’ thing like you shouldn’t be doin’ it anyway, yeah? A nasty habit, that.”
The girl peered up at him with disconcertingly coal-black eyes. “I don’t really think it’s any of your business,” she replied quietly, finishing the twists on the ends of the cigarette.
The man was slightly taken aback by the coolness of her voice and the smolder of her deep eyes. He furrowed his brow and lifted his mug to his lips. “I think it be my business, darlin’, seein’ as how,” he paused, his eyes darting about in what he assumed was an inconspicuous manner, “this be my inn.”
To his surprise, the girl snickered quietly. “We both know that’s not true, old man. Let’s just both go about our business, hmm?” She motioned to the tiny roll suspended between her thin fingers.
The old man, not one to be put in his place by what appeared to be a mere child, became incensed. “Why, I oughta throw you out, you little wench!” he hissed through gritted teeth, spittle flying from his overgrown beard. “Or maybe I oughta learn you some manners, yeah? A lil’ schoolin’ on how you oughta talk to your elders.” He thumped his mug on the table, ale sloshing over the rim and spilling dangerously near her heaps of plant matter. “Or,” he began with a sneer, “how’s about how to treat yer elders, eh?” He reached to snatch the cigarette the girl was bringing to her lips.
Quick as lightning, the girl lifted her free hand and snapped her fingers, a half-inch flame springing to life at the tip of her pointer finger. The distraction gave the old man pause because, though drunk, he was not drunk enough to stick his hand through fire. The girl rested her elbow on the table, her unsettlingly dark gaze never leaving his own shocked stare. “I’m not here for any trouble, old man,” she said, cigarette hovering between her lips. “Just a quiet girl in a quiet inn in a quiet little town. But if you have the nerve to get that close to me again, well.” She splayed her fingers and the tiny fire spread and grew, multiplying into five inch-high flares dancing across each finger tip. “Why don’t you just sit back down over there before the real owner of this place shows up, hmm?”
The man stood in shock, frozen in a strange sort of horrified fascination as the flame engulfed the girl’s slight hand. Still never releasing his stare, she brought the blaze to the tip of the cigarette. When he still made no move to leave, she inhaled deeply to catch the tip of the smoke, then flicked her hand in his direction. Miniscule sparks silently exploded from her fingertips and found a new home in his scraggly beard.
The man loosed a high-pitched shriek. He dropped his mug, ale bursting forth like a fountain while he turned and ran out the door.
The girl shook her hand to extinguish the inferno, her dark eyes already refocused on her herbs.
The inn was nearly empty. A quiet man sat in a quiet corner, a disquieting smile spread across his face.
This started as a semi-joke with a friend on Wyrmrest Accord: creating an alt on a server where I have nothing (gold, bags, mats, rides, guilds, clothes, or friends), leveling, and setting up an outfit and RP story every 10 levels. I don’t know how this actually happened but apparently I’m doing it.
I decided to create two alts for this. I think I am being a bit ambitious but it will be fun anyway.
I toyed around with a couple server ideas. While RP servers seem like a given, I considered some non-RP servers as well. But in the end, I settled for Moon Guard, the home of my original (but terrible) WoW RP experiences.
I deleted some old alts from old servers (darn that 50 max character limit!) and Morrisa Gray and Jael’andra Dawnveil were spawned.