August 27, 2012 – 11:47 pm
Arrens didn’t come back to the apartment that night, but Aely slept on the couch anyway. She’d left the armor where it was, strewn about their living room, taking a well placed kick at whatever piece was in her way when she had to walk around. It didn’t really help, and she’d put a big dent in the coffee table.
They danced around each other, cold and barely cordial, for two days. Arrens made a big show of tending to his robes. Aely stopped hiding when she was going out to practice.
She knew, on some level, that he was right. This war was stupid. The whole thing reeked of stubborn hot-headed leaders making poor decisions with nothing to gain but a whole pile of dead soldiers. On the other hand, she’d sat by for the fight against Deathwing, and nearly gone crazy with the lack of activity, relying on second and third hand reports of the goings on. On the other hand, she’d promised him her life, and they’d done their best to build a home together, with dreams of a family. On the other hand, someone had to tend the soldiers in the fields, working to reduce that eventual bodycount, and that kind of work helped keep the battles far away from Stormwind. On the other hand, there was the peace summit, and she hadn’t exactly thrown all in to help with it.
An’ that’s jus’ too many fuckin’ hands.
Aely sighed, picking up Jolly’s shield and turning it in her hands. It wasn’t her preferred setup, using a shield and mace; she’d rather the weight of a greatsword, but something about it made her pause.
Maybe the peace summit was the way to go for now. If it worked, maybe there’d be no more wakes for dead Riders.
Of course, if he couldn’t realize that she had obligations to more than just him, then this whole thing was going nowhere. Maybe he had nothing better to do than drop everything he’d worked for, but she, at least, still valued the other promises she’d made.
She watched Arrens come in from class, refusing to meet her glance as he headed into his study. After a few minutes, she followed after him, knocking on the molding around the open door.
He glanced up briefly before his eyes returned to his writing. “Yes?” he said tersely. Not “Yes, dear” or “Yes, my love,” as was the norm.
“S’there any chance ay havin’ some sort ay conversation? I’m na even sure I ken where I stand on any ay this.” Aely kept her voice as calm as possible.
He set his pen down and removed his glasses. “Yes. I suppose we should. I’m merely doing what must be done to ensure Professor Landris has all she needs to facilitate a smooth and seamless transition to the role of headmaster.”
Aely frowned. “Sounds like ye’ve made more decision than I have.”
“I can ill-afford to wait on something this big. Keep in mind, the school is largely funded through the kingdom’s tax revenues. She’ll need to know who to contact in the event our funding is conveniently forgotten.”
“An’ if I dinna leave? If th’ peace summit works out – which I /am/ attendin’, ye ken – an’ it’s all fir naught?”
“I’ve made provisions for the position to return to me upon my return.”
“Sounds like yir goin’ regardless, then. I thought all this wis stupid an’ pointless.”
He looked her in the eyes and said, “I told you, if you were going, so was I. Stupid or not, I will not sit idly by again while you sacrifice life and limb. I did it before. I’ll not do it again.”
“So ye’ve decided I’m goin’ then? News t’ me. Figured it wis a bigger decision than that.” Aely fidgeted with the doorframe.
“I’ve made no such decisions. I’m merely making plans in the event, or perhaps the likelihood, that you will make such a decision. I know you well enough to know the way you think, to know where your heart lies. I’ve seen your restlessness these past few months while your friends and comrades-in-arms have fought. Or am I wrong? Have I misread you for so long now despite my hopes that you were happy to be living a peaceful life, such as it is, while war raged around us?”
“Sometimes I think I’m fir creatin’ peace, na fir livin’ in it. I’m goin’ ta this summit fir Bricu an’ Loreli, fir th’ folks wha’ think it’ll work. But I canna sit by an’ let this war come t’ Stormwind again. If yir goin’ with me, I’ll do my best t’ be near ye.”
He approached her and took her in his arms. “And I you, my love. That’s why I’m making these preparations. I won’t sit by hoping for a letter or for you to get some leave to come back from some battlefield. I won’t spend my nights in the university chapel praying to the gods for your return.”
“Ye ken ye’ll be in a lot more danger than I am, yeh? I … dinna think I’ll be volunteerin’ fir field duty. Maybe wi’ Ben, t’ get him started, but na full time. I’m too old fir tha’ shit.”
“So am I,” he said, releasing her and walking to the window. He gazed outside at the park below. “It’s strange, isn’t it? It seems like both a lifetime ago and just yesterday that our armies were massing to walk through the Dark Portal. I swore when the final siege was laid upon the Black Temple that I wouldn’t return to battle. And yet here I am.”
Aely grinned. “Well, I’m kinda on th’ verge ay swearin I’ll ne’er do clerk duty again, myself. Gonna need bloody bifocals.”
He glanced at his glasses lying on the desk and raised an eyebrow at Aely.
“Wha? Just because ye need ‘em dinna mean I’m in any hurry. Canna wear specs under a helmet anyroad.”
Arrens sat on the window sill and faced Aely. “You understand why I’m doing this, don’t you? For the same reasons I’m coming to terms with why you must do this.”
“I can understand it, yeh. I still am na sure it makes good sense, but then I’m na sure any ay this makes good sense. Prob’ly a fool’s errand – either th’ peace summit or th’ war.” She leaned against the edge of the windowframe.
“I doubt any sense will ever be made of it, even years after it all ends.” He placed his arm around her waist. “I’ll be with you. And for now, that’s all the sense I need.”
August 24, 2012 – 7:35 am
Today’s Friday Ficlet challenge is to write a short story (500 words or less) that sums up what one of your characters has been doing for the last two years. Fighting dragons? Getting married? Smoking felweed behind a shady bar in Shattrath? Have a go at something that gives a good closing to what we’ve been up to, because everything’s about to change.
Feel free to post on your own blog/forums and leave links in comments! I love reading these.
Down Came a Spider
The orc didn’t see her, there behind a well constructed blind. Her crew of nightsabers lay sleeping behind her, various ears twitching occasionally, while she sat in wait. Intelligence said the cultists came this way, concealing a communication route through the thick of the trees on the mountains around what used to be Loch Modan. They were pretty securely in Alliance territory here, but the Twilights didn’t seem to have much notice for boundaries.
She stifled a belch, sour and with a hint of last night’s tequila, and watched as the orc picked his way through the dense underbrush, sometimes riding, sometimes leading his worg. He was thin and almost emaciated, dark robes hanging off of his bony frame, which seemed odd – out of sorts with the power and strength so common to orcs, now that they were free of the blood of Mannoroth.
At least, they said they were free of it.
Angoleth chewed on a bit of grass, vision trained down the sight of her crossbow.
He had made it almost through her field of vision, moving slowly, no indication that he was of any consequence, when a spider dropped down in front of his mount. The giant worg scurried sideways, but the spider only mimicked, winding up to spit the horrific, numbing poison so common to the spiders in these parts.
Then the orc summoned a twisted, fouled elemental, and she put a bolt through his head.
She thanked the spider later.
August 22, 2012 – 8:18 pm
I’ve been writing fic again. Some on my own, some with Arrens, some with Duugvilder, a little bit with Loreli.
I’m not sure what I think, other than I’d forgotten how much fun this is. Not just the writing – which is pretty fun – but putting my head together with other writers to do things that are better than I could do alone.
I can’t say there are big plans here, but there ARE plans. Hopefully you guys have as much fun with them as I do.
August 20, 2012 – 6:02 pm
First Arrens noticed that Aely had her working armor out on its stand again, next to the dress armor she kept around for special occasions.
Then he noticed it was being cleaned up, the dents hammered out again, the paint retouched, leather straps repaired or replaced.
Then it was getting scratched, and suddenly there were two greatswords, a mace, a shield, and a double-ended polearm stacked in a corner between two bookcases.
She said nothing, but his worry got the better of him eventually. Aely didn’t often keep secrets, and while this one was pretty obviously sitting in the living room, he couldn’t bear the possible implications of it all, and eventually he simply couldn’t stand the silence.
Aely was working on a dent in her breastplate when he found her. “What is all this? What about the peace summit that’s coming, love? Don’t you trust to people to bring an end to all this wretched war?” His voice was genuinely concerned and confused – this wasn’t how things were between them.
Aely sighed. “I’ve spent everythin’ I have t’ create peace, an’ it’s ne’er worked before. Th’ peace summit will come an’ go, an’ folk will talk oan peace an’ do all th’ wee things t’ foster honesty an’ such. But when th’ final question comes, th’ war will come back somehow. It’ll come regardless ay peace, an’ it’s worth bein’ ready t’ protect wha’ we love.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little, well, counterintuitive to giving this whole peace thing a try? Bricu says they’re really willing to talk, ready to give up the senseless slaughter if we’ll do the same.”
“Bricu’s got a good long history ay workin’ with th’ presumed good folk oan th’ other side. Me? All I’ve seen is th’ destruction of Lordaeron, an’ th’ destruction of Northrend, an’ now th’ destruction of Ashenvale an’ Southshore. I’ll keep Bricu’s good faith in mind, an’ go in th’ hopes tha’ he’s right. With all th’ insanity ay this world, it jus’ might be possible t’ save us all, an’ all we love, from yet another war.” She continued after an invisible spot of rust on her bracers.
“Why you, Aely? Why not work for peace /here/. Continue to rebuild Stormwind and tend to those who… who need you.” The look on his face bordered on desperate.
“Dammit, Arrens. Because I swore it. I swore it oan th’ day I started this whole mess, t’ vanquish evil, t’ protect innocents wi’ my very life, t’ spread wisdom an’ grace an’ peace. I canna stand by an’ let th’ peace summit go without me. But neither can I be unready if it fails.” Aely sighed again; this wasn’t a conversation she was ready to have yet, but here it was anyway.
“And what of all we’ve built here? Isn’t this your life now? Haven’t you given all that up in favor of peace? How can you leave all this behind?”
And there it was. The question she’d so wanted to avoid; the hurt and anger behind his voice betraying the very concerns she had about going back.
She’d let the war with Deathwing pass her by, working in Stormwind to rebuild the city and nurse the wounded who returned. Why /couldn’t/ she just continue like that? What was the draw to go back out and put her life on the line, healing in the fields and fighting… fighting a new enemy, really. A sentient enemy, if one she thought she was sworn to fight, at least in Sylvanas and her cult. But was this really even her fight?
“I’m… I’ll ne’er leave this behind, love. I’ve worked too hard oan it. But I canna stand by either. ‘S in my very blood – it’s who I am. Maybe yir right, an’ this isn’a my fight. But I’m restless t’ DO something. If peace happens, I’ll fight fir that – but if justice is needed, my hand will be in th’ fray. I dinna fight blindly, nor trust blindly. But I canna sit by an’ watch. I doubt the Riders will either. We’ll either be in th’ fight fir peace, or in th’ fight for what matters.”
“Fuck them. Fuck everything about that. Is this all their idea? Don’t you see that everything you start with them ends in misery and fighting? They’re a good enough bunch to have a drink with at the Pig and Whistle, but I still can not think what attracts you to ally yourself with them. Don’t they stand against everything you believe in?”
“They have no idea what I’m considering. They’re my Gods-damned /family/. I thought we were over this. I thought ye’d accepted them an’ what they work for, even if ye dinna always accept the methods. Dinna ye see what happened with the Lotus trade? None of us will go inta this senselessly. Bricu is /leading/ this cause for peace. The rest? We know th’ cost; we’ve seen it. And maybe the peace will work. Maybe we’ll end up working for that, working against th’ people who declare for war an’ conquest. But I /will not/ sit by an’ let it happen around me, offerin’ platitudes about th’ Light. I’m na fuckin’ Grayson Shadowbreaker.”
Arrens’ face began to redden as he further stood his ground. “Do you firmly believe another war is going to break out? I’ve no love for the Horde or the brutal tactics they’ve always maintained. I’m also firmly aware that Hellscream is a fanatical hothead, just as his father was before him. But clearly, cooler heads, even within the ranks of the Horde, must prevail.” He took a deep breath knowing the words on his lips would sting with a venomous bite. “Even more important than all of that, what of your promises to /me/? Of our desire to start a family? Does that mean less to you than an oath made to men who would see you throw your life away uselessly upon the battlefield? Or to your ‘family’,” he said with obvious sarcasm, “who clearly use you for their own personal gain? Can you, a woman more intelligent than most of my former instructors in Dalaran, be so blind as to not see that?”
Aely’s face went red, and then white. “Are ye really such a petty arsehole, Arrens Caltrains, tha’ ye’d tell me I need t’ choose between my oaths? I made those promises t’ th’ Light itself, na’ t’ any man, an’ I’ve made no oath but that ay blood an’ sweat an’ death t’ Tarquin ap Danwyrith. An’ whether ye bloody like it air no, neither th’ Riders air th’ Dawn will “throw” anythin’ away. If they did, I’d be dead oan th’ ground in Wintergrasp, frozen t’ death an’ plagued.” She stood up, letting the armor fall aside. “An’ fir that matter? After th’ bloody shit ye pulled wi’ th’ Nether? So would ye. I dinna take my promises lightly. Ye think I’d throw it all away fir naught? Who th’ bloody hell do ye think I am?”
He stood as well, standing near enough to her that each could feel the other’s breath on their faces. “My wife! That’s who! Do you believe I should be thankful that the woman I love is willing to throw her life away? For what? Politics?!” he spat. “What can possibly be achieved by a war of attrition? Certainly, someone will be declared the victor once the history books are written. Statues will be raised in honor of so-called heroes who laid down their lives. All because that idiot king and the hotheaded warchief can’t speak like two grown adults! Tell me, where in the Nether does that make sense?”
“Maybe in th’ part ye visit?” Small red blotches were growing on Aely’s cheeks. “Ye’re talkin’ like I’m going t’ go headlong into an orc charge wi’ battle flags flyin’. I’m na’ DAFT, I’m a fucking healer, an’ honestly it’s Sylvanas I’m worried about anyway. I’ve sat by long enough. Ye dinna marry a useless waif wha’ sits around waitin’ fir things t’ happen. I will na stand by while th’ people I swore my life to go out an’ fight, an’ th’ things I’ve fought for all my life go t’ waste.”
Arrens glared at her. He took another deep breath and shut his eyes for a moment. When they opened, he spoke quietly, in a voice that reminded Aely of how he spoke when reprimanding a particularly unruly student – calm, cool, and cause for more than a little concern. “Very well. If it’s my blessing you’re looking for, it’s my blessing you’ll receive. But know that I, too, have sworn my life. To you. And so, by that token, I will be joining you on the battlefield. Whether the Dawn or your ‘family’ approve, I don’t give a damn. I’ll turn over my duties as headmaster to one I can trust and bring my own particular brand of skills with me.”
“So yir just going t’ dismiss me. Ye canna be fucking serious.”
“Oh, very much so, my dear. While some of us merely ‘sat around’ during the events up north and others returned for weekends, bloodied and battle-weary, I vowed I would no longer be one of the former. Particularly after I swore my life to you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put plans into motion.” With that, he walked out, slamming the door behind him and causing several students and faculty to jump at the commotion.
“DINNA YE WALK… “ Aely screamed, throwing the gauntlet at the now-shut door. “YE LIGHT DAMNED BLOODY FUCKING WARLOCK!”