September 13, 2013 – 7:11 pm
(With Tarquin and Annalea)
Once more, four people made their way through the thickets and hills of Lordaeron, this time in the crisp chill of late morning, seeking after the Rider. Aelflaed had snatched what sleep she could while Chryste winged her way to them on gryphon-back; the same jostled nerves and fearful hope that had kept her from any real rest also kept her moving and alert. Even she’d been well-rested, though, this would have been a hard party to read.
Chryste, of course, was as unreadable as she always was when armed and prepared for violence. Any fears or doubts, if she had them, slowed her no more than the monstrous sword across her back seemed to. She brought up the the rear, and Aelflaed led them herself; between them, Tarquin and Annalea were a matched pair. Bright-eyed, alert, their smiles stowed for once in favor of the steady wariness of hunting animals, and whatever worries they brought with them to the wood hidden behind it.
Aelflaed halted them at the same spot Orryl had on the night before. She was no tracker, but the night was carved in her memory like graven stone. “‘Tis off here,” she told them, “well back’n the forest.” She looked at Tarquin, too tired and heartsick to care if she was overstepping. “An’ I think ye maun like ta talk oan what wir goin’ ta be doin’ once we get there, boss.”
Tarquin looked at her strangely, then at Annalea with a species of chagrin floating across his face. Annie was the one who answered. “It would help, wouldn’t it? Sorry, Aely. We get used to…” she made a minute gesture that carried a world of explanation in it, with her clever bard’s fingers. Kaleigh, al’Cair, ap Danwyrith – hands and head and mouth – with no need to state the plans they’d gotten used to carrying out. Aelflaed had known them longer than to be offended.
“Anyro’,” Tarq offered, looking into the scrub and the shadows of the tree line, “Best we speak it, whatever, an’ be certain. Annie?” The priestess lifted an eyebrow, and Aelflaed surged into the gap before she could speak.
“Beg pardon – Annie, Tarq-” Chryste, peering off into the distance, didn’t seem to give a damn who was talking – “Want ta be clear oan’t. What it is wir lookin’ t’find. Jolstraer, e’en when he wis with us, ye ken how it went wi’ him, th’ stubborn auld mule. Do things jus’ t’piss ye oaf, remind he wisnae auld an’ bent’s all thit…” She mastered herself, fought the tide of memories, things she hadn’t mourned for years coming back up again.
Chryste’s soft voice surprised her, especially with the dark woman still looking out at the trees. “Yeah. Foul-tempered fucker, wasn’t he? If we’d tried crowning him King of Stormwind, he’d of said he didn’t need an ugly damn chair, he could stand on his own two feet.” She laughed and showed them a rare smile. “You think it’s him, Aelflaed?”
“Pretty well convinced, yeh. Sounds like him, feels like him. I’d think if it wis sommat tryin’ ta pretend ta be him, they’d be nicer, an’ less flummoxed by findin’ me. He’s… well, e’en if it is Jols, he’s dangerous. He attacked me fir tellin’ him I thought he wis full ay shite. Likely will do similarly if wir na careful about how we approach him – he may be defensive, air jus’ flat out hostile. An’ he’s … stronger than he used ta be. An’ bigger. ”
“Stronger and bigger,” said Anna, contemplating. “At least you didn’t add ‘meaner’ to the list. The Jolstraer I remember was, uh, cantankerous, but not mean. Not to anyone in the Colors, at least. If it comes to fighting, you three can hold your own. And, well. Not that I want to knock him down, if it’s really Jolly, but if he gets past Chryssy and yourself and Tarq…” She held out one hand and walked a coin made of shadow across her knuckles. “Let’s leave that as unlikely for now, and hope it’s him. And he’s in a good mood.”
“Think yeh that last twa’s a bit, uh, contradictory?” Tarquin smiled faintly. “We’ll be mindful, Aels. Wir here ta find a mate, no’ start a fight, so we’ll eat a few kettles ay shite if that’s what’s served. Awright?” Aelflaed nodded. There was nothing for it now but to trust them. “Now ta the first point – Annie?”
“Right.” The shadow coin grew and elongated, twining around her fingers in a thick tendril. From there it split into a hundred thinner threads which she gathered into a loop. “I’ll want a look at him. Jolstraer, that is, not the body he’s been shoved into. Whatever this… Aes’kyr? Is that it? Whatever she did, I ought to be able to see the traces of. But that’s only going to tell me that someone shoved a soul into a body. I can do that from a distance, but…” Annalea mmphed. “I doubt he’ll like the rest. I need a look inside, to make sure it’s not some poor sad git made to believe he’s Jolstraer ap Taborwynn. That’s twofold: looking for outside fuckery first. I doubt he’ll take too much issue with that.” The skein of shadow threads disappeared up her sleeve. “If I don’t find any, I’m going to want a stroll through his memories. To be absolutely certain.” She grinned at her companions, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “I doubt he’ll take well to that.”
Aely attempted to grin back. “Dinna think he will, but if ye explain it, he maun be muir obligin’ than jus’ outright goin’ siftin’ through his head. I canna actually prove it’s him oan my own anyway, an’ I’m na afraid ta say as much. I heard his last confessions, so I dinna ken there’s much ye’d find wha’ I dinna already ken anyway. He says he’s unfinished business, an’ things he needs ta say – best way fir him ta say it is fir folk ta actually believe it’s him. An’ ye can offer tha’ proof, Annie. Only hope he sees it tha’ way.”
“If it’s him, Aels, then he will. I expect yeh’ll make him.” Either Tarquin was dead certain, or bluffing like a champion. “Let’s be about it, then. Take us ta the man.” Aelflaed nodded and turned towards the treeline, and after a bare moment’s hesitation, led them off the road and into the forest’s edge.
September 11, 2013 – 9:47 am
She hadn’t wanted to leave Jolly – not so soon after finding him again – but once away, it took about five minutes for Aely to figure out she had a problem.
That problem had just announced that it was not really dead, and it had a new body, but it’s own old brain. And that problem needed to be reintroduced to the Riders – deserved to be, for all he’d been through. But she had no idea how to convince anyone that it really was Jolstraer, wearing some hapless Scarlet like a new suit, back to haunt the world and cuss out it’s denizens with the best of them.
She wasn’t really sure how she was even sure it was Jolstraer, but somewhere, deep down, something had clicked into place . Whether it was the roar, or the self-hatred, or that he’d known her but attacked her anyway – or just that the voice was right. Still, she distrusted her heart’s response – was she just clinging to false hope because she was so out of her mind over losing Arrens?
Aely rode into Hearthglen, past the training camps and the gryphon master, past the barracks, into the civilian part of town, straight to the house Tarquin now shared with Annalea. The man she called boss was in the yard, in a ragged vest and trousers, beating the hell out of a somehow smug-looking target dummy.
For the second time in the span of a day, she took a deep breath, steeled her nerves, and walked up to him. “Oi, Boss?”
Tarquin’s head snapped over, the short wicker blade in his hand stilling. “Awright, Aels?” he gasped out between lungfuls of air.
“I’ve… got some interestin’ news. I think ye maun wan’ ta be sittin’ down fir this too.”
“Huh.” The boss leaned against the manikin, wiping sweat-slick hair off his forehead. “Maun’s well, then. I think this fucker’s winnin’. One tick.” He dropped his weapon carelessly and pushed off to gulp down some water and dunk his head in the barrel, while Aelflaed waited as patiently as she possibly could, nerves fraying at the edges, circling back over the same questions she’d been asking herself since she got back on her horse.
After what seemed like an hour, Tarquin finally dropped his gangly frame into a wicker chair and nodded to the empty seat next to it. “What’s the score?”
Aely did not sit, opting for something more like pacing instead. “‘s… well, I headed out wi’ a few Argents yesterday ta look fir someone they’re callin’ Sir Spooky – some dark rider, seems ta be oan our side, but makin’ folks nervous. I went wi’ them, figured I could use sommat ta do. We found him though, an… well.” She ran her hands through her hair, pushing back the loose curls. “Says he’s Jolstraer ap Taborwynn, back fra th’ dead.”
“Jolstraer.” Tarquin was smiling faintly, but it was hard to say whether he was amused or just Tarquin. Aelflaed was too rattled yet to consider punching him if it was the former. “An’ did yeh tell yir Sir Spooky yeh ken Jolly’s fate, better’n any in this world?”
“Did. Offered ta show him wi’ my sword too. He swears he’s th’ only one’d have th’ nerve ta call himself Jol Taborwynn, an’ tha’ some Val’kyr found his ring an’ gave him a new body. I couldna beat ‘im in a swordfight if I tried, but I matched him at wits, an’ beat him wi’ Light, an’…” She swallowed again, glad at least to see the smile gone from Tarquin’s face. “…an’ I think he is tellin’ th’ truth.” She sank into the chair next to him.
Tarquin’s face was blank as fresh paper as he looked at her, tapping one thumb idly and slowly on the arm of his chair. “Yeh think he says it true. That he’s Jolstraer – our Jolly – come again.”
“I do. I’d swear it. He’s e’en th’ same voice.”
“Once mair, Aels.” Infuriatingly, coldly, steadily. “Tell me once mair.”
“Oan th’ ashes ay th’ house I sang o’er. He recognized me, an’ … An’ I think he speaks truth.”
The boss rocked back a little in his chair, and there was his smile. A bit different, though – like he smelled the scent of the track that might, just might, lead to believing her. And what that belief would mean. “Three times yeh tauld me, then. ‘Moan.” He unfolded his gangly frame with a grunt and headed into the house, which was, all things considered, a bloody mess. “Annie’s up the lab. I’ll get her presently.” Aelflaed rose and followed, Tarquin still talking over his shoulder. “First, but – where are yeh, yeh bollocks – right.”
Tarquin tossed aside a blanket atop a table and turned up his buzzbox. He went through the agonizingly slow process of switching it on, dialing it in, and finding whatever mysterious, ghostly waves would carry his voice across the world, while Aelflaed hovered, cursed herself for hovering, and cursed herself again for not doing…something. “Chryssy,” Tarquin finally said. “Am I wakin’ yeh?”
Chryste Kaleigh’s response came with a minimum of hiss and crackle. “Of course not, Tarq. If you did, I’d have to murder you. So I guess I’m having some awful dream.”
“Well awright. When yeh wake, hie yirself ya Hearthglen, an’ dinna spare the bird.”
“Can I murder you when I get there?” Aelflaed assumed Chryste was joking only because she knew Tarq had done worse than wake her from a mid-afternoon nap.
Tarquin pinched the bridge of his nose. “Kaleigh.” She grunted in response. “Posthaste, aye?” There was a long silence on the box and then, an answering “Aye,” and the click of gnomish technology calling it a day. Tarquin turned to Aelflaed, who was eyeing him with what she hoped was concealed impatience.
“Chryste?” she asked him.
“Aye,” he responded, flipping his own buzzbox into silence. “She’ll be quick eno’, an’ I need me rig an’ ta find Annie.”
“Quick enow, boss,” Aelflaed agreed. “But why?” Chryste had wept on Jolstraer’s death, but so had a good many others. For a long – she pulled back from that precipice. Tarquin smiled at her a little bitterly.
“Yeh told me three times, Aels, an’ so I believe yeh fine. But could be wir both wrong.” He turned away, heading for the stair to his rooms. “An’ then we’ve some thing bearin’ auld Jolly’s name. That’s Kaleigh’s job.”
September 9, 2013 – 10:05 am
It was an uneasy goodbye for him, but it was agreed by both he and Aely that a stroll back to Hearthglen would not be very easy to explain, nor would the explanation needed for the three Argent soldiers once they regained consciousness. Aely would get word to Tarquin. What would happen then…well, Jolly could not be concerned with that.
She had certainly come into her own in the time he had been…departed. That much he was glad to see. This was something that preoccupied his mind as he retreated further into the highlands of Lordaeron, back into forests and glens that, in some cases, had not seen men since before the rise of Arathor.
Four days, they had agreed upon. In four days he would move back down into the lowlands south of Hearthglen, and there he would meet with them again. How that would turn out…well, he would know then. Distractedly, he looked south. Somewhere out there, he knew the ring lay. In whose hands, he was completely uncertain. He hoped to find them before they unlocked its secrets. He hoped to get his hands around their neck.
September 7, 2013 – 9:02 am
“Light sent me ye when I needed ye afore – an’ now again when I need ye. I canna ask fir more than tha’.” She sighed and slung the shield back across her shoulders. “It’s… Light. Been awhile hasna it? Well, what e’er else has happened in th’ last years, th’ Bloody Prince is dead, Jols. I wis there fir that much. Ye dinna get ta see it, but we won in th’ end.”
“Ah ken,” he said quietly. “Ah…felt ‘im die,” he said, uncertainly. He sat for a moment, working out how to explain it. “This lan’ was full ay tha dead. Souls trapped in…perpetual battle. Tha dey ‘ee died…well, le’s jes’ say ay lot ay tormen’ ended.”
“‘s been a lot ay torment since though. Th’ world’s been torn apart an’ put back t’gether, an’ new worlds explored. Things dinna change, but that they change a lot, though I s’pose tha’s nae surprise. I’ve been married an’… an’ widowed. Th’ farm’s gone. Wir still th’ Wildfire Riders though – Tarquin an’ Annie an’ Threnn an’ Bricu an’… well, an’ some new faces. Do ye… wan’ ta come back?”
“Ay bloody well cannae keep hauntin’ ‘is place,” he replied, then shook his head. “Nae, tha’s nae raight. There’s…things ‘at shoulda been said, ah’ve nae said. Things lef’ undone.”
Aely bent and picked up her mace from the dust where it lay by the fire, slipping it back into it’s loop at her belt. With a sigh and a gentle clatter of armor, she sat down on the other half of the now-split log. “I think we’ve all go’ things unsaid, Jols. If ye’ve any ay it ta say ta me, I’m listenin’. An’ if nae t’ me, then I’ll do what I can ta help ye say it.”
“In time,” he replied quietly. “Fel, ah’ve got ah lot o’et oan me han’s nae.” He looked over at her again. “Ah’m sorreh fer yer loss, luv. Ah’ve…been ‘ere a’fore.”
She nodded. “It’s… well, it’s a long story. Fir another time, I think. I need ta keep my wits abaet me.” After a few moments, she gave him a hard look. “How, Jols? I watched yir body burn ta ash, an’ cleansed tha’ place fir years.”
Jol grunted, a sound that had been missing for too long. He got up and checked the boarsmeat still roasting on the spit, then tore off a large chunk without much regard for the heat. “Yeh ken tha ring, aye? Tha wunn Brick made?”
“Aye.” She nodded. “Th’ one ye lost, wha’ had th’ plague protections in it.”
Jolly nodded, tearing into the haunch of meat. “Somebodeh foun’ ‘et. An’ laight, wos we luckeh.
“Like ay said, ah ken when tha Bloodah Prince fell. Ah also ken sommat wos up when ah saw tha Val’kyr in Lordaeron. ‘Ey’s ah nasty plight ay bitches, ‘ey be. But ‘ey ain’ all sae evil. One foun’ meh ring in tha Tarren rivah, an’ she used ‘et tae…summon meh. More’n jes’ tha plague wos in ‘at ring, an’ ah b’lieve ‘er. She tol’ me ay ‘ow tha Val’kyr had foun’ nae masters, an’ tol’ me more ’bout tha Aes’kyr who barred me from passin’ oan.” He swallowed down another big bite of boar, then looked…displeased with what he was about to say next. “Ah ‘elped ‘er find ah feller from tha Monastery. She used tha same magic ‘et siphoned tha Scourge from me tae…siphon tha lad out ay him.”
He looked down at his grease-stained hands, empty of food and so different from the ones he had long become used to. “Tha grea’er good, aye?”
Aely grimaced, and made a sign of warding. “Tha’s foul magic. Ye ken how I feel about Scarlets, but… tha’s unnatural an’ foul. I dinna call it good, ta ha’ such evil oan either ay ye.” She looked at him, bitterness creeping into the edges of her voice. “I suppose ye wir happy ta take form again?”
“Which yeh think ah’d rather?” He asked back hotly. “Roamin’ tha fuckin’ glen like some woe-is-me bint, watchin’ as folk make shite decisions an’ lose tha land ay love? ‘Er gamble ay soul ‘et’s already been damned, an’ try tae bring ah lil’ violence tae ‘ey who jes’ dunnae ken when tae lay doen an’ stay dead!?” Jol got up, pacing back and forth around the campfire. “Nae. Nae, it ain’ tha Val’kyr an ay yeh got tae worreh ’bout. She’s been d’stroyed annahwey. She gave meh life, an’ somebodeh else took it. And tha ring.”
“So th’ Val’kyr is destroyed, an’ yir here. An’ somebody else has yir ring? Dinna tha’ give them a lot ay power o’er ye?”
“No tha yet, ah thin’. ‘Ey must nae ken ‘ow tae use ‘et. Othahwise, ah dunnae thank ah’d ‘ave such control oan me own.” He scrubbed a hand through his grimey hair. “Ah’ll find ‘em, kill ‘em, take tha ring an’ ‘en…figger it oot from ‘ere.”
“‘s nae much ta go oan, but I suppose it’s all there is. If I can help, ye’ve but ta ask.” Aely watched him pace for a few moments more and then asked, “Jols, when’s th’ last time ye had a bath?”
He stopped and looked at her, and then it started. It bubbled up from deep in his belly, gurgling up like a bass drum being beaten to death. It rolled out boomingly, a heartfelt laugh he hadn’t felt since long before the Scourge, the Riders, the War and many other odd memories. It went on for a good while, nearly doubling him over with the sheer…openness of it. “Laight!” he finally wheezed, stumbling himself over to the log and plopping down again. “Val’kyr, deaders, ah fuckin’ ring ‘et could turnin’ me intae ah murderin’ maniac, an’…apparen’lah ah stink!” He started guffawing again, nearly falling off the log. “Laight’s sake, ah missed yeh lassie. Ah did.”
November 14, 2014 – 7:32 am
So I haven’t finished the intro quests yet (the server queues from the reduced server capacity due to the DDOS attacks meant I only got about an hour to play yesterday), but I’m finding that Draenor is pretty cool so …
November 13, 2014 – 12:30 pm
The morning of the all hands summon to the Blasted Lands, Aely went for a walk. The late fall air was clear and cool, and leaves crunched under their feet in the less-traveled parts of the streets. She and Roger …
November 11, 2014 – 3:09 pm
What a long strange trip it’s been. I’ll be the first to admit that, at the beginning, I wasn’t sure Pandaria was going to be for me. I’ve made clear my dislike of daily quests, and that seemed to be …
October 24, 2014 – 12:01 pm
Squire Benjamin William Sullivan stood in the middle of Light’s Hope Chapel in his underpants.
Actually, it was white linen pants and a shift, but the effect was approximately the same. The little chapel was warm, on the edge of …
June 29, 2014 – 4:39 pm
So I’m not really in a position where I should be creating alts. This, of course, does nothing to deter me from making alts when the inspiration strikes. I’ve been really enjoying my Alliance hunter, and she’s my raiding main …
November 19, 2013 – 4:46 pm
Bad things are happening in Stormwind – and beyond.
The Hand of Lothar, they call themselves.
Yva Darrows was their first target.
Tirith and Aely were their second and third.
They have since… expanded their reach and escalated their methods …
November 13, 2013 – 9:59 am
The cathedral bells stop ringing overnight, except for chiming the hours. Three bell strikes, and Angoleth padded softly around another corner of the Cathedral District, staying carefully in the shadows. Trained ears picked up Mogget’s soft breathing – nearly inaudible …
November 7, 2013 – 1:33 pm
(Written by Jolly, Tarquin, and Annalea)
The highlands of Lordaeron were not for the faint of heart; be it the putrescence of the Scourge’s long-lingering remnant, or the rock-strewn hills and valleys that made farmers out of only the most …