September 2, 2013 – 12:34 pm
Aely stood still in the growing darkness, pondering her options. These weren’t green recruits, but neither were they sure what they were dealing with. If it was a ghost, she’d probably need to outwit it rather than try any kind of strongarm tactics anyway. She didn’t like her odds in the woods either – armor wasn’t quiet, but neither was anything else, and though things were very still, jumping sidelong at every noise wasn’t helping the situation. Mice were allowed to live here too, and to rustle leaves.
After a few moments of nothingness, she decided on playing to her strengths. She wasn’t Lorelli – sneaking around in the dark did her no good, and in the woods, a greatsword was as much a hindrance as a help. She also wasn’t Tarquin – able to talk her way out of any situation, knowing her enemy before he knew her and playing his advantage. Neither was she Annalea, able to literally melt into shadow, and command it to work for her. She was a Paladin of the Holy Light, a Knight of the Silver Hand, and all this skulking was only putting her at a disadvantage.
Moving quietly, she slid her greatsword back into it’s sheath across her back, and unslung Jolstraer’s shield from across her shoulders, loosening a mace from her belt as well. She knew she’d only have a few moments, but she was armed, armored, experienced, and had – she hoped – one last element of surprise up her sleeves.
She called Light into her hands, and then allowed it to surge into a shield around her entire body – effectively lighting up the area within five yards.
And then, without more than a deep breath, she strode out into the little clearing, mace in hand, and demanded “An’ jus’ what th’ bloody fuck d’ye think yir oan about anyway?”
The camp wasn’t much of a camp; there was a fire, with a small boar roasting on a spit. Around the campfire were four ratty blankets, three of which were filled with sleeping forms…dressed in Argent colors. One was a night elf with a pair of sizable lumps on his head. The fourth form was sitting on a log, half dressed in ragged armor that had long since seen better days. He was a mountain of a man, Northern at first glance, but looking as though he’d been raised by wolves. Or bears, rather, given his size. His face looked…ancient; not the aged of scholars or wizards with long years of study. It was more the face of a man who had seen Arathor’s rise, and lived for the hunt before men deigned to build huts and towns and cities. His eyes were the cold blue of Northrend’s heart, and they watched her with an unwavering gaze, as if he’d been waiting for her. His blonde hair was long and wild, hanging down half to his forearms. In the front it was wrangled into two crude braids, and they were spattered with dark spots; mud, or more likely, long dried blood.
He took her in with a long look, his bare arms resting on a massive greatsword of his own, its point dug into the dirt and his hands on its hilt. His arms…dark runes and ancient script spiraled down the pale skin of his right, a dark mixture of demonic, Vrykul, Acherun…they wound down to his hand, cresting on the back of it in the shape of the North, the shape of a land that was too stubborn to die. The crest of Lordaeron emblazoned there had an eerie glow to it, shifting from red to purple to blue and back again.
He stared at her as if she were the banshee haunting the highlands. He stood, lifting the greatsword up and laying the flat of his blade on his shoulder. His voice was gravelly, and chillingly familiar.
September 2, 2013 – 9:04 am
At an hour before dusk, the three soldiers and the paladin set off south from Hearthglen. It was not a very far ride done the south road before Galin Riverwind led them off the road and into the rugged hills of Lordaeron. Orryl Hanley matched him stride for stride, his gangly features and experience on a Kul Tiran deck giving him ample footing. Rath ap Corrahnsfeld didn’t fair near as well, despite being a relative native.
“‘Ow long nae?” Rath muttered, using his spear more as a walking stick than a useful weapon.
“The hill ahead narrows the path,” Galin replied cryptically. “And something quiets the forest,” he went on in lower tones.
“We’re too far north fir Forsaken,” Aely frowned, surveying the rough highlands in the failing light. “Either Scourge or Scarlets if anythin’ is amiss. Orryl, cut through brush ta th’ left. Rath, come round the hill ta th’ right. Take it slow an’ easy,” she ordered, easing her sword from its scabbard. “Galin, take th’ lead. I’ll be right behind with room to swing.”
Rath and Orryl nodded at her orders, their training taking hold as they stalked into the wilderness. All of them had survived Northrend and weren’t about to have some skulking deaders or fanatics give them a ruckus.
Aely and the tall elf moved quietly along the path, and as they crested the rise she began to catch the faint smell of woodsmoke.
“Do ye smell that?” she asked, though she surmised the elf was already ahead of her in sensing it.
“Yes. A fire in the glen beyond. A small camp, to be so faint, so close.”
They moved more warily as they crossed the hilltop and down the other side. At the bottom the pair found Orryl, but Rath had not yet made it round.
“Campfire ahead. Small, maybe another Scarlet remnant,” Aely filled Orryl in as they waited.
“Never seems to be an’ end to ‘em, ‘ey mate?” Orryl grimaced. “Me be they’ll be too hungry to fight and come along peacably.”
“‘S possible,”Aely replied absently. Where was Rath? Even with his bulk, he should have been able to find them by now.
“I do not hear him,” Gavin spoke, as if reading her mind. She frowned, concerned.
“Prolly fiddlin’ with his cod,” Orryl muttered. The wind shifted, and the scent of woodsmoke filled the air, as well as that of something juicy roasting over it. “‘Ere, mayhap he’s scopin’ out ‘is fire, steakin’ out an ambush. Let’s have a looksee a’fore they find us.”
She didn’t like it, but they had come this far. The sun was already set behind the mountains. “Awright. Ten paces apart. Galin, the left. Orryl, ye take the center. Nice an’ quiet now.”
They moved out, each of them drifting into the thicket like worgs on the prowl. Their strides were so soft that field mice would have sounded like a herd of elekks. The smell of roasting boar meat grew stronger, and the fading twilight gave way to a faint glow flickering through the trees.
There was a rustle to her left, making her freeze in place, sword rigid before her and ready to strike. Moments passed, measurable by the beaded sweat that slowly tracked its way down her face. A distant thump. Moments more, and the thicket was deathly quiet again.
August 31, 2013 – 11:38 am
Introducing a new multi-part fic, written with Jolstraer, and possibly others as this goes on.
They always say you can’t go home again – and they’re probably right. Hearthglen wasn’t “home” any more than any other part of Lordaeron really was anymore, but it was about as close as she could get. Aely had taken Tarquin up on his invitation to head North for a week, and try to break out of the holding pattern that grief was putting on her brain, keeping her from even fully accepting what had happened. They’d had a good talk, and things sort of settled out from there.
Hearthglen had a lot to offer the former Silver Hand Knight, including a good portion of what was left of the Argent Crusade. Aely took a hand in working the horses there – something she hadn’t done since she had barely taken vows – and had even taken a few rounds of practice with some of the trainees. There was an infirmary there, but it wasn’t a warzone anymore, and she wasn’t needed to tend the sick.
The sword work was good in that it made her tired, and that would make her sleep. It also made her hungry, but she’d been welcomed back and had taken a few meals in the mess hall with the various levels of soldiers, most of whom were happy to listen to her tell stories of the assault on Ulduar or Icecrown, or even of the early days before the Scourge.
It was later one evening, at dinner in the barracks, where the first inkling showed of something not quite right with the little idyllic, reclaimed corner of Lordaeron.
“Oi you gits,” one infantryman said as he set his tin plate down on the table. The great hall was filled with tables and low benches, most of which were thinly populated with Argent soldiers taking in the evening’s meal. A sparse few greetings were given in response, most more occupied with the fried pork and piles of potatoes that were today’s fare. “Saw our frien’ again t’day.”
“Oh?” a gangly fellow from Kul Tiras with a long nose asked back. “Didn’t see him up close, did ya?”
The first, clearly a native, shook his head as he shoveled a mouth full of potatoes. “Nah. Alweys dusk, alweys aroun’ a hill awey. Creepy bugger. Must be ah scout ay tha F’rsaken.”
“No, he is not,” the Night Elf at the end of the table spoke solemnly. “I too have witnessed him. The Northeast tower at Andorhal was nearly ambushed. The only evidence was the aftermath of a Forsaken raiding party, torn to bits just outside of the watchfires’ light.”
“Sounds like wot happened to ‘at pack of Scarlet raiders,” long-nose replied, looking a little shaken. “They’d raided Dalson’s farm for supplies. By the time a cavalry group had been wrangled to chase after ‘em, all they found was a bloody mess, an’ saw ‘at rider sittin’ on a hill off in tha distance.”
Aely wandered over, munching on a cookie. “Anyone gone an’ ridden after ‘im?”
She was greeted by a chorus of silent eyes, looking her over, and settling on the various emblazons around the edges of her tabard. “Ma’am?”
“Dame Aely Caltrains. Born Larsdottir. Served since the Silver Hand. Ye can answer me wi’out thinkin’ I’m gonna tell any ay yir officers. I’m jus’ here oan a… rehabilitation assignment.” She smiled in what she hoped was a confidence inducing manner.
The Night Elf was the first to reply. “Yes ma’am. Nobody’s gone after him because nobody’s really had a party together to go looking. He just seems to show up, and then disappear again into the trees.”
“An’ none ay ye brave lads thought ta tell a superior about it, an’ get it proper looked inta?” She sat down near one end of the table.
Another chorus of silence.
This time it was the Kul Tiras man who replied. “Truth be, ma’am, I think we’re all a bit spooked. He’s not causin’ trouble, so I don’t think anyone wanted ta go and piss him off. We don’t have much other than this toehold up here real solid yet.”
“Ye lot mind if I bring it up, an’ maybe head out an’ do a bit ay lookin’? Can get ye all ta come wi’ me if yir so inclined. I dinna like th’ idea ay lone riders, an’ I dinna like th’ idea ay an ally out in th’ cold either. If he’s a friend, as ye say, we’ll find him out. An’ if he’s a foe, we’ll sort ‘im out, an’ be done wi’ Sir Spooky either way.”
August 20, 2013 – 7:48 am
For the… was it sixth? seventh? morning in a row, Aely woke up just before dawn. The Rose was quiet, as it should be at 5:30am, with only faint muffled sounds coming from the kitchen downstairs. Not even a hangover could break years of military training. And at least she wasn’t still drunk this morning, best she could tell.
She stared into the little mirror. Her hair was a disaster – she couldn’t quite remember when the last time was that she’d taken the braid down, brushed it out, and washed it. But that could wait. She rinsed her mouth out with water a few times, and splashed her face. There was no coffee yet, and she didn’t have any way to make any for herself. Coffee, she decided, could wait too.
Next to her, Roger whined. The wolfhound/worg mix dog had grown in years, grey creeping into his muzzle. She worked hard to keep him healthy, and was thankful that his worg parentage was keeping him alive longer than a standard hound of his size. He nudged her towards the door.
“Hold oan a tic, y’ big oaf. Lemme get dressed.” Roger wagged his tail in a big slow arc, looking eagerly at the door.
She pulled on a soft shirt and pants, leaving the braid tucked down her back.
And for the first morning in nearly three weeks, she and Roger headed out to hit the streets of Stormwind in the soft light of pre-dawn. It was strange to run alone again, but the very act of running made the strangeness fade after the first mile.
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 …
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 …
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 …
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 …
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? …
September 6, 2013 – 2:02 pm
She blinked, but did not drop either of her shields. “Aye, though I’ve been Caltrains fir th’ last near three years. Canna say I’ve any memory ay ye.”
“Yeh’ve far moar’n yeh realize,” he replied evenly, his grip tightening on …