Prologue: Samophlange

Arkenheart had been left alone in the company of her uncle Argus. Well, not completely alone, daddy had also left her about fifty bajillion guards. They wore dark shades and had serious looking suits on, but now they had disguises and she could only really see them if she tried. They were very good at… at… the word. Blending in. Hiding in places where they should be easy to spot but weren’t.

Samophlange. That was the word. They were all very good at samophlanging themselves.

No wait. That wasn’t it. The samophlange was the spinny thing uncle Argus was showing her.

She loved visiting uncle Argus. He always had such cool toys. The rest of her family was uninteresting. They’d ask how primary schooling was going, then talk to her dad about boring things. Argus was different. He wouldn’t ask if she could count to ten yet (she can do algebra now thank you very much!), he’d ask something like “hey you wanna watch a tiny dragon robot spasm randomly then explode?!” and she’d say “INDUBITABLY!” or some other word that meant yes and was fun to shout.

Affirmative! Beyond a doubt! Naturally!

Uncle Argus was the best.

He was fat, very fat, but he seemed so much happier than all the skinny people. His face always smiled at her, his eyes twinkled, and he smelled so strongly of oil, grease, and a dozen other chemicals she couldn’t place. He’d show her his little creations, their tiny gears gleaming, turning, clicking in perfect unison. And he always let her keep something, anything she wanted. She had taken a tiny robot squirrel the first time, delighting in its stilted movements. It acted exactly like a robot squirrel would. Robotic… but squirrelly.

It was awesome.

She took it apart not a day later, and tried unsuccessfully to put it back together. Again and again she tried, refusing to admit to herself that she had destroyed the precious gift. Eventually she had gone to her dad, crying. He had understood, somehow, and taken her back to Argus that morning. She’d been afraid that he would be angry, that he would refuse to have anything to do with a little girl that couldn’t keep a squirrel robot safe.

But he had merely winked, and given her something he called a “Gyrochoreographic Tension Adjuster”, a highly sophistimicated tool that could do many things that were magical but weren’t actually magic at all. Argus had called it “science”. Now there was a fun word to shout. SCIENCE!

She’d taken it for a trial run, right then and there. It could manipulate pieces of metal so easily, almost as if her will was being focused and directed by the tool she was holding. Argus told her it worked by drawing “reality ripple tension” from her “natural synapse coalesce ley line energy”. Her dad had smirked and said “is that not just magic wrapped up in technobabble?” and Argus had said “only if you don’t consider the Sheer Principle, which I do, because it’s certifiable fact, and you are a fool for ignoring Palatinus’ Third Law of Babble Babble Strangewords” or something to that effect.

She picked the lock to one of the large tool chests while they were talking. It was really easy to do. The tumbler just moved around until it clicked. She relocked the chest and opened it several times with the tool before they had noticed. Dad seemed kinda mad, but her uncle said something, then dad had just rolled his eyes and said “try not to steal anything.”

So Arkenheart had gone home with her broken squirrel robot and her new science magic wrench, filled with new found confidence and a bunch of scary words to intimidate her classmates with. Repairing the squirrel was actually pretty difficult. She spent that entire afternoon figuring out how to make it work again. Then, the next day, she had shown it off, the little robot coming to life and squirrelling robotically about, eliciting gasps of fear, joy and incredulity from her fellows.

“This is my Geosynchronous Detention Fillibuster,” she had said, proudly showing off the device. “It’s simple really! Using this, I can use science magic to disney tangle Paladin’s Third Law of Propter Cos Quantum, allowing me to triple the number of branches of electromagnetic wave field chips. After those biflirtations, the pietic energy studs are left goblin, so the antimatter spandrels can form a spatula hyperlink!”

They had all been amazed, nodding in feigned understanding. She knew what she was talking about, because she was so cool, and they knew what she was talking about, because they were cool too, right? Anyone who didn’t know what antimatter spandrels were faced eternal social banishment!

She had tried to explain it to daddy too, but he hadn’t really understood. The Glyphospurious Mention Supercustard was sadly a far too advanced piece of technology for him. She tried to tell him all about Salad’s Second Flaw of Helicopter Because Count’em, but he didn’t even know what aunt Chatter’s spandex was. Very sad.

Uncle Argus had understood though, about her dad. She told him, and he knew, somehow, how she felt. “Your father just isn’t built that way, Arkie. If he can’t stick his sword in it or kill it with that blade of his, he’s just not interested.” Wasn’t that redundant? “You’ll know when you’re older.”

Everyone kept saying that. When she was older, when she was older. Well, she’s nine now! Almost ten! She was not a child anymore! She even knew what the word redundant meant!

She was not a child anymore.

The books they read in literature studies all seemed to be the same. Her teacher told her they were great novels, speaking deep to the mortal condition or something. Arkenheart guessed she just wasn’t built to understand art. A young child lives a normal life, then something absolutely horrible like his dog dies or his mom falls off a building and dies of cancer before she hits the ground, landing on the dog. That was the whole story. That was art?

It just made her really sad. Why would anyone want to read that?

Something called catharsis. It made you feel better when you were feeling sad. She didn’t get it from Argus. She’d asked about the bodies, about the smell, that horrible, horrible smell of… something. Something just at the edge of her understanding. And when the sword had begun to sing. When those men died.

Daddy hadn’t had time to hide her anywhere. They’d come, five strong, pretending to know dad, to help dad. And they had attacked him, tried to take her. She had screamed. Daddy, help me!

The stranger’s arm, its pull so powerful, she remembered how it had jerked and suddenly gone slack. How her father had taken her back, how she had watched her would be kidnapper fall. His eyes, registering surprise, then… nothing. They just went blank. Blank as the robot squirrel’s eyes.

It was wet. She remembered the wetness. Then the stickiness. How they had all stopped moving. They didn’t breath anymore. They couldn’t. Their bodies weren’t together anymore.

Her dad had killed them. Because… they were going to kill him. To kill her.

Why? Why would they do that?

She couldn’t understand. She cried. Uncle Argus didn’t know what to do with a crying child. He offered her something made of sugar. It helped a little.

Dad didn’t come back for a few days. He looked so tired when he came back. Like he’d been gone for years, and become so very, very old while he was gone. He smiled weakly when he came for her. “Sorry, I… took longer than I expected. I didn’t mean to leave you alone for so-”

She cried. She cried fiercely, beating her small hands ineffectually on his armour. Why, she screamed. Why. She didn’t understand. Why, daddy, why did you kill them. Why did they want to kill us. Why.

He picked her up, held her. Just holding her, letting her release everything that had been building since they went into the house that reeked of death.

Eventually she stopped. Sniffled. Then just rested against him, drained. He carried her upstairs, murmuring calming, meaningless words in ancient thalassian, soft sounding words with no other purpose than to make her world kinder. Sat with her on the bed her uncle always gave her when she stayed over.

Still he said nothing. Arkenheart accepted this, she didn’t really think she would understand even if he had explained. She grabbed one of his arms, wrapping it around herself, a protective blanket of muscle, bone, and forged plate armour. He shifted slightly, then began to stroke her hair, slowly, with his free arm.

Comforted, she fell asleep.

Catharsis. Of a sort. At least daddy was home.

~

Thalorien woke in the morning when Arkenheart began to stir. He grumbled deep in his throat, and tried to sit up. Immediately his body was flooded with pain, stiff muscles and sore joints finally shouting their complaints. He had slept away the entire night in his armour, his limbs folded up bizarrely, having spent the night curled around his daughter on a children’s bed.

He forced himself into a sitting position, biting back curses as his joints creaked in protest.

“What’s wrong daddy?”

“Daddy’s limbs aren’t all working properly, Arkie. I didn’t take very good care of them last night.”

“Well that was stupid! You have to take care of yourself dad! What happens if… if…” she was very serious.

Thalorien sighed. It was too early. He needed some breakfast. “Hey, Arkie, do you want some breakfast? I promise I’m not dying any time soon.” At her look, he added softly, “And neither are you. Okay?”

She still looked scared, but she agreed nonetheless.

Breakfast was a simple affair in Uncle Argus’ home. Numerous types of freshly baked muffins and bread, with eggs, cheese, fresh fruit and meat combined in any number of ways. Things like eggs benedict, triple stacked pancakes, omelet wraps cooked over open flames, simple foods. The two ate in silence for some time, as Thalorien debated on how to talk to his daughter about recent events. She spoke before he did, asking the only real pertinent question.

“Why did those men want to kill us?” she asked, her voice quiet and subdued, as if she was afraid of the sound.

“They wanted to kill us, Arkie, because they wanted to make their own lives better.” Thalorien figured the best possible answer was the truthful one. No lies, no embellishment.

“Why?”

“They had been lied to. They thought that… that our family, and the other powerful families, were abusing them somehow. That we were trying to repress them, their families, make them second class citizens. They wanted to… start a revolution. To kill us, so they could rule instead. They were tricked into believing they could solve a problem that didn’t exist.”

Arkenheart seemed to sense Thalorien was trying to treat her like an adult. She thought hard, mulling over what he had said.

“They weren’t happy.” she finally said.

“No.”

“That’s why they wanted to kill us. So they could be happy.”

“Yes.”

Arkenheart nodded sagely and returned to her food for several moments. She looked up, and asked, “Why were they unhappy?”

“They were not. They convinced themselves that they were unhappy, and tried to fix things that were not broken. Does that make sense?”

Truthfully, Arkenheart had only the faintest idea what her father was talking about. Yet, she sensed that he was telling her a lot more than he ordinarily would. He wasn’t treating her like a child anymore. He was using small words, or trying to, but still explaining things to her like she, too, was an adult. She had to prove that faith in her was justified.

“Yes.” she reluctantly said. It made sense, in a crude way. Her teachers had used the phrase once, a conflict of interest. They wanted her dead, she wanted to not be dead. Only one side could have what it wanted. “What do dead people smell like?”

Thalorien winced. He hadn’t even considered that. “At the house…” he said, trailing off. Silence reigned for several moments. “I think you know.” he finished.

Arkenheart hung her head, ceased eating. “Yeah.”

Thalorien finished eating in silence. Then sat there, neither father nor daughter quite knowing what to say or do.

Thalorien coughed. “So! Do you… want to go see your new baby sister?”

She snapped her gaze to him, curiosity and the beginnings of excitement shining in her eyes.

“Come along then, Arkie, let us brighten up and go see your mother and Sariah.”

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Prologue: Rise of the Sun Warriors, Part 5

The more I write Thalorien, the more I realize the guy is a little scary.

~

Thorondorill Point was technically a military harbour, though it was rarely used as anything more than a dry dock storage and repair facility for the warships of the quel’dorei fleet. No civilian traffic of any kind went through the secluded inlet. Even the navy didn’t bother maintaining anything more than the barest of skeleton crews.

The perfect hiding place for a political coup, and where they had told Thalorien to come. Alone, of course, but they had easily conceded to allowing him a couple sailors to actually operate his own ship. It was a small skiff, barely more than a basic pleasure craft, but nonetheless required at least two dedicated crew to operate it properly on the day and a half journey. Or so Thalorien had told his would be assassins.

He had absolutely no intentions of obeying the orders he was given. His “crew” was, in fact, a pair of Farstriders, elite commandos among even their already elite compatriots. Dressed in plain clothes, with Light knows how many deadly weapons hidden on their persons, the two women were incredibly dangerous. Almost as deadly as Thalorien himself was.

He remained unconvinced that Solanar Bloodwrath had nothing to do with yesterday’s events. He had to have known, if not directly had his hand in it. The only real doubt was whether Solanar was ruthless enough to use his own sister for whatever ends he was aiming for, or if she had been part of it too. Shiari may have volunteered for all Thalorien knew. Maybe it was her plan all along. After all, what evidence did he really have that she had been taken captive at all?

Thalorien tightened his grip on the small ship’s railing, unconsciously grasping for the sword he had left behind in Silvermoon. This was a trap, he had no doubt of that. It didn’t matter. They had demanded he come unarmed, and specifically forbade his runesword. That alone showed their ignorance, and guaranteed his victory today.

Runeblades only barely resemble ordinary blades. A sword is a sword, it’s form and function for meting out death. A runeblade was an essence, its form beautiful and terrible, its function sheer power and destruction. A runeblade was so much more than a mere sword. It was a weapon, though the distinction was lost on most. Runeblades chose their owners, attuning to them, conferring enormous power in the doing. Thalorien’s sword, Quel’Delar, was one such weapon. There were only two in the entirety of Quel’Thalas, the other sword was held by the king.

Thalorien could still remember the day, his father holding the blade out to him. He was a child, he grabbed at it blindly, delighting in the sword as it sang to him. He thought the runes along the blade glowing was pretty. To everyone else, the successor to the Blade of Silvermoon was clear. It had changed Thalorien’s entire life.

One day he had been a child, playing with cats in the grass. The next, he began training to be the best warrior the entire elven nation had ever produced. He had done well, absurdly well, even when he didn’t want to. Swordsmanship and combat came as easily to him as breaking expensive things came to the other kids. By twenty, he was already easily a match for the best Farstriders, by thirty he could hold his own against his father in a duel. While blindfolded.

He never wanted any of it. He slacked, skipped classes, rebelled, even tried to leave Quel’Thalas entirely and go live with the humans. He still became the very best, no matter how hard he tried to fail. Life would be much easier if he ran a small tea shop like he wanted.

Alas, destiny had other plans.

The two Farstrider commandos with him brought the ship into dock, precisely where they had been instructed. There were five armed elves on the dock, all with their faces obscured by black masks. They were silent as he disembarked, merely gesturing east. He went east, and they followed him. The commandos, unnoticed, followed them.

One of the black masked figures whispered directions as they went. Left here, right there, guiding him through a variety of pointless twists and turns. They were trying to confuse him, no doubt, but he merely found it trying. They eventually brought him to a warehouse, and an abandoned warehouse at that. Somebody at the planning stage had read far too many silly detective novels.

One of the large doors was open. His escort fanned out behind him as he entered the darkened warehouse. There were at least another forty elves in the room that Thalorien could see, all dressed the same way. Black armour and clothes, black masks, all armed with a variety of cruel looking implements.

One of them, with his back turned to Thalorien, spread his arms and shouted, “Aha! You came!” The leader turned around, and added, “And unarmed too. Truth be told, dear Dawnseeker, I did not expect you to actually meet our oh so humble demands.”

Thalorien had no patience for this dimwit. “Where is Shiari?” he asked.

“Oh, she’s in a box over there.” The masked figure waved his hands dismissively. “But does it matter? This was all a trap, my good elf! Do you want to gaze upon the visage of the mighty strategist that has foiled you so thoroughly?”

Thalorien began to respond, but the leader had torn his mask off and tossed it aside dramatically before he could.

“It is I, Lord B-”

“Now!” shouted Thalorien, breaking into a sprint.

The commandos flew into action immediately. The five masked figures behind him all died in less than two heartbeats.

“-altimore-”

Attuned weapons cannot be separated from the wielder they are attuned to. Not metaphysically. The only way to sever the link is to kill the wielder. The blade itself is indestructible while attuned, though one runeblade was capable of sundering another. All Thalorien had to do was feel Quel’Delar in his mind. The link was ever present, for truthfully attunement meant that the sword was no longer a unique entity. It was now a part of his self, just as firmly as his arm or his love for his daughter.

There was a snapping sensation, as if a rubber band had been pushed to its limit and broke, as reality aligned itself with Thalorien’s wishes. Quel’Delar travelled hundreds of kilometres in the smallest fraction of time. Thalorien closed his hand on the hilt, and the runes on the blade roared to life, bathing the warehouse in holy light.

“-Starsong-”

Thalorien closed the gap to the leader before he had finished speaking his name. He smashed his shoulder into the leader’s chest, lifting him off the ground with the force and depositing him ignobly on the ground several feet away, little more than a stunned heap. He rested the tip of Quel’Delar gently on the leader’s throat.

“… The… Third…” Lord Baltimore Starsong the Third finished weakly.

Thalorien smiled, putting his friendliest face on. “Pay very close attention. I should not have to tell you why. Henceforth, we do things my way. Your soldiers stand down. My soldiers disarm them and take them captive. I ask you questions. You answer them. Then we all go back to Silvermoon for cake. Or I kill you slowly.”

“We surrender.” Baltimore said. “You guys, should all… stand down. I mean, they… they killed them…”

Thalorien shook his head, still smiling pleasantly. “Don’t worry about your friends. You cannot help them anymore. Worry about yourselves. You still have beating hearts. And remember,” he said, letting his smile become slightly more predatory, “Those two are the nice ones. Now, I suggest you begin to talk.”

“A… yes, that is fine. What do you want to know first?” He struggled to speak at all.

“Where is Shiari?”

“I told you already, she’s in a bo-”

Thalorien gently pressed down with his sword.

“We drugged her she’s in the crate the crate we just hid her she’s drugged she’s fine she’s fine! Please!”

Thalorien eased up, waiting for confirmation from his commandos. One of them quickly rushed to the small stack of crates indicated earlier. The commando found Shiari, removing her carefully from one of the crates. She had simply been stuffed into one like laundry. She looked, well, floppy, Thalorien thought.

“She’s fine, lord.” The commando said. “Drugged. Heavily.” A pause as the commando ran expert hands over her body. “No injuries. Pregnancy checks out. She’s recently given birth.”

Thalorien nodded, still smiling pleasantly at his captive. “Excellent, excellent. Now, where-”

“Th… lorien…” came Shiari’s voice, so weak as to be almost inaudible. “They took her… my daughter, they took…” She fell into silence again. “Unconscious.” said the commando impassively.

Thalorien’s face was frozen, his warm smile now more of a grotesque parody of a proper expression. It didn’t matter now what was going on. Now, one of her… no, one of his daughters, damn the genetics, was in danger. He pictured Arkenheart, scared and alone, wrested from her mother. He felt his rage build and build, felt Quel’Delar singing his fury, echoing his own anger back at him. “Where did you take her?”

Baltimore, his eyes hardening, yet his voice still quavering with fear, said “I don’t kn-”

He feared something greater than Thalorien. That was plain enough, and easy to rectify.

His resistance was brief. Quel’Delar left his throat, neatly sliced his left hand off, then returned to his throat in one smooth motion. He shrieked in pain, blood spurting from the stump, staining the ground and Thalorien’s boot.

“Shall we try that again?”

Baltimore only screamed in response.

“Would you like me to treat that little wound for you?”

He managed to scream yes.

The runes on Quel’Delar flared slightly. Holy energy flowed into Thalorien, then out of his hand, into the stump of his captive. He did not heal it. He seared it shut, cauterizing it in the most painful way possible. “Is that better?” he asked.

The leader only stared at him, mouth open, soundless, the pain robbing him of speech.

Well, this is certainly going to take some time, Thalorien thought. He tried not to be glad about it.

He failed.

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Prologue: Rise of the Sun Warriors, Part 4

This one was brutal to write. I kept writing my way into plotholes, which was problematic, obviously. What is posted here is the first part of a small arc that is currently on it’s 25th rewrite. I am posting the 25th version because I have exhausted my ability to rewrite it again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thalorien was not looking forward to the rest of the day. He had no choice but to confront his wife, and who knows what would happen after that? It was impossible to say what had upset her to the point of nigh incomprehensible cursing; Shiari Bloodwrath swore about as much as a drunk sailor. Was she in on it? She had to be, it wasn’t possible to become pregnant by mistake. How long had she been with child? Thalorien hadn’t exactly seen her naked since conceiving Arkenheart, and she’d been wearing a great deal of loose fitting robes lately.

Perhaps a pregnancy was why? She had to be in on it. But then… what was ‘it’? What was the point? To usurp House Dawnseeker? Coup debaby?

Thalorien didn’t know what to think.

House Bloodwrath and House Dawnseeker had been feuding for over three thousand years, far too long in Thalorien’s opinion. It was his idea to try and defuse the situation. He had proposed an alliance between the two disparate Houses by marriage, a plan that everyone involved had readily agreed to. Thalorien and Shiari had gotten married with all due haste and quickly produced a child, officially heir of Dawnseeker by Bloodwrath. The alliance was cemented, the reputations and prestige of the two houses forged together, and all was well.

The alliance had worked, and quite well, for many years. Thalorien disagreed on nearly every point with the head of House Bloodwrath, one Solanar Bloodwrath, but it hadn’t mattered. With the two houses unified for all political purposes, any disagreement between the two caused no loss of reputation. In fact, because the two split on every issue, the two houses technically always “won”, as the king would eventually pick one side or the other, or compromise.

No matter what the king chose, both Dawnseeker and Bloodwrath profited, and the two houses quickly became the two most powerful in the entire nation, barring the royal house.

To think that all of that may have just been Bloodwrath trying to usurp Dawnseeker’s position, a plan likely decades in the effort…

It left a bitter taste in Thalorien’s mouth. Had he been played for a fool?

All of his worries proved to be pointless as soon as he arrived at his family’s private open air mansion. Something was lumped unceremoniously on the steps leading the front entrance.

It was a body.

He hissed, suddenly quite unsure what to do. “Close your eyes Arkie.”

Arkenheart, sitting perched on his left shoulder, had been unaware that anything was wrong. She started at the tone of his voice, but to his relief she didn’t question him. She squeezed her eyes shut, holding on to his neck for balance.

He approached the building quietly, then quickly inspected the corpse on the front steps. One of the butlers of the home, bearing an obvious sword wound to the stomach. He had bled out where he fell. They, whoever they were, didn’t have the time to make sure he was proper dead, just stabbed him and left him. Or hadn’t cared enough.

Once inside, he made Arkenheart hide in a linen closet near the entrance. He was torn between risking her being alone, or risking her seeing a pile of corpses. Hiding her was likely the best solution. Hopefully.

Thalorien was confronted with the same story inside the home. A butler here, a maid there, all seemingly killed where they stood. No signs of any organized defence at all. They had been taken entirely by surprise.

A trail of blood led to the upper floor, where he found the bodies of the entire kitchen staff, bound and bearing the scars of ruthless torture. They had all been executed, their throats cut.

Thalorien thought furiously. Was this a coup, of the more traditional cloak and dagger style? Had his staff been tortured for information, or just for the twisted pleasure of it? They had been killed up here, rather than in the kitchen. Maybe because someone had been forced to watch…

The door was open to the master bedroom.

The body of a woman lay in a pool of blood, beaten and broken.

Thalorien rushed to the corpse, quickly checking the identity of the dead elf. He breathed a sigh of relief, the corpse belonged to the master chef of the household. Not Shiari. A brief flash of guilt over that particular sense of gladness, but he quickly tamped it down. Time for moral self reprimanding later.

He took in the room. It had been searched, thoroughly and violently. The wardrobes and closets had been utterly destroyed, the furniture torn apart, the bedding shredded, even pieces of the floor ripped up. They had been looking for something. Or someone.

He rushed back down stairs as fast as he could, retrieving a very confused Arkenheart from her hiding place.

“Dad, what’s-”

“Not now Arkie. We have to escape.”

“Escape from what?”

He held her protectively, cupped in his left arm, running at a dead sprint out of the house. “I don’t know.”

~

Solanar Bloodwrath perused his ample book collection, searching for that special little something. His collection was vast, stretching from the bawdiest and stupidest romance novels, to highly detailed histories of human wars, to deep philosophical discussions of ideas he barely understood. He needed to have a huge collection; he loved to read, but every day a new whim would take him.

He pulled one of the horrible bawdy romances from the wall. “Mistress Giggles Finds a Stranger in the Alps”. He allowed himself a small smile. Exquisite.

The door to his study was violently flung open. Solanar shoved the novel back into the shelf, briskly took two steps to the left, looking for all the world as if he was deeply engrossed in a selection on troll anatomy. From there, he turned nonchalantly to face his rude intruder.

Thalorien Dawnseeker stood there, pointing his sword at him. “You.”

“Me.” said Solanar blithely.

“Do you know anything?” bit out Thalorien. He was obviously severely put out by something.

“I know a great deal!” said Solanar, fetching the troll anatomy book from the shelf. He flipped to a random page and added, “For example, did you know that trolls have three toes on each foot, but do not possess a heel? The third toe is much shorter and stubbier than the other two, and serves the same purpose as a hee-”

“You know what I mean.”

Solanar gently closed the book. “I am afraid I do not, Thalorien, otherwise, would I be standing here making snide remarks?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I suppose I can’t argue with that, b-”

“Shut up. Where is your sister right now?”

“Excuse me, did you just tell me to shu-”

“Shut up. Where is your sister right now?”

Solanar paused, considering the question. “Isn’t that question a bit silly? I assume she’d be at your estate, or one of the other Dawnseeker estates. I heard she was preparing to hold a party at-”

“And if I told you she was missing and everyone else at the estate had been killed in a brutal attack?”

Solanar stared at Thalorien, his expression one of sheer disbelief and surprise. Several seconds passed as he tried to work through the information he had been given. Solanar eventually settled on letting out a loud peal of laughter.

“Thalorien, what are you… that was so absolutely bizarre to hear, was that intended to be funny, or-”

“She’s also pregnant. I am not the father.”

More laughter, this one tinged with incredulity. “What the hell! What is wrong with you?! I don’t know what sort of prank you are trying… well just listen to yourself! ‘Everyone’s dead, your sister’s gone, oh also she’s preggers’! That sounds completely insane!”

Thalorien lowered his sword, but otherwise retained the grim expression and said nothing. The blood coating the blade was obvious enough.

“And… you’re serious. Well flaming bird shit on a gnome, you’re serious…” Solanar said, his smile vanishing, the colour draining from his face. “You’re actually… not… joking at all… what’s happened? Who’s… blood is that?”

“Ninety three dead, Solanar. Assassinations on a wide scale, targeting House Dawnseeker members. Servants, my cousins, my uncle, their entire families, butchered and left where they fell. Your sister, my wife, is missing. They, whoever they are, tried to wipe out the entire Dawnseeker bloodline. And this,” said Thalorien, gesturing with his sword, “is all that’s left of the assassins sent for me. And my daughter.”

“And you suspect Bloodwrath.” added Solanar, nodding.

“Yes. For what I hope are obvious reasons.”

“Very obvious.” Solanar said. “Too obvious. Could not I be getting set up here as the bad guy too? That’s not… Thalorien. Please, whatever you think of me personally, know this: I love my sister deeply. I… need to sit down.”

Solanar moved behind his desk, settling himself into his luxurious chair. Cradling his head in his hands, he mumbled. “This is insane. Insane, insane. How could you suspect me? Don’t you remember, I wanted this alliance as badly as you. And now it may have cost me my-”

A mage entered the room, quiet desperation about him. “Lord Dawnseeker, news.”

“Speak.”

“They have your wife, lord. She’s in labour. And they’re threatening to kill both her and the newborn child, unless you give them exactly what they want. Uh, summarized, Lord Dawnseeker. The original message had, uh, significantly more colourful words.”

“Yes, whatever, who are they?”

“Don’t know, Lord Dawnseeker.”

A grunt of frustration from Thalorien. “Fine, what do they want?”

“Um, well… Lord Dawnseeker… they want you, Lord Dawnseeker. Your life for theirs. And, you, uh, can’t bring the sword.”

Thalorien narrowed his eyes slightly, a dangerous, predatory smile coming across his face. “A fair trade, I think. Life for a life. Wonderful idea. Very well, accept the terms and give me the details.”

The mage nodded, exiting the room. Thalorien turned back to Solanar, the latter with tears glistening in his eyes. “The burden is no longer on you, Solanar. For now.”

“Thalorien.” said Solanar.

“What.”

“Rescue her, Thalorien… please. She’s… she’s my sister…”

Thalorien nodded, his face softening slightly. He left the room as swiftly as he had entered.

Solanar took a few minutes to calm himself down. A few steadying breaths, some silent meditation. He then stood up, walked across the room to the open door, closed it, locked it, and walked back to his desk. He sat, letting out a deep sigh.

Everything was going according to plan so far. He sincerely hoped he had not miscalculated. It had not been easy to ask this of his sister. Ah, well, no point in worrying. There would be time for regretting his moral choices later.

Posted in Fantastic Fiction | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Biology and Civilization

A thought experiment.

I’ve always wondered how differing biologies would affect civilization at large. It’s easy to say why dwarves are dwarves, elves are elves and trolls are trolls, but why simply accept it at that? Why not go searching for the underlying reasons for things? Why is Thing the way it is? Why does Event happen? Ask questions, of everything, hunt for a reason, even if it is absurd.

Usually, the half baked, insane ideas are the most interesting ones, and thus contemplating them and exploring the ramifications is actually really fun. Am I a nerd or what?!

Take humans. Humans are mortal, the really healthy ones that avoid being randomly killed here or there have about a century, tops. Both sci-fi and fantasy settings go to town with this, applying a sort of swiftness to the lives of humans. By 20, humans have moved beyond the shadow of their parents, striking out to forge their own lives. By 30 they’ve started their own family, by 50 they’re watching their own kids create their own lives. By 60 they’re start to grey, to wrinkle, preferring to nap near warm things and watch the grandkids scamper and play.

What immortal can say their own life is so hectic, so full of life and vibrancy? A human who wastes a year derping around is normal, two years starts to raise eyebrows, five years and his fellow humans deem that individual a failure. An immortal elf spends five centuries derping about? Nobody even bats an eye.

It is perfectly normal for an elf to spend an entire year staring wistfully at the sky. It is a mark of insanity in humans. It’s all in the lifespan. Possibly. Who knows for sure? Have you met an elf? Point is, humans are fast because they have to be. They’ve got about forty years where they’re physically fit and not an idiot to get shit done, and that’s it. Elves have forever, so why rush?

There’s a theory being tossed around that death is an evolutionary advantage to prevent species death. Simply put, a species will run out of resources if the individuals are immortal. If nobody can die, but the species continues to breed, that species will eventually hit a point where further growth is just not possible given limited resources.

The result at that point is horrific, mass death, quite possibly even leading to extinction. Thus, natural death is a way to prevent that. By putting on expiry date on a life, eventually that life will cease to be, cease consuming resources, allowing a new life to flourish, thus preserving the species in the long run.

Immortals, then, must have a way around this. They must have adaptations to their own lack of mortality. The easiest way is, of course, to simply disable the “biological clock”, or suppress it to such a point that individuals are driven to breed extremely rarely. As in, once every several thousand years, if that, rarely.

But then we have the problem of the species dying off faster than they can reproduce. The easier solution is to simply have some sort of subconscious routine designed to kick the reproduction drive up a few notches whenever fighting starts up.

This is actually supported by real life. Ever wonder why sex and violence are so often intertwined in media? It’s ’cause we’re programmed to reproduce in the face of death, to ensure that the species continues! (I am not a scientist or a biologist so this theory may be wrong.)

But why not go a step further? Why not take that subconscious will to reproduce, and make it conscious?

Thus I happened upon the idea of the elves being capable of manually triggering their own menstrual cycle. A little bit of a leap, but I like it. Elves and humans should be fundamentally different, on a wholesale, biological level, something beyond “the elves have pointy ears and like art more”. If possible, the elves should feel alien, close enough to identify with, but different enough to make the elves elves.

A couple other things I’ve thought of.

Tauren. Huge things, towering over pretty much every other race on Azeroth, yet a noble, gentle, patient race. You know what sucks when you’re big and tall? Falling down. It hurts a lot. As a child, falling down was just a thing that happened. Now, as a six foot five adult, falling down dislocates limbs. (This actually happened to me, not an exaggeration.)

Being large, you have to be patient. You have to be sure of every step you take, be constantly mindful of your surroundings, and take care not to accidentally break something, or someone, with your sheer size.

The tauren are patient. The tauren are also huge and tall. Coincidence? I think not!

Raptors are pretty much everywhere. Every continent has them, so why is it that trolls are the only ones that use them heavily as mounts?

Raptors are fierce predators, possessing razor sharp claws on the tips of powerful legs and a mouth full of teeth designed to rend flesh. That same mouth is where the trolls decided to shove a bit, attach reins to it, then toss a saddle over the back of the thing the mouth is attached to. (Do raptors even have an interdental space? Inquiring minds wish to know!)

Would you do it? Would you go up to something that can kill you before you even blink, and think, “wouldn’t it be so great if I could ride this around?” and then stick your arm in its mouth?

The trolls did.

The trolls can also regenerate lost limbs quite easily. Losing both legs isn’t of much concern to a troll, they’ll grow a new pair in about a week.

Coincidence? I think not!

Posted in Ridiculous Tangent | 1 Comment

A Suitable Tale of Woe

It seems silly to have a blog and then not blog, so I’m going to try and actually blog about things now and then rather than just posting stories with no commentary.

I do not fancy myself a writer. I am (term shamelessly cribbed from Big Bear) a writing enthusiast. I’m not the next Tolkien, nor can I aspire to the heights reached by Alan Dean Foster or Ben Bova or Christie Golden or Greg Bear or any of those guys whose books I consume with glee.

Let’s face it, I write fanfiction based on a videogame. Okay, to be fair, multiple videogames, but still. Can there be a lower form of writing? I suppose it’s odd that I still hold myself to a reasonably high standard. Or is that just my own arrogance speaking?

Basically, I consider a story ready to post when I reread the thing and enjoy the reading. This has always been my goal. I want to read things. I want to enjoy what I read. Sometimes it is difficult to find an enjoyable thing to read. Solution? Write the enjoyable thing to read.

I also make sure to sit on any written story for at least several days, without looking at it, so I can come back to it fresh and see if I still liked reading it. If it passes, it gets posted; if not, then the eternal flames of the recycle bin claim another wall of text.

Updates are slow because of this. Though I, at least, am pleased with the results.

The story so far…

Is in a weird place. All this “prologue” stuff is, essentially, world building through the eyes of the characters involved. It’s actually been really fun, to take this big, established world, and then define little snippets of it through the lenses of these random people. Much more entertaining than a fantasy wiki page.

The downside is that it isn’t a fantasy wiki page. Things get omitted because they simply don’t fit in a narrative focused on characters. Take Stumps, the lovable pointy dwarf. Dwarves have an immense amount of history. They had a massive civil war, multiple distinct cultures, their own customs and ways of thinking entirely separate from that of humans. There simply is no way to stuff all that into a story.

Well, I technically could, but does anyone other than Russians actually tolerate several pages ruminating on history in the middle of a narrative? I’ve been heavily considering doing up a series of codex entries, along the lines of what Bioware does with their games. An enormous amount of information and back story, all relevant and interesting, but stored separate from the primary narrative. Read it if you want, or not, it won’t impact you too much either way.

There’s also the issue of unreliable narrator cropping up. With character driven narratives, the details are subject to the bias and thoughts of the character. This means some information can get a little bit… twisted. For example, Stumps again.

Stumps claims he wasn’t a very good shaman because he was “clumsy”. This doesn’t make any logical sense, as shamans don’t command the elements the same way a mage does. Shamans ask the elements, the skill of an individual shaman is irrelevant, what matters is their faith. They are, thematically, almost identical to paladins in that regard.

The real problem for Stumps is that he kept projecting his own morality onto the elements he called, fundamentally misunderstanding them, and thus misusing them. The four elements do not understand right and wrong the same way us puny mortals do. None of the elements would actually care if he took his vengeance out on that orc. They just don’t work that way.

To illustrate what I mean, take water. A massive wave smashes into a small camp of serial rapists and murderers, drowning a dozen of them. This is morally right, as far as water is concerned. A massive wave smashes into a huge kitten orphanage, drowning thousands of tiny helpless kittens and untold hundreds of orphans. This, too, is morally right as far as water is concerned.

The element sees no difference between the two scenarios, both are morally the same. If anything, water might actually approve of the wanton slaughter of cats and children more than that of the murderers, as there would be more cats and children in terms of sheer body mass, thus providing more food for the life water supports.

At least, this is how the elements work in my version of Warcraft. They somewhat work like this in the real Warcraft. Consider Therazane:

A bunch of helpful shamans arrive, willing to help us any way they can, even sacrificing their own lives to save us? INTRUDERS, SLAY THEM ALL!

A bunch of bizarre fungal creatures arrive, struggling desperately to preserve their own existence, wanting nothing more than to eke out a place to live posing no real threat to us whatsoever? INTRUDERS, SLAY THEM ALL!

A large cult of death followers arrive, fully intending to annihilate our realm and kill every last one of us as brutally as possible? INTRUDERS, SLAY THEM ALL!

Completely different situations, yet the same reaction in all cases, because, to the element of earth, all of them are, morally, exactly the same thing.

Stumps was just a bad shaman because he could not understand that. Fortunately, that makes him a great paladin. Funny how destiny works out sometimes.

Posted in Ridiculous Tangent | 5 Comments

Prologue: Rise of the Sun Warriors, Part 3

Even by the swiftest hawkstrider, the journey from Silvermoon to House Dawnseeker’s estate would have taken four days. Ordinarily Thalorien Dawnseeker would have been more than happy to take the scenic route. Quel’Thalas was astoundingly beautiful, and four days was no time at all to an elf that lived for centuries.

But not today. Today had gone poorly, almost hilariously so. The Council had been a failure, his strongest supporter held in contempt of the king, and… well, that was the worst of it. Kael… was right there, and he still couldn’t say it. He never could. Watching Kael teleport to Dalaran, to be with that thrice damned human of his, had left all sorts of sour tastes in his mouth. Butleress wasn’t even a word, damn it all to hell!

He needed his family, and he needed it immediately. Life was just perfect with his daughter, no matter what else was going on.

Thalorien deeply hoped his wife wasn’t there.

It was easy enough to demand the services of a mage. He was the Blade of Silvermoon, after all, refusing his requests was a career ending move for anyone of lower rank. Thalorien stood on the threshold of the primary Dawnseeker mansion, pleased once again that one of his ancestors possessed the foresight to build a home on a central ley line. Travel was so much easier with instantaneous teleportation available.

House Dawnseeker ruled over a very large chunk of land, an almost excessively large valley nestled in the heart of Eversong Woods. The primary estate was vast, the single sprawling structure rivaling that of smaller human cities. It needed to be, as it housed six other Patron Houses in addition to the Dawnseekers. House Dawnseeker presided over one of the largest forges in Quel’Thalas, sported one of the best hunting grounds, and played host to a number of magical orchards and farms.

The estate was incredibly busy, and today was no exception. The monthly harvest was due on the morrow, and the estate was brimming with activity from the numerous agricultural magi and other arcane laborers present. Thalorien rushed past various servitors, dismissing their greetings with a quick nod. He had business in the kitchen.

It was just after one in the afternoon, and if he knew his daughter, she would be angling for whatever leftovers she could scrounge or coerce from the army of chefs. The sweeter, the better. Or cheese, she was rather fond of cheeses.

There was no such thing as a cook within Quel’Thalas. Basic food could simply be created at will by even the most unskilled of mages. The Sunwell produced nigh infinite arcane energy. The true challenge was in elevating food to an art form. A feast fit for a human king was child’s play, something apprentices did to warm up for lessons. The chefs of Quel’Thalas took food, and made peerless art from it. Most of them would take umbrage if anyone had the gall to call them chefs to their faces.

The kitchen was always home to such incredible sweets and desserts. Thus, it was home to anyone who wished to eat them.

And sure enough, there she was. His little Arkenheart, his own little light in the darkness.

Brazenly stuffing her face with what appeared to be a golden apple.

One of the fine chefs stood nearby, proudly watching the heir of House Dawnseeker munch on his work. Thalorien slipped into the kitchen, being careful not to alert his daughter or the various food craftsmen to his presence. The latter wasn’t a challenge, their clothing would need to burst into flame before they bothered to pay attention to anything that wasn’t their work. Sometimes not even then. His daughter, however, was much more alert. Uncannily so. She would make an excellent Farstrider some day, no doubt.

He had barely managed to enter the kitchen at all when she spotted him. She tossed the golden apple thing aside without a second thought, leapt off the counter and rushed towards him. The chef let out a gasp of horror, performing a rather skilled swan dive, trying to catch the fallen apple. He was, sadly, too slow, and the apple struck the ground, shattering. How was she eating that?

The thought was dashed to the ground just as violently, as Arkenheart attacked his leg with a cry of “DADDY!” Grinning stupidly, he found himself unable to form any coherent thoughts, picking her up and hugging her as fiercely as he could. “What’s right in the world, Arkie?”

She beamed at him, a few flecks of golden crumbs still clinging to her clothes. “I helped make cookies and they weren’t very good but I made them like cats only they looked like bad cats but they still tasted really good!”

“Cat cookies?”

“Cat cookies!”

“Do you have any left?”

“Yes! No. I ate them all well most of them not all but I saved some for you cause I fig you wanted some cause they were really good and I like cookies and you’re daddy so you like cookies too but then I eat them all. I tried really hard to save them but then I forgot and ate them all anyway! You shoulda come home earlier!”

“I’m sorry Arkie, daddy had very important war business to do.”

“Was it about oks again?”

“Orcs, Arkie. Orrrrcs. And yes.”

“Daddy, what does fuck cock mean?”

What.

Wait.

What?

“Sorry… Arkie, what?”

“Fuck cock. Whatsit mean?”

Think fast, Thalorien. This is one of those parenting moments you’ve trained for. “Well… er, it’s a sound chickens make. Fuhcawk! Right?”

Arkenheart tilted her head, mulling it over. Then she smiled. “Fuhcawk! Yeah!”

Dodged one hell of a crossbow bolt there, Thalorien. Good save. “Now just don’t say that around mommy, okay?”

“Why?”

“Mommy doesn’t like chickens.”

“Why?”

“Once, when mommy was a little girl, she was attacked by a giant demonic chicken called El Pollo Grande, the Black Chicken of Death. She only barely survived with her life, and she’s been afraid of chickens ever since.”

“How big? Bigger than an ok?”

“MUCH bigger than an orc!”

Arkenheart’s eyes went wide with terror.

“You don’t want to scare mommy do you?”

“No!” said Arkenheart, aghast. “Never ever never never no! I promise!”

“That’s my girl. Now… where, exactly, did you hear fuhcawk?”

Arkenheart smiled brightly again. “Mommy said it!”

“Mom… mommy said that?”

“Yep!”

Well. So much for that then. “Why did mommy say that? Do you know why?”

“I unno. A priest man was here, and he told her she was preggint againt, and then she was all chicken!”

Pregnant?

Thalorien kept his face the same, still smiling at his daughter. It didn’t work, she sensed immediately that he was upset.

“Wha’s wrong daddy?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all. I need to go talk with mommy about something, any idea where she is?”

Arkenheart shrugged. “At home somewhere?”

Among the elves, pregnancy was a very big deal. Female elves had conscious control over the release of their eggs, they did not possess menstrual cycles as most other races did, and there certainly was no such thing as accidental pregnancy.

Thalorien and his wife had not had any plans to birth any more children. Which meant either she had decided to conceive another child with him without his knowledge, or she had decided to conceive another child without his knowledge, only he was not the father of this new one. The former made no sense at all, the latter… did. It made too much sense, actually.

Thalorien did not care about the concept of “cheating”. They had married out of political reasons, it was expected that both husband and wife would seek other, proper lovers outside the marriage. But having another child, that was madness, dastardly political maneuvering. He had already designated Arkenheart his heir, but if his damned wife designated the new child the heir, and his political position kept weakening like this…

But, if she was moving to usurp the proper heir of House Dawnseeker, why would she be upset when her scheming went exactly as planned? That made no sense.

Well. This day just keeps getting worse and worse.

He never should have married Bloodwrath’s sister.

Posted in Fantastic Fiction | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Prologue: Rise of the Sun Warriors, Part 2

Thalorien Dawnseeker knocked, just once. His rank allowed him many concessions, knocking only once at the doors to the prince’s private suite was one of them. The fact that they had been friends for the better part of a century likely helped somewhat.

The twin doors were as massive as Sunstrider Spire would allow. The chambers of the royal heir demanded incredible opulence, even by high elf standards. Thalorien smiled wryly, remembering how much the doors had terrified him as a child. The size of the doors, the vaguely unsettling gold designs coating them, the imperious creaks they made when moved, even the exaggerated sluggishness and overwrought snideness of the butler, all of that was engineered to intimidate.

Now, he merely found it trying. Far too much of elven society was focused on social standing and prestige. Though he supposed such a thing was inevitable when everyone was, technically, nobility. When a society cannot mark differences with gender, caste, class, race or wealth, why not make up pointless criteria revolving around drinking tea, pithy remarks and dresses instead?

The doors began to swing open, the shadow of the regal butler cast out into the hall, her features greatly exaggerated by a source of light on the floor behind her.

“Afternoon, master Dawnseeker.” she said. “The Master is expecting you.”

Thalorien nodded curtly, brushing past her. He had liked the previous butler much better; the old elf had been very friendly and warm. This new one was much colder, professional. Which, Thalorien supposed, was how butlers were supposed to act. The old one had acted much more grandfatherly. It showed, though; nearly everyone who’d had business with the prince had gone to his faithful butler’s funeral.

Thalorien still felt terrible that he had never bothered to find out the man’s name.

Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider was in his study, staring blankly at a portrait of himself on the wall, his body tense. A pot of tea, with several cups, rested on the table in front of him, untouched.

“Kael.” said Thalorien, entering the room.

Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider visibly relaxed. “Close the door behind you, Thal.”

Thalorien closed the door with a soft click, then seated himself on one of the luxurious, heavily cushioned couch-like pieces of furniture.

“I am… glad you came, Thal.” said Kael’thas.

“You know I would. We’ve been friends for… what, a hundred years now?”

Kael’thas smiled warmly. “Since primary schooling, I believe. It’s been to long since you’ve stopped by like this.”

“You haven’t been here. What am I to do, stop by your empty quarters and have a chat with your ice butler? You spend far too much time in Dalaran.”

“I am an archmage, Thal. I can’t exactly leave the city whenever I wish. It’s especially difficult now, with these green skinned creatures in the south. Um, needless to say, nobody beyond you ever learns I’m an archmage.”

“Your secrets are always safe with me, Kael. You know that.”

Kael’thas grimaced. “I have heard that before. And yet, every time, a little something just happens to slip out.”

“I’ll have you know I have a terrible disorder. I can’t help but tell my friends’ dirty secrets to naked ladies lying on top of me. There’s no cure, I’m afraid. Very sad.”

“I can think of at least a couple cures.”

“Speaking of castration, how was she?” Thalorien asked.

“What… how was… who?”

“Come on, Kael. You didn’t even try to deny it during the Council meeting. She must have been special.”

Kael’thas frowned. “Thal.”

“What? My question was perfectly innocent and devoid of innuendo of any sort.”

“You ask, ‘how was she’, and I know – I know – you mean in terms of bedroom performance.”

“Or kitchen performance, dining hall performance, balcony performance; who am I to judge, she might be the adventurous sort! You never can tell with you mage types.”

“See, this is why I never talk to you about girls.”

Thalorien smirked. “What, because I’m an insatiable man whore and you’re a hopelessly naive romantic?”

Kael’thas shook his head. “No, because you’re an insatiable man… well yes, precisely that… I am not hopelessly naive!”

“Really.” Thalorien raised an eyebrow. “I believe you completely and have no doubts whatsoever. Please, enlighten me to what attracted you to this obviously fantastic woman.”

“Well, she…” Kael’thas began to blush.

“Oh no. You’re blushing. This is far worse than I thought. You’ve fallen for the fancy wench, haven’t you?”

“She is not a wench! She… she’s…” Kael’thas fumbled for words. “She’s… different. She doesn’t… care about politics, social norms, stuff like that. She’s just so much more… real than most of the other mages. She doesn’t judge, ignores all the normal social shams we surround ourselves with. She’s got… ideas, Thal. Ideals… like she wants to change the world, and knows how she’s going to do it, even she-”

“Oh Light, stop. Please stop.”

“Thal-”

“Look, Kael, I know you mean well, but… honestly, you sound like a wide eyed schoolboy having a crush for the first time.”

“I knew you wouldn’t understand.” Kael’thas crossed his arms and looked away. “You just don’t get it, Thal. You can’t, can you? You don’t even know what love is, let alone what it’s like to experience such a thing.”

“Right, yes, now you sound like a whiny wide eyed schoolboy having a crush for the first time.”

“Look, Thal, what do you want me to say? I’m so… so… tired of this! Of having to dance around so many pointless criteria, of having to play nice to the ‘right’ people, look down on the ‘wrong’ people. I am a prince, Thal! I should be mighty! I should be respected! Instead I am thrown from the room like a child because I dared to do something my peers find strange! All this political bullshit, I am sick of it!”

Kael’thas steadied himself, and carefully poured himself a cup of tea. He sipped it, just as gently, then glared at the cup, his rage returning in full force.

“And this!” he said, waving the cup about. “What is this? What am I doing?”

“You’re waving a cup of tea about to make a point?”

“Yes! …Technically! Shut up! I am ‘taking tea’! What does that even mean? It’s ritual, courtly bullshit, etiquette and prestige. Why can I not just drink tea however I wish? It is a drink, I drink it. Why does it matter how I drink it?”

“Kael…”

“I drink it just so, tilt my head just so, my fingers poised just so, because I am the prince! The royal heir! I am expected to act a certain way, and if I don’t, it is a scandal. Is this what it means to be a royal? Just superficial details? Where is the honour? Where is the nobility, real nobility, not this parody we have in Silvermoon!” Kael’thas stood, viciously tossing his half empty cup of tea at the portrait of himself on the wall. The cup shattered, knocking the portrait off centre.

The portrait hung, crooked and stained.

Kael’thas walked towards it, gently straightening the frame. “I am sorry you had to see that.”

“I’m not.” Thalorien said. “Listen, Kael, how good is your butleress?”

“She’s the best. Where are you going with this?”

“Go to your darling in Dalaran.”

Kael’thas snorted. “I am in contempt of the king, I cannot leave, not withou-”

“You’ve fallen ill, sadly. The fever hit you very quickly, and there are concerns you may be contagious. You’ve been restricted to your private quarters, and cannot see anyone until you get better. It may be several weeks before you recover fully.”

Kael’thas turned to face his friend, his expression sceptical. “And what happens when my father sends for priests?”

“You wouldn’t happen to know anyone with a great deal of influence over the Church, would you? Say, one of the two people technically in charge of it?”

Kael’thas chuckled softly, almost sadly. “You would do this? I am not the greatest of friends Thal.”

“Yes, you are rather terrible at the whole friendship thing. I don’t care how busy you are with your archmage archmagyness, at least send me a letter filled with the titillating tales of your life every now and then.” Thalorien stood, then added much more softly, “Go to her, Kael, go change the world.”

Dozens of emotions flitted across Kael’thas’ face, finally settling on something very soft and vulnerable. “Thal, I… well, I mean…”

“The words you’re looking for is ‘thanks a bunch, brother of another mother.’”

“Are. The words are.” said Kael’thas, a smile starting to develop.

“Yes, correct my grammar, how wonderful. Here I am trying to have a touchy feely moment with my best friend who I haven’t seen in, oh, two years, and you are more interested correcting my speech patterns.”

“You love it.”

“Never change, Kael. I don’t think I could bear a world where you weren’t an idiot.”

In a matter of several minutes, Kael’thas gathered what few possessions he had brought with him, and teleported himself back to the confines of Dalaran.

Thalorien remained in the room for some time, as the arcane energies dissipated from the magical transportation. Almost reverently, he moved to Kael’thas’ crooked portrait, then carefully straightened it. He supposed he would need to call another mage in at some point to remove the tea stains. Or he could leave it.

“You look better with a horrible skin disease anyway.” He grinned briefly, the smile fading as quick as it had come. He took another step forward, leaning his forehead on the ruined painting. “Sometimes I wish you would change, just a little…”

Posted in Fantastic Fiction | Tagged , | 4 Comments