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Kris Kringle: A Visit in Fiction from TyphoonAndrew

As part of the Blog Azeroth Kris Kringle, a shared posting event – I’m very humbly submitting this short fiction for consideration on Ambermist’s BattleChicken blog. This fiction is in a different style to BattleChicken’s work, but it is at least a fictional story rather than my typical wow rant about pugs, Death Knights, and gear upgrades.

TyphoonAndrew

Large hands lifted the last frozen stones into place, completing the cairn of the most recently slain. Stretching backward, Mortigen rubbed his sore back and strained forearms; then reached for his helm and gauntlets which were discarded hours ago when the battle ended and the dead needed burying. He was tired and starting to feel the cold. Northrend was a cruel home.

The recent battle had thankfully been brief and viciously one sided. The Alliance force had no idea the cohort was waiting for them, and like most groups of inexperienced soldiers, they had not listened to their commanders and had been easily overcome. After the killing was finished and the valuables retrieved, most the cohort had moved onward to {fancyname spire}, ending their patrol for the evening. Those few that remained mainly stayed because they were too recently joined the cohort’s ranks, and had yet to learn that some of the behavior of their commander was ill-received by their superiors.

As they had parted, a young blood elf archer watched the gap between the commander and his departing troops widen, his face clearly showing his confusion on which direction was the proper path.

“Make your choice Sirfyr. They go to bathe in the pools of The Deathbringer. I stay to ensure our recent enemies a better grave than frozen rain.”

Sirfyr looked quickly across the small pass, smiled weakly; then turned to join his departing comrades. Mortigen began to bury the dead, garnishing hard looks and blunt mutterings from the victors.

“Even in undeath the Blood Elf charm perseveres.”

He thought back to his first battles in Northrend and pondered that even his old commanders had taken no real effort to respect the fallen. Human, dwarf, gnome, and night elf had all been left as food and fodder for the wretched northern denizens. Even as a Draenei Warrior many years ago the thought of disrespecting the dead was distasteful, but only a few Draenei had made special effort to see their own kind well entombed, and somehow over those first few short years of the campaign against Arthas the moral had stuck.

Now the same denizens were remade as pets, Arthas was now his master, and the faces of his lost companions were mirrored in the faces of the freezing dead. The thought of everlasting life that was once a sweet daydream, now made real in service to the Lich King, had become a month by month sentence without escape.

Looking back onto the red stained ice field, Mortigen reached into his well of burning energy and called forth his charger. As the incantation ended the scraps of flesh and bone from around the field swirled, mixing with the frozen sleet. Within moments a mount reminiscent of his charger but so unlike any  natural gryphon scratched the wintered earth.

Mortigen walked toward the gathered bones, silently thankful that putrescence was stalled by the ice, and speaking out loud to himself,  “At least the Ebon hold will stop the damned chill wind”.

——————————

As part of the Kris Kringle project over at BlogAzeroth, TyphoonAndrew caught wind of my propensity to write fanfiction pieces of ridiculous lengths, and graced my page with his own piece.  Job well done; thank you Andrew!

P.S.  Your comment about PuGs reminded me of this (I highly recommend clicking on the link so you can see it and the other two versions in their full size):

PuG Bingo

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A Cord of Two Strands — Part 7

This is the final part of a 7 part series. If you’re new to the series, you can start at the beginning with start at the beginning with Part 1 or you can go to an index of all seven parts.

I’m honestly kind of sad to end it; it’s been fun to share it with you.  But there are more stories waiting to be written, and I can’t write those without closing this one.  I hope you guys have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing and posting it.

From Part 6:

“The chase ends tonight, Markcus!” Aleron replied hotly.  Markus only laughed again, sending a dark bolt sailing in his direction.  The mage blocked the attack, but only just.

“You are willing to fight, but what about your little apprentice?  Have you taught her enough, Aleron?  Arcis was stronger than she, and still she was not strong enough to defeat me.”

“Do not touch her, Markus!  This is our battle alone.”

“Is it?  I was aware of no such restrictions,” he replied.  This time, the attack came whizzing towards Sonora, close enough to singe hairs.

“So, you like to play.  I enjoy a good game myself…shall we?”

The Parting

Suddenly Aleron’s vision clouded.  He tried to fight the influence, but it overtook him, and he sank to his knees.  Then Arcis stood before him, fighting the battle of her life once again.  He reached for her, trying to throw shields up to defend her.  “I will never become one of you!” he heard her yell at her assailants.  “I would sooner die!”

“You may have that chance, little mage,” said a voice that sounded like Markus, if Markus was ten feet tall.  Aleron called out, but spells rained down upon her again the same way he had seen it in his nightmares night after night.  If only he could get closer!  He fought, crawling towards her, desperate to save her.

Sonora watched in horror as her mentor crawled upon the ground like a child, lost in a vision she could not see.  “Leave him alone!” she cried.  “You have tortured him long enough!”

Warlocks now crowded around them, watching their master toying with the prisoners.  “Have I?” Markus finally replied to Sonora, not bothering to look at her as he quite delighted in Aleron’s struggling form.  “Then perhaps it is your turn.”

Sonora gasped as Markus began to grow and change grotesquely.  In a few seconds, a tall, dark form stood where Markus had been.  She didn’t know what to call him, but “Markus” seemed inadequate.

“Sarah!” the deep voice called.  “Sarah, come forward!”  A hooded figure stepped out from the crowd.

“My lord,” she replied, kneeling.  She alone seemed to be unsurprised by this change.  Even the others in the crowd took a step backwards.

“I tire of these trifles,” he told her.  “And you still need to prove yourself to me.  Dispose of the girl first.”  Sarah stood and turned to Sonora.  In a flash, the draenei fell to her knees, a dull ache in her chest where the spell had hit her.  Had Markus’s spell hit her like that, she would be long dead.  Sarah was a  more even match, but Sonora still did not like the odds.  She struggled back to her feet and sent a blazing ball of fire at Sarah’s head.  The spell hit the warlock enough to cause her to stumble and knock her hood loose.  Cascading brown hair fell down around a still beautiful face, and in an instant, she knew this warlock for who she was.

“No!  How could you?!” Sonora screamed at her.

“I did what I had to do,” she replied coldly.  “I am an outsider no more!”  Another spell came flying at Sonora, and she pushed herself to the side; it took effort, since the ache in her chest still caused her to lean over, panting.  She could not do this alone.  She flew at Aleron, landing on her knees next to him.  “Leave him!” Sarah shouted at her, launching an attack that sent Sonora tumbling away from him.

She felt sore all over, but struggled to her knees again, this time preparing a shield she hoped would last long enough for her to get back to Aleron.  Sarah continued to cast shadows at her, but Sonora gratefully noticed that they were being absorbed by her shield for now.  She sent another fireball in Sarah’s direction, catching her hand this time and causing the woman to curse.

“Aleron!” Sonora cried desperately, finally reaching him.  “You must wake up!” She felt as though she were talking to an empty shell; Aleron was lost somewhere in a memory.  She grabbed his shoulders, grunting with the effort.  “Aleron!  ALERON!  ARCIS IS DEAD!”

A voice far away called his name.  He could not leave his daughter; could not let her suffer alone!  He turned back to Arcis, but while he had been distracted, she had fallen and now lay still.  The voice spoke to him again.  Arcis is dead, the voice repeated. But I am not!

It was the same thing he had heard from another female voice.  He remembered his wife, turning away from him in anger and slamming the door behind her as she disappeared forever.  And then he remembered the imprisonment, and Sonora, and Markus.

“What have you done?!” Aleron shouted in rage as his mind returned to the present.  He surveyed the scene.  Sonora lay next to him, a weak shield protecting her as she clutched her chest.  A true-to-life nightmare stood in front of him; Sonora may not have known what to call him, but Aleron did—an Eredar warlock, straight from the pit of hell and the Burning Legion—and at his side—

“Sarah!  What are you doing here?  Has he taken you prisoner, as well?”

“No, husband.  I am not a captive, but a servant.”  Aleron looked at her in shock, some piece of his heart breaking at the sight of his wife pledging her loyalty to this demon.

“Why, Sarah?” he asked weakly.

“You and Arcis were always together.  The more she came into her power, the less I mattered.  And then she died, and you spent every waking minute in your tower, every day swearing you were close to finding those responsible, and every night leaving me alone!  Markus offered me what I really wanted—we are equals at last, you and I.”

“Enough!” the Eredar bellowed.  “This ends now!  Finish her!”  Aleron watched in amazement as his wife—the woman he had loved because she was strong and stable and normal—channeled a spell that would certainly mean death for the weakened draenei.  Aleron had only a moment to act, but the choice was clear.  She was not the woman he had pledged his life to; this was a monster.

He felt the ground between them shake, and anticipated the spell before the dark runes appeared at Sonora’s feet.  He leapt for her, pushing her off of the circle of death forming below and taking the full brunt of the attack.  The pain writhed within him, but he had built up a tolerance to this in the year of his captivity, and he turned to face the surprised warlock.

Aleron used Sarah’s distraction to his advantage, muttering a few words that conjured a ball that was not frost nor fire, but some unlikely combination of the two.  He watched in agony as it hit her fiercely in the chest.  The searing cold burned her from the inside out, and she collapsed as the warring elements within her combusted.  Aleron looked away, unwilling to watch her die.

UK Frostfire

Sonora stood slowly, shocked at what had just taken place and feeling Aleron’s heartbreak washing over him in waves.  Then she noticed Markus muttering, and inhaled sharply.

“Aleron,” she said quietly.  He understood, and looked up in time to deflect the spell the demon warlock sent at him.  But a curse followed, and the sorrow he already felt welled up inside of him so great it pained him.  It threatened to engulf him entirely, and he warred against the internal agony.

He fought through the curse and cast a counterspell at the warlock, followed by a series of bolts similar to the one he used against Sarah.  A few of them landed well; Aleron noticed the Eredar cringe as his arm began to bleed.

The warlock began to rain fire down upon the two, and Sonora’s shield weakened and broke.  Aleron spoke a word that interrupted their attacker, but it would not last against the stronger magician’s resistances.  Aleron sighed deeply, and Sonora looked closely at him.  He was still weak; this man who had been too weak to safely portal them away was fighting the battle for their lives.

And then she realized—part of his strength was within her.  They had siphoned it from him and given it to her.  There was only one way to survive Markus—she must give it back.  Sonora placed her hand on Aleron’s shoulder as he stood before the warlock and pictured the magic flowing through her and into him.  Her experience was not enough to fight this demon, but his was.  If she could give him strength…

Suddenly Aleron felt warmth wash over him, and felt Sonora’s hand.  “It is the only way,” she said quietly, before he could protest.

“But how?”

“The Light,” she stated simply.  What it had taken the warlocks months to perfect, the Light could do in a single act of wisdom and sacrifice.  Sonora and Aleron had become two strands bound together by fear, torture, hope, persistence, and ultimately Light.

With renewed vigor, Aleron turned to face the warlock.  “You have torn apart my family, Markus.  You have left only me, and that is where you have erred!”  Spurred on by the pain of his losses and Sonora’s faithful spirit, Aleron began to hurl spell after spell at the warlock at a speed even he could barely comprehend.  The two exchanged attacks, until finally, Aleron focused his energy on a powerful blast that caused the Eredar to fall back, breathing with some difficulty and blood dripping from several wounds.

Aleron himself had not been spared a few battle scars.  A gash across his face dripped blood into his mouth that he spat onto the ground.  His hand burned where he had been seared by one of the warlock’s spells, and his head throbbed with pain he couldn’t place.

But Sonora had suffered most.  The amount of energy she used channeling her own power into Aleron had weakened her considerably, and she had already been attacked several times that day herself.  She felt dizzy and weak, and stumbled a little.

Feeling her hand slacken, Aleron turned to look at her.  “Sonora, are you okay?”

“I feel weak,” she replied honestly.  “I do not know how much I have left to give.”

A dark laugh replied,  “You have nothing to give.  Arcis was a powerful mage; she would have been great within the ranks of the Shadow Council, and greater still as a part of the Legion!  But she gave her loyalty to her father, and it left her a weak, simple-minded fool.  You have a way of doing that to people, Aleron.”

Too late, Aleron noticed Markus’s spellwork.  “No!” he shouted, putting himself between them.  But the curse had already taken effect.  Sonora lay on the ground, rocking as if trying to comfort herself.  The pain washed over her in waves she couldn’t bear.

Aleron knelt beside her, cradling her head as she whimpered.  Then slowly, the whimpering stopped.  Her breathing came in shallow gasps, and she turned unusually sunken eyes to him.  “He is wrong about you, Aleron,” she said in a voice barely above a whisper.  “Arcis was strong and faithful because of you.”

“Sonora, you have been so brave,” Aleron said, tears welling up unexpectedly at this draenei who had become as much daughter as friend.

“You made me brave,” she replied softly.  “Do not blame yourself, my friend.  I am proud of you, as Arcis must have been.”  She lifted feeble fingers and touched the center of his chest.  Light glowed at her fingertips.  “The Light leads us down paths that are difficult to follow, but follow them we must.  May the Light bless you; may the Naaru grant you their gift. Be strong, Aleron; be strong for Arcis…and for me.”  A rune appeared above Sonora’s face, and Aleron knew that this was nothing arcane—this was a magic older and stronger than either one of them.  The light from her fingers warmed him.  He felt stronger than before, and fully replenished.  He watched as Sonora took a final breath and collapsed in his arms.

He stood and turned to Markus, scowling in anger and hatred at the injustice this one evil soul had wrought upon his life.  Aleron began attacking, fireball after fireball coursed from his fingers, entwined with the light Sonora’s gift had bestowed within him.  The glow from the fire he swirled in his hands reflected on the angry tears streaming down his face.

Where his spells alone had injured the Eredar, the light within him now burned the warlock, and he grimaced at the hot white pain each blessed spell carried into his skin.  He fell to his knees, trying to fend off the mage’s righteous fury.

“Help me!” Markus said, casting a spell into the ground.  Aleron waited for something to happen, but the earth remained still.  The warlocks in the circle stepped back, doubtful and afraid.

“NO!” the demon shrieked.  “Do not abandon me!”  He pounded on the ground in a futile display of desperation.

“This ends now.”  Aleron now stood above the quivering, injured beast.  He cast a spell that was not his own; it came from somewhere within him, from the pieces of Arcis and Sonora tucked away in his soul.  He placed his hands upon the warlock’s back as light flowed through them.  Where the light touched, the Eredar burned.

“No!  This cannot be!” cried the smoldering demon.  Several moments later, what was left of the monster he knew as Markus lay shriveled on the ground, an empty husk of ash.

Fingers of sunlight curled over the horizon as day broke.  Aleron took a deep breath, not moving for several seconds as the myriad emotions of everything that had just happened passed over him.  He had no one to go home to, and no foe to chase.  His heart felt like a rock thudding within him; solid and unmoving.  He had known true loyalty and love, and it had disappeared like a vapor.

But a small warmth stirred within him, and he found comfort in it.  He tucked it away.  He must not be weak; they had trusted him with themselves, and he must be strong for them.  He was injured and worn; he would allow himself some rest, as the warlocks had all scattered with the death of their master.

***

When he awoke, it was dusk and the area remained abandoned.   Perhaps he would seek out the Kirin Tor; perhaps they would let him come back to Dalaran.  But right now, a task remained, one that broke his heart.

Aleron sighed deeply, picturing Shattrath City in his head, and vanished.

THE END

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A Cord of Two Strands–Part 6

This is part 6 in a 7 part series. If you’re new, you can start with Part 1 or you can go to an index of all seven parts.

From the end of Part 5:

Aleron stopped mid-stride and turned, “We escape.”

One Way or Another

“I am not ready.”

“You do not have a choice.  We leave tonight.”  Aleron took a deep breath and added, “There is one more thing you must do—you will have to free me from this spell.”

“I can not!  If you are unable to undo it, how shall I?”

“It is designed to keep me from using magic,” he replied shortly, tempering his impatience.  “I do not think they considered an outside force.  You are, in fact, the only one able to do it right now.  Think back to what I have told you about how spells are formed.  Believe what you will, you have an intuitive understanding that quite surprises me.”

Sonora felt odd, as if he had given her a compliment she couldn’t accept.  That she would have any kind of arcane prowess was absurd; a simple tailor’s daughter did not have any business understanding magic.  But she nodded and closed her eyes, waiting for instruction.

“Focus on what you sense around you.  Your sight will not help you this time; you can only use your mind.  Find the spell matrix; feel it out.  Push against it until you feel it weaken.”

“How will I know what to do?”

“You will know.  This is something you will have to find out for yourself.”  She felt lost, like a traveler without a map or a destination.  She tried to focus, but doubt got in her way several times.  “Let go,” Aleron instructed. “Concentrate!.”

Sonora let go.  She pushed her doubt aside.  Aleron had never mislead her; never caused her to fail.  He had been her constant coach and friend, despite his insistence that she put herself through paces again and again.  If he said she was ready, then she was.

It was all the certainty she needed.  She pried into the ebon crown, feeling for nuances and weaknesses.  She touched hesitantly at first, and then as her confidence increased, grew bold.  Sonora forced herself not to rush; the time for haste would come later.  Pulling here, pushing there, somehow she began to piece the spellwork together, amazed that she had a grasp on the big picture.  She felt as though it hid inside her mind, waiting to be found.

Then, suddenly; in a flash of understanding she could neither repeat nor explain, Sonora knew.  She knew how the spell was formed; she knew of its intricacies and its deficiencies.  Calming herself so not to lose focus at such a critical moment, she found the most pliable thread in the spell and tugged gently, afraid that if it unraveled too quickly it could trap her own mind or steal Aleron’s forever.  Slowly she pulled, shielding herself from its outflows.  Sonora felt it coming apart, the other faults giving under the strain.  Several tense moments later, it collapsed, sending a small, cold shockwave across her.

Sonora opened her eyes and gasped.  She had done it!

UK

Aleron’s eyes sparked with a glow she had not yet seen in him.  He immediately looked stronger and taller, and his face formed an almost ferocious expression.  He stood and took a deep breath; to Sonora it looked as if he had just come from a dark ocean into fresh air.  He no longer looked tired or feeble; in fact, he looked frightening.

“You have done well, Sonora.  You may not have come into your power the way most of us do, but I would say that you are a mage of equal standing with any of the students of the Kirin Tor,” his voice was gentle, but she could tell it was only for her.  She sensed that he felt frustration and bitterness bubbling within him; she hoped it did not overcome him.  “You are not done yet, young mage; we have a battle waiting to begin.”  And one in which I will relish the torment of each of these greedy warlocks, he added silently.
Sonora took a deep breath herself.  She was not sure she could handle this; she knew quite a few spells, to be sure.  But fighting her way out of this place would take quick thinking and a courage she felt far beyond her years.
“Are you ready?” he asked, looking back at her.  She stood, her heart pounding so loud it nearly deafened her.  Her head felt weak, as if her body was acting against her will.

“I am.”

Aleron’s eyes flashed, and he sent a barrage of swirling light sailing at the door before Sonora had steadied herself.  The bang as the door flew open sobered her, and her mind caught up with her body.  Things felt as though they were moving in slow motion, and the fear threatened to keep her from moving forward.  But there was Aleron, striding forward towards the surprised guards; she had no choice but to follow.

Before Sonora had reached the door, another flash passed from the elder mage’s fingers, and a sleepy orc stumbled back in surprise.  With another pass of his hand, a shocking glow originating within him passed outward, knocking both guards on their backs.  Aleron raised his hands again, but Sonora grabbed his wrist.

“We are not trying to obliterate them—we are trying to escape.”  Sonora was surprised when he narrowed his eyes at her, but he lowered his hands.
“These I will permit to live, but not to speak,” he replied coldly, casting a spell to silence them both for a while.  His young companion looked at him in stunned silence.  It is not her vendetta, he reminded himself; but I must see it through.

They climbed a narrow staircase, pausing to look into the room.  One warlock sat in the corner, snoring over a stack of scrolls.  The two mages entered the room and passed through it.  Aleron’s fingers itched to cast, but the slightest lift of his hand brought a chastising look from his younger counterpart.  She could have her way for now.

The next room was empty, and they passed through it without pausing.  Another staircase around the corner, and they came across a room full of beds, each with a figure above.  Aleron looked back at Sonora, and she nodded.  They would move slowly between the beds.  It shouldn’t be a problem to get to the other side of the room as long as all remained still.
They began their slow trek, taking note that the boards beneath their feet were kindly mute.  Four beds in, a dwarf rolled fitfully on their left, and they held their breath until he had calmed.  Continuing carefully, they made it to the last row.

Aleron anticipated the moment when the cloak and dagger approach would fail, and was not disappointed as footsteps sounded on the stairs ahead.  He felt Sonora freeze behind him, and his own blood run cold.

A goblin.  The sound was unmistakable, and it was followed by a familiar female voice—the hooded night elf that had lead the torturous events they had endured for weeks.   Anger welled up inside of Aleron, and he waited impatiently for them to descend.

The goblin, hopelessly lost in some complicated and greasy-sounding explanation, missed them altogether until the elf next to him gasped as a fireball whirled towards her head.  She ducked, but it was too late—it hit her with all the force intended by its creator, and she stumbled backwards for a moment before the searing pain of its three blindingly fast and successful followers burned her from within and the world went black forever.

UK fire

Sonora gasped; she had never seen anyone die like that before.  It was quick and terrible.  She looked at Aleron frightfully, but he was lost in the heat of the moment.

If she was shocked, it was nothing like the goblin’s surprise at having his customer blown away beside him, and he was decidedly louder about the disturbance.  “Intruders!  Attackers!  Help!” he shouted shrilly.

Bodies shot up out of their beds, their eyes foggy as they assessed the situation.  Panic set in as many screamed and ran.  But many more began to shoot dark spells of their own at the mages, and Aleron saw summoners beginning to channel.  The demons they could bring forth concerned even him, and he looked back at Sonora, already ducking a myriad of dangerous, swirling attacks.

“Run!” he yelled, grabbing her arm and pushing her in front of him.  “Go for the stairs!”  She complied, and he tried to follow, but the spells raining down on him caused him to change his mind.  He began to focus, throwing up a small shield to protect himself as he tried to channel his own attack quickly.  He hoped Sonora was already upstairs, because this spell would not differentiate between friend and foe.

Suddenly, it was as if he exploded.  Sonora, fighting through the panicked warlocks rushing to the scene, felt the reverberation through the floorboards and stopped.

Hot blue fire moved out from him in waves that knocked every person standing off of their feet.  A couple of weakened spellcasters died instantly; others were knocked out by the force of their head unexpectedly slamming into the ground.  He took a moment to appreciate the tormented screams of those whose flesh burned from his spell before turning and slowly fighting his way through the throngs of recovering warlocks.  Spells flew around him in wide arches, and he threw a few of his own into the chests of those who stood in his way.

Sonora, pausing to evaluate the explosion below, found herself being forcefully grabbed by a nearby assailant.  Thinking quickly, she hurled a ball of fire in his face, causing him to writhe in pain and slacken his grip just in time for Aleron to catch up to her.  “Go!” he shouted.

But they had waited too long.  A wall of warlocks poured in from every entrance.  Aleron’s spell had awakened what must be the entire building.
“We must find a way out!” Sonora yelled at him, ducking an oncoming attack.
“No!  I will stand here and die if that is what it takes!”  Spells began to come from every direction.  Sonora felt one graze her arm and grabbed the place where it burned; warm blood oozed through her fingertips, and she winced.
At the same time, Aleron felt an odd and familiar weakness passing through him. Turning, he found the source of his weakness: a fel hunter sinking its tethers into his shoulders.  He used a spell that released them for the moment, but he could sense more coming towards him.  He began to cast wildly in all directions, aiming somewhere in his mind to kill every one of these filthy magicians and their supernatural beasts.

Mid-cast, he suddenly felt jerked, as if pulled from the stomach.  He knew the feeling well; he was being teleported.  Sonora! He thought angrily as the world swirled around him.

Sonora's Port

He took a moment to look around, trying to temper his anger at the young draenei before speaking.  A small room, somewhere nearby.  This was not connected to the building they had left, Aleron could tell; but it was in the same area.  They were in a house, but whose he could not say.

“What were you thinking?” he whispered harshly to Sonora, who was still attempting to steady herself after that surprising decision.

“I could very well ask you the same question!” she replied in her own whispered irritation.  “Did you really think we could take on hundreds of warlocks ourselves?”

“Whether we could or not, we should have stayed and fought until the end.  I owe it—” he cut himself off.  Sonora chose not to press, and instead took a few quiet steps forward, looking around for herself.  Aleron reluctantly followed, still angry but not finding anyone he truly felt deserved his wrath.

Once in the hallway, Sonora peered in each of the rooms.  A smoldering fire smoked in a fireplace in front of an empty, luxurious-looking chair.  A room with a table—a table she recognized.  Sonora held back a gasp.

And then she heard a sharp inhale behind her, and saw Aleron looking into the bedroom in which Markus slept comfortably on a bed large enough to fit three of him.  Aleron moved silently towards Markus, his unsettling anger finding a release.  This man has taken my entire life away from me! he thought. How very easy it would be…

Aleron raised his hand, conjuring the spell that would at last avenge his daughter, but cold, hollow laughter interrupted his cast.  Markus turned to face them, quite at ease as he stood.

“For two of my toys, you have caused quite the ruckus,” he chuckled darkly. “Ah well, one should know to clean up their playthings when they are finished.  A mistake easily corrected.”

Aleron pushed Sonora through the door and followed.  The wood splintered behind them with the force of Markus’s spell.  “Go!” he shouted at Sonora, and she ran hard and fast, until she burst from the house into the moonless night, Aleron right behind her.

“I do like a chase,” Markus said, casually sauntering out to join them.  “But please believe me when I tell you this is a battle you cannot win.”

“The chase ends tonight, Markcus!” Aleron replied hotly.  Markus only laughed again, sending a dark bolt sailing in his direction.  The mage blocked the attack, but only just.

“You are willing to fight, but what about your little apprentice?  Have you taught her enough, Aleron?  Arcis was stronger than she, and still she was not strong enough to defeat me.”

“Do not touch her, Markus!  This is our battle alone.”

“Is it?  I was aware of no such restrictions,” he replied.  This time, the attack came whizzing towards Sonora, close enough to singe hairs.

“So, you like to play.  I enjoy a good game myself…shall we?”

Click here to go on to Part 7:  The Parting.

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A Cord of Two Strands–Part 5

This is part 5 in a 7 part series. If you’re just joining us, you can start over at Part 1 or go to an index of all seven parts.

Becoming

After breakfast the next morning, Sonora looked at him expectantly.  “What did you mean last night?”

“As I said then, I believe you might be the source of our escape,” Aleron replied, trying not to sound desperate.

“Surely you are not serious,” Sonora said in surprise.  “Aleron, I do not want you to lose hope, but I think you are mistaken.”

“Lose hope?” Aleron replied.  “I lost hope months ago, Sonora!  But this idea has a fair chance.  It will not be an easy route, but it might be the only one.”

“What is your idea, then?” Sonora asked, quelled by his earnestness but still dubious.

“They underestimate you, Sonora; and me.  They are imbuing you with the very powers they have sought so hard to keep me from using.  If I can teach you to use what you are being given, then perhaps we can use their arrogance against them.  I must warn you, though; it will be risky and painful.”

“What is it you ask of me?” Sonora asked, afraid of the answer.

“You must force yourself to stay alert and receptive during their spells.”

“That is beyond my control!” Sonora exclaimed.  “The pain is more intense than anything I have ever felt, and it consumes me.”

“You can keep it from taking over, Sonora; but it will take great strength and concentration.  They will continue to do this until they are satisfied regardless of whether or not you accept it; if they are going to put you in this pain anyway, use it against them!”  Sonora looked down at her hands, turning them over.  Just last night she had ignited straw; what would she be capable of in a week, or a month?

“I am not sure I want this ‘gift,’” she said softly.  Aleron placed his hand on her shoulder gently.

“It comes with great responsibility,” he admitted.  “It will most likely change your life, and I cannot promise it will be for the better.”  Aleron paused and sighed, struggling with the reality of their situation.  “But if you do not…”

“Then I may not have a life to change,” Sonora finished for him.

*****

Over the next several weeks, the transfers continued.  Each time, Sonora felt as though her body would melt away from her.  Sometimes she felt as though she were close enough to touch death, but Aleron would look at her across the room, and it gave her strength.  She fought against it with a valiance few warriors could match, and the elder mage respected her for her tenacity in the face of such an overwhelming task.

At night, Aleron attempted to teach her things.  He started small, working with the straw until she could start a blaze to keep them warm and the room lit, and progressed to explaining the way magic worked together in its forms.  Things he could not risk her trying, he detailed for her in personal stories and experiences.  Sonora proved to be a dedicated student, and began to understand the nuances of what she held inside of her.

When she slept, she continued to dream things that did not fit; dreams of Aleron and the young girl.  She saw him teaching Arcis just as he now taught her, although without the urgency.  She saw discord in his marriage, and felt sorrow too old for her to fully appreciate.  She felt as though she were being told his most secret things behind his back, but couldn’t find a way to ask him.

aleron & wife

She stored these things away, and used them for motivation.  Aleron deserved her best, and though she could not replace his daughter, she would give to him as Arcis would have; willingly and wholeheartedly.

*****

As they sat around their self-made fire one night discussing what she had learned, Aleron mulled over a new lesson—a difficult one to teach, but one extremely useful to them.  “Sonora, I have something new to teach you.  It is possible, sometimes, to see something that is going on outside of where you are.  It is not easy, and without a scrying orb, it will take significantly more effort, but I think you might at least be able to follow magical signatures with which you are already familiar.”

“Markus, you mean.”

“Yes; Markus.  It would be useful to know where he is when the time comes, and what he plans to do.  Close your eyes and focus.  Try to push through your eyes; try to push through these walls.  Look for something that feels familiar, that glows slightly.”

Sonora did as instructed, but she sat for a long time pushing against the blackness behind her eyelids.  Finally, in a moment that startled her so much she almost fell backwards, her sight pushed outwards.  It was moving, but it shook weakly.  She encouraged it on without much control of what she could see.  She did see a dull glow ahead, and tried to steer her sight there.  Thankfully, it seemed to be drawn towards the glow without much help.  The range was very limited, and she could only see a small circle of space; everything beyond was dark.

And then there was Markus.

She could only barely make him out in the small circle of her vision, and he seemed to be radiating a dark glow that gave her an uneasy feeling, like a nervous child spying on a parent.
She watched him, standing behind some kind of elaborate table.  Candles, daggers, and lots of things she didn’t recognize cluttered the surface.  He gestured grandly, and looked pleased; boastful, even.  She looked closely at Markus, feeling as though he could surely see her, although he seemed to take no notice.  A few words she could read on his lips, and they were, “magic, channel, nearly finished, and dispose.”  She thought of the way those could string together, and the thought made her stomach turn over.  Sonora lost focus and felt as though some invisible force pulled her sharply back; when it stopped, she toppled over before opening her eyes and looking up into Aleron’s curious face.

“You look terrified,” Aleron said bluntly.  Sonora related what she saw, and the look on Aleron’s face grew grim and cold as she told him about the words she read on Markus’s lips.

“I expected this,” he sighed, “just not so soon.”

“You knew they would decide to kill us?”

“I knew they already had.”  Sonora looked taken aback, but Aleron knew there was no time for emotion; this required action.  Their training would have to be cut short.  Cut short, he thought, pacing; Markus has a way of cutting things in my life short.

“What do we do now?”

Aleron stopped mid stride and turned.  “We escape.”

Click here to continue to Part 6:  One Way or Another.

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A Cord of Two Strands–Part 4

This is part 4 in a 7 part series. If you need to, you can start over at Part 1 or go to an index of all seven parts.

Memory

Sonora’s mind floated away from the room as images flashed dreamily before her eyes.  She saw herself when she was young, standing beside her father as he showed her the loom.  He said people were like threads in a tapestry, woven together by the Light; a cord of two strands being stronger than one.  Scenes from her childhood panned before her, and then tapered off into her young adulthood.  She had no plan for the future, like the others.  Maybe that’s why she had agreed to go to Stormwind…

Suddenly the flashes came quickly; Markus and the room and Aleron.  The images turned upside down, and Sonora felt as though she were falling into eternity.  Then she saw images that she did not recognize.  A beautiful human woman, with long brown hair, standing next to a fireplace, laughing.  A little girl, sitting on her father’s knee, blonde curls bouncing wildly as she giggled.  And a man, a young man—a young version of Aleron.

Then something darker, the girl was older, almost Sonora’s own age, she guessed.  She stood alone in the snow, looking scared but determined.  Sweat made the girl’s sandy hair dark with moisture, and fire formed on her fingertips repeatedly as she sent it flinging at a target Sonora couldn’t see.  She felt the need to hurry, to save the girl; but she couldn’t move.  She watched helplessly as something struck the girl, and she fell to the ground.

Sonora gasped, and the image faded into darkness.  Light began to register on her eyelids, but the world beyond felt distant and muffled.  She let reality settle on her slowly.

She felt a cold cloth on her head and muttered through her stiff lips.  “Sonora?” she heard, “Sonora, can you hear me?”  She tried to open her eyes, and they responded, but slowly.  They fluttered open, and Aleron’s concerned face filled her vision.

“There you are,” he said.  “You should try to sit up if you think you can.”  He held a cup to her lips and after a few sips of water, she felt a bit stronger.  Holding onto his arm, Sonora was able to pull herself up with a groan, quickly leaning back against the nearby wall.  She took a few moments to sit and look around, trying to make the spinning in her head stop.

As it settled, she remembered what had happened, and she looked over at Aleron, startled.  “Are you okay?” she asked, quickly followed by, “Am I okay?”

“I am fine,” he assured her.  “I believe you are, too; although that was no small test they put you through.  You have been unconscious most of the day.”

“I have never felt so much pain in my life,” she admitted.  “I felt like I was on fire.”

“I expected it would be painful,” he said, intentionally omitting his own fear about experience.  “How do you feel now?”

“Okay, but I feel strange.  I—I feel as though I am shaking on the inside,” she said, blushing slightly at how absurd it sounded.  Aleron studied her for a few moments, lost in thought.  Suddenly, he glanced furtively around the room, then finally looking down at the straw of the makeshift bed upon which they sat.  Plucking out a small handful, he looked again at the draenei.

“Hold out your hand,” he directed.  She held out her hand dutifully, and he placed the straw inside her palm.  “Close your eyes, and try to push that feeling out of you.”  At her puzzled expression, he prompted her again, “Go on.”

“I am too tired for games,” she replied.

“Try.  You must do this,” he said fiercely, the first real spark of life Sonora had seen shining in his eyes.  Prompted by the strength of his response, Sonora tried again.  Closing her eyes, she tried to turn her focus inside herself.  She felt the shaking, like a reverberation within her.  She pushed against it with her mind, and was shocked when it felt as though it were following her focus.  Doubling her efforts, she pushed against it further, forcing it into her outstretched arm.  The feeling was so intense, she knew her arm must be shaking wildly, but she continued until she felt as though a blast of it went through her fingers.  The vibration seemed to settle back into her body, although not as strongly.  “My hand is warm,” she noticed aloud.  She was surprised to hear Aleron chuckling.

“Open your eyes,” he instructed proudly.  She did, and was shocked to see the straw in her fingers smoldering, smoke curling up above her hand.  The straw was clearly burnt in places, like the first breaths of a fire had passed over it.

“What have I done?” she said in awe.

“You have proven that you might be our way out of here!”  He stood up, and Sonora saw him sway unsteadily for a moment.  “I will talk to you more about it tomorrow,” he said wearily.  “The encounter earlier has weakened me, as well—I must get some rest.”

He laid down in his small pile of straw, but found himself unable to fall asleep immediately.  If Sonora were strong enough to withstand it all, there might be hope yet.  Hope—something he had nearly forgotten.

***

“Concentrate,” a younger Aleron said.  “If you do not focus it will find a way out without you, and control is key.”

“I am concentrating,” the girl told him, her eyes closed.  The room stood completely silent, nothing but their collective breaths.  Aleron had chosen thisStormwind home for its small tower, and certainly appreciated it now.  A place where he—and now his daughter—could do their work away from prying eyes and the sensitivities of his wife downstairs.  He looked again at Arcis’s hand, shaking almost imperceptibly.  Suddenly, a small spark lit up the piece of dry wood she held in her hand.  It burned a hole straight through the middle before dying.

“I did it!”  Arcis exclaimed excitedly.

“Yes you did!” Aleron chuckled.  “That was wonderful.  Do you want to do it again?”

“Yes! I can do even better this time!”  Arcis took another piece of wood from the pile on the table.  This time she did not close her eyes.  He watched while her youthful face twisted in careful concentration.  He could sense power radiating from her, and watched her hand, daring not to breathe.  Less than a minute later, an orb of fire the size of a child’s toy erupted from the palm of Arcis’ hand.  The wood disappeared completely in the blaze before it vaporized, leaving no mark behind.  Aleron looked at his little girl in astonishment.  Most mages spent months or years trying to turn their first spark into a fireball, and here she had done it in the span of several minutes.

“That was amazing,” he said softly, pulling her close.  “You are amazing.  But I should not have expected less.”

“Can I do it again, Daddy?  Please? I need to practice a lot so I can stop using the starter.”

“Of course, Arcis.  You can burn all the wood in this house if it pleases you to do so,” he answered proudly.

Click here to go on to Part 5:  Becoming.

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A Cord of Two Strands–Part 3

This is part 3 in a 7 part series. If you need to, you can go back and start at Part 1 or go to the index of all seven parts.

Progress

That evening, as they sat together pushing the foul mixture around their plates, Sonora looked closely at him.  He looked unnaturally worn, though she guessed he was only middle aged.

“What is your name?” Sonora asked.

“They call me Ultraking, Highness, and Majesty,” he said, his face twisting at the words.  “They have quite a sense of humor.”

“I did not ask what they call you,” Sonora replied.  “I asked you for your name.”

He smiled bitterly at her.  “It has been a long while since someone called me by my name. It is Aleron.”

“I am Sonora.”  Silence made her nervous, so she said, “Tell me about yourself.”

Aleron blanched.  “There is not much to speak of,” he said shortly.  Sonora looked at him in surprise at his cold response, and he added gently, “I prefer not to talk about myself; why not tell me about yourself?”

Sonora explained about her father and her trip to Stormwind as she had to Markus.  Aleron listened with some interest, having not had anyone to talk to in a long while.  His mind wandered to a similar scene in a much different place.  A table next to a warm fire; a young girl chattering on about the Kirin Tor and friends and the future…

As she finished, Aleron sighed deeply.  “I think we should go to sleep,” he told her.  “There is no way to know what they plan for us tomorrow.  Goodnight, Sonora.  I wish we had met under better circumstances.”

“As do I, Aleron.  Good night.”

The next morning, they had barely gotten through breakfast when the door opened and the now familiar figures entered.  There were no comments, no taunts.  They were eerily silent, and Aleron and Sonora looked at each other with raised eyebrows.

In a few seconds, the guards outside their door joined the warlocks, and Aleron eyed them warily. “Come here.”  Neither moved.  The night elf glared from under her hood.  “This will be easier for you if you comply, but you will do as I ask regardless.”  Suddenly the two guards were at their sides, and in the next moment, held them tightly.

“Turn them so they face each other,” the night elf commanded.  The guards followed orders, and Aleron and Sonora looked at each other.  Aleron could see the terrified look in the draenei’s eyes, and tried to silently reassure her.

“Are you ready?” the warlock asked her short, hooded companion, who merely nodded.  “Then let us begin.”  The gnome stepped forward and began to channel some kind of spell on Sonora.

Some aspects of the spell Aleron recognized.  They are trying a direct siphoning! Aleron realized suddenly, knowing that it could lethally overwhelm the young draenei.  “Stop!” he shouted.

“Silence!” the night elf hissed, and the orc holding Aleron drew a sword and held it effectively against the human’s neck.

The gnome finished her spell.  Sonora felt strange, and the concern on Aleron’s face combined with his shout terrified her.  She watched as the night elf approached him and began to cast her own spell, and the black circle seemed to descend into Aleron’s body, causing him to twist and wrench painfully.

“Now!”  The gnome and night elf together began to chant, channeling what Aleron knew must be a complex matrix.  He wished he could trace it, examine it, find its flaws; but the unnatural power inside him made it impossible to focus.  And then the bands of light began to move out of him.  He groaned at the familiar and unpleasant soul-sucking feeling, and doubled over as it intensified.  Sonora gasped, but before she had time to consider Aleron’s fate, the full force of the magic struck her.  At first, it was like a small pang, but it grew and grew, radiating through her body.  She cried out fruitlessly as the burning sensation she felt increased ten fold, and she felt as though she would certainly burn from the inside out.  Her head began to throb, and then it felt as if her whole body was vibrating.  She completely lost herself in the pain, not seeing or hearing anything but the increasing sensations in her own body.

“No!” Aleron cried out, seeing Sonora wracked with pain.  I will not be the reason she dies! He fought against the darkness using him and tried to focus.  He closed his eyes, forcing himself to probe; to find the place within him from which the flow originated.  It took precious time.  He pushed onward, finally finding the end of the spell matrix; the thread that tied the two of them together.  With the last bit of energy he had, he tugged at it with his mind, whispering a counterspell and successfully unraveling it enough to break the flow.

He fell to his hands and knees, winded, and looked over at Sonora.  She flopped, completely lifeless in the guard’s arms.

“How dare you!” the night elf yelled.

“Never mind,” said her counterpart.  “I would still call this progress.”  The night elf nodded, but continued to stare furiously at the mage.

“Leave them.”  The guards dropped their victims like sacks of grain, and Sonora landed with an unceremonious thud.

Aleron crawled to the place Sonora lay.  “Sonora,” he said hoarsely.  “Sonora, can you hear me?”  He could see her shallow breaths, but she did not respond to him; did not even flinch.  “Not again!  Do not let this happen again!”  Aleron carried her to the makeshift bed, biting back against the sorrow he felt within him; she reminded him so much of another lifeless form…

Click here to go on to Part 4: Memory.

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A Short Tale About an Old God

Once upon a time, a terrible fiend burst through his watery prison and corrupted the stalwart protectors of the land of Azeroth.  It became clear that something had changed within the walls of the Titan palace known as Ulduar, and a band of twenty-five strong, dedicated adventurers (under the banner of Chi Cerca Trova and the united Alliance forces of Azeroth) dared to find out.

After fighting through the corruption and facing several outright monsters, the adventurers approached Sara, a woman who appeared to need assistance.  In truth, the great monster only used the form to masquerade himself.  He was great and terrible; a deceiver and murderer who could devour the minds of any who came upon him unprepared for his trickery.

He sent waves of Guardians against the adventurers, but they stood firmly against them, turning their destructive might against the avatar of the beast.  His illusion shattered, the monster appeared from the depths of his prison and thrust his many tentacles at the adventurers.  Those with swords and daggers hacked at the twisting, poisonous limbs, while the spellcasters in the group held off their vicious curses and unleashed their magic upon the biggest and most lethal arms of the beast.  Some of the adventurers were lured into visions, but bravely fought their way out, keeping their wits about them as they attacked the very head of the monster.

The Old God roared in pain and unleashed terrible minions upon the group, trying to overwhelm them to the point of insanity, and some were lost.  Those who remained steeled themselves against the forces of the evil one, and though each expected a fatal blow at any second, they fought as though they expected to live forever.

And suddenly, victory fell within their grasp, and each of them fought twice as hard.  They rained blows upon the monster and his minions, until the last of his awful resources had been extinguished.  The remaining adventurers focused on their intended goal, and held their collective breaths as the final spells whizzed towards the beast’s head and the last dagger slashed into his grotesque flesh.

And suddenly the monster Yogg-Saron fell to their might, and lay very still among them.  Those who had fallen in battle were resurrected, and there was great rejoicing among the twenty-five and among the citizens of Azeroth.

Now they have uncovered a new challenge — the waking of the Titan creation Algalon, who exists to cleanse Azeroth of the imbalance in its Keepers.  Can they save Azeroth from a certain end?  Only time will tell.

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A Cord of Two Strands–Part 1

My short story for Blizzard’s creative writing competition didn’t make the cut, but my mageboy has encouraged me to share it anyway.  Because it’s pretty long, I’m going to post it here in parts.  This, then; is Part 1

A Successful Experiement

Runes hung in the air, glowing brightly.  Each one was a different shape; a different spell—but all of them were incomplete.  The fingers tracing them looked worn, but flew across the space with deceptive speed.  Lips moved in barely whispered incantations and many uttered curses.

One of the runes glistened for a minute, then a sound like a small explosion echoed through the chamber, followed by a violent curse from its creator.

A door creaked and a voice bellowed from behind it, “Keep it down in there, Your Highness!”  Then came a short snicker drowned by the slamming of the door.

A tall female with pale blue skin and hooves sat next to a fountain, looking incredibly lost.  “Diplomacy,” her father had said, “is an important part of our life now.  As a people, we have adjusted to many changes with this new alliance with the humans, gnomes, dwarves, and elves of Azeroth and Kalimdor.  Forging these bonds is imperative to your adult life.”  Faced with her father’s insistence, Sonora reluctantly agreed to a trip to the human capital of Stormwind.  She felt like an oddity here; many of these humans were unfamiliar with her kind, and looked at her strangely.

Just when she was sure she could take no more, her escort finally arrived.  A strikingly tall human, he introduced himself as Markus.  Brown hair and blue eyes, Sonora found him not unattractive.  “Sonora, I presume?” he said with a smile as he extended a hand, and she placed her hand in his.  “Peter at the Stormwind Visitors Center sent me to welcome you to Stormwind and show you around.  It is very nice to meet you.”

“The pleasure is mine, sir,” she said in her soft voice as he closed his fingers around hers and assisted her to her feet.

“Oh, please call me Markus,” he replied with another smile.  Her blue cheeks flushed slightly purple.  This blush did not escape Markus’s attention, and he grinned inwardly with delight.  She was just what he had been looking for.

Morning came, and he could sense the building waking up around him.  Today would be another day they could torture him.  For 475 days he had been in this room that served as his cell; days without magic that crawled by through his one dim window.

The guard outside his door handed him a small mug of water and a plate with gruel and a piece of hard bread.  Immediately after his capture, he had refused to eat, but found that this only made the torture more painful.  Using the bread as a makeshift spoon, he forced the tasteless mush into his mouth.  When it was gone, he tore at the bread with his teeth and sipped the water to help him swallow.

When he finished, he threw the plate at the door and put the mug next to the straw and joke of a blanket that served as his bed.  Several minutes later, a familiar voice called to him.  “Good morning, Ultraking,” the female voice sneered.

“I am more noble than you will ever be,” he growled back at her.

“That may well be true,” the voice replied from under a dark hood. “But this is my palace.  You would be wise to watch your manners.”

The captive clenched his jaw, and the tall elf in front of him took it as a sign of acquiescence.  She began to cast, her voice low and guttural.  The crown of inky black light above his head—serving as both the mind-control spell that kept him from blasting his way out and the source of his nickname—began to swell and brighten.  He braced himself, knowing what would come next.  Her shorter partner withdrew a trembling orb from her robe, and the circle of darkness above his head dropped down into his body.  He writhed in pain.  The first time they had tried this, and several times after, he had been forced to his knees and blacked out.  He now knew to force his body to relax as much as possible, though he clenched his teeth tightly against the burning swell within him.  After several agonizing moments, a stream of light tore from the center of his body and whipped to the orb with frightening speed.  The searing pain was gone, but it had been replaced with the feeling that his soul was being ripped from his body.  They had certainly gotten better at this, he noted with some difficulty.

Finally, when the orb had been filled, the draining ceased.  Impacted by the sudden stop, he fell to his knees.  He looked up at the orb, and grimaced with concern.  It was completely unclouded; they had extracted his magic without infusing any of their own.  He wanted to believe that they would now release him, but he knew better.  The thought of what they planned to do with his concentrated power concerned him; there were many ways he could think to use it, none good.

Click here to go on to Part 2: An Introduction.

Click here to go to an index of all the parts.

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A New Achievement

No, I didn’t get Heroic: Glory of the Raider, and to be honest, I probably never will (we have a group of achievement-haters in our guild).  I don’t have a cool drake or neat title, but this sense of accomplishment is a lot greater than even my favorite achievements (Ambermist Jenkins, c’mon, you know you love it).

I finished a 9.9 thousand word short story.

Okay, yes, I call myself a writer, and I’ve certainly written things.  But that’s all I’ve ever done.  A few poems here; fragments of novel ideas there; a few stories that barely reached three pages, but never have I written anything to this magnitude.  What could have possibly motivated me to finish such a glorious feat in a young (shut up, all you 16-year-old prodigies) writer’s career?  I’m glad you asked, my friend:  Blizzard’s Creative Writing Contest.

Write a story about something I know inside and out?  Put myself in my character’s shoes and create art with it?  Relate to the characters in novels by Christie Golden and Richard Knaak, the pages of which I have turned so often they are worn from use and tears?  OF COURSE I WILL!

The awesome prizes aside (first prize being a trip to Blizzard to meet the writers of our favorite MMO and related franchises AND a hot, personal Frostmourne), this gave me a chance to put away my pretentious ideas stemming from the three years I worked towards the English Lit degree I never finished and get in touch with who I am as a writer.  I finally discovered what they always told me but I never believed: write from what you know.

The competition is fierce; I’ve read several excerpts from competitors and almost lost the resolve to finish my own tale, but with constant encouragement from my mageboy husband and a real love of the story I wrote, I typed out THE END about two weeks ago.  After that, it was read after read, cutting back dry dialogue here, choosing better words there, and getting input from other WoW lore fanatics.  Yesterday I submitted A Cord of Two Strands for better or for worse.

I don’t know if I even have a chance at winning, though I hope I do.  But I don’t need to be number one on progression; knowing that I wrote from that really cool point of inspiration inside of me and seeing my work completed is pretty darn satisfying.

That said, wish me luck!

And, of course, here’s an excerpt from my entry, A Cord of Two Strands:

“I expected it would be painful,” Aleron said.  “How do you feel now?”

“Okay, but I feel strange.  I—I feel as though I am shaking on the inside,” she said, blushing slightly at how absurd it sounded.  Aleron studied her for a few moments, lost in thought.  Suddenly, he glanced furtively around the room, then finally looked down at the straw of the makeshift bed upon which they sat.  Plucking out a small handful, he looked again at the draenei.

“Hold out your hand,” he directed.  She held out her hand dutifully, and he placed the straw inside her palm.  “Close your eyes, and try to push that feeling out of you.”  At her puzzled expression, he prompted her again, “Go on.”

“I am too tired for games,” she replied.

“Try.  You must do this,” he said fiercely, the first real spark of life Sonora had seen shining in his eyes.  Prompted by the strength of his response, Sonora tried again.  Closing her eyes, she tried to turn her focus inside herself.  She felt the shaking, like a reverberation within her.  She pushed against it with her mind, and was shocked when it felt as though it were following her focus.  Doubling her efforts, she pushed against it further, forcing it into her outstretched arm.  The feeling was so intense, she knew her arm must be shaking wildly, but she continued until she felt as though a blast of it went through her fingers.  The vibration seemed to settle back into her body, although not as strongly.  “My hand is warm,” she noticed aloud.  She was surprised to hear Aleron chuckling.

“Open your eyes,” he instructed proudly.  She did, and was shocked to see the straw in her fingers smoldering, smoke curling up above her hand.  The straw was clearly burnt in places, like the first breaths of a fire had passed over it.

“What have I done?” she said in awe.

“You have proven that you might be our way out of here!”

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