Part 10: Why can’t we all just get along?

It was late in the evening when Ariciel and Mareva rode into Ratchet. Their ride had been a silent and uneventful one. Ariciel looked round, then pointed.

“Inn.”

Mareva scowled. “What do you mean by that?”

“The inn. It’s over there.”

“I am not blind. There is a sign outside. It has a picture of a pint of ale. That usually means that it is an inn.”

Ariciel slowly looked round at her friend. “Right. Shall we go into the inn? They have booze.”

“Are you saying that I drink too much?”

“No, I am saying that I would quite like to drink too much. I am feeling a bit below par, and I think a few pints of cider would be just the thing for that.”

“Well, I am very sorry for spoiling your mood by allowing our companions to die.”

Ariciel’s face darkened. “As you said, there was nothing we could have done except die with them. If you think we could have won over about a dozen of Orc warriors, all by ourselves, please enlighten me as to how.”

“So now you are blaming me? Why? You were there as well.”

“Did I say that I was blaming you? I don’t think I did. So why do you think I’m blaming you?”

Mareva jumped off her elekk. “Right. So now you are claiming all the responsibility. What am I, just another shooter?”

Ariciel got off her cat, and walked up to Mareva. Her face was very close to Mareva’s.

“You, my friend, need to calm down and have a few drinks.”

“I, my friend, am going to walk to the docks and inquire when the next ferry leaves. Feel free to get wasted on the local rotgut in the meantime.”

Before Ariciel could say another word, Mareva turned round and stomped off in the direction of the docks, leaving Ariciel looking after her with her mouth hanging open.

“What, by the Ancient Gods…”

Mareva sat on the dock, legs dangling over the side, and watched the moon as it cast its white light over the rolling waves. Her face was motionless as she looked towards the North, where Stetson was. Tonight more than any other night, she wanted to be with him, walk next to him, talking or just keeping silent. Something was wrong. Mareva rather suspected that it would be something to do with his brother. She was afraid, terribly afraid, that something bad might have happened to Stetson. Being a Shaman meant that Mareva’s mind connected to spirits. ‘Spirit’ was a word with many, many meanings, most of which were not used by Shaman. All things that were, had spirits. The spirit was what told things how to be themselves, or how to change, to become something else. There were simple spirits, like the spirit of steel. Pretty much all the properties of steel were now understood. And then there were the spirits of people, infinitely complex, chaotic, impossible to understand fully, even if you were that person. All you got was glimpses, hints, and misinformation.

Something moved in the corner of Mareva’s eye, and she looked to see a bottle. Ariciel stood next to her.

“No fun at all getting hammered on your own. Drink, you moody cow. It’s the good stuff.”

Mareva took the bottle and drank. Ariciel sat down next to her, looking up at the moon as she was, saying nothing, asking no questions.

“I am sorry,” said Mareva, quietly.

“Hm?”

“I should not have been angry at you.”

“No?”

Ariciel’s silence was like a physical thing, a great Void, demanding, though ever so politely, to be filled with more words.

“I think I was channeling Stetson.”

Ariciel said nothing, drank from her bottle, looked at Mareva.

“It is something I do. A gift I have. I pick up peaks and troughs of emotion on the people I…” Mareva paused. “People I love.”

“Stetson,” said Ariciel.

Mareva nodded. “Even this far away, I know something bad is happening to him. I had the same thing when you lost Lesta.”

Ariciel nodded quietly. “Yes. That was bad.”

“I think he has found his brother. I think their meeting was not a good one.”

“Do you think…” Ariciel hesitated.

“I do not think he is dead. I did not feel it when Viral died.” Mareva made a frustrated noise. “I am like a child looking at the console of a transdimensional engine. I know that many angry blinking red things are bad. I do not know what is wrong. Nor do I know what to do about it.”

“Hm. So this… channeling? Do you only get it for bad feelings?”

Mareva shook her head. “It is the power of the emotions, not the nature.”

“So when Bannog and I…” Ariciel grinned.

Mareva laughed. “It says something about my friends that everyone I try to explain it to thinks of sex.”

“You have friends with healthy appetites. So when does the ferry leave, then?”

“I do not know. We will have to sit here drinking until it arrives.”

Ariciel held her bottle upside down. “Inn is over there. Your round.”


Ellandriel stepped off the boat, onto the wooden boardwalks of Booty Bay, offering a small prayer of thanks to Elune for something solid under foot. Booty bay, in those days, was a thriving Goblin town that looked like it was stuck to the side of the bay with glue. It was a bewildering maze of boardwalks, bridges and passageways. Being seasoned travellers by now, they struck out for the tavern at once.

“Goblins, Goblins everywhere,” said Teacher. “As though the world did shrink.”

“Goblins, Goblins everywhere,” replied Ellandriel. “Nor any drop to drink.”

They grinned at each other and pushed open the door to the Salty Sailor Tavern. Teacher beat a Human and a Dwarf to a table, produced a map and spread it out, pointing.

“This is where we are. That is where we’re going.” Teacher grinned. “The Dark Portal, apprentice. The actual Dark Portal that brought the Orcs here.”

“I read that the Dark Portal was destroyed by the wizard Khadgar.”

“Mostly, but not quite. The portal itself was broken and closed, but the connection remained. They opened it again later. I think they even rebuilt the stone gate.”

“How do we go there, Shan’do?”

“Well, I’ve heard it said that they keep a permanent portal up in the Human city of Stormwind, but I can’t say I quite trust the sanity of the person who told me that. So either we take a long slog through the jungle to the North, or we find some kind of boat and go by sea.”

“Another boat, Shan’do?” Ellandriel found a way somehow to keep the enthusiasm out of her voice.

“Why not? It took you almost a week to get over your sea-sickness. It would be a great shame not to take advantage of your new-found resistance to the ocean waves.”

Ellandriel looked at the map again.

“How far a walk would it be?”

“Easily two, even three weeks. We would be travelling through Stranglethorn Vale, which is a humid jungle filled with dangerous biting animals and other Trolls.”

Ellandriel tried to measure how far it was with her fingers.

“There are also biting insects there,” said Teacher, “and unhealthy leftover magics. I would really recommend the boat. If you don’t believe me, go and have a look for yourself while I try to find a fisherman or merchant willing to take us to the Blasted Lands.”

Ellandriel walked up the boardwalk to the gate of Booty Bay, determined to see the good parts of the jungle. The gate was the opening of a cavern, and the Goblins had set the jaws of a giant sea predator into the entrance to the cave. It was large enough for a horse and cart to drive through, and Ellandriel made a mental note to mention this to Teacher, and point out that a fish that size would have no problem devouring a small boat. The evening was quiet. A little breeze came from the North, carrying on it the smells of the Stranglethorn jungle. Sweet flowers. Rotting plants. Ellandriel took a deep breath and closed her eyes. If she tried, she could still feel the swaying movement of the Maiden’s Fancy in her legs. She didn’t like the idea of another sea trip at all, but when Teacher had something in mind, then that was the thing that happened. She turned to the right, down to a sandy path that led to the sea. She slowly shook her head. Even her night with the soldier had been a lesson of sorts. She looked over her shoulder to the West, and faraway Kalimdor. Not the worst of lessons, that. Still. Wasn’t it about time that she started deciding for herself what happened to her?

The path led to a broad sandy beach, and Ellandriel walked to the sea, where the sand was firmer, and gentle little waves rolled in with a rushing sound. Ellandriel took off her boots and took a few steps into the cool water, feeling her toes slowly sink into the sand. She bent down, and scooped up a bit of the water, tasted it. Salty of course. She had read a few books on marine life, and they all had mentioned the high salt content of sea water, and how fish had to adapt themselves to it. Now, she knew for herself. Only certain fish, such as the salmon, could survive in both salt and fresh water. They would come in from the sea, swim upstream for miles and miles, leaping up waterfalls, at the risk of being caught by hungry bears, until they came to the very pool where they were born. There, the females would lay the eggs, the males would fertilise them, and then they would die from the exertion. Ellandriel laughed quietly at herself. Making yourself overcome your fear of possibly murderous Keldorei was easy by comparison. Would the final moment for a pair of salmon be as fulfilling? Would they look into each other’s eyes underwater, touch their tails, then slip away with a smile?

“Wherever you are, my soldier, be well, be safe.”

As she looked up, Ellandriel noticed a light a few hundred yards away, of a red lantern. She had read somewhere that Humans used red lights to read by at night so as not to spoil what little night vision they had. Elves simply read by the light of moon or stars. The light was at the stern of a boat that had just been pulled up on the beach. As she watched, the Humans brought down their sails. One of the sailors grabbed the anchor, walked a few dozen steps trailing the anchor chain with a rattling sound, then buried it into the sand. There was the sound of bottles clinking together. Well, thought Ellandriel, if we are going to sail, then I might as well make some inquiries.

She walked over to the Humans’ boat. One of them had lit a small fire, and the others were drinking from the bottles. She stepped into the light.

“Good evening, Gentlemen, and good fortune to you.”

The Humans stared at Ellandriel with their mouths hanging open. Her robes were dark, and none of them had heard her soft footsteps on the sand.

“Bless me, it’s a Night-elf!”

“It’s a Night-elf girl!”

The third Human gave Ellandriel a big grin. “Good evening, little damsel, and welcome to our camp. What can we do with you?”

Ellandriel frowned. That didn’t sound quite right. She had learnt the Common Speech in class, and was certain that it should be ‘do for you’, but maybe it was a regional variation. She smiled at the men.

“My teacher and I are looking for a ship willing to take us along the coast to the Blasted Lands.”

“The Blasted Lands, eh? Oh you don’t want to go there. It’s a nasty place, full of Ogres, and Demons, and Centaurs. They’d have a tasty Night-elf like yourself for lunch, and you may lay to that! Much better to stay with us here.”

“Regardless,” said Ellandriel, “We must go there. If you would be willing to take us there, we could make it well worth your while.”

One of the Humans got to his feet, and walked up to Ellandriel. She could smell the drink on his breath. He gave her a look that made her want to close her robes tighter.

“I think, your ladyship, that you can make this evening worth our while, and we won’t even have to haul anchor.”

Ellandriel’s eyes opened wide. “I… I don’t understand,” she said, even though she understood perfectly well what the man meant.

The other Humans were also on their feet, and walked round so that Ellandriel was between the three of them.

“Got any gold, melady?”

“No!” Ellandriel looked from one Human to the other.

“Now will you listen to that, shipmates? No gold, says she. Times was, when womenfolk told no lies.”

The other Human laughed. “Now how do you know she’s a-lyin’ cap’n? Maybe she was thinkin’ of making the trip worth our while in other ways.”

“Only one way to be sure,” said the captain. “Off with those clothes, melady. Just so we can see what you have under ’em.”

“I’ll do no such thing! Stay away from me!”

“Now you just lay by, melady, and do what your Captain tells you.” A sailor’s knife appeared as if by magic in the captain’s hand, and he held it up to Ellandriel’s face. “Unless you want me to give you a hand, and me hand is a bit unsteady, along of the rum and the aggro. From what I know of Elves, it’d be a great shame to cut your skin along with that dress.”

The captain reached out, meaning to tear open Ellandriel’s robes. She slapped him in the face as hard as she could, screaming. Then, before anyone could move or speak, she closed her eyes and blinked forward twenty yards. She whirled round, raising her staff. Her hand glowed with fire magic. She bared her teeth at the Humans.

“You will learn what it means to cross the High-borne, degenerates.”

She raised her hand high, then brought it down, viciously fast. A pillar of fire struck down between the Humans, and they were instantly set aflame. They screamed, jumped away and rolled on the floor to put out the flames. They got up, and all now produced knives. They spread out.

“You shouldn’t of dun that, melady,” said the captain, between clenched teeth. “Now, we’ll make it hurt.”

“Burn! Burn, you sons of Ogres!”

Ellandriel’s hand shot forward again. She conjured up a fiery boulder, and smashed it into the Humans. The stench of burning flesh, perversely similar to a cooking smell, filled the air. One of the Humans screamed, and ran towards the sea. Ellandriel sent a fireball after him. It smashed into his back, and he fell down not five yards from the water. The other sailor pulled back his arm, and threw his knife at Ellandriel. She felt it bump into her shoulder. She raised her arm, and shot another fireball. It hit the sailor in the chest, and he fell down without another word. The captain, face red with burns, smoke coming from his clothes, teeth bare, stepped forward, knife out. Ellandriel took a deep breath, preparing another mighty fire blast. From about fifty yards away, a stream of elegant blue glowing missiles came flying and hit the captain in the back. His eyes stared blindly into Ellandriel’s, then he fell to the ground in front of her feet. She looked up, and screamed.

“I could have taken him!”

Teacher came walking up. “I’m sure you could. I am merely establishing my looting rights.”

Ellandriel closed her eyes, shaking with rage. Then, without any warning, the spell of anger popped like a soap bubble, and she bent down, leaning on her staff. Teacher quickly stepped forward and held her, gently lowered her to the ground. Ellandriel suddenly sobbed.

“Thero’shan?”

“I’m alright.” Ellandriel’s teeth were chattering.

Teacher opened a weather-beaten backpack and pulled out a bandage.

“There is a knife in your arm. Hold steady and I’ll get it out.”

Ellandriel sat on the sand, back against the hull of the boat, and drank something unspeakably vile from a bottle. The bandage felt warm round her arm, and the pain was only slowly going away. She took another swig. Teacher was inspecting the boat.

“Well, Thero’shan, this is marvellous. As I was going to tell you, I haven’t found anyone willing to sail into an Ogre-mound, strangely. And here you are, and you’ve found us a boat. I am really quite satisfied with your performance. Have plenty of merit marks.”

“We’re not in the Athenaeum anymore,” said Ellandriel.

“Quite so. Since we left Eldre’thalas, you have bedded one stranger and killed three others. We’ll turn you into an adventurer yet! In the light of that, I hereby promote you to Guardian of the Jib. All aboard, me hearties! Stand by to turn about.”

“Do you know how to sail this boat, Shan’do?” Ellandriel slowly got to her feet and clambered over the side of the boat. Teacher dropped the anchor inside, and pushed the boat off into the sea.

“You should know better by now than to start any question you ask me with ‘do you know’, my student. The jib is the front sail. That rope is its sheet. With your good arm, when I say pull, pull.”


The great city of Dalaran floated and weaved before Stetson’s eyes as the gryphon carried him and Morgan to Krasus’ Landing. The gryphon was flying without noticably caring about his battered body. It hovered in mid-air for a few moments, then landed on the stone landing platform. The magic spell completed and the creature disappeared. Stetson fell to his hands and knees, eyes closed, teeth set. Aludane Whitecloud, the Dalaran flight master, walked up.

“Sir? Are you alright?”

With the last of his strength, Stetson raised his head.

“This is what we Mortals look like when we are not alright.”

He decided to go lie down on his face for a while. Yes, the stones would be nice and cool.

There was something soft underneath him, and he was warm. It was quiet. It was dark. He opened his eyes, and looked round. He was lying on a bed, in some kind of infirmary. There was a bandage on his arm, with a little line snaking upwards to a bag containing a clear fluid. A little way away, a Human woman sat in a chair, reading a book by the light of a candle. As she heard Stetson move, she looked up, put a piece of paper in the book and walked over. She kneeled by Stetson’s bed and looked intently into his eyes. Her voice was soft and kind.

“Well then, friend. How are you feeling?”

Stetson tried to move, and stopped.

“This is not a good day,” he said.

The nurse smiled at him. “It’s a better day than yesterday. You’ve had practically every curse known to the Scourge cast on you.”

“They also hit me with clubs,” said Stetson.

“Least of our worries,” said the nurse. “I already took care of the broken bones and cuts. We can sew people’s arms back on when we need to. Feel like trying a drink?”

“Bit early in the day.”

The nurse put a hand behind Stetson’s head, pulled him up and held a cup of water to his lips. Stetson drank it all. Then, he sagged back. He looked up into the nurse’s face.

“Why am I so weak?”

“After-effects of a fight with the Scourge. Doctor Olissara removed most of the curses, but some of them are still resisting. Now rest.”

“Wait. Morgan, my cat. Where is he?”

A large feline head raised itself at the foot of the bed. The nurse earned several points in Stetson’s book by scratching Morgan between the ears. Stetson closed his eyes and lay back down. Drinking a cup of water had taken all his strength. This was going to take a while.

“Wait, Miss.”

The nurse looked over her shoulder.

“My name is Stetson. What is yours?”

“You can call me Miss Birch. Get some sleep, Hunter.”

Stetson had slept through the rest of the night, and most of the morning, when there was a noise and two Dwarves came walking in bearing a stretcher upon which lay the unconscious figure of a slender woman. They walked to the bed next to Stetson, counted to three and gently transferred her to the bed. Miss Birch came walking up. She raised the woman’s face, pulled open her eye and looked at the green glow in it. There was a lot of blood on her clothes. She turned to the woman behind the counter.

“Miss Butler? Pair of scissors, antiseptic bandage, saline drip.”

Miss Butler opened the counter and came running. Miss Birch cut away the Blood-elf’s clothes, accepted a bowl of water and a cloth from Miss Butler and cleaned a deep cut in the woman’s side.

“Sutures,” said Miss Birch. Almost before she’d said it, a curved needle and thread were put in her hand. At great speed, Miss Birch put the stitches in, then put a bandage over the wound. Next, she looked at the woman’s leg. That had been bandaged already, but not, apparently, to Miss Birch’ exacting standards. With a pair of scissors, she cut away the bandage. Blood sprayed up, and Miss Birch winced, one eye closed.

“Bleeder! Hold it closed. Can’t stitch this. I’ll have to use a spell.”

Miss Butler pressed her thumb down firmly in the woman’s groin, and the bleeding stopped. Miss Birch found the wound, cleared away the blood and held her hand over the wound. Magic flowed, and the wound closed. She closed her eyes for a moment, breathing hard, then nodded at Miss Butler, who took her hand away. No more blood came spurting up.

“Good. More bandage.”

She wrapped bandages round the woman’s leg, and gently laid it down on the bed. Her eyes scanned the Blood-elf’s body for more injuries, but that, for the moment, seemed to be it. Her eyes fell on Stetson. She sneered at him.

“Eyes front, Hunter. Ange? Let’s get her a gown. Poor girl’s lying here with all her bits on display.”

Stetson looked at the gold-inlaid ceiling of the infirmary. Naked Blood-elves held only very limited interest for him, but the uncompromising efficiency of the healers had fascinated him. Next to him, they put the Blood-elf in a white hospital gown, gave her clean sheets, put in a drip much like Stetson’s own and pulled a blanket over her. The Blood-elf stirred in her sleep, made a painful noise, then sunk down in a deeper sleep. Stetson, for want of anything better to do, did the same.

Stetson opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was the pale, pinkish brown face of a Blood-elf, green eyes glaring at him from not three inches away. She was explaining something to him in her own language, which he couldn’t make a word of sense of. The gist was clear, though. She did not like him very much. The fact that there was a cold metallic feeling against his throat was another hint. Stetson took a deep breath, and thought of Morgan. There was a low growl at the foot end of the bed, and a glowing pair of eyes appeared.

“Get off me, you scarecrow. You’re bleeding on me. Or you will be soon.”

Felix maniculata domestica. Pah!” The pressure on the knife increased.

The door was thrown open, and in the doorway stood a tall woman. Both Stetson and the Blood-elf could not help looking at her. She had long, blonde hair. Her arms were crossed, and she looked at them with unbelievably bright blue eyes. Disapproval radiated off her.

“What is going on here? Quid hic? Ut lectum mulier!

The Blood-elf looked up at the Matron, painfully got to one leg and sat down on her own bed. The matron walked over, held out her hand. The Blood-elf looked back up at her, then put the knife in her hand. Matron put a hand under Stetson’s chin, pushed his head up and checked him for cuts. There weren’t any. She stepped over to the next bed, held up the blanket. The Blood-elf could no more have argued with her than her own feet could have refused to walk. She got back into bed. Matron put her hand under the Blood-elf’s ankle, and gently put her leg under the blanket. Matron stood at the foot end of their beds, looking from one to the other.

“This is Dalaran. This is a hospital. Most importantly, this is my hospital. For those reasons, no fighting. Do I make myself clear?” She repeated this in Thalassian. The Blood-elf nodded. So did Stetson.

“Good.”

The Matron’s name was Olisarra. Olisarra the kind. That title was attached to her to clear up any misunderstandings that might arise from casual observation. As she turned round, Stetson looked aside at the Blood-elf. The Blood-elf looked back at Stetson, through slits of emerald green. Then, she turned her back on him and went to sleep.

Miss Birch came up, to see if everything was alright. She put a hand on the Blood-elf’s shoulder. The Blood-elf shrugged, buried her face in the pillow. Then, Miss Birch looked at Stetson. She straightened the blanket, fussed a bit.

“All quiet now?”

“Not a problem,” said Stetson.

“This place is a sanctuary. Anyone caught fighting is thrown out of the city. And we are about a mile up.”

“Morgan could have taken her. I am not scared of her.”

“Yes, and then you would both have been thrown out.” Miss Birch smiled sweetly. “You could have raced each other to the ground. Everybody here plays nice.”

“Tell her that.”

“Oh I will,” said Nurse Birch.


“Booty Bay!”

Ariciel risked her young life by standing on the bow-sprit of the Maiden’s Fancy and pointing.

“Good,” said Mareva. “Have you ever been to the Blasted lands?”

“Bannog took me to Nethergarde keep once, to look up some records. Had to run in through the Swamp of Sorrows. Very boring, so he showed me what Humans mean by…”

“Excellent. That means that we can fly into Nethergarde Keep. Unless you wish to take an educational stroll through the jungle.”

“No thank you. Apparently you have to go without underwear in a jungle, because of crotch rot.”

“You are full of interesting and useful information. Please be so kind as to keep it to yourself.”

Ariciel stuck out her tongue.

“And I know where the inn is,” said Mareva. “And how to get to it. Which is not easy, let me tell you.”

“Huh. I’ll have more time to look than you do.”

“Really? How so?”

Ariciel grinned, waved, then ran along the bowsprit and dived off, changing to her sea lion form in mid-air. Mareva watched her skip over the waves once, then shoot off to the East. She shook her head.

“Druids. If they weren’t so much fun to be around, I don’t know why I would bother.”

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