Part 13: The importance of nutrition

Honour Hold was a typical Human settlement: Stone walls, stone towers. Plate-wearing soldiers. Ellandriel looked at the faces of the people passing by. There was a sense of resignation that everything would end in tears, and that the people who thought it was a good idea to come here and fight should have their heads seen to, with no need to bring their bodies. And still, there was the determination that said that if it was all going to end badly, it would not be because they were slacking. A curious mixture of pessimism and confidence that seemed to Ellandriel to be typically Human. Oh, and Dwarvish.

One of the first skills a traveller picks up is to find food in the wilderness. It took Ellandriel only a second or two to spot the inn. To walk in, find a free table and order lunch was the work of mere minutes for an experienced survival expert.

“Well,” said Teacher. “Here we are. Gor’nuzh, or ‘World’ to the Orcs. Draenor to the Draenei. Outland to us. Does it look sufficiently home-like to you?”

Ellandriel tried a piece of her… pork chop. Yes. Pork it must be, because there was a very small blob of apple sauce next to it.

“Exile, sweet exile,” she said.

“Well, Thero’shan, this is a warzone. There is always something educational and profitable to do in a warzone. Little jobs that the Army, for one reason or another, can’t do for themselves and are more than willing to pay passing travellers for.”

“What sort of little jobs, Shan’do?”

“Anything they will pay us for, Thero’shan. While we are not in any danger of running out of gold just yet, we cannot live off our reserves forever.”

Ellandriel gave a small nod. Working for a living was something new and alien to a High-borne student of Arcane Magics, a child of only fifty years. But what sort of work could she do? She was a student. A writer. Study and document this place? Try to decypher the Demonic writings that must be here? It was doubtful whether anyone would give her even a copper for a treatise on the digestive system of the Hellboar that was on her plate now.

“We’re going to end up fighting for a living, aren’t we?”

Teacher sighed. “Most probably. I was a proper battle-mage once. Every student of the Arcane serves in the armed forces at some point. But this will be nowhere near as well organised. The Humans are competent enough for the army-style fighting. I foresee intelligence jobs. Information gathering. Perhaps a rescue mission if we’re lucky.”

“No job for a High-borne, Shan’do.”

“High born, brought low by our own arrogance. We failed in our duties. There is a subtle but important difference between the elite, the leading class… and mere dead weight.” Teacher pushed away a half-full mug of ale. “If I start drinking now, my student, I won’t stop. If you’re finished, let’s go outside.”

They walked round the inn, where a commander was trying to motivate a group of tired looking soldiers. It didn’t seem to be working very well, and most of them were clearly thinking of sleep more than about the ways in which this war differed from other wars. A little further on was a Dwarvish woman, who was looking after a few gryphons, rubbing their feathers with an oily towel, then brushing the hair on their hind-quarters. Teacher pointed.

“If we do well enough here, Ellandriel, we’ll buy a pair of those. You haven’t lived until you have flown on a gryphon.”

As they stood watching the soldiers and the gryphons, there was a noise behind them, and an old Human came walking up. From his clothes, they could see he was a wizard of some sort. Wizards are notoriously subtle and quick to anger. Two small blue flags on a box next to the inn’s door seemed to anger him for reasons far too subtle for them to fathom.

“A mailbox? Well is that not the salt on the wounds! Twenty years cut-off from the world and now a mailbox! Wonderful!”

As the mage stomped off into the inn, Teacher visibly brightened up. “So that is what it is! Come, let me show you this, Thero’shan. It may look like a simple box, but in fact they are a marvellous piece of portal engineering. They are all interconnected, you know? And all that it takes to pick up any of your messages is a single touch of your hearthstone.”

“Hearthstone? What is that?”

“You don’t have one? Don’t worry. All innkeepers have them. They allow flight-masters and even some machines to know who you are and where you’ve been. Observe.”

Teacher produced a pebble with a rune on it, and touched it to the mailbox. Ellandriel felt the brief surge of magic. Then, the small door opened.

“Incredible, isn’t it? It even works here, at this unimaginable distance from Kalimdor.” Teacher frowned. “And I have mail! Who in all the worlds would be sending me mail?”

Teacher opened the letter and read it, with eyes that slowly turned angrier and angrier.



Teacher turned to Ellandriel. “Do you remember me telling you that there were people within Eldre’thalas that are only alive because it was impractical and unlawful for me to kill them?”

“Yes, Teacher.”

“Daros Moonlance is one of them. I am sure he detests me with the same intensity I hate him. And yet, he has written to me. Not only that, but he is asking me to join him in Dalaran. Oh, and he has added a helpful note saying that Dalaran is no longer in Alterac, but has been moved to Northrend. Just in case I have lived with my head in a bucket for a few thousand years.”

“Does it say why?”

“It does.” teacher showed Ellandriel the letter, and a few small strange symbols at the bottom. “I would tell Daros Moonlance to shove his letters, and pray I don’t remember he exists. Except for that name.”

“Is it a name? I do not know these runes. They are not Keldorei, nor even Sindorei or Dwarvish.”

“That is because they are not runes. It is a stupid cypher we used, to pass notes in class when we were children. Simpleton. Does he really think that nobody could crack it? Even our teachers could.”

“What does it say?”

“It says ‘Xaxas’. Look. You can see the pattern in the glyphs repeating itself for X and A.”

“Fury,” said Ellandriel. “Chaos. In some contexts, it can also mean ‘Elemental’.”

“Correct, my Student. But in quite a different context, it is a name. Can you guess?”

Ellandriel thought a moment. “Neltharion. Otherwise known as Deathwing. But Neltharion is dead. Has Lord Moonlance perhaps uncovered some remnant of Neltharion’s evil?”

“He won’t say. Curse him. He may be an idiot, but he’s not stupid. It is likely that he is on to something. We have no choice, Thero’shan. Our path is no longer one of our own choosing. We will have to go and find Mr. Moonlance.” Teacher sneered. “That his message reaches me just when I am as far away from Azeroth as I possibly can be is just typical of the man.”

“Are we going back to the Dark Portal, Shan’do?”

“We will need some better equipment first. Luckily, there is an abandoned armoury to the South. I daresay we will be able to find some weapons there. Field trip, Apprentice.”

Ellandriel gave teacher a weary look. “We’re already on a field trip.”

“So we’ll be on a field trip within a field trip. Double the magic, double the fun.”

Stetson sat up in bed and watched a Blood-elf walk up and down the room with the aid of just a single crutch. Whatever the creeping horror in the night had done to her, it had worked. Like Stetson, she was steadily improving. Morgan was following behind her, looking up at her. The Blood-elf reached the wall, turned round, glared at Morgan.

Fugite in malam crucem, ructator!” She gave Stetson a look.

Stetson clapped his hands, waved her on. “Another three. Then you can rest.”

The Elf made a gesture that nice ladies should not know, or at least not make, then set off again for the other end of the room. Morgan was right on her heels. He was enjoying this game. As the Elf turned round, he sat down in front of her, looking up expectantly. The Elf raised her crutch and tried to poke Morgan with it. Morgan easily dodged. The Elf stepped onto her bad leg, yelped, dropped her crutch and only managed to stop herself from falling by holding on to a table. Her teeth showed in a painful grimace. When she opened her eyes, Morgan was sitting in front of her with her crutch between his teeth. She grabbed it, and pulled. Morgan pulled back. The Elf pulled harder. So did Morgan. The Elf snorted, looked at Stetson.

“Eh, stultissime…

Stetson grinned. “Loose, Morgan.”

Morgan let go. The Elf walked forward again, kicking at Morgan as she went. Morgan jumped to one side.

“Excellent,” said Stetson. “When you manage to kick the tiger, Grasshopper, then you know it will be time to leave.”

Olisarra the Kind held her hand over Stetson’s stomach, with her eyes closed. Little green and violet lights danced round her fingers, down to Stetson, then back up. She nodded.

“Well, Mr. Stetson, I believe the last traces of the Scourge curse have been erased. I will be expecting you to vacate your bed for more rewarding cases. I recommend A Hero’s Welcome if you wish to stay in Dalaran.”

“Thank you,” said Stetson, looking up at Olisarra. There was so much more he wanted to say to her, but no words came.

Matron Olisarra smiled. “You’re welcome.”

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Donate to the National Elf Service if you want. Thanks to you, all of our healers can now remove the curse you were put under.”

Stetson bowed his head, and started to put on his clothes. He said his goodbyes to Nurse Josie Birch, and Angelique Butler. Then, his eye fell on the Elf woman. She pulled away her blankets, and got up. She was only favouring her leg a bit as she walked up to Stetson. She pressed her body into his, wrapped her arms round his neck and whispered in his ear.

Si te video, mortuus es,” she said. She pursed her lips and blew him a kiss.

“When you do see me,” said Stetson, “You will be dead already.”

Stetson walked into the inn, hungry for something besides hospital food. Though he would personally strangle anyone who said anything against First To Your Aid, he was forced to admit that the food was optimised for nutritional value rather than flavour. He sat down at a table and waved for a barmaid. A Gnome girl walked up.

“Hi! What can I do for you, sweetie?”

“You can bring me food, little one. Whatever the cook can recommend, and a pint of what ale goes with it. As much as you can carry, perhaps more.”

The barmaid, named Inzi, blew a lock of platinum blonde hair out of her eyes, and smiled at Stetson.

“I could carry you to the food, sweet cheeks. Never you worry. How’s an emperor salmon sound, with some sweet potato bread and a pot of honey mead?”

“You would have my undying gratitude.”

“Oh wow,” said Inzi. “I always wanted one of those! Won’t be a minute, cutie!”

The barmaid ran off to the kitchen, leaving Stetson to think of what he was going to do next. He’d thrown away the sad remains of his armour, so getting some new was first order of business. Which meant that he’d have to write to one of his mildly disreputable banking friends for extra money. Once the money arrived, he’d have to make his way to Terokkar forest, and Shattrath. Mareva was sure to show up there. While he was at it, he might as well send word to Master-at-arms Bannog to find out if his business was done. He would no doubt be eager to join Lady Ariciel, and travelling together would be easier. He pulled out a few sheets of parchment, and started to write.

Just as Stetson folded his last letter, a large platter hovered into view with a Gnome underneath. Stetson put the letters in a side pocket of his pack and pronounced his undying love for the Gnome barmaid. She laughed.

“Just remember sweetie, whatever tip I get, I have to share with the cook and the innkeeper. Enjoy!”

Stetson took a deep breath, and started on his salmon, occasionally dropping a piece for Morgan. It disappeared in record time, leaving Stetson feeling warm, rested and in the best mood he had been in for a long time. He posted his letters, booked a room in the inn, and went in search of the exit to Dalaran. The Naaru knew he needed a walk.

Mareva slowed down her beautiful new snowy white gryphon and looked far, far ahead. The colour of the land finally changed there from reddish brown to green, and she yearned for the cool shade of the trees. There was a squawk and Ariciel flew down underneath her, rose up in front of her, kicked her tail in the air and dived down again. Try as she might, Mareva couldn’t help laughing. She waved, patted her stomach, then pointed at a good spot for lunch. Ariciel dipped her wings and circled down. Mareva followed her. She was hungry, and the last time she tried to take something from her backpack in-flight, she’d almost fallen off. Ariciel had persuaded her to buy the gryphon, though she hadn’t needed to try hard. Mareva was eager to leave this land behind her. The few mountain peaks that she could recognise only served to remind her. She had been in Terokkar forest before, with Stetson and a mage named Oxana, who hungered for battle slightly more than was healthy. When you are fighting for your life, you don’t have much time to appreciate the scenery and Mareva hoped that with Ariciel, things would move at a more sedate pace.

They sat down at the edge of a small wood. The trees had no leaves left, only thorns. They found some wood, made a fire and brewed tea. Ariciel lay back against a rock, head tilted back, eyes closed. Mareva watched her closely. There was something about her that reminded her of cats. Mareva sipped tea, and looked round. Just a few more miles to go, and then, they would come to more pleasant places. Forests where the trees had leaves on them, and where creatures unaffected by fel magic still roamed. Mareva rummaged in her pack for food, smiling at herself. She was a city girl. Why was she longing for wolves and warpstalkers? Something of Ariciel must be rubbing off on her.

She found some dried skethyl-berries in her pack, and pulled them out. underneath, she found… My goodness. She looked at the plastic bag in her hand. It was purple, labelled in Draenei characters. “Fruits Of The Forest,” the writing said. One of the most outrageous lies ever perpetrated by a food company. She had probably eaten a thousand of the things, with a side order of the other flavour, labelled “Rustic stew”. Mareva closed her eyes. Back, far back in the past, her fiancé Viral had given her sweet, sweet Emarree like this one. Of course, he hadn’t been her fiancé at the time. The fond smile on her face faded. In her mind, his face, that she would have recognised out of thousands, started to resemble someone else. Just as strong, confident, forever followed by a blue-striped cat.

“Viral,” whispered Mareva.

“Oi. Are you going to eat that or stare at it?”

Mareva shook herself out of her memories. She looked at her Night-elf friend.

“I think, with Emarree, the pleasure is in the anticipation. In a hundred years, this will taste as sweet as ever it did.”

She dropped the bag back into her pack and pulled out some bread and dried meat instead. Just as she reached out to hand Ariciel her lunch, there was a noise behind her, a hissing sound of scales rubbing together. Ariciel’s eyes grew large, then she changed to her bear form.

Mareva was on her hooves, and whirled round, hand in the air, casting her shield spells. Behind them, a number of strange creatures had moved up. Mareva recognised them immediately: Ravagers. They walked on four insect-like legs. Long, sharp spikes were scattered all over their bodies. The ravagers looked at them with fiercely glowing red eyes, and thought “Lunch!”

As Ariciel charged, Mareva planted her hooves firmly on the ground. She raised her hand, and called forth her magical totems round her. Magic flowed through her, crackled on her skin. Her fire totem flared up, and the ravagers screeched, and retreated. Mareva counted maybe a half dozen of them. No doubt they could take them on, but nobody hunted ravagers because of anything they could be used for.

“Ariciel! Retreat! They taste horrible!”

Ariciel gave a short growl to show she’d heard. She was having a wonderful time swiping at and biting the ravagers, then dodging their return attacks. Mareva took a few steps forward, and called upon the Winds. Ravagers were blown back, while Ariciel bore down. Leaving her totems up for Ariciel, Mareva pulled out the reins to her white gryphon, mounted up and flew up into the sky.

“I am clear!”

Ariciel turned from her bear form to her fast, yellow spotted Cheetah form and dashed off along the path, Mareva flying above her on her gryphon, looking over her shoulder. A few hundred yards further up, they regrouped. Ariciel turned back to her Elf form.

“Are you alright?” said Mareva, looking her up and down for any injuries.

Ariciel grinned. “Oh come on. No bunch of overgrown termites is going to land a hit on me!”

“They did not get round to spitting poison,” said Mareva. “My uncle Feriin was a hunter. He had one as a pet.”

“Oh I can see why. They’re so cute!”

Mareva’s eyes looked miles away. “When I was a little girl, we were asked to bring something to school to show the other children.” She grinned at the memory. “I still hold the record for clearing out a classroom. The fire drill people did not even come close.”

Ariciel’s mouth fell open at the mention of fire.

“My kettle!”

“What about your kettle?”

“It’s still back there with the ravagers!”

“Oh dear,” said Mareva. “And?”

“I want it back! I can’t go tramping about in a forest without tea! That would be… wrong!”

Mareva put a hand on Ariciel’s shoulder. “I will get you a beautiful shiny new kettle in Shattrath.”

“Stuff that,” said Ariciel. “I want my own kettle.”

“You are actually thinking of going back, risking life and limb, for a household implement. You are mad. I tell you this because you are my friend and I love you.”

“Aww. I still want my kettle back. Won’t be a minute. Don’t worry, I’ll take some precautions.”

She gently pulled Mareva’s hands away, closed her eyes and concentrated. As Mareva watched, Ariciel’s skin began to glow with a green light, as did her own. Then, Ariciel’s skin changed in colour, and grew hard and stiff. Finally, sharp thorns sprouted all over her body. Mareva imagined she could hear Ariciel’s skin creak as she smiled at her.

“There. I really haven’t practiced these spells enough. They do make a difference when fighting. Well, I’m off.”

Ariciel turned to her Storm Crow form, and flapped off. Mareva took a deep, deep breath. Ariciel was right, in that they were supposed to be training. Well then. She got on her gryphon and followed. She flew high up, while Ariciel dived down low, gliding in just a few feet above the ground. She came to the remains of their camp fire where her kettle was sitting, steaming gently. The ravagers were still around, but none of them showed any interest in the tea, evidence that they really were nothing but animals. Far below, Ariciel picked up speed, turning sharply out of the way of the ravagers, with a loud screech. Never rising above seven feet or so, she dodged and weaved, getting closer and closer to the campfire. Finally, she reached it, grabbed the handle of the kettle in one talon and flew up, scattering burning ashes all over the ravagers. With the kettle dangling from one foot, Ariciel swooped down on Mareva, then up again, towards a large rock with a flat top. She dropped the kettle, landed, and turned back to her Elf form. Mareva joined her. Ariciel picked up the kettle.

“More tea? It’s still hot.”

It was starting to get dark as they came to the edge of Terokkar Forest. They landed, stretched their legs and breathed in the wholesome forest smell. Without even thinking of changing shape or mounting up, they walked into the cool shade of the trees, side by side. The trees grew in ways strangely familiar to Ariciel, but still somehow different, as if someone re-invented the way water flowed and leaves blew on the breeze. They walked on, each busy with her own thoughts, until they came to the abandoned wreck of a cart, sitting by the side of the road. Mareva looked up at the sky.

“This is as close to ‘night’ as it becomes in this place. Shall we camp here?”

“Suits me,” said Ariciel. “Any ravagers here?”

Mareva shook her head. “They like the dry, hot places. Strangely, residual magic does not bother them either. What we get here is wolves.” She smiled. “Dogs are really omnipresent.”

“Hm. Anything else?”

“Reptiles called warpstalkers. They move very fast, like some mages do. They like blue steak as much as I do. Also, there are very large moths, but they are usually benign unless we attack them.”

“Right. So keeping a watch would be a good idea.”

Mareva yawned. “It would. Would you take the first watch?”

“Sure. I’ll wake you at midnight.”


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