Category Archives: Storytime

We’ll check back every millennium or so

Son, I must be off to the Firelands. Look after things while I’m gone.

Father, why do the Firelands keep burning?

Well, son, it’s not the same kind of fire like we have in our fireplace. If it runs out of things to burn, it just keeps burning. It’s a special fire, from the elemental plane of Fire.

But what kind of fire is it that doesn’t burn out?

Well, son, you’re too young to understand this, but some day you will encounter Nerdrage. Nerdrage is the fire that burns with or without actual cause or fuel.

But what is Nerdrage, father?

Nerdrage Is. It cannot be categorized or compartmentalized. It is something that must be experienced to be understood. Nobody can tell you what Nerdrage is. They can only know it.

But how will I know it, father?

I cannot tell you, my son, but when it happens, you will know. Perhaps it will be at Comicon, waiting in line for a six-ounce Mountain Dew Zero. Perhaps a Blue post about PvP trinket cooldowns. Maybe a press conference about Blizzard’s new FPSRPGMMO’s ERP toolset. Whatever it is, when the flames burn – you will know.

I will set fire to the land?

No, my son, that is not how it works.

But you said the Firelands was caused by Nerdrage, father.

Yes, my son. That was very special Nerdrage.

Who’s Nerdrage was it, father?

Nobody you or I know, my son. The wise men have pondered for many years, and determined that the fires started with nerdrage on another planet, in another dimension, in the year 2011, in a place called Dirt. Or Earth. Something like that.

They sent Nerdrage at us across dimensions?

:: chuckle :: No, my son, I do not believe they meant to do that. It just … happened. Such is the way of Nerdrage.

When I grow up, I want to send my Nerdrage back at them, for setting fire to the Firelands.

Warlock.

Father?

I think you may grow up to be a Warlock. You appear to have a natural tendency.

Wow … I should go study!

:: child runs off to tell his mom he’s going to be a Warlock ::

Yes, son. Study well. I shall see you soon.

The doughty warrior shouldered his weapons and set out towards the portals. Farming the Firelands wasn’t easy, but it was reliable. Light bless those nerds.

Firelands

Monday Ramblings

I know it’s been quiet here, but it’s not because I’m in another one of those navel-gazing moods of mine, honestly.  There’s just a lot going on and it’s hard to see a good blog post all the way from beginning to end. Last week’s flowchart was a bit of a fluke as I was at my desk at work with Visio running on my PC and a conversation from guild chat ringing in my ears, metaphorically. So that one more or less wrote itself.

This is not to say that work is not being done on the blog. I am around 2/3 of the way through my next omnibus overview (I hesitate to call it a review) of Unit Frame addons, somewhat related to the HUD overview a couple of months back. I won’t blurt anything out here other than a thought that the time of the general Unit Frame addon may be coming to an end. And maybe that’s a good thing.

I’m also working on yet another overwrought origin story for one of the many alts that hang out here.  In this case, Floramel. How, exactly, did a hard-bitten veteran of the Stormwind criminal underworld end up as part of my virtual family?   I’d be lying if I said I didn’t steal just a little bit of the story from Joss Whedon, but it was a good bit.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Guild-wise, we’re 9/12 over at Eff the Ineffable.  I know that our RL and GL are probably disappointed that we have not downed any of the final 3, though we did get Cho down to 20-ish percent this weekend. That was probably our last chance to beat the 4.2 nerf, as this coming week may be raid-less.  There has been talk of a lockout extension. We might get one more chance.

I do get the sense that I personally disappoint in my performance, and I regret that. I am a slower learner than others in our guild, and it makes me less likely to run the right way or have the right angle at the crucial moment, until I become really familiar with the fight. As an example, when we downed the elemental council, I was one of the first to go down on the final phase. I can try to justify that all I want, but the fact remains that 9 other people didn’t. While my DPS is generally in the top 3, my effective DPS is much lower if I’m tanking the floor.  At any rate, this poses the hard decision between taking me, or someone else that does not die as much.  As an RL, I know what my decision would be.   Progression bosses should be faced by the best of us.  If I don’t cut it, I will loudly cheer them on.

Still, on fights in which I used to die frequently, I’ve improved. For example, I survived the Atramedes fight this time, which I usually haven’t.   So I can be taught.

One of the takeaways from our Cho attempt a couple of weeks ago was that our DPS wasn’t up to the task of getting Cho down fast enough – we would probably hit the enrage timer. So, I took a look around for ways to improve.  One thing I did was go to Mister Robot to audit my equipment.  I had been avoiding this but I really needed a sanity check.  The good news is that most of my equipment choices – including gemming and enchants – were good. A couple were not.  I also spent a few gold to purchase a BoE belt that is close to BiS as a result of this audit.

The bad news was that my reforging was very off from the suggested optimal.  This leaves me with a conundrum.  There are three, maybe four reforging schemes out there and none agree.  The one I was using was an addon called Reforginator, and it was really sweet.  It used the collective wisdom of Elitist Jerks to drive its optimization engine, but the engine itself made a plethora of calls that disagreed with Robot *and* Pawn.  Pawn was closest to Robot’s suggestions, but not quite there. And, finally, there is the raw tap from EB itself, but that’s another story ((Yes, I am aware of Rawr. And I imagine it has yet another suggested weighting. I’m leaving it out to minimize confusion as much as I can. But I’m not ruling it out.)). 

The upshot is that I gave Reforginator the heave-ho and used the Robot profile.  DPS improved a little bit, but not dramatically. What was interesting is that on the Cho fight, my DPS was extremely consistent, whereas in the past it’s been all over the place. I’m not sure what to make of that, but consistency is usually a good thing. Unless you’re a screw-up.

One thing I need to do next is try different reforges with FemaleDwarf.com. If this favors one over the other, that will help me decide. On the other hand, FemaleDwarf DOES suggest I take a cat in raid, as well.  What is not taken into account is that the buff a cat brings is already present. I bring a wolf because nobody else gives the +crit that he does.  The rather surprising news is that my DPS is 2K lower than the theoretical that FD suggests I should be getting.  THAT will require some review.

-=-=-=-=-=-

The Cho fight itself is quite a task to master.  Whereas most bosses have one or two gimmicks, Cho has at least four, if not more.  There’s the worshipers gimmick, there’s the blob placement gimmick, there’s the tentacle gimmick and the corruption gimmick. He has both a hard and a soft enrage timer. 

Each of these gimmicks has to be sorted out and mastered.  Right now, we’re hurting on the adds, and Blizz didn’t make that easier when they changed the timer on the Fury debuff (I think that’s what it’s called), since it’s now out of sync with the add spawn.  So that’s one thing. Then the placement of the add when he dies is also an issue. Too far apart side to side, and no one AoE will stop them.  Too close together, and the add tank is two-shot by previous pools. And if you don’t burn the big add fast enough once he’s in place, same thing happens.  AND if you take too many DPS off Cho to help, he’ll enrage.  You get the picture. Gimmick after gimmick, and precision is absolutely necessary. So we’re learning how to be more precise.

The good news is we saw Phase 2, so we now have a real sense of the phase 2 gimmicks. I think.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Having maxxed out Engineering, I’m now working on a helm and gun that may or may not be BiS for me.  Pawn says that the helm, with cogs, will be. Robot says the gun will be. I’m also farming the Jeeves pattern in Northrend, oh joy. I’m finally able to put stuff on the AH that may earn me a few bucks here and there, which is fortunate as my nest egg has dwindled to half of what it was when I set foot on the server.

Wipe

:: BLINK ::

I remember this place.

The Dwarf paused mid-shot and gawked.  His companions were all busy battling … Moroes. His name is Moroes. But he couldn’t remember why. And then this moment of … clarity. When he knew, distinctly, who he was. He looked around.

On the other end of the room was an ice block with someone frozen inside. His ice trap. He did that? Who … Robin Daris. Lord Robin Daris. But I call him "Sir Robin." Why? As he watched, the ice block evaporated, and Daris started running at him, murder in his eyes. "Grimm, wake up! Your add is loose!"

Oh, right!  He carefully set his freezing trap, grinned at "Sir Robin", and scampered away from the trap.  Daris immediately froze again. Safe again for a while. I suppose I best help bring down … Moroes some more. Raising his gun, he pulled the trigger and

:: BLINK ::

I remember this place.

The Dwarf paused again. What … again, this sudden … clarity. Memory. He remembered other times, in between the gaps. Storming Karazhan. Even going after Gruul and other denizens of Outland. The return of Varian Wrynn. And other episodes, all punctuated by these odd … gaps. He could remember them, too, but only as if through a fog, as if he was dreaming his own life.

You need to go over there. Talk to the druid.  The Voice. He remembered the Voice, too. During the gaps, the Voice seemed to be his reality.  These quiet moments of clarity were all his, though. Mostly.

The Dwarf paused, absently patting his bear’s back, and drew in a breath, then another. I love this place. The neighbors, not so much. But this place makes me feel … alive.  It felt like Dun Morogh. Like home.

The nagging was getting to him. Oh, yes. I needed to talk to the druid.  Handing Arch-druid Lathorius a bag full of … ears? … he muttered "Here ye go, ye wee squirrely druid." Lathorius grinned back at him, "Congratulations, you’re exalted with the Cenarion Expedition!"

Voice shouted in the distance, "Great, let’s go get that Hippogryph!"

Wait, what hippo —

:: BLINK ::

I remember this place.

Well,of course he did. He’d been lurking around Zul’Drak for ages. Be vewwy quiet, I’m hunting Gondwia.  Where did that come from? And why did it sound so familiar?

Rounding the bend on his search, he saw her. Gondria! Oh, she was beautiful! His heart sped. Adrenaline kicked in. Time to go tame us a new friend!

He was … so sluggish, though.  This won’t do.  C’mon, Grimm, remember your training.  As if breaking free of a dream, he got back to business. Land. Dismiss Bumbles. Get close. Set trap. Break out the rod, and tame!

After what seemed like an eternity, it was over. "Hello, my friend", he murmured to his new companion. "And welcome to the pack."  She rumbled appreciatively as she consumed the treats he offered her.

"I don’t know how I did that!  I kinda froze, but it was like everything happened by itself. That was so cool!"

Hullo, Voice.  What in the name of the Light are you babbling about?

Huh?

:: BLINK ::

It was a nightmare.  Once again it was like walking through quicksand, but this time his friends were going to die.  One of the designated Blood Beast pullers had gone down, and here he was, unable to react.

Breaking free at last, he got to work. We can still salvage this, he thought. Lay trap. Misdirect. Fire on Blood Beast. Drag him through the trap.  Run, jump, spin. fire, jump, spin, run!  As Bumbles tanked the other one, his guildmates brought it down.  Why did I hesitate?  I almost blew it!

As he continued to do his job, the Voice was joined by others.

"… wow, where’d you pick that trick up?"

"… I don’t know! My client’s locked up, but he’s just doing his thing!"

"… well, thank goodness for bugs, then!"

One more wave of Blood Beasts, and at last they took down poor, dead, Saurfang.

As the voices babbled in the back of his mind, he knelt next to his fallen foe. Aye, ye fought valiantly at the Wrath Gate, lad. May the Light take ye and keep ye at last.

"… be right back, I’ll restart the client."

Wait – what – no!

:: BLINK ::

"… so I’ve uninstalled all my addons, wiped my cache, cleaned out the WTF, completely reinstalled the client, but my main still acts like he’s botting, on and off. I’m not sure what else I can do."

"I’ve reviewed your case, and given all the information, we’ve determined that there must be some sort of corruption in our database. Since it’s been so long since the problem started, we’ve taken the action of resetting your character completely, then rebuilding it. We apologize, but it will take a little while to complete the process. One day, two at most."

"Thanks.  It’ll be nice to finally be able to put that behind me."

Wait. No!  Don’t! Why can’t you hear me?

Oh, this can’t be good.

:: BLINK ::

"Yeah, this last try seems to have fixed it. Blizz had to totally wipe the character file or something. At any rate, I’m looking forward to seeing how this works in the next raid. Hoping there are no … episodes."

I’m still here, Voice.

Maybe you can’t hear me.

But I’ll always be here.

All you have to do is listen.

The soul of a true Hunter can never die.

Grimmy’s Angels: It Looked Good on Paper

Angels Logo

 

“Good morning, ladies!”, the dwarf’s disembodied voice came seemingly from the wall.

“Good morning, Grimmy!”; the three women gathered in the common room of their abode didn’t seem to mind.  If anything, they seemed amused.

“Ach! I asked you not to call me that!”

*snicker*

“Who was that? Flora, was that you? I bet it was!”

“You can prove nothing, dear Uncle!”, the warlock smirked at the wall.

The mage interrupted. “Uh, everybody, this Magic Mouth spell is hella expensive, so maybe we should …”

“Ach, just so, just so! To business, then!”

Grimm's Apartment

“I’ve arranged to chat with ya like this because there’s a matter of great concern to tha’ Alliance, and yer a lot closer to the action than I am up here in the Highlands. We’ve been offered a substantial sum o’ money to do a job. Not only that, but if we succeed, we’ll strike a heavy blow agin the Twilight’s Hammer cult, and I don’t think anyone would disagree that that’s a good thing.”

/nods of assent around the room.

“So there’s this artifact. When the Goblin homeland of Kezan blew up, the artifact came under the care of Baron Revilgaz in Booty Bay, who is apparently distantly related to Trade Prince Gallywix. We’re unclear on the specifics of what the artifact is, but we do know where it’s kept. SI:7 has also informed me that the Twilight’s Hammer believes that if it can get this item, it will gain an advantage over the Horde. While we have no desire to help th’ Horde, we have even less desire to see the Hammers gain any advantage – over anyone!

Revilgaz has been approached about this, but has rebuffed all offers, Alliance or Horde.  So. We’re to go in, get the item, and return to Stormwind with it.  And we need to do so before the Horde mounts a similar operation, if they haven’t already. This can’t fall into their hands, now that it’s in play!”

Flora scowled; “Then I assume we might bump into our Horde counterparts?”

“Aye, that’s a possibility.  So dress appropriately – no identifying marks! You’re free agents, not working for SI:7.”

“So what’s the plan?”

“There’s a hidden chamber behind Revilgaz’ headquarters, been there for years. It’s guarded by this fellow posing as a Rogue trainer. You  have to get past the trainer, and open the secret door. SI:7 has been helpful enough to find where the catch to the door is, and to inform us that there is an additional guard behind the door. You have to get past them both without alerting the other guards, or leaving any hint that this is an Alliance operation.

The item is in a locked room just beyond. Illume will freeze the lock and Flora’s felguard will bash it open.  The item is small enough for the Felguard to carry, so all you need to do is get to the room, neutralize the guards, get the item, and Illume ports you to Stormwind. Drop it off at SI:7 and collect a fat paycheck. Let them worry about it from there.”

The priest stirred; “What’s my role in this?”

“…”, the voice of the dwarf conveyed unease. “I … uh … need ya to heal, in case anything goes south. Shields, frisbees, that sort of stuff.”

“HEAL?!”, the priest practically exploded. “You know how I feel about that! I’ve been healing so long I’m getting crosseyed staring at the wall.  Can’t you send bandages or something?”

“Jasra! You’re a priest! And I know you’ve had some rough patches, lass, but ..  really, it’s time. You need to rez up your healing duds and give us a hand. And ya know I wouldna ask if it wasn’t a matter of importance.  Yer too precious to us all to cause pain to. I can’t avoid it, though. Azeroth needs ya. You three are what we have, and I have all the confidence in the world in ye all.”

“*sigh*”  “That’s a terrible thing to say.”

“OK, they’re tellin’ me that the connection’s about ta be cut. See Master Shaw at SI:7 HQ on yer way there, he’ll have the particulars about the who, what, when, and where.  I’ll see ya as soon as I can!”

There was a diminishment of presence in the room; the mage spoke first. “Connection lost. I hope he didn’t forget anything.”

Flora nodded. “OK, let’s suit up. I’ll let Fai know she has the watch while we’re out.”

As the others dispersed, the priest sighed, tossed back a final drink, and slogged off to her apartment.

* * * * * *

Table for Three

Even after getting a tsunami and a ship dropped on it, Booty Bay was a vibrant hive of scum and villainy.  Fortunately, the warlock was a regular visitor, so she could move about with relative freedom.  Her companions were another matter.

“You guys hang out here at the Blue Recluse. I’ll hook up with a couple of Milo’s people down there, we’ll summon you, and we’ll go on in. Sound like a plan?”  The other two agreed.  “I’m not sure I can ever fully trust Milo, but he didn’t seem too suspicious. Take this stone. If anything happens to me, it’ll disintegrate. You’ll have a moderate amount of time to get to me before it’s too late.  Hopefully, we won’t need to worry about that.  Good luck. I’ll see you there.”  With that, she got up, turned, and left the tavern.

The priest and the mage looked after her. “I’m not getting a good vibe, Jas.”, the mage broke the silence first.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her take precautions like this before.”

TableForTwo The priest glared into her cup like it might hold an answer. “Backup plans, we need one.”  The mage nodded. Jasra continued; “We should get in place somewhere close by without giving Flora away.”

Illume considered for a moment. “How do we get word to her about that?”

“We don’t! If she’s walking into a trap, the last thing want is for her to inadvertently give us away.”

“And that’s not all … “  As she talked, Illume went from doubtful, to concerned, to grudgingly agreeable. But it was a close thing.

* * * * * *

Basement1-final

“I didn’t even know this place had a basement.” The warlock moved cautiously. Repairs to the already ramshackle buildings had not reached these levels yet, and it showed.  Frequently. Through the broken slats.

“Yeah, the boss has an agreement with the Baron – he doesn’t really make it easy to find, the boss pays premium for a nice out of the way hidey hole, everybody’s happy.” The goon that had met her in the tavern didn’t look capable of having a happy thought if you pummeled him with clowns. “Comes in handy for this sort of thing.”

“Yeah … okay, let’s get this done. I’m on a tight timeline here.”

“Sure thing, toots.”  The other goon looked like a reject from extras casting in The Orc Detective, with an extra coat of sleaze applied for atmosphere.

I’m glad I won’t be working much longer with him, Flora thought. Milo hates it when I torch his cronies, and asks far too much in compensation.

Speaking Words, she called down a portal from the Nether. She and her companions placed hands on, and she extended her summons, first for one, then the other of her friends.  There was a slight delay, and Illume appeared. Where’s Jasra? Something’s not right.

Huh – thought you said two people.”  The less offensive goon seemed almost on the brink of cognizance.

Trying to keep her face neutral, she turned back to the stone. “Okay, guys, we’re done here. We’ll be out of here in no time. Tell Milo I said thanks, and I’ll catch him up before too long, I’m sure.”

“Why don’t you tell me yourself, my dear?”

A chill shot up her spine at the words. Without turning, she knew what she sensed. Milo Oddcog – boss of the Stormwind underworld, who she did odd jobs for now and then – and at least two Felguards, were blocking the only exit in the room.

Reveal

“You think you can go off and do work for someone else and not cut me in?” Milo didn’t sound too amused. “You’ve always been insolent, Floramel, but this is just too much! I will know who this other boss is. And if you talk nicely, I may think of a reason not to shard you and your friend – Illume, isn’t it? – permanently.”

This is bad.

She turned, and realized that not only Milo and his companions were blocking the door, but also a grinning Baron Revilgaz and a very angry looking Fleet Master Seahorn.

This is way worse than bad.

Jasra, where the Hells are you?

* * * * * *

As she felt the summons taking place, Jasra looked over at her companion and muttered, “Here goes nothing.”  She *fwooshed* into shadow form, then nodded to Illume. “Let’s do this.”  Illume did that little mental twist that accepted the summons, and rezzed into the room. Jasra wandered off towards where they thought Flora was at the moment, on foot.

I was right! she thought as she located, then approached the basement room. Nice and dark, the perfect place to do shady business. These people are predictable. Quietly, she faded back into the shadows. If you didn’t know to look in the right way, you wouldn’t even notice the glowing eyes in the corner. If this goes well, Flora won’t mind a little subterfuge. If it goes south, I don’t guess she’ll mind, either.

And then Milo sauntered past her, into the room.

Right. Plan “B”, then.

Betrayal

* * * * * *

“While the basement is suitable for such things, I prefer the privacy of my little nook here for getting things done.”, Revilgaz seemed quite pleased with himself as he led them up the stairs and right into the secret cave that they were supposed to have broken in to. Apparently the cave held more than just treasure.  Oh! Illume saw the irons and regretted being right. Stealing a glance behind her, she saw Jasra’s wispy form moving from shadow to shadow. Stay with us, sister! I have a feeling you’re all we have.

“Have a seat, dear Floramel.”, Milo was gloating as his goons fastened her into a wooden chair with iron cuffs on the arms. “I acquired this from the Kirin Tor. They deny it exists, of course, but it is an exquisite instrument, worthy of their skill. It can deliver pain on demand. Pure, undiluted, pain, until you decide to talk. And if we get tired, we’ll try your friend out and see how she likes it.”

Torture

“I’m familiar with it, Milo. It’s a lot of fun to use. Maybe I’ll show you sometime.”

The gnome scowled.  “You really should be more respectful. We’re not too kind to turncoats, as you well know.”

The door opened and the “Rogue Trainer” Ian Strom wandered in.  Revilgaz looked irritated.”What are you doing in here? You’re supposed to be guarding the door, simpleton!”  The guard’s face was uncharacteristically blank. Flora puzzled over that for a moment before it dawned on her. Mind control! Jasra! Oooo, I’m gonna kill her. And then hug the stuffings out of her! Looking over at Illume, she saw a half-smile. “Show time”, the mage whispered.

And then all Hells broke loose.

Rescue

— Strom produced a very stout club and started swinging like it was going out of style, starting with Milo’s henchmen.

— Illume’s shield went up and the room grew several degrees colder.

— Flora felt hands move along her wrists, undoing the catches. “Sorry too keep you in the dark, sister”, Jasra whispered in her ear. “I had a hunch”.

— Illume silenced Milo. Milo started to panic.

— Free of her bonds, Flora started the – seemingly impossibly long – summoning ritual for her Felguard.

— Milo’s goons sprang into action. One bounced off of Illume’s shield. She smiled, and sheeped him.

— The other goon attacked Strom, only to stop mid-swing as the ice storm hit.

— Revilgaz started to move …

— and it was over.

“Take your hands off your weapons, all of you, or Revilgaz gets hit so hard his soul shard will take three weeks to catch up to us.”  Flora’s felguard unflinchingly held his axe to Revilgaz’ throat, and leered with anticipation. “What happened to your friends, little goblin?”

* * * * * *

As Revilgaz threw open the safe door, he muttered. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you. This thing is poison. The only reason I’m holding it is because I have family over there.” He beckoned towards a framed painting on the wall.

Flora paled. “Oh, my stars and garters. This can’t POSSIBLY have come from this dimension! Are you kidding me? This is it?!”

Revilgaz gleefully nodded. “Told ya”, He grinned. “You still want it? I have no problem with that. Cousin Gallywix will just have to come for it himself. I’ll be glad to be rid of the damned thing!”

The Vault

Illume came into the room and flinched. “Ouch. Was this a punishment of some sort?”  She looked over at Floramel, who was still slightly shaken. “Maybe we should just pretend we were never here and make up some story …”

Jasra pushed past them both, looked at the painting, and grinned.  “Oh, Light, no. We take it, and turn it in as we were paid to do. I want to share the joy.”

Turning to Milo, Flora pondered her options. “What am I going to do with you, Milo?  You don’t have exclusive rights to my contract, and you know it. You’re getting greedy, old gnome, and it’s liable to land you in hot water. Maybe I should just terminate the contract right now.”  Her Felguard made happy noises.

“Oh, there’s no reason for that, dear, girl!”  The damned gnome was incorrigible. “I have a strict forgive and forget policy. I’ll forgive this little incident, if you forget you were ever here!”  Floramel grinned, but Jasra pushed past her. “As long as you don’t ‘forget’ that the next time you cross any of us, Flora’s felguard might not be around to stop me.”

Milo grinned up at her. “Not at all, my dear! And if you ever need work, stop by!  I could find plenty of uses for someone with your talents!”

Letting him go, Jasra pondered the full meaning of the crime lord’s admiration.

Vault

* * * * * *

“So they have no idea you were working for us?”

“No, Master Shaw. As far as they know, Flora was just working for a rival Boss. They’ll be hot to find out who, but for now it’s under control. I’m sure your organization can find ways to confound them.”  Illume was all business when she wanted to be.

“Now, here’s the thing you wanted.”  She handed over the painting, covered in cloth.  Jasra grinned “I dare you to open it.”

Shaw gave her a puzzled glance, then threw off the cloth.

“By the Light! This is worse than I ever imagined! No wonder they kept it locked up!”

Floramel held out her hand. “I think that concludes our business. If you would, we want to put some distance between us and that piece of … work … as soon as possible.”

“Um, sure. Here. Alliance thanks you and relies upon your discretion. Don’t spend it all in one place.”  Staring, Shaw was clearly not coping well.

His money was good, nevertheless.

* * * * * *

“I do appreciate you having a backup plan, but did you really have to keep me in the dark about it?”

“Well, we didn’t really think of it until you were gone, and it didn’t seem safe to try to get a letter to you in Booty Bay.”  Illume had at least enough grace to look embarrassed.

Jasra was clearly amused, though. “It was totally worth it to see the look on your face. Both when Illume ported in alone, and later when I unfastened you from that chair.  Worth every little bit of it.”

Flora tried to glare, but the amusement kept fighting past her eyes. “Oh, I really think Shadowform suits you, sister. You’ll be Milo’s favorite in no time, at the rate you’re going. I may well have to find a new patron.”

Truly smiling for the first time in a long time, Jasra raised her mug. “Well, I can’t have that on my conscience. I’ll find something else to occupy my time. To my sisters, the Alliance, new pursuits, and the look on Shaw’s face!”

Grinning like fiends, the three of them toasted their success, and set about the task of a good bender.

Blue Recluse

On Leavetaking

It’s time.

Hanging out here isn’t going to make things change back to what they once were. We had some good times, but they’re over. Time to face up to that and move on.

The Vorpal Bunnies didn’t take Arthas down, but we came close. For a brief moment, we were mighty, and the Lich King may have known doubt.

But we did our part. We fought the good fight. And he did go down, only not by our hand.

It is enough.

We’re done here. Northrend is a cold, nasty place filled with lonely ghosts and haunted memories. It’s time to find a new home.

Leavetaking1 Time to take my leave of the Legerdemain. I settle affairs with Amisi, who, despite her name, has the loveliest dark eyes I’ve seen in a Human. We chat a bit, have a little tea. Her husband teases me about monopolizing her time, joins in for a while, and then goes about cleaning up some. Business is light right now, we have plenty of time.

The Azuregazes reckon the Powers That Be might move Dalaran somewhere more useful now, which would suit me fine. I love this place. It’s been home for so long.

And they’ve done it before.

Well, time to get moving. They’ll send my stuff along once I let them know where.

Leavetaking2 So, where to? The bustle of Stormwind?  Flora can’t say enough about the place. The comfort of Darnasus?  Surrounded by my own kind, communing with Elune? Shattrath? I never spent much time there when I passed through.

But … I can’t see making a new home when what I really need is my real home.

Leavetaking3 I may have been born a Night Elf, but my real family is here, in Ironforge. How many times has Uncle Grimm brought us together here to revel for one of our own? His first Kara clear… Flora’s Dreadsteed … my first Naxxramas clear … Fai’s return … so many memories here.

Leavetaking4 Firebrew’s been our virtual Hearth even when we were actually Hearthed in Dalaran. But we always come back. This is our family’s home. And, Light willing, it always will be.

I have no idea what will come. Maybe some time among my childhood memories will help me get my groove back. Maybe a burned-out priest can find her way back into the world again. Or maybe she’ll retire and take up knitting magical toboggan hats that sit cunning on the head. Maybe she’ll even go so far as to pursue her old love of metalworking again.

Arthas is gone.

There’s a whole new life out there.

I hope it’s friendly.

Leavetaking5

I also hope it has plenty of ale.

Go with the Light, my friends.

And now, we begin

Every since that day when my family reclaimed me, I’ve vowed vengeance upon those that almost turned me against them.

I remember that cold, oily voice:

“Thiss one. Oh, thiss one hass sso much potential! Her associatess are powerful! The Masster will be pleassed! No mere foot soldier, sshe … sshe will provide uss with many opportunitiess!”

Aye, my own family – they would turn me against them! Even after I was Awakened by Mograine’s daring rebellion, I was afraid that I’d somehow turn on them and rue the day that I came back.

Since the day I set foot back in my own home, I’ve vowed to fight against that with every breath I take. And I have.

I also vowed … that the Scourge would suffer. Maybe I can make them uncomfortable. Maybe I can teach them that Grimm, Jas, Flora, and Illume aren’t the only members of this clan to contend with.

Today, I make my first steps into Northrend. The horrors here are more kin to me now than my own family. But my family is all I really have to fight for, and I’ll fight to keep it safe, for myself.

The horrors of Northrend will know fear. They will know pain. They will know me.

And then they will die.

There are some in my order that can still feel the Lich King bearing down upon them, taunting them to come back. There are others that hear voices demanding vengeance, and that drives them. I … feel nothing. Nothing except a seething rage against Arthas and his kin.

It will have to do. Maybe I can find something better when I’m done.

bt_arrival

OOC: What may come

I hear in my mind all of these voices
I hear in my mind all of these words
I hear in my mind all of this music
And it breaks my heart;
And it breaks my heart

When writing stories, there are two opposing forces that must be balanced to make a story successful.

  • You need a plan – a plot, some idea of where things are going. Just jotting down random words until you reach 600 pages’ worth of “stuff” is rarely a best-seller (I’ll avoid some obvious jokes, here).
  • You need to “listen” to your characters. Forcing a character to do something that is not consistent with the rest of the story undermines them, as well as other characters and possibly the whole story. Just because there is a fixed story arc does not mean that your character has to follow a fixed path to get to it. On the other hand, you can’t let style get in the way of story (David Lynch, I’m looking at you).

One of the first examples I remember in this regards is the writer J. Michael Straczynski, who famously (or notoriously) penned the science fiction TV series “Babylon 5”. The reason it comes foremost in my mind is that he was one of the first series writers to so enthusiastically embrace the early internet and share his writing process with the fanbase.

As a result, we ended up with insights into his writing process. Yes, he had an overall five-year story arc. At the same time, he’d run into situations where his characters would influence the story in surprising ways, and, rather than resist, he let the character “speak” to him.

Voices in his head, as it were. 🙂   And yes, he practically used that metaphor.

Over the years, many writers that I respect have shared similar insights in a public forum. They all express it differently, of course, but in the end it boils down to the characters themselves often driving the story in unexpected directions.

I offer no pretensions when I mention this, but I do try to emulate that outlook with this blog, when we get into character-y sort of stories.

Take, for example the recent “origin” story for Illume. I had a few ideas on her origin, but once I got Grimm and Illume into the room and started writing their “scripts”, some surprises emerged. For example, Illume actually forgetting that she could make her own food and drink when stuck in the wilderness. Has it happened in-game? Yes, it has. But until her story started to unfold, I had completely forgotten about that – and then, “well, sure, that makes perfect sense.”

Also, the act of writing the stories are, in fact, a treat for me, because I get to learn new things about them. The idea that Jasra might *pouf* into shadowform when she got really angry, for example, or Faiella’s going into hiding once she was liberated from Arthas – these were elements I did not anticipate.

That makes me wonder, if “real” writers get the same feelings when things come together in the right way. If maybe, that’s what keeps them going.

There have been times when I wanted to pull the plug on this here blog and walk away from it; when the “community” enraged me and I couldn’t find ways to express myself in any way that wasn’t hurtful. Times like that make it all seem pointless.

And yet, there are so many stories yet to tell, and I look forward so much to getting them out there, just to hear the voices that they use to tell the stories. Illume’s story’s only begun; Slithmere my rogue will face a trial that may break him; Amus the Paladin has yet to prove himself in a way he finds satisfactory – will he get the chance? I want to find out for myself.

For all of the toons, I have a general “plot”. I know where they are going, in general. These plotlines are ripening, each to be revealed when it is ready – and readiness, in these cases, will depend on the character telling me when that is.

And right now, I’m looking forward to it.

Ah, Silverpine.

The Dwarf pondered the possibilities as he sniffed the air for hints of where to go next. Next to him, his tiger, Random, sighed contentedly as he devoured a haunch of fresh meat. It’s best not to watch, the Dwarf thought. Dinner’ll go down easier if ye dunna watch.  A futile effort, of course, and cheese looked to figure largely on the menu after the big cat had dined.

But first, the game, which, being afoot, was rather large. Worgen. He had heard tales of this Arugal fellow in Shadowfang Keep, and meant to test his mettle if he could but find his way there and survive the job of getting to the old wizard.

Random growled. “What is it, fella?”, the Hunter whispered, and readied his gun. Were Worgen considered human, or animal, or something else? This close to the gate into Gilneas, where worgen were known to roam, it was hard to predict what might be found, and his tracking senses often got confused. At least if it was one of those damned undead creatures, it would be obvious.

Following instinct, the hunter and his companion proceeded; closer to the gate, all the time. Eventually, the cause of the big cat’s distress was heard; the sound of a young woman, weeping.

OaGD1 She was ragged, frail, despondent.  She looked like she could have eaten shoe leather if she could only find some. Hunkered down beneath a fallen tree trunk, she appeared to be trying to stay warm. A wretched specimen. Unlimbering his Common, he tried to reach her. “Here, lass, how do ye end up in such a place as this? Are ye ‘ungry?”  He extended his hand, holding a packet of jerky. “Here, ye could use this, from th’ looks of it.”

She jumped at the sound, but didn’t run. Hesitant at first, her hunger overcame her fear and she grasped, and ate greedily. “That’s better,” he coaxed, setting a water skin out where she could get it. “Easy, take your time or you’ll get sick.”  Remembering lessons past, he tried to get her to talk, which would slow her down a little.

“Name’s Grimmtooth, formerly of Grim Batol. I’m a hunter with the Alliance these days.” Some interest. “And what’s yer name, lass?”

She paused. Good. “Um. Name’s Illume”, she muttered around a mouthful of food. “‘m a mage.”

“A mage? Haven’t you learned to conjure food yet?”

She froze. Her eyes got wider. “I, uh …. ” – she blushed – “I forgot I could.”

Mages! “Not exactly th’ survivalist type, are you?”, he chuckled  She shook her head. “Well, let’s get ye somewhere safe, lass. You from Gilneas?”

She nodded, dejectedly. “They closed the gates. Master sent me to get herbs, I knew where some were out here. They told me. They told me. I, I, didn’t listen. They closed the gates! Oh Gods!”  Tears started streaking the dirt on her face before she covered it and started weeping again.

Stunned, Grimmtooth considered options. Well, I think we can call the hunting expedition a wash. Still – they CLOSED THE GATE?

“Lass, stay ‘ere. I’m gonna look around a little, and come back. Get ahold of yerself, eat a little bit. We’ll sort somethin’ out.”

OaGD2

Sure enough, the gate was closed. No guards present, nothing. When asked, the mage professed ignorance of what was going on. After a while, he had to take her at her word.

Taking her back to Southshore seemed to be the best option, staying clear of that damned internment camp. As they travelled, he considered her story. She had no family either side of the wall, she said, and had been staying at her Master’s keep as she trained in the Arcane arts. He had big plans for her, and had started inquiries into Dalaran before it got destroyed.

What to do with her?  She was a bit old, but he pretty much had made up his mind anyway. After all, she needed a home, and she probably wasn’t capable of fending for herself quite yet.

“Listen, lass. If you haven’t a place to stay, I’ve been known ta take in an orphan or two in my time. Even if ya just need time ta get back on yer feet before ya move on. I’m a orphan meself, I know how scary it can be. An’ ye can continue yer training in Ironforge, if ye don’t mind Gnomes.”

She was visibly startled. “I … I don’t know what to do. You’re right, I’ve never been on my own. But I feel like I’m … imposing.”

“Well, ye can make up yer mind in a room of yer own in a warm, dry place. Yer not likely to get a better deal.”  He grinned at her.

OaGD3

Finally – finally – a smile crept out. Wiping away a stray tear, she knelt down and took his hand. “You’re right, of course. I probably won’t impose on you long, but your offer is most kind and I accept.”

He was still grinning when he realized that somehow a stray tear had snuck out on him as well. Silly Dwarf, he admonished himself. You really need to stop being such an old softie.

OaGD4

“Okay, everybody, turn out! Uncle Grimm’s home and I have a present for ye!”

“You’re home early, Uncle!”, Jasra exclaimed as she came bouncing out of her room – and skidded to a dead stop when she saw the mage. “Oooooo! Hello!”

As his charges gathered in the common room, he presented them to each other. “Flora, Jas, Slithmere – this is Illume, our new cousin. I found her up in Silverpine.  She needs a home, so here we are.”

“Illume, we ‘ave here Floramel, who I found on the streets of Stormwind, and Jasra and Slithmere, who I found in Warsong. They’re brother and sister.

Slithmere shyly bowed, and Jasra approached, reaching out to touch her cheek. Illume felt a tingle as healing energy flowed into her. “I’m couldn’t help but notice you were hurt,” the Elf murmured. Brightening a bit, she exclaimed – “Illume! That’s Kaledori for ‘Light Giver’!”

Still a little disoriented, the mage nodded. “You should see what Mom named our pets.”  She noticed the warlock – Floramel? – eying her.

“A mage, huh? Probably forgot you could conjure your own food, I bet. I know mages, they’re lucky to remember which end of the wand to point at the bad guys!”

Illume blushed as she heard the dwarf stifle a guffaw. Flora’s eyebrows climbed up into her bangs. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me!”  A look at Illume’s expression was all she needed. “Bah! We’ve got a lot of work to do, sister. Come along then, let’s get you settled!”

And like an exasperated force of nature, she swept the mage out of the room.

Unable to contain himself any longer, the Dwarf let out a chuckle. “I guess we’ll keep her, then.”  His night elf charges let out little chuckles as well, and they sat down to catch up while Flora dragged her new sister around the apartment.

OaGD5

As the sun set, he looked out over the Wetlands at the blur that was his old home, Grim Batol.  He always told Flora he could see his family’s old apartment windows from here, but they both knew he was pulling her leg. It was a game they both enjoyed.

Now, however, he was contemplating his new charge; who to make introductions to, what possible opportunities she might have in her new home, as well as King Bronzebeard’s reaction to his news about the closing of the Greymane Gate. Change was in the air again, and everybody was on edge. Times like this, it’s good to have a place to call home, and a family of sorts to come home to.

The young mage approached him. “Cousin Flora told me you might be out here.”

“Aye, from ‘ere I can see the windows to my family’s old ‘omestead. I like looking at it. It comforts me.”

She cocked an eyebrow.  Oh ho, Flora’s let her in on that already, then. Ruin all my fun, she does!

“I wanted to thank you again for giving me a place to stay. Everybody’s been so kind.  But … I won’t be able to stay long. I have to get back to Silverpine, figure out what’s going on somehow.”

“Aye, the hospitality is yours to accept or decline as you wish, but I think Flora’d miss you. As would I. Everybody needs a home, Illume. Even if it’s just for a while.  I hope you’ll reconsider.”

Letting out a soft sigh, she knelt down to look him in the eye. “I have to tell you something, then, before I can accept. And I doubt you’ll want me around after that.”

“Well, ye won’t know until ye tell me, will ye?”

Taking a deep breath, she told him.

OaGD6

Letters of Introduction in hand, the young mage approached the mages’ tower in Stormwind. “If anyone gives you any trouble, you just let me know”, Flora had told her. “My friend Milo will take care of it.”  From what she’d heard around the tables in the Blue Recluse, she wasn’t so sure she wanted the sort of help that Milo had to offer, but her sister’s assurances were strangely comforting, just the same.

After she had shared her secret with Grimmtooth – Uncle Grimmtooth, she reminded herself – he had rocked back on his heels a bit, then said “Well, it looks like you need help – good thing we found you!”  He took her hand and assured her: “Family is unconditional, and yer part of our family now. I’ll keep yer secret for ye, don’t ya fret. And when yer ready, we’ll be there ta help.”

The future was brighter than it had been since that terrible day that her family had been taken from her. With a handful of introduction letters and possibilities, she faced the future with – for the first time in a long time – hope.

Not everybody gets a second chance, she thought. I don’t intend to waste mine.

Now … did they say the office was to the left, or to the right? Come on, Illume, we have much to do!

But I hold on, and I
Feel strong, and I
Know that I can.

Getting used to it.
Lit the fuse to it.
Like to know who I am.

Been talking to myself forever.
And how I wish I knew me better.
Still sitting on a shelf and never,  ever seen the sun shine brighter.

And it feels like me,  on a good day

 

OaGD7

Letters from the backwaters

(From a letter found in the pouch of a mail carrier bound for Silvermoon City.)

Dearest Val’thra,

I hope this finds you well. I am well as I can be under the circumstances, though the mana crystals are plentiful if you don’t mind a little walking, and the scenery is top-notch.

As I mentioned last letter, my assignment here to Mok’nathal is nothing more than a misunderstanding. I have petitioned Colonel Bor’njaab to reconsider my request for transfer back to someplace with, well, somewhere on the same planet as yourself, for starters. His assistant believes that as long as I can provide evidence that I was nowhere near that latrine when it exploded, all will be well, and, as you know, I’ve got that covered.

We don’t see many new faces around here any more, which makes the appearance of our latest addition to the Orgrimmar contingent even more notable. As you will see, that’s the least of his … peculiarities.

I came across this woebegone Orc in what passes for a bar in this Lightforsaken place; he was hitting the sauce quite hard. What jumped out at me was his decorations. He’d seen action, and plenty of it, from the looks of things. How had he managed to be sent off to the nether regions of Outland? He obviously didn’t want to be here.  Whatever he did, it must have been pretty terrible, considering that we needed warriors of his prowess against the Lich King more than ever.

I decided to reach out to him and bid him welcome in our mutual hell-hole. It’s good to maintain good relations with your fellow inmates.

“Hello, friend! Might I buy you a drink and make you welcome?” I’ve always had good luck with the offer of free ale.

“Well, I be glad fer the offer, kind Blood Elf, but yah might not wanta be seen round me. I might be having a string of bad lucks.”

I had to laugh at that. “Oh, not to worry – nobody gets assigned here without having bad luck, and plenty of it!  My name’s Lor’far.”

Taking the offered hand, he offered “Mognog, formerly of the third expeditionary force in Northrend, pleased tah meet ya.”

“So what terrible things did you do to get assigned here, good captain?” I could see the rank insignia was fairly new, so he probably got demoted, too. Oops!

He didn’t seem to mind. “Well, since yer buying, I owes ya a story anyway. Have a sit.”  He paused, gathered his breath, and seemed to focus off a thousand miles and several years away.


RFC_2009_small “I was assigned to Orgrimmar fer just a short time when it first happened. If I didn’t have a picture, Ida probably been shot. This little Dworf came riding through the back gate … on a chicken. Stark neckid, too! He came through, rode into the Chasm, and musta hearthed out, ‘cause he didn’t come back out thatta way. I got lotsa free drinks tellin’ that story, lemme tell ya.”  He paused, and snorted into his brew.

“I kept gettin’ reassigned, so as to keep the story outta the wrong ears. Nobody wants ta admit to that sorta security breach. But here’s the thing.  He kept poppin’ up.  Same Dwarf. Onna chicken.”

“Thunder Bluff, he come running in right under Thrall’s nose while he’s visiting, peed on the fire, and jumped off the bluff. Him and his chicken.”midsummer_chicken_tb2

“Undercity, they was already beatin’ on this space goat pally that was in there, and he come runnin’ in, on da chicken, and peed on the fire and ran out without anyone even noticin’. On a chicken!”

midsummer_chicken_uc “At least in Silvermoon we got a few pieces of ‘im, until he let loose the polar bear.”

“The thing they all had in common was that I was there every time. This nekkid Dwarf, onna chicken, and there I was.”

midsummer_chicken_tb “So, they tells me. Maybe I’m bad luck or somethings.  ‘Nothing personal, Mog, you just bad luck!’ they say. Took me outta a prime spot in Icecrown, and dumped me here. Didn’t want a nekkid Dwarf on a chicken taking out that Arthas fellow, I guess.”


“I … I …”   I have to be honest, I had nothing to say. What a story! Where do they come up with this stuff? Still, it was imaginative.  It was worth a drink or two.

“Well, here, have another, and we’ll waste away together in obscurity, eh, Mog?”

He grimaced – might have been a grin – and grunted. “Sure, and I’ll buy ya the next one, and you can tell me how you ended up here, too.”  Well, I had that coming, all right.

As the bartender set out the next round, the alarm went up. “ENEMY SIGHTED, AIRBORN, INBOUND!”  What?! Why would Alliance – or the Legion, for that matter – want to attack this place?

We ran up to the guard tower and set our bows to the ready, as a green proto-drake hove into view. Atop it was a Dwarf, looking a little tipsy and quite smug.

moknathal_looking_for_fire “’Allo there, ya Horde-types, da ye have a fire that needs extinguishin’ down there?”

The very young and foolish sergeant Na’trite offered “Not here, you silly Dwarf, it’s at Thunderlord St—GAK!”  Mog’s got a good grip on him.

“Ach, thanks laddie! I’ll be off, then!”  He waved, and departed.

I looked at Mog. He was as pale as an Orc can get. “No …” he was muttering. “Not here …”

He looked at me, drew himself up, and took a deep breath. “Ya be excusin’ me, Lor’far, I gots business what needs attendin’ to.”

He mounted up and headed out. I never found out what happened to him.

Sometimes, I wonder about that story of his. He reaction seemed genuine, but I have to say, that is one of the most far-fetched stories I have ever heard.

I will write you again by next week. Hopefully, there will be good news.

All my love,

Lor

grimm_onna_chicken_at_menethil Afterword: The letter was dropped back into a mailbox for delivery, with apologies from those that killed the mailman attached. “We’ll not be opening mail, even the Horde’s, on my watch!”, the newly appointed postmaster claimed.

They’re great with the waffle cone, too.

They don’t have much call for soldiers of the Light in Tanaris, but they do appreciate – and pay well – soldiers in general. As always, when passing through, I like to stop by the racetrack on the Flats and enjoy a little goblin-on-gnome mayhem.

I admit it, I just watch to see the crashes. Goblins + gunpowder + more gunpowder = really big explosions. As a Dwarf, I really do appreciate that sort of thing. As a Wildhammer, doubly so.

And they usually tip well when I help heal their shattered bodies afterward.

Today, something was different. I saw a familiar silhouette by the ice cream vendor.  And it looked like she was buying a cone for her squire.

“Flora! I didn’t expect to see you here.”

I’ve never seen a warlock jump so high in all my life.

“Amus … um … hi! Fancy meeting you here!”

“Getting a little treat for the squire, I see. That’s mighty kind of you. Yep!”  The squire beamed.

“Yes … the squire … Andy likes the butterscotch, don’t you, Andy?”

“Yes, milady! It’s my favorite!”

“That’ll be ten silver, ma’am,” Brivelthwerp piped up.

“Ten … that’s for two cones.”

Flora flushed a little, “Well … yeah. Might as well have one, too, since I came all this way.”

/eyebrows

“Listen … Amus … it wouldn’t do for this sort of thing to get around Stormwind. You know … evil matron of Demonic forces … ice cream cones … just doesn’t … well, what I’m saying is, I’d make it worth your …”

“I’ll take a butter Pecan sundae, extra nuts.”

“Deal!”

What can I say? I’m a sucker for the butter pecan. Especially with the hot fudge on top.