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Setting Out

-Written by Detaine, a character on the Earthen Ring server, and posted on the Blizzard Earthen Ring Forums

One[]

Father sighs as he watches his daughter limp in the door. She is muddy, and her smock is torn. Her brilliant auburn hair, just like her mothers was, is filled with leaves and twigs. What happened this time? He knows most of what the answer is going to be. Will she ever be a lady?

She sits down and brushes a curl from her face. Aelain but me I couldnt get to the top of the tree before him. But I did. They know I can climb faster. Then Ardan climbed up and Stared laughing cause my hair was caught on a branch. She pulls her hair over her shoulder and pulls some twigs out, then begins to braid it back up as she continues her tale. Ardan was laughing at me, and Aelain called me Tiny so I got mad. Father nods. It is the usual chain of events. So I tried to push Ardan off his branch. She sighs. Thats when I fell.

Father removes her boot, and binds her swelling ankle, shaking his head. And where was Naol during all of this? Hes supposed to be watching her Sitting on the orchard wall, cheering me on. She smiles. Her brothers make her strong, but what would her mother have thought? Father looks back through the open doorway, hoping to catch sight of his sons. Did any of your brothers at least help you when you fell? She shrugged. Well, they tried She grins. But I can still out run them.

Father sighed again. My daughter, one day you may realize that you are a lady. There are just some things a lady is not supposed to do. But why not Father? I can do anything the boys can! Father just shook his head and chuckled. There is no reasoning with her- just like her mother.


That was several years ago. She stands on the doorstep and gazes at the tree. It has grown much-and so has she. I could still climb it But there are other things to be done. Those carefree days seem so distant. She sighs and turns back into the house. She needs to pack. Father is gone. Her brothers had all left to fight as paladins of the Light. Several suitors had come, begging her to stay- to bind herself to hearth and family. But she could not. She could hardly bring herself to wear a dress, much less be confined to the kitchen. Maybe someday- but not now.

She packs light. She knows too much would be a hindrance. In the bottom of her bags she folds a worn green blanket. It was made for her by her mother-before she was born. It was a special connection, since she really never knew Mother. Mother died of a fever about a year after her daughter was born. She was mothers pride, and her fathers princess.


Her brothers were charged with looking after her- especially Naol. He was closest in age, and knew from the day she was born that his purpose in life was to keep her safe. They were close. He often aided her in her escapades, cheering her on against their older brothers. And being punished just as severely for it. Where are they now? How are they faring? I have not heard from them in months


In Fathers old room are two weapons- a sword and a hammer. She knows how to use the hammer. Wolves that strayed into the orchard had often met their doom at the end of that hammer. Then there is the sword- from the days before the orchard was planted, when Father was a soldier. She knows a bit of how to use it. She has watched her brothers train. Now I will too. She straps the hammer to her back, and packs the sword in her bags. I will strive to be worthy of you all

So she will follow her brothers. She will fight. And may the Light help anyone who doubts her.

Two[]

To Naol from Detaine:


Sent from Sentinel Hill My dearest brother,

All right, I know your first question- Sentinel Hill? What are you doing there? Following my brothers, of course! With Father gone, what else could I do? You know I could not just stay at the orchard house and settle down. (Not that there werent a few offers) I was trained just like you, and now I will fight just like you. It should not come as a surprise- you know I always said I would- and how stubborn I can be. I did make arrangements with the neighboring farmers to look after the orchard and the house, so whenever any of us return, it will be there waiting for us. I could not stay there any longer alone, so I set out to continue my training, just as you did.

Of course all the farmers wives objected- theyve objected to much of what Ive done. But in the end, they agreed that I could take care of myself, and though they would worry over me constantly, they wanted me to be happy. I think some of them were happy to get me out of their sons reach- too many of them had been shooed out of the orchard house with me wielding Fathers sword Yes, I do stick to my convictions. In the Light I know there is honor I must strive for. Standards I must uphold. And I will.

I made my first trip into Stormwind last week. I think I stood outside the gate for an hour, just staring. The immense statues, the walls, and the masses of people streaming in and out. It did take me quite a while to find the cathedral. (Yes, I did get lost- as usual) I walked around looking up most of the time, wondering how they built everything so tall. The streets were so crowded, I know I bumped into many people on the way, but there was so much of that going on, nobody really noticed.

I had so hoped when I arrived there, that you, Allain, and Ardan, would be there as well. I asked so many there if they had seen you. The ones that knew the three of you spoke well of you, and look forward to see how I do. Of course I can keep up with you!

Someone eventually told me that the last they knew you three had been sent to fight the scourge in the plaguelands. They had no recent word, but suggested I continue to write. And I will. Even if you cannot write back, I will send you letters and let you know how my training progresses.

I hope the fight goes well. I hold to the hope of seeing you again soon.

In the Light

Your Sister,

Detaine

Three[]

The journey begins


Detaine sits in the grass near Sentinel Hill, watching the sun rise. The distant hills are barely visible, and the grassland rolls out in every direction. She looks around and smiles.

Here is my life- a new start. A path that could lead to anywhere. Possibilities in every direction. Hills and valleys ahead. Beauty and sorrow. It is all laid out in front of me now. All I have to do is go.

A gust of wind blows over her, rusting the leaves of the notebook at her side. A half-written letter to her brother waiting. The wind was not that cold, but yet she shivers.

No, I am not afraid. I cannot fear, I will not! I will never back down from the challenges I may face. I have chosen my path, for good or ill, I have chosen, and I will not turn back. No matter what.

The sunlight begins to spill over Westfall, bathing everything in a warm glow. She lays back in the grass and sighs. The sunlight dances off the nearby pond, sparkles through her auburn hair, and shines on the sword laying within arms reach. Detaine watches the blade of her claymore glow, noticing a few chinks on the edges. She tries to look away.

So different from the simple life in the orchard. So much fighting already- and so much more to come. I cant go back. I could never be happy in that life. There is so much more to see. Home will be there. Someday.

Sitting up, she pulls a stone from her bag, and begins re-sharpening her sword. She works gently, carefully. The claymore is quickly becoming her closest friend. Detaine chuckles and addresses the blade. Well, the sight of you does tend to discourage people from coming round, right? She stands and holds it aloft in the sunlight, checking her work. The sword and the girl are nearly the same height. She laughs again as she secures it across her back. She stoops down to gather her notebook and pencil, as well as the remnants of breakfast into her bags.

She pauses and looks behind her. Maybe I should try to meet more people, huh? Perhaps those folks at that garrison in Elwynn- they seemed fun. Im sure theyre better conversationalists than a sword, anyhow.

Shouldering her pack, she heads off down the hill. There will be time. For now its time for the sword to sing again.

Four[]

To Naol Woodrose: My dearest brother,


I am still roaming around Westfall. It breaks my heart to see these farms destroyed, seized by brigands, and towns laid to waste. I see copses of trees burnt and destroyed, and I weep to think of what could happen to our beloved orchard.

So I fight with the purpose of making sure the threat does not spread, and our home will always be the safe haven we know. I do my part here, as I am certain you do wherever you may be. Someday I may have the skill to join you as well.

I met a paladin who grew up in the area now known as the plaguelands. His family had a farm there- his father was a blacksmith. The farm no longer stands, yet he spends much time there, trying to cleanse the land. I met him one day in Elwynn- he reminds me much of you. (Though hes much larger than you) Hes helped me with a couple quests, and looks for you whenever he goes home.

While doing some tasks for my training, I found a new sword. It is beautiful- a claymore almost the same height as I am. (I know you would laugh..) I am becoming fairly adept at using it. I named it Laoidh- it sings heroic tales as it flows through the air. I do remember Father giving you three lessons in swordplay, as well as caring for the sword itself. Rest assured, Laoidh and I take good care of each other.

Soon, I think, I will venture back into town to meet more people. Laoidh seem to keep people at a distance, so I may leave her behind. Ill keep my short sword- you know Ill make certain to draw my lines clearly. But I wont hurt anyone- unless I need to.

I need to continue my tasks. I will write again soon.

In the Light, Your sister, Detaine

Five[]

Go play with your own friends, Taine. Mine dont want you hanging around.

Why not? I can do anything they can. She pulls herself up as tall as she can, still not quite reaching her brothers shoulders. He laughs, and pulls on one of her braids. Sure, sis. I guess theyre afraid of you, then. Just go play with your friends instead, okay? I dont have any. She sticks her freckled nose in the air, I dont need any.

What about Kattie, or Maura? They dont like to play with me. Why not? They just want to put on their moms nice dresses- and play with dolls. They laugh at me when I want to climb a tree, or swim in the pond. Were too different. Come on, Naol, let me stay, or, or Ill tell them you like Deirdre...

Naol picks up his little sister and tosses her over his shoulder. Detaine kicks and screams, but he just laughs as he carries her back into the house. Ignoring her protests, he tosses her into her room, and runs back out the door to play with his friends.

Fine! She screams at the door. I dont need you, your friends, or those frilly girls in the village! Ill be just fine all by myself!

Whats wrong, Detaine? The paladin standing next to her asks. Nothing, Im fine. She turns away so he cant see the tears shes fighting back. Are you sure? His tender heart in proportion to his large frame can see right through the façade. But she wont back down. She brushes her hair away from her eyes and looks around. Where do we go next? He knows, but he wont push her. So he tells her which way, and they continue on the quest.

Back in Lakeshire, she runs to the other side of the lake to get away from the crowds. She lays aside her sword and takes off her boots. Dangling her feet in the water, she leans back and sighs. Im certainly alone now. Just me and the world. Im not shy- I just dont know how to meet people. How to be friends. Of course, all this time in the wilds doesnt help, but how can I learn and be stronger by sitting around in the towns?

A rustle behind her makes her sit up. She looks around for danger. Then she feels something crawling up her leg. Detaine looks down and laughs. Oh, Sneachd, dont scare me. She scoops up the wee white kitten and nuzzles its soft fur. Of course Im not all alone, huh? I have you now, my fuzzy snowball.

It feels good to be needed again. A couple hours later, the moon shows a girl and her kitten fast asleep on the shore of the lake. The kitten purring, and the girl smiling for the first time in several days.

Six[]

To Naol Woodrose:

My dear brother,

So many new things Ive seen this week! Ive traveled to so many new places for my tasks, seeing my history lessons unfold in front of me. It is amazing. How I wish I knew what you thought of them

Oh, if the pages are torn a bit, dont worry. I have a new traveling companion, and she gets a bit overzealous at times. Her name is Sneachd, just a wee kitten, and yes, almost completely white. I bought her from a young boy in Stormwind who needed to find a new home for her. I may not have a home for her now, but we are becoming very good friends. She is very small, so she likes to travel curled up in my bag. She especially likes the wee green blanket. Yes, I do carry that with me. You can laugh all you want. You knew Mother well, but I was not so fortunate. The blanket is still my connection to her. It is a comfort- a portable reminder of the comfort and shelter of home- and family. A hope Ah, you wouldnt understand, anyhow.

Spring is coming, and I am certain the orchard is filled with blossoms. Remember the time Father caught me trying to pull my mattress outside, or the many times I tried to sleep in one of the trees? I always wanted to spend every moment outdoors in the spring. I guess it is no different now, I am just finding that many places do not have spring the way we knew it growing up. For some there is snow all year, in other places it is warm and sticky. What of spring where you are? Is there any new life around at all?

Wandering around Lakeshire last evening, I came upon a gathering of people telling stories and poems. It was quite interesting, but some of the things they spoke of I did not understand. I am learning quickly, but some of that Im not sure if I want to know. One story in particular I understood quite well. A man spoke of an adventure he had when he was young, and it sounded so much like something I would do. He attributed it to being young- both foolishness and courage. It was much for me to think on. I was able to speak with him a while later, an intriguing character to say the least.

Anyhow, I must be running off. There are still many tasks for me to complete. The paladin I spoke to you of before has been aiding me in a quest for a new weapon. I could not give up Laoidh or Urram (my short sword), but anything that will help me become stronger

Fare well my brother. I hope I will hear from you soon.

In the Light Your sister,

Detaine

Seven[]

The sun is just beginning to peak over the tops of the mountains. Another clear day in Redridge finds a young paladin and her cat preparing for the day. The cat eats her breakfast while the lass packs away her green blanket, and straps her claymore across her back.

Detaine pulls another piece of fish from her bag. Thats all for now, Sneachd. Remember we didnt have much luck catching them last night. She fondly scratches the kittens ears as she leans back against a tree.

What a night it was, huh, sneaky? Im still trying to catch up- so many people and things going on. Lots of stories I want to hear more of. Maybe another time.. She closes her eyes and smiles, trying to remember names and faces. I did feel a bit out of place at the celebration for that guild, but for some reason, they asked if I wanted to join the festivities. Such strange people- and fascinating ones. I still prefer to be out here in the hills, but I suppose a party every once in a while could be fun

I didnt really like being around that many folks- I didnt get to talk to too many of them for very long. Ill have to look for them another day. It was a good thing I guess most of the folks had left already when we got to story night. Detaine chuckles. I think that political stuff scared the fish away. I dont understand why people make such judgments against a whole group There are good and bad everywhere. Oh well.

Detaine scoops up her kitten, putting her on a shoulder. Come on, Sneachd. Wed better head out. Weve got a lot of ground to cover today.

Eight[]

To Naol Woodrose:

Dear brother,

Well, with the number of people who are trying to find you for me, you should be overrun. Though I doubt the sincerity of most of them, there are yet a few who I would trust.

I have been asked to join a guild- and did accept it, though as of yet I know very few of the members. I had corresponded some with the guild mistress, and she arranged for me to meet with a few others in Stormwind one afternoon. I sat and talked with them awhile, and was very stunned when they invited me in. So at least I am in contact with more people- though I still do not know many of them at all.

So I continue in my quests. I am getting stronger. Soon enough I may come looking for you myself.

In the Light, Your sister,

Detaine

Nine[]

Detaine sits again by the lake, her sewing spread out around her. Sneachd runs off chasing grasshoppers and the spots of sunlight that flicker through the trees.

"Maybe I should give some of these things I make to some folks I know. Maybe then they will want to talk to me again. She shrugs. I guess maybe Im a bit lonely. Perhaps even jealous of those with their friends so close about them." The kitten bounds over, and playfully nibbles a finger. "I know I have you, Sneeky, but sometimes I actually need to spend time talking to people."

Pulling out a few bolts of cloth, she digs through her bags for her pattern book. Detaine flips through the pages, smiling and nodding. As she picks up her scissors to start, she turns to Sneachd.

"Maybe I can at least help someone smile."


Ten[]

To Naol Woodrose-

Such an odd day Saturday- but it was a good one. I accomplished much, both in my training, and in furthering some friendships. I have much to think on, and I wish you were here for me to share these things with.

I spent the morning running everywhere. I have delighted in discovering the tales hidden in the libraries, and have taken to spending time in one or another fairly often. I suppose a couple of the librarians had taken note of that, and have set me on tasks to run books all over the continent. Truly, though, I think they are just trying to get me- and mostly Sneachd, out of their libraries. That kitten is very good at getting into trouble!

I was in Stormwind again, returning yet another book, when I saw a familiar face. A mercenary Ive met a time or two named Diedrich. It is amusing to watch him interact with people. He is one of those guys who carries himself as though he thinks he is the Lights gift to women, yet he is very self-effacing. I was laughing so hard as he spoke with me and another lady. She was evidently very flattered by him, blushed and giggled several times. It was just too funny. He calls himself old, though he is only a couple years older than you. He obviously looks at me as little more than a child, and constantly calls me little miss. No, I havent hurt him for that- at least not yet. Seeing the way he acts around other women, I am glad to have avoided his attentions- I can sit back and laugh instead.

He offered to help me with one of my tasks, and went with me to Darkshire. We took out a band of Defias bandits before he had to leave to meet with another friend. He says I have the potential to be a great swordswoman. He has also offered to help me train in that regard.

So after I finished a few more tasks on Darkshire, I headed back to Lakeshire for some rest, and the evening meal. I was much amazed to have a package waiting there for me. A new sword! Diedrich had found a sword that he said would be more suitable for me than the one I had. It is beautiful! I could hardly finish my meal from staring at the blade. The sword has not told me its name yet, but I will tell you when I know.

I had more tasks to complete in Duskwood, so I decided to run there after dinner to let the new sword sing. I stopped in Sentinel Hill, I thought just for a moment, but my plans changed a bit. There I ran into another friend.

This friend, well, this friend is different. I will not write his name now, lest well, I just wont now. After speaking with him just a few times, I feel as if we have known each other a long time. And yet, I still know very little of his rather mysterious past. We seem to understand one another in some way. In some ways, we are much alike.

I am trying to get him to tell me more of his story. It seems that it is quite a complicated one, and will take some time in the telling. When he does speak of his past, it is in hints and odd comments. Like any good storyteller, leaving me waiting on the next hint. Lore and history are recounted in the telling, and I am pulled into the tale. Though I will admit to you, dear brother, that I wonder if it is the tale, or the teller of the tale that interests me. I want to hear more of his tale, not just for the sake of the story, but to get to know him better.

We have fought together in the fields. He dances well with his sword, and is obviously impressed with my swordplay as well. He runs to the battle with a confidence that speaks of having seen many. He is rather shy around most people, but is very open for me. He is always a gentleman to me, does not treat me as a child, and appreciates my skill as a fighter. It seems most do not see that.

I saw him take on a more commanding tone with someone the other day. It was amusing to watch. When I ran into him, he was speaking with a lady mage. She was a bit rude to me. Though I did not take any offense, he made her apologize. I could hardly keep a straight face.

I wish I could introduce him to you. You have always been so picky about who I choose for friends. I think I will make certain to introduce him to Aeryck. When I can track him down, Aeryck does have good insight for me. Just like someone else I know, who I wish would answer my letters But I am sure you are kept busy.

Anyhow, it is time for me to get back to my tasks. Sneachd is trying to eat the paper, so Id better send this off quickly.

Be well, Naol. I will find you.

In the Light, Your Sister,

Detaine

Eleven[]

"Its your own fault, Sneeky, and you know it." Detaine shakes a scolding finger at the kitten in front of her. Sneachd's ears are pulled back, and her tail is lashing furiously.

"I had to leave you here at the inn. You were getting me in trouble! If you want to be able to travel with me, you have to behave. That librarian nearly threw us both out when he found you trying to eat the pages out of that book." She shakes her head in amusement, trying to stifle a laugh. "Yes, he did look pretty funny-and why you decided you like to eat paper is beyond me. Besides, one of those places you'd have had to stay in the bag quietly for a long time, and we both know how much you dont like that." The kitten seems to grin, and her tail stops lashing.

Detaine sits down at the edge of the lake, and pulls out her fishing pole. Sneachd curls up next to her, and falls asleep purring. For a long while, the girl fishes quietly, stroking her kitten absently. After catching several, the pair ate their supper, laughing over Sneachd's exploits in the library at Northshire. The librarian had even posted a sign warning of 'that sacrilegious feline bent on destroying priceless tomes of history.' With the meal over, they set up their camp for the night.

When their beds were made up, Detaine laid down, her hands pillowing her head, gazing up at the stars. She laid there a long while in silent contemplation, her thoughts drifting to the sky and other places nearer. "They are so far away..."

Propping herself up on an elbow, she turns to the kitten. "Sneeky, what do you think the stars are?" Sneachd paid no attention; she was bounding off after a cricket.

"He said hed seen them closer. I wonder what they truly look like..."

Detaine returned to her reverie, silently watching the stars. Sneachd caught the cricket, returning with it to her own bed- a shredded blue shirt. The girl turned and watched as the kitten fell asleep with one paw holding the struggling cricket. Laughing quietly, Detaine freed the bug, and covered the small white purring ball with another blanket. Returning to her own blankets, she drifted off to sleep herself, smiling, fingers entwined in a scrap of cloth tucked into her belt.

Twelve[]

((It's not much- more of a 'preview' of sorts. Enjoy))

To Naol Woodrose.

Dear brother,

My hands are still shaking. My body is weary from the nights trials, yet I feel as though my soul had been lit by the flames. Several people were able to bear witness to a glimpse of your little sisters temper yesterday. I assure you, the dark-hearted ones did not escape unscathed.

I wish a few others I know- including you- could have seen me. They would see that I am no longer a mere child to be ignored. I am becoming a swordswoman not to be trifled with. Indeed, today I think I could take on a dragon.

I will write more later. For now I just want to run. I just need to capture this energy, this feeling of strength. I need to feel the wind in my hair, to stand on a mountain and shout.

In the Light, Your sister, Detaine

Thirteen[]

Detaine runs as fast as she can across the orchard. Her hair streaming behind her, her eyes filled with fire. She is barefoot and laughing. Free. Proud. She has conquered her fears, and all the others.

Aelain sits on the orchard wall, calling to his sister as she passes. "What did you do this time?" She stops and looks up, grinning from ear to ear.

"I won."

Her brother chuckles. "Of course you did. What was it? Something at school?" Detaine grabs an apple from the nearest tree, and climbs up onto the wall, pushing aside her brother's offered hand. "Yeah. Storytelling day. Teacher said mine was the best story, and I told it el-lo-quen-tly."

Aelain looks down at the girl, noticing a couple bruises on her arms. "And what are these from? You being eloquent again?"

She shrugs. "Well, Paidg was threatening Maedie, saying he was going to take her lunch, and leave her in a ditch."

Aelain raises his eyebrows. "Paidg Rhion? Hes twice your size!"

"So?" Detaine sits up straighter, looking her brother straight in the eyes. "What does that have to do anything? Maedie is even smaller than me. It wasn't right."

Aelain shakes his head.

"No, I suppose you really had no choice then, did you? And you did win..." Detaine beams with pride. "Yes, sister, you may make a very good paladin someday." He winks, leaning closer, "just dont tell father I told you so."

Two weeks later, Aelain, the eldest of the Woodrose brothers left for Stormwind to enter the service of the light as a paladin.

Fourteen[]

To Naol Woodrose:

My dear brother.

I just do not understand people, Naol. I know, they dont understand me either, right? Ive had the chance a few times these past weeks just to sit and watch people interact.

Some people just are so oblivious to how their words and actions affect others. Some get so caught up in what is going on now that theyve forgotten the past. Friends are forgotten and left behind if they are not heard from constantly. Some expect help from everyone, others are shocked to receive help from anyone.

I pray the Light helps me be the giver of help, the constant friend, and one who does not forget the ones around her. I may be a small candle, but the smallest spark can grow into a mighty blaze.

I wish I could see my friends more often. But they are either off in faraway places I do not yet have the strength to go, busy with their own tasks, or sitting in Stormwind with their other friends. I know I should go find them. I could go sit in Stormwind, too. But I really dont like doing that. Yes, I get a little restless, and unsure with the crowds of people.

Oh, before I forget, I received a letter from your Deirdre. She says she writes to you constantly as well, and I am glad for that. She is as stubborn as I, and we get along well. Though she is one to stay and wait, she has encouraged me in my travels. She is keeping an eye on the orchard house as well. I think she is looking forward to being its mistress one day. I would not mind, brother. She is a good sister.

Sneachd is tugging at my boot, so I guess its time to move on. She likes to roam as much as I do.

May you find something today that makes you remember, and may it make you stronger.

In the Light,

Your sister,

Detaine

P.S. The friend I mentioned a few letters back I have not seen in a couple weeks. But he is still my friend, and I long to hear those stories he promised. And besides, he owes me a dance or two.

Fifteen[]

Detaine pulls out her sword and begins to polish it furiously. Her cheeks are red and her nose wrinkled, making her freckles all merge together. Sneachd sits a little ways away, watching her mistress warily.

"Aw, Sneeky, I wont hurt you Im just well... not mad Just, well, frustrated, I guess. I tried- and I failed." She picks up a rock and throws it into the lake. "I knew I shouldnt have taken the challenge, but Diedrich goaded me into it- and when have I ever turned down a challenge? Its the same thing Ardan always did. Asking if Im too weak to wield the sword- just like Ardan calling me 'tiny'."

"She stops a moment, biting her lip. But I know why he did- to test me- to see how well Im coming along. Not as well as Id hoped. I guess thats what all the challenges with my brothers were- tests to make me stronger. I would not have even come this far if not for those. So maybe this was for the best. Next time Ill do better."

Finished with the sword, she lays it over on her blankets and sits back down in the grass. Elbows on her knees, chin on her hands, her gaze goes beyond the lake for a few minutes. Sneachd climbs up into her lap, purring. Stroking the kitten absently, she smiled a bit. "I guess it could have been a whole lot worse. I mean, there were only a few people there."

"Really, can you imagine, Sneeky, what would have happened if my brothers were there? Or my almost- brother, Aeryck? Cant you just see the look on his face? Im sure he would have encouraged the duel, and shouted out some pointers, but afterwards? He would have done just like Aelain- toss me over his shoulder and put me somewhere safe. He'd probably lock me back up in the Northshire Abbey for ten years of training before letting me even hold the sword again."

She snickers, shaking her hair out so it flashes in the sunlight. "I know, he just wants me to be safe. And I respect that. It is good to know there is someone out there looking out for me. I suppose her worries I'll do something really dangerous." A sly grin crosses her face. "He knows me pretty well after all..."

"I tried to talk to folks afterwards, I really did. Nobody seems to want to sit and talk long with me. I guess I just cant compete with the more interesting people. Guess Im not much of a conversationalist." Laughing, she picks up the kitten, and nuzzles her soft fur. "I mean, really... you're the only one I get to talk to much..."

Sneachd re-settles herself in Detaines lap, and bats at the handkerchief tucked in the girls belt. Detaine frowns. "Yeah, its a good thing he wasn't there either. Im not sure I could have looked him in the eye after that failure. It's his respect that has driven me farther in my training. What would he have said? Would he be disappointed? Would he walk away? Or..." She trails off, biting her lip. "Certainly he wouldnt but what if I have misread? What if he truly has no more interest in spending time with me than anyone else? What if... ?"

With a sigh, she looks down at the kitten now asleep in her lap. Though she's fighting them back, a single tear escapes her eye. "What if I am only clinging to another vain hope? Everyone knows I'll never find my brothers. And as for my friend..."


Looking at the sword, she addresses it. "You are rionnag dochas. 'Star of hope.' I must cling to something. I will hold on to hope."

Sixteen[]

To Naol:

My dearest brother:

I am sorry it has been awhile since I have written. Not much really has been going on for me and Sneachd. A new friend, but Ill get to that later.

I got a letter yesterday from your Deirdre. Along with another bushel of apples, she said she had gotten a letter from you! She said it was mud-stained and a bit torn- and dated from six months previous. Though bedraggled, from the way she described her joy in its arrival, you would have thought it a tablet of gold etched in silver. Truly, it is now one of her most prized possessions.

She did tell me of some of the contents of that letter. Not all of them- so dont worry It seems this letter was written just after you received my message about Fathers passing. So at least I know you have received one of my letters She told me you said you had fielded with our brothers, and had shared with them the sad news. It is good the three of you could be together at such a time.

You told her she should take up housekeeping with me in the orchard house, and commissioned her to keep me from doing something rash.. You know I could not stay- and nothing she could say or do would have changed that. Do not lay any blame for anything I may do on your Deirdre. She was disappointed when I left, but still allowed me to follow my heart.

I have sent letters to her and the village magistrates, giving her permission to move into the orchard house. I am certain she will have the hearth fires burning every day in hope of your return.

The new friend I mentioned earlier has presented me with a bit of a challenge. She is sweet, humble to a fault, and the shyest person I have ever met. Her name is Reeannan. My first inclination is to help make her braver- to encourage her to not wallow in the self-deprecation so obvious by her demeanor. I immediately felt a bit protective of her. Of course, another friend of mine apparently feels much the same.

Ree has some difficulty with her speech, but on paper To call her eloquent would hardly scratch the surface. We exchanged letters, and in reading her letter, I felt woefully uncouth and backwards. Perhaps she can teach me some of the finer points of etiquette which you well know I am lacking.

Sneachd liked her immediately, and that is always a good sign. As for the friend we two share.. well he..[several words scratched out here] Time will tell, I suppose.

It is long past time for me to rest now, so I will send off this letter.

I hold to Hope.

In the Light, Your sister, Detaine

Seventeen[]

"Matchmaking! bah..." Detaine pulls a handful of grass, tossing it into the lake. Sneachd turns around a moment to watch the fish come to the surface, then goes back to chasing a cricket.

I mean, I understand wanting a brother to be happy. I want the same for all my brothers. Naol has his Deirdre, Aelain and Ardan are happy whatever comes. My adopted big-brothers are doing fairly well- perhaps even better. Diedrich is deliriously happy with Frelle- I was so glad to hear the news last week. Aeryck well, okay, perhaps there was a bit of matchmaking there. Detaine laughs hard for a few minutes, mischief sparkling in her eyes. But I know both of them- I know how very much alike they are. And they knew each other some even before I left the orchard. Well have to see how Wednesday evening goes She smiles, then turns her attention back to the kitten.

But Sneeky- that woman doesnt know me. If she was looking for someone for her brother, wouldnt it be better to find someone she already knows? Wrinkling her nose, she shakes her head. And then I heard her complaining about him running off in Stormwind last night. Does she think Id keep anyone grounded? The kitten pauses and looks up, an unmistakable grin on her face- whiskers twitching with unheard laughter. She doesnt know me at all, does she? Detaine scoops up the kitten laughing.

I do not need anyone to keep me in check, or anyone I need to keep grounded. Im not like so many women I know whose whole focus is on finding a man. I do fine on my own. If something comes, well see- but Im not going to chase anyone. Sneachd looks up at the girl, and Detaine scratches the kittens ears. No Sneeky, not even that one. What comes comes. She smiles wistfully. Im not going to try to find any knight in shining armor to swoop in and rescue me- to keep me at home. I would much rather have someone who would run at my side.

Eighteen[]

To Naol Woodrose:

My dearest brother.

I was so excited to receive my latest package from your Deirdre! A letter for me from you! Even though it was worn and a few months old, it is so good to have your words in my hands, and to know that not terribly long ago, you were well.

It seems you had received the first of my letters at least, and I am glad you do approve of the path I am on. I am trying hard to make you all proud. Soon enough we may be able to fight together. For now, I travel the world- learning. I will continue sharing with you- in hopes that you will be able to read these tales. I hope to hear more of your travels as well.

So Aelain is a General, now? That truly does not surprise me much. He has always been the leader- even of the troupe of your friends growing up. I remember so well the day he left for the Cathedral- sword at his hip, and a swagger in his step- several of the village boys running along behind him.

One thing that concerned me though, Naol You made no mention of Ardan Tell me, why? I long to hear all about the glorious battles all three of you have won. The victories- and the antics you are certainly up to.

But why did you say nothing about Ardan?

I must run now, I will write again soon.

In the Light.

Your Sister,

Detaine

Nineteen Dear Detaine from Ardan[]

  • Postmarked from Ratchet.*

Dearest Detaine,

My sister, I am sorry I have not written you in so long, though I am sure that Naol keeps writing to you. There is something I must confess, sister, and it pains me so deeply to have to write it. By now you must have heard that I had disappeared into the plaguelands, fighting the Scourge, most likely dead. This is and is not the case, all at the same time.

I fought the Scourge, valiantly, or so I thought. I waded deep into their lines, too deep. My own arrogance did me in sister. You know I've had a bit of a reckless streak, well this time it went too far.I died , fighting the Scourge, Detaine. But I did not stay dead. Not for long, anyway. I was found, my half eaten corpse ridden with the Plague, by a group of undead. Before I fell to the Lich King, they shielded what was left of my mind, and I was reborn as a member of the Forsaken.

To tell the truth, sister, I was horrified at what had become of me. I ran to the Chapel, where Ailen and Naol were posted last. I pled with them, but they only saw the horror that had become of me and chased me off. My own brothers did not recognize me. I ran back to the Undercity... and I lost my faith, sister.

I always thought the Light would protect me from such damnation. From the curse of undeath. I saw that I was wrong. I had thought I was wrong. I sought to forget it all, forget my past, because it was too much. I know this is wrong, that it is shameful, but I could not help myself.

I lost myself, and became something else. I became a killer, an assassin for those that needed it. I've done horrible things and....

  • this portion of the paper is a bit stiff from dried water and salt crystals*

By the Light, I've murdered people who had done nothing wrong. There is something inside me now, Detaine. Something cold, and angry. The only thing that brought me back, my memories back, was the sight of a small boy getting pushed out of a tree by his sister.

I am taking this as a sign from above that I needed to contact you. I remember when you nearly shoved me out of a tree, dear sister.

Please, do not tell our brother's what has happened, nor Father. I am not sure that they could take hearing what has happened to me.

Enough about me, however. I... I need to know that you are all right. That everything is All right with you. Tell me how you are doing. I need to talk... to someone.

Your brother,

Ardan.

  • A large black X is signed right next to the name Ardan as well*

Twenty[]

Detaine sat perched high up in the tree watching the boys playing. Naol sat under the tree, reading. Aelain led the village boys in a game- chasing around the orchard with a small leather ball. Ardan, though smaller and more wiry than the older boys, was determined to win the game.

He darted between the trees, dodging this way and that- and picking up speed. Even from her viewpoint, there were times Detaine couldnt see him as he wove between the trees and the older boys. All of a sudden, the older boys realized the ball was missing. After a few minutes of searching, a laugh was heard from the orchard wall. Ardan was casually leaning against the wall tossing the ball in the air and catching it again. Detaine smiled, proud of how well hed alluded them. Ardan looked up at her with a grin and winked.

Aelain took his opportunity, and led his entourage in a charge. Ardan was quickly descended upon by all of the older boys. Naol even put his book down- trying to figure out which of his brothers to help. Instead, he returned to the house to fetch the bandages that would inevitably be needed.

After just moments, Aelain emerged from the pile, victoriously brandishing the ball. His troupe got up one by one, dusting themselves off and patting each other on the back. Detaine leaned out of the tree a bit to make certain Ardan was all right. He stood slowly, scowling and grumbling, shirt torn and muddy, and his left eye beginning to swell. Detaine couldnt help herself but laugh.

Ardan looked up at her, anger and mirth in his eyes. You think its funny, Tiny? Detaine frowned. Dont call me that! Why, Tiny? Ardan smirked, making his way to the tree. Tiny little birdy perched in the tree- you cant hurt me... Detaine fumed, her face turning as red as her hair.

The girl climbed down a bit, then jumped out of the tree, small fists ready to jump on her brother, who was calmly standing against the trunk, snickering. Aelain and Naol came around the tree to see their sister flailing her arms, trying to hit Ardan as he held her by her shoulders at arms length.

Aelain interposed himself between his siblings, and Naol scooped up Detaine, throwing her over his shoulder. As he carried her screaming back to the house, she saw Ardan smile, wink, and dash off into the trees.

Detaine held the letter carefully, her eyes wide and filling with tears. Sneachd perched on her knee, watching, soothing.

Can this be true, Sneeky?

Twenty-one[]

Sitting on the bank and staring across Loch Modan, Detaine holds tight to the parchment in her hand, blinking back tears and confusion. It could be true, Sneachd. But Ive not heard anything- nothing at all.

A twig snaps behind her and she jumps, grabbing for her sword. A startled dwarf stands behind her, pulling a cart with two simple packages inside. As the girl lays her sword aside, the dwarf smiles warmly. Would ye be Detaine Woodrose, lass? She nods. Aye. I thought so- they told me ta find a wee slip of a girl with flames in er air, a kitten.. he pauses for a moment. And a sword most as big as erself. He eyes the sword at her feet. Id say they did good, aye? Detaine nods slightly, grinning in spite of herself.

Well dees ere be for ye Lass. He pulls the packages from the cart. One is large, battered, and obviously very heavy. The other is smaller, lighter, and even carries a slight smell of flowers. Detaine sets the packages down and gives the dwarf a couple silver for his service. He smiles, pocketing the coins. Thankee Lass. If I wereye Id open the big ane first. Tlooks a might important. Detaine smiles. I shall.

She stands silently as the dwarf leaves, humming a sprightly tune. When he is out of sight, she turns back to the packages. The smaller one is addressed in a clean, flowing script that looks familiar, her heart says to open it first. But the dwarf had been right. The larger package does look official.

The box is rather beaten, having been forwarded a few times before reaching her. It is addressed in a bold, military hand, and bears the seals of the Order of the Light, and the Cathedral of the Light in Stormwind. Detaine tries to keep her hands steady as she kneels to open the package. Inside, she finds a battered helm and chipped sword. She lifts out the helm slowly, bringing with it an envelope addressed in the same hand as the box.

The envelopes have the same official seals, and the letter inside is on the stationary of the Archbishops office. Detaine sits back in the grass, the helm in her lap- trembling as she reads the letter. Miss Woodrose-

It is with much sorrow and regret that we must inform you of the death of your brother, Ardan Woodrose, in the service of the Light.

He fought valiantly until the end and was highly regarded among his company. Many scourge were dispatched by his blade. May the Light keep his soul.

As his remains were not recoverable, we have included with his sword and helm a simple marker you may use for a memorial wherever you choose.

Walk in the Light

Detaine chokes back sobs as she looks again in the box. The sword had indeed been well-used. Another paper was tied to the sword. This letter is hastily written. Detaine-

We tried. Truly we did.

He rushed into a group of scourge- and took down many of them before reinforcements came. When we got there it was too late- there were far too many of them between us.

All they could find was Ardans sword and helm. Find a special place for them.

Aelain and Naol.

The final content of the box was lifted out. A small, smooth stone. On it was carved a simple memorial.

In Memory of Ardan Woodrose, Soldier of the Light.

Detaine clutched the stone to her chest and let the tears flow. The letter it was true

The other package lay almost forgotten at her side.

Twenty-Two[]

Detaine sits at a table at the inn in Thelsamar, staring at the two letters in front of her. A small notebook on the table has flower stems sticking out of it, as if blooms are being pressed in the pages. Another flower is tucked behind her ear. A small, rounded stone rests on top of the notebook, holding it shut. A pen and a few sheets of parchment lay in front of her.

She rests her chin on her hands, elbows propped on the table. Loosing... finding... such a swirl of emotions running through her head. She turns her head to watch Sneachd bounding around the room after a cricket. Every so often, the kitten pauses in the sunbeam coming in through the window- then chases back after her prey.

"I guess that's what this is, Sneeky. The sunbeam in the middle of the chase. Hope is possible. But only through strife and pain it seems. We have our struggles- and who knows what may come." She sighs and looks back at the two letters- and the blank parchment. "They have brought me some hope. May the Light help me send some to them as well."

Twenty-Three[]

To Ardan Woodrose:

Dear brother. I cannot begin to describe the emotions and feelings swirling around when I read your letter. The news I get from the fighting is so far between- I had not yet head of your ...death. Though in truth, I had been wondering, since Naol's most recent missive had not spoken of you.

The day after I received your letter, though, a package was delivered with your sword and helm, along with notes from your captain and our brothers. They told me of your brave charge into the scourge- and how they could not save you. Then I knew your words to be true. To find someone before you know you've lost them

Truly, though, I am glad you are not lost to me altogether. To know that your heart- your conscience is still yours- no matter what has become of your body Whatever has been done, Ardan- I am certain you have seen many horrors- who you are may have been hidden away for a time I will do most anything to help you, brother. Whatever hope or redemption you seek, may the Light grant me the grace to give it to you.

Your sword and helm have been sent to the orchard house. Naols Deirdre has taken up residence there, and will certainly be its mistress once Naol returns. I gave her instructions to have them cleaned and set on the mantle as a tribute.

I know well of the distrust many hold for the Forsaken in general. You have naught to fear from me, dear brother. I am not among that number. I shall keep your secret close to my heart, and will not let it be known. Though I may speak of it with one...

As for me, I am doing well. I have followed the three of you in the path of the Light, and am becoming a competent swordswoman. I have few close friends, but since I am constantly traveling, it becomes difficult. My kitten, Sneachd follows with me everywhere, and listens well to whatever nonsense I want to spout.

I need to continue on my work- and I have another letter to write, so I must sign this one off.

I am here whenever you need me, brother.

Hold to Hope

Your sister, Detaine


P.S. And I'm sure I could knock you out of the tree, still

Twenty-Four[]

Detaine smiles wistfully as she seals the second letter. Ive missed you, too

She walks over to the mailbox, with Sneachd following close at her heels.

Maybe well even see our friend again on Thursday, Sneeky. We can hope!

Laughing, she dashes off over the hills.

Twenty-Five Xarathas[]

The dark figure smiles widely as he hangs upside down on the tusk of the Temple of the Damned. In his gloved hands is a folded parchment, well worn, as if it has been opened and folded again many times. A large black snake hangs with him, tongue flickering in and out. The smile on his face is wide, and eyeless sockets read through the paper once more. No malevolent smile, nor cruel grin. This is a look of joy and peace, something seen so rarely in the Undercity nowadays.

"Hey, get down from there, you!" A warlock points a long claw at the rogue, who laughs and lets go of his hanging place. He falls, and whirls in midair so that his feet land first on the ground. But he is gone from sight even before he touches the ground, vanishing in a cloud of smoke.

The warlock coughs, and grumbles, "Damn new corpses, no respect at all. Get no respect."

The rogue chuckles quietly as the warlock moves on. The figure hidden in shadows pockets the letter, and moves silently through the city, a black snake following faithfully.


Appendix: From Nightmare Awakened ...[]

(( The following note is roped to an apple tree in the Woodrose Orchard, weathered and ragged having been exposed to the elements for many years. The parchment shows signs it may not survive much longer and the ink is a faded, red-tinged brown; the only explanation for its continued readability given its age is that it was originally the intense red found from blood. ))

I am Sorba the Cursed and I bid thee good day:

Dragonslayer – I am lost and seeking my way back, it is my hope, to you. Though I have thrown off the shackles of many burdens and loosed the grips of human depravity from my soul, still, I am scarred deeply; still, aimlessly lost. I sup upon locusts and honey, where I find them; it is the recollection of we afield, dancing with shield and sword, taking and holding what ground we may that sustains me, that compels me to press forward with my search.

That, and a pilfered apple or three graciously ripened by this ancient tree. I had hoped to find you, or some sign at your home, or to speak with those who may know of your whereabouts. I am again confounded and again brought down; lo there, my Curse doth carry me on.

The light is fading and I fear my presence is wearing thin, the weight of my Curse pulverizing your orchard’s bountiful life; I must wander on. If I am never to be near you again or never again to hear the lilt of your laughter, please know that I have never forgotten – I will never forget.

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