Nighthaven

Last night, I dreamt that I was back in Nighthaven again.

It doesn’t happen every night (this dream); it doesn’t happen when my mate is lying beside me with his arms around me like an anchor, keeping me tied to Stormwind and to him. It doesn’t happen when the babies have a bad night and I drift in and out of sleep, one ear always turned towards them. But when Husband is away on campaign, and the children are sleeping soundly; I go to bed as mate and mother, but when I dream: I am a child again.

When I say Nighthaven, I don’t mean of course the wealthy Cenarion city on the banks of Elune’ara. My home shared its name with that wide-avenued haven, the clusters of lavender tiled buildings and stone temples, with druids preening on every corner. That was a place for those Kaldorei born with natural talent, natural skill; or the gold to cultivate it. Or for those lucky tradesmen who had managed to quash the competition through fair means or foul; and won their spot in the finest, richest city east of Darnassus.

But for every successful one there are ten who tried and failed, and five of these ten will fail again and again; and those are the people who live in my Nighthaven. Those dead-eyed merchants with empty purses were at the top of the pecking order in my Nighthaven; for at least they had been something, once. They were fallen men and women, true, but the very fact that they had fallen meant that they had started from a loftier position than the rest of us. They rubbed shoulders with us, who had never amounted to anything and most likely never would; us who had only their family name to call their own. The Knotweavers, the Tangleroots, the Gladefalls (related to the illustrious Gladefall scribes of Astranaar? Once, perhaps, a long time ago- but they would soon as acknowledge a succubus than recognise such a lowly branch of the clan). We who inhabited this alternate Nighthaven lived beneath a strange sort of curse: we had long life, but nothing to do with it. The trouble with a society in which people do not die a natural death, is that there becomes a surplus of labour. No society, however advanced, can support multipying numbers on finite land; and the priestesses can only help so many.

The humans think that we, the Kaldorei, are the night’s children and that may be so; but we are the true children of the shadows, us who contributed nothing and lived in the cracks and dark places of society. We were Kaldorei by name but in actuality our lives were so separate from the Druids and priestesses and Sentinels, that we may as well be called by a different name.

For millenia we (I use “we” to talk about the Gladefalls and the Knotweavers in general, I haven’t been alive for that long), we used to live on the fringes of the city; in ramshackle wooden dwellings clustered like warts on the hillside. They didn’t keep the rain out, they did nothing to stop the cold winds from Winterspring from tearing at the roof, and they offered no protection from the winters. My mother had lost six children, and though two had lived (my brothers), she was pregnant once more with me and my father knew that she would not survive the winter.

But Elune remembered us and smiled upon us for one brief moment; and offered us a respite. A Druidic barrow den on the outskirts of the city had become unsafe for use- part of the cavern extended beneath the lake Elun’ara and it was feared that the roof of certain tunnels might be unstable. The Druids and their attendants packed up their belongings and moved out; and we moved in. “We”, but there were only a few dozen habitable nooks in this subterranean labyrinth; and competition was fierce. My father killed a man to win us Gladefalls a place in that barrow den; and I believe to date that poor fellow is the only life my an’da has taken in his six thousand years (at least, with his own hands). When I dream of Nighthaven, I dream of that barrow den. The Druids had called it Fer’ethil, or Den of Deep Slumber; but we called it Aurome- or, “Our home”.

By the time I was a child of a few years, Aurome had become more than just a winter’s haven for several bedraggled paupers. It was still damp and leaking, the air was not clean, and it was crowded- but it had become something quite different from the quiet avenues and pavilions of the city above. I find it hard to describe, to put the experience into words.

Narrow tunnels twisting into the earth, lit in a hundred places with globe-like paper lanterns. At the major intersections, a brilliantly coloured glass mosiac lamp hung from rusted ceiling brackets; throwing speckles of shifting light on the damp walls. In an effort to keep out the damp, threadbare, gaudy rugs are hung across the top of the tunnel; often dangerously close to the wax dripping from the paper globes. Every nook and chamber is claimed, occupency declared through beaded curtains made from empty seed cases and discarded moonglow corks; old sheets blocking curious gazes, shadowy figures moving behind the thin material. In an effort to banish the musty smell of the damp earth, cheap incense- made from candle wax and moonglow residue- burned from improvised holders on every corner.

There were several branches that were devoted solely to trade, usually set up by those merchants who had failed to succeed in Nighthaven proper. They sat cross-legged on rugs or small stools, surrounded by their wares. Most of the goods had been obtained through dubious means- there would be trinkets plucked from pockets, seeds and nuts from sacks “fallen from the back of a saber”, spices from the Barrens and illicitly produced moonglow (and other substances). From sunset to sunrise, the tunnels resounded with the shrill cries of the merchants, their children offering up trays of
goods. The more successful ones had constructed recesses in the earth behind them, where they could hang lanterns and signs, better to attract the passing eye.

It wasn’t an easy life, even in the old barrow den . We never had enough to eat, we were sickly and frail; yet it was my life and home for so long. I do miss it, sometimes.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Aphel said,

    Great job on the post, babes! It seems like every one gets more detailed and even more interesting to read. Everything was so vivid.


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