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She wandered across the Park, barefoot, absent-mindedly leafing through the morning’s post. Two druids shuffled hastily out of her path as she squinted at the crooked writing on a lumpen package, totally absorbed in deciphering the text.

 

“Bill, bill-” she muttered, recognising the distinctive brown envelopes and tossing them surreptitiously into the bushes. “Bill, ooh- coupons!”

 

It was early enough that the district was still quiet, the tavern doors shut tightly against the stark light of morning. Several Kaldorei students were gathered on the benches beside the pond, listening attentively to an early morning lecture. A year ago, the sight of the young scholars would have caused her to pause and watch in jealousy; but now she just ambled on, idly sifting through the bundle of letters.

 

Clambering onto one of the vast stone boulders that circled the pond, she thrust her letters into the pocket of her masculine work-coat and swung around a carved wooden pillar. She was about to hop down onto the grass, when a leather-clad hand reached up to her.

 

“So you cannot even leave me to go get the post on my ownsome! One would fink I were a tiny, tiny infant, unable to even walk fifty feet unaided ” she observed archly, raising a quizzical eyebrow. He didn’t respond to her attempt to provoke him; she relented, hopping down without the aid of his hand and landed squarely on the grass with a grunt.

 

“I told you, I’m not letting you out of my sight while these quakes are still occurring,” he said after a moment, following her across the grass. She grinned at him over her shoulder, waving the coupon booklet like a banner of triumph.

 

“Twenty percent off infant clothing at Kaldorei Baby. BOGOF on socks!”

 

“BOGOF” he repeated, catching her up with several quick, long strides and sliding his arm around her skinny, boy-like waist. She tipped her head to him, nodding solemnly. “I’m goin’ to buy so many socks, they will have a pair for every day of the week.”

 

“But baby feet grow so quickly. Analith has already outgrown the booties you bought the other month.”

 

She scowled, linking her arm through his as they ascended the ramp towards the GHE.

 

“Then I’ll stretch ’em.”

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Grocery 2

Avoiding the seventh step, which she had put her foot through on her last visit, she padded cautiously out onto the creaking balcony. The floorboards gave a groan of protest as she added her weight to the stacked boxes and crates, and she grimaced. “ONE PATRON AT A TIME ON THE BALCONY” read a hastily scribbled sign, tacked up over the boarded-up window.

 

Smiling triumphantly over her shoulder at a customer who had ascended the stairs a fraction too late, and had to descend with a scowl, Leafsong crouched down and began to rummage through the trays of jumbled tins. The best bargains were always in the most obscure places, she knew from experience, her fingers expertly sorting the diamonds from the dross. With a triumphant cackle, she pulled out a slightly dented tin of Stranglethorn white peaches (a delicacy, normally a gold per tin), for only fifteen silver. She would be able to serve it up with the murloc fin soup from yesterday for dinner, and the peaches could be mashed and fed to the babies. Mirae, who had a sweet tooth (six of them), would be especially pleased. Humming to herself happily, crossing DESSART off her list, she turned around to inspect rows of slightly bruised fruit.

 

She was just holding an apple in each hand, inspecting them for worm-holes; when the building gave an eerie groan from its foundations, a sound of protest that seemed to come from the walls themselves. Almost immediately afterwards, there came a menacing rumble from somewhere deep below, rolling up through the layers of earth like an ocean swell. Discount Groceries, one of the oldest buildings in Stormwind, gave a protesting lurch. A moment later, there was a crack, hollow and piercing as a gunshot.

 

The apples fell from from her hand, along with her basket , as she stumbled. The floorboards beneath her pitched, like the deck of a ship caught in the throes of a storm. Barely registering the cries and shouts from the floor below, she lost her balance and pitched forward into the tray of fruit, sending the contents tumbling to the no-longer horizontal floor. The balcony structure gave an anguished creak, the fastenings beginning to tear away from the wall. Leafsong clutched at the wooden railings, hanging on for dear life, peering down between the slats to the floor below. The shopfront, so familiar to her, had been transformed into something unrecognisable. With horror, she realised that she could see straight into the basement below. Broken floorboards edged the cavernous opening, the counter had vanished completely. The thunderous sound of the earth shifting drowned out most of the cries, only the hysterical shrieks of the priestess were audible over the cacophony.

 

Stupidly, Leafsong spotted her discarded bruised bananas sliding towards her on the angled floor, and grabbed for them. There was a sickening crack as one side of the balcony broke away from the wall, and the floor beneath her dropped away. She felt herself drop and flung out her arms, her fingers locking around a broken beam, nails gripping in. She hung there for a moment, desperately trying to channel strength into her scrawny limbs, her body like the dead weight of an anchor. She was too absorbed in clinging to her splintered lifeline to realise that the shuddering of the earth had stopped. A warm trickle down her cheek left a salty taste in her mouth, plaster coating her hair.

 

Now the true destruction began, as weakened foundations subsided and broken joints failed, several dozen city structures entering their death throes. The deafening rumble had died away, to be replaced with a far more terrifying sound; the pathetic cries of the trapped and the moans of the injured. Leafsong gritted her teeth, clinging on to her beam, unable to muster the strength to pull herself up. Below her, the old paladin was crumpled in the door frame, his golden sword still sheathed. The knight was slowly coming back to his senses, his first thought clearly for his priestess companion as he looked about him in bewilderment. Absurdly, Leafsong watched him, distracted from her own precarious situation. To his credit, he seemed to compose himself in moments, hauling himself to his feet. She called out to him in Common, her voice hoarse from the dust that coated her throat.

 

“Hallo, hallo..”

 

He looked upwards, as if in a daze, not seeming surprised to see her hanging there.

 

“Where’s everyone gone?” he asked, his voice slurred, as if awakened from deep sleep. She shook her head helplessly, gritting her teeth as she hung there.

 

“Gone, gone.. please, ‘elp.”

 

Discarding his sword, which had proven to be useless, he avoided the gaping chasm in the floor and attempted to reach her. She was about to release her grip on the beam to drop into his arms, when the house gave one more sickening lurch, caught up in the throes of an aftershock. The paladin lost his balance and fell between the broken floorboards, arms flailing, a curse on his lips. Leafsong let out a wail of horror as the beam tore itself away from her fingers, her stomach lurched and she felt herself fall away into space. The broken shop front spun around her in a whirl and she felt something metallic strike her forehead. The chaos instantly muted itself and she felt herself sinking into a quiet peace, her vision shrinking to a black dot.

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Leafsong’s Diary 12.10

What have I done, Elune? Did I do something terrible in a past life? Commit some atrocity? Torture? GENOCIDE? I can’t think why else I am being punished by you. Hasn’t my life been hard enough? Hasn’t it been a trial? Have you give me three years of happiness as some cruel torture, to make it hurt all the more when you take it away?

If my mate reads this, he would say that I was being melodramatic. He’d say, ah- typical adolescent angst from my silly young wife. There’s nothing to worry about, just some- natural phenomena.

But I don’t see how he can be so calm, so composed; when the walls of Stormwind are literally crumbling around us! This terrible shuddering known as an “earthquake”, which has come to torment us so recently. Over and over, several times a week. It’s almost worst than the Scourge. No, it’s definitely worse than the Scourge. At least with the Scourge, there was some warning. There was an enemy to take up arms against. With this faceless earthquake foe, there is no time to prepare your defences. It strikes suddenly, without warning, for twenty terrifying seconds you are utterly at its mercy, noble and beggar alike, life hanging by a thread. You can’t fight it, you can’t ever hope to defeat it. You can only hope that you’ll still be alive when it’s over.

Why is this happening now? Now, with Analith toddling off out of sight to hide every few minutes, and the twins still so tiny and vulnerable. Flora has a cold. When the earthquake hits and we’re at home, I don’t have time to grab up the twins and Mirae and dig out Analith from wherever he’s burrowed. Vials crash down with little explosions of glass, the furniture rocks, my husband’s gun rack topples to the floor. Thank Elune that we have only been outside during one tremor, and noone was badly hurt. Poor Analith got a bump on his head from a falling vial, but luckily it was only from the counter and not from a higher shelf. My husband insisted that we leave instantly for Ironforge, believing that the underground city would offer some protection.

It turned out to be a dreadful mistake, the shocks actually came more frequently in the dwarven capital. They seem to be less intense, but I grew so distressed at the thought of being trapped beneath thousands of tons of rubble, that my mate had to take me and the babies out to Kharanos. It’s ridiculous though, we can’t hole ourselves up in some poky little mountain town. The twins won’t be able to take the cold temperature.

I want to go home to the GHE. Clever cousin Shyla is already replacing the shelves with cupboards, reinforcing the ceilings with girders. She’s already producing labels for a new “Anti-Nausea: Quake-dizziness preventative” tonic. Perhaps it is a good thing that she’s taken over, she seems to be far more business minded than I ever was.

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A Letter to the Editors of the Stormwind Gazette

SIRS,

You recently featured me in a Traders of Stormwind column,  published yesterday (Oct 1). I was most distressed to see several errors in the article, which (in my belief) should have been queried by any competent editor before the paper went to print. The errors are listed below:

1. My name is Leafsong Shalah’aman, not Leafsong Shat’man.

2. I am 175, not 175,000 (as you erroneously printed). This error caused me considerable distress and several hours in front of a mirror, probing my reflection for premature wrinkles. This sad mistake was not helped by — (I continue to my next point)

3. The repulsive Gnomish photograph of me. It was obviously one taken covertly first thing in the morning (never a girl’s best time), and immediately preceding a sneeze. It took me a long time to calm down my infant son after I showed him the article.

4. It is true that General Marcus Jonathon has a restraining order against me. I would like to point out that I was not (and never have been) “stalking” him, I was merely trying to make an appointment to talk about my unfair banishment from the Dwarven District.

5. My husband was not convicted and exiled by the Darnassian Council for assault and attempted murder. He was convicted for assault, attempted murder and treason against the Kaldorei people. I suggest that your editor checks his/her facts in the future!

It would be crass of me to expect monetary compensation for this slander (though you know my address). So all you need to do to appease me is run this full-page colour ad for the Gladefall Herb Empire in your daily newspaper for the next year (365 calender days).

Thank you in advance,

Leafsong Shalah’aman.

(The above letter was dictated by Leafsong to her lifemate.)

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Leafsong’s Diary 24.9

I had the worst dream last night. It was terrible, terrible; and worst of all, my lifemate laughed at me when I told him about it! It was so outrageous, I was forced to brutally attack him with a cushion until he fled to the sofa.

I dreamt that baby Analith had some druidic talent (inherited from whom, I wonder? My husband gave up on druidic lessons about ten thousand years ago, and I got expelled from my classes), and he impressed us all with his transformation into a grizzly bear. But then, he couldn’t manage to transform back into his Kaldorei form, and then he was overtaken by feral impulses and ate his little sister, Mirae! I woke up covered in sweat, my heart pounding, feeling sick to my stomach. I can’t imagine anything worse than your own children fighting among themselves. Oh! What if they turn against my mate and me in the future? They could be filled with rage at being brought up in Stormwind, rather than surrounded by Kaldorei!

Perhaps I should look into therapy. It’s never too earlier to begin the manipulation of their minds. I definitely know that I don’t want them to know about their mother’s less-than-salubrious upbringing. Or their father’s disgrace and exile. Hmm. Maybe I should start making a list.

In other news, I still haven’t told him about Ban and Lolli’s impending visit. I know that I’ve been putting it off, but the last time I told him that they were visiting; he put his hands around my neck and growled, before storming off. I don’t think he’d actually strangle me, but he hates my brothers with a passion normally reserved for the denizens of the Burning Legion. Why? Why?? He hates his family, and wishes that I’d stop being influenced by mine so much. He resents the influence that my father has over my life, and the GHE:SW. Just because he despises every member of his family!

Anyway, I can’t worry too much about him. I’ve got about six billion stock forms to fill in before he gets back with the babies from their afternoon stroll.

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Leafsong’s Diary 22.9

It’s been a lovely few days, so lovely, that I’m almost convinced something awful is going to happen soon (I’m notoriously unlucky, I never get constant runs of good luck, something always happens to mess everything up!). My family is all good and well. The twins, now they are nearly four months old, are beginning to sleep through the night. Mirae’s vocabulary has expanded to nearly five words; and Analith has learnt all his facial features, and is beginning on his body parts. My husband doesn’t seem to have grown bored with hanging around the house raising the children, the business is going well (winter, my favourite time of year, season of colds, bugs and the Azerothian flu!), and- well. It all seems a bit too good to be true.

Actually, I got a letter today which might disrupt things a bit. My brothers, Ban and Lolli, wrote to me saying that they are leaving the GHE: Feathermoon in the hands of trusted underlings (no such thing!) to come and visit us in Stormwind. They want to see the twins, who they haven’t seen yet, and visit some old business contacts. But, they’ll be staying with us. I don’t exactly know where, there’s no room; but they’ll be under the same roof as my husband. Who hates them. With a burning passion. Last time, he tried to kill Lolli. Just because Lolli gave him a friendly, familial embrace! He has informed me, on more than one occasion, that nothing would make him happier than hearing about the simultaneous deaths of both of my brothers. He ignores my cries of protest, and goes off into detailed fantasies about their tragic demise. It’s very upsetting; I love my brothers very much. Perhaps this visit will give them a chance to bond?

Ha!

In other news, I think I’m coming down with something, I felt a bit nauseous this morning. Perfect!

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Leafsong’s Diary 20.9

Aah, so my plan to bring down the Alliance War Council is not going altogether as pl aslpha plaa (ANALITH keeps grabbing at my quill!) as planned. The trouble is, it’s easy to discredit an official body; if one is an important and influential member of society. Or, alternatively, if one is in command of a powerful military unit. If one is just that- one insignificant, unknown foreigner – it is nearly impossible to make any sort of mark.

So far, all I’ve managed to do is get a bunch of slanderous pamphlets printed, and distributed them around the Park. And then I got lectured by a guard for about five hundred years, for the heinous crime of littering. So, I may have to resort to the time-tested strategy of sending delicious treats to the Council members’ domiciles (laced with heavy-duty laxative, and other surprises). But I can’t let them get away with treating my poor old husband so badly.

In other news, I’ve also been trying to discredit the bloody herb-stealing conniving bastards at the SHC. I’m almost sure that they’re trying to rip me off! They’re reverse-alchemeering GHE products and passing them off as their own, except without using cut-price, on-the-verge-of-expiry ingredients. Then they have the audacity to claim that their products are superior quality! Isn’t that a cheek? What happened to honour and integrity in the market!?

My husband has been keeping himself busy looking after the babies. There’s something so endearing about seeing him crouched on the floor, building castles with Analith and seriously explaining why a roof needs walls beneath it to stay up. Actually, I might have to have a serious talk with him before the next castle-building session. I noticed that his castle was lacking in both a) secure underground vaults (for stashing the gold) and b) dungeons (for imprisoning fiends who attempt to steal the gold).

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