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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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Untitled pt 2

Ten minutes later, the motley gathering huddled before the imposing oak doors. The winter sun had finally risen, making a halfhearted effort to melt the frosting on the high beams and carved railways of Nighthaven. Leafsong shifted from foot to foot, increasingly aware of the numbness slowly encroaching on her toes.

Fleetingly, she remembered her father musing one particularly hungry morning that a crippled child might bring in more sympathy coin. His fingers had lingered disconcertingly beside the knife until Leafsong’s mother had reminded him that a toe-less child couldn’t be sent out to scavenge for herbs. Missing fingers couldn’t slip discretely into silk-lined pockets. At this rate thought Leafsong grimly, shooting a scowl in response to a youth’s curious glance, I’ll return missing at least my big toe. She tucked her chin into her chest and bore the chilling wind grimly, her hard, pale eyes like flecks of ice.

The sound of a bell cut through the still air like a hunting knife, and in unison, the heads of the two dozen or so hopeful supplicants rose. Leafsong unstuck her feet from the stone flagstone and defended her place at the front of the huddled, her chin stuck out defiantly, frozen elbows ready to strike at anyone who dared to nudge past. There was silence for several beats, then the doors opened. Without ceremony, several druids crossed into the forecourt. All three were male, the elder dressed in the customary garb and his attendants in robes of muted brown. A thick bearskin was slung around the elder’s shoulders, protecting the old man from the bitter cold. The huddle took a collective intake of breath, eyes of all shades of amber and silver focused on the man who could – with a word – fulfill their life’s ambition.

With a gesture, the smaller of the two attendants prompted the group into a ragged line. Leafsong was enraged to find herself between two enthusiastic young females, both several decades older than herself, their white teeth gleaming like a shark’s as they beamed. Leafsong felt her own crooked teeth with her tongue, and folded her lips tightly. To add to her frustration, she was halfway down the row.

The elder and his attendants began to make their way down the line, the elder reaching out a wizened hand to rest lightly on the top of each hopeful’s head, closing his eyes for a brief moment. After a few seconds, he removed his hand, and – so far – had said nothing before moving on to the next candidate. The passed-over one had stayed there for a moment, clinging to a frantic strand of hope; but a quick shake of the head from an attendant confirmed their rejection. One by one, they trailed off, disappearing between the snowy buildings and naked trees. Leafsong closed her eyes as they came to the person beside her, biting her lip and bowing her head. She waited, her breath hovering in her throat, for the touch that could change everything.

She counted to thirty, before opening her eyes. The elder and his attendants were standing before the woman to her left, the one who should have come directly afterwards. She blinked for a moment, then opened her mouth, preparing to step forward. One of the attendants noticed her movement and shook his head sharply, flicking his eyes up and down her scrawny figure dismissively.

“You don’t belong here. Leave, now.”

Squaring her shoulders, Leafsong left the druidic temple and headed back towards the poorest district of Nighthaven, her jaw set.

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She lay on her back, on the threadbare woollen rug with the patch, in the centre of the shopfront floor. The shop was closed for inventory, the muted hustle and bustle of the Park barely audible through the reinforced front door. Although the windowless space was dim, only two of the wall brackets held melting tapers, the rest stood stark and empty; reflecting their owner’s strict frugality.

She lay motionless, surrounded by her children, arms spread and eyes half-shut. Analith was sitting on her stomach, gripping a picture book in two chubby hands, peering intently at the crude sketches as he turned the pages. Mirae was sitting upright, her back resting against Leafsong’s hip, babbling quietly to herself as she fiddled with the cotton hem of her white smock. Loredar was dozing face down, nestled in the crook of one arm; and Flora was lying against the opposite, watching a nearby scuttling spider with a leery expression. Mirae’s soft nonsense was oddly soothing, and Leafsong found herself begin to drift off to sleep, her lethargy a product of nights disrupted both by babies and husband.

She was interrupted abruptly by Analith banging her in the chest with the picture book, bouncing his small rear on her belly. She snarled at him, half-heartedly, opening her eyes.

Analiff. What?”

Mirae stopped babbling, and her smaller sister’s eyes swivelled from the spider up to her mother.

Analith pouted at her, reaching out to pat Mirae’s head.

Min’da, min’da. Annie hunger. Annie food.”

You just ‘ad your lunch!” she said indignantly, crooking her neck toward to peer at her little son. He frowned at her, banging chubby fists on her stomach.

Annie no lunch” he protested, as Loredar let out a snuffly yawn.

Analiff! Remember the dozen grapes and two rounds of buttered bread and four miniature sausages and big bowl of icecream you had thirty minutes ago? That was lunch.”

He imitated her tone of voice, small face contorting. “Analiff. Lunch. Food me, food me. I do it!”

She frowned for a few moments, then relented. “Alright. Alright. I’ll get some more food for you.” Analith, recognising the softer tone, gave a little smile of triumph that was alarmingly similar to his father. Leafsong wriggled her hips slightly, and Mirae gave a mewl of protest, crawling across the floor to retrieve the legless, faceless saber doll.

Move, Annie.”

As soon as Analith slid off her belly, clumsily, there was a sharp knock on the front door. Analith’s head swivelled; Mirae let out a little squeak of fright and began to crawl rapidly towards her mother, and the twins began to shift, unsettled.

Coming, comiiiing” yowled Leafsong, scrabbling frantically to her feet, while simultaneously rolling Analith onto the rug, scooping up a twin in each arm and depositing them in their cot-crib, then picking up the whimpering Mirae and clutching her tightly. “Coming.”

A moment later, the door was open, and what looked like a levitating, battered, sopping wet velvet sofa stood behind it. Mirae and Analith watched, wide-eyed, as a troop of delivery gnomes carried the sofa indoors, placing it alongside the only empty wall. Leafsong let out a cackle which made the hairs on Flora’s head stand on end.

Only two gold. Don’t your min’da know how to find a bargain, ehhh, babies? I found it dumped in the canal. It’ll dry out in a few hours!”

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first meeting pt 3

Want to see the shithole – (here, he pinched her neck as she muttered no, not really) – that the Darnassian government afforded to one of their oldest deployed soldiers? Classy, eh?” he commented sourly, tugging free the leather tie and lifting the heavy canvas entrance flap. The space within was spartan, only containing a padlocked leatherbound trunk, and a camp bed, lit by an oil lamp hanging from the ceiling pole. Leafsong craned her neck away, trying to see if any of the other soldiers were within hailing distance.

They probably gave all the good tents to the good soldiers. Ouch!” she squealed as he shoved her inside, both of them unable to stand fully upright. The small space seemed even more confined with the two of them inside.

I’m sure it’s more comfortable than whatever the Expedition set you up with.”

She hissed, pale eyes flashing, turning on him and planting her hands square on his chest. “Let me go! Let me go, I ain’t done nothing. Let me go!”

Ashamal looked over his shoulder at the shadowy figures of his comrades huddled around the fire. Although they were all veterans who had seen and heard far worse during the course of the war, he would still prefer to avoid undue attention. Reaching across, he tugged headband down from the chaotic mass of hair and over her mouth, grabbing the material tight at the back of her head. She almost choked as the cotton cut into the corners of her mouth, fear glowing at the back of her irises as he looked down his hooked nose at her, contemptuously.

Do you want me to bind you further?” he asked her quietly, his face as still as a statue, eyes blazing. “I have no qualms about returning you to the Cenarion camp missing a limb or two. You shut that big mouth of yours, or I’ll break your legs and leave you here.”

Her muffled protests gradually faded away as she took in his intent, her eyes searching his and judging the threat to be genuine. Slowly, never taking his eyes from hers, he loosened his grip on the headband, letting it settle around her neck. She swallowed, touching the corners of her mouth where the cloth had cut in. Lowering his voice, he slid his hand into his pocket and brought up his coinpurse, jangling it mockingly before her.

Then again, if coin will make you comply better, so be it. I seem to remember that it did, once upon a time.”

She cast her eyes to the floor in bitter humiliation, her voice – when it came – barely more than a whisper.

I don’t do that no more. And it were only you, you know that! I weren’t no whore.”

Very well. You’re free to go.”

Her eyes shot back to his in disbelief, and she stepped back a pace, gauging the distance between herself and the tent entrance. He was looking at her, still and watchful, as a cat might watch a cornered mouse.

Really? You won’t- come lookin’ for me?”

I might. Get moving.”

She didn’t wait for him to tell her a third time. Lunging forward, her satchel crashing against her thigh, she shot towards the tent entrance. As she passed him he reached out to grab her by the neck, pressing a square cotton pad against her mouth. She inhaled reflexively, then gagged, her eyes bulging as she felt her limbs begin to stiffen. Losing her balance, she stumbled forward and nearly fell forward out of the tent, the satchel dropping to the floor. He reached down to hook an arm beneath her skinny knees and swung her off her feet as her eyes rolled back in her head. Temporarily paralysed, she made a choked gurgle as he carried her over to the campbed and dropped her abruptly. Her head bounced against the coarse linen pillow and she blinked, numbly. Drawing up the trunk, he sat down on the leather and reached for his rifle, resting it lightly on his knee as he ran his eyes over her prone form. As the effects of the chemical wore off, she coughed hoarsely and turned her head, grimacing as she felt the stiffness of her shoulders.

So,” Ashamal commented in a conversational tone. “How about I tell everyone how your business was really started? That it had nothing to do with genius management or entrepreneurship, and everything to do with a convenient lump sum?”

She struggled to raise her shoulders, propping herself up on bruised elbows as the temporary paralytic wore off. As she shook her head frantically, her loose hair tangled in a cloud around her pale, anxious face.

You can’t! We won the Circle contract on the basis of our “success story”! Please, noone else knows about the money.”

He grinned at her savagely, leaning towards her, face framed by the greying curtains of navy hair. Touching her cheek, he dug his finger painfully against the bone. She cringed, dropping her eyes; though he could tell by the stillness of her face that she was not defeated, merely calculating the next move, the next manipulation. He held his finger there for a moment, face solid as a marble Suramar bust, when something in his eyes softened and he exhaled. For a moment, it was if they had been carried back ten years by a member of the Bronze Flight, and they were back in Hyjal; the street urchin and the exile. He withdraw his hand and lowered the rifle to the floor, shaking his head irritably. For a moment, he appeared every one of his eleven thousand years.

I have another idea,” he said oddly, and she realised that the war had driven him slightly mad. “You need some education before the Circle would even consider taking you on as a druidic student. And I wouldn’t mind some company on the road- my term of service ends soon.”

She raised her eyes, the rabbit invited to dinner by the wolf. There was some commotion outside, an argument quickly escalating to a muffled altercation; but the atmosphere in the darkened tent remained taut as an overtightened bow string. Her voice was quiet but level as she posed the crucial question, her fingers compulsively twisting the strap of her satchel.


He snorted, standing from the trunk with a stretch and a grimace. “This damned city stinks. You’d think that the refugees had left their sense of hygiene behind, along with their other possessions.” Fumbling inside one of the tent’s inner pouches, he pulled out a stick of violet-shaded incense, half-burnt, in an elaborate silver holder.

Where’s the damned flint-”

Looking around, his lip curling (quick to anger, she thought), he hissed a muted curse as one of the brawlers crashed against the outside of the tent. Elbowing the bulging canvas viciously, he turned back to the bed to come face to face with Leafsong. She stands no less than tall than I, he thought irrationally for a moment as she shot him a somewhat mocking look, holding up a small, red-headed match. As he opened his mouth, she reached forward and neatly struck the match off his front teeth; handing it to him as he swallowed the faint taste of sulphur. Handing him the little flame, she folded her lanky frame back down onto the campbed, bringing her knees beneath her chin.

Why d’you want me?”

He didn’t look at her, concentrating on fixing the incense holder to the hanging oil lamp. His voice, when he answered, was neutral.

Why shouldn’t I have a happy, young companion at my age? Someone to entertain me, to remind me not to be so damned cynical. Elune knows, with what I’ve been through, I should have turned to drinking by now! But I’m strong.”

Letting out a cackle, he turned to face her and reached down to stroke her ear possessively with two fingers, hinting at a somewhat less innocent side to his request.

Ignoring his insinuation, but not moving her head, she paused for a moment, before gathering her thoughts and replying.

You ain’t been nothing but ‘orrible to me. And do I look like a happy youth?” She shot the last part at him sarcastically, then jumped as the brawlers outside momentarily crashed against the canvas at her back. Glancing over her shoulder, she slid further towards the edge of the bed, away from the wall, then startled as her knees collided with his. He had pulled the trunk closer to the bed, taking advantage of their similar height to position himself alongside her, face to face, a few inches air between them. She drew back a fraction, warily.

You’re developing into a fine young woman,” he said thickly, in the practised murmur of the serial womaniser. His expectant grin was met with a frigid stare.

Your charmin’ words won’t work on me,” she muttered, lowering her face to the floor once more. “I only speak in business terms.”

He drew back slightly, raising his voice.

Ah, a businesswoman! That’s why you took my money, and used it to start up your little business. You did, didn’t you? Tell me the truth.”

She paused for a moment, watching him through the gloom of the tent, gauging the market value of sincerity. Finally, she shook her head, her voice faint, as if she was speaking from the bottom of a deep hole.

I ain’t allowed to speak about that.”

He leered, triumph in his eyes as he watched her rub the back of her grubby hand over her face, wearily. “So. Do you want to be my student then? My thero’shan?” After he noticed her shoulders slump with helpless acquiesce, he relented slightly. “You know, you’ll be paid. I’ll pay you twice as much as the Expedition is paying you. Write to your family, tell them that you’re starting new work.”

Something flickered in her eyes and she looked up at him, uncertainty mingling with disbelief.

Twice as much? ‘Ow do I know you’ll pay up?”

He bent his head forward and kissed her neck unexpectedly, rubbing his thumb over the damp mark he had made.

I promise that I will. I never break promises.”

She snorted, shaking her head, awkwardly.

You better not. I’ll cut your balls off in the night with my ‘erb cutter.”

He let out a rare laugh, reaching up to adjust the angle of the incense holder. For a moment, they both watched the purple smoke curl around as it hung lazily in the air above their heads. Leafsong, unused to the richness of the fragrance, stifled a sneeze.

Excellent.” Ashamal said after a pause. “Our first lesson will begin tomorrow. You can stay behind in the military camp while I’m on the front.”

She swallowed, her fingers fiddling nervously with the buckle on the front of her satchel.

And you’ll pay me every week in cash. With a receipt.”

Two hundred gold a day,” he said, watching her closely. “Yes.”

She gasped, her eyes as round as pennies as she stared at him, incredulous.

Two ‘undred- you’re letting me rob you a second time!”

Not really.”

Are you a fool?”

He frowned at her, but curbed his instinct to react angrily. “I’m no fool. I know that the money will help your family. I just want you.” His fingers reached out once more to touch the angular slash of her high cheekbone, made prominent through years of malnutrition as opposed to natural bone structure. “For company and such.”

And you won’t say nothin’ about your part in the GHE,” she clarified, her strange, pale eyes glowing dimly in the faint light thrown out by the dying lamp.

I promise.” he repeated, rubbing his fingers over the bridge of her long nose. “You’ll find my company quite pleasant. I’m not nefarious, I just get what I want.”

You’re a grumpy old man with violent tendencies” she countered, as his fingers progressed down the other side of her face. He shook his head, thoughtfully.

I wouldn’t beat you,” he said after a pause, nodding. “Unless you gave me a very good reason.”

She gnawed on her lower lip, then spat on her palm and offered it to him to shake. “It’s a deal, then.”

He gripped her hand, pulling her off the camp-bed and onto his knee. “Come here.”

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“Ma, look me.”

Analith’s small voice failed to penetrate his mother’s brooding haze as she sat on the floor in the nursery, her head resting back against the crib. Loredar had been feeding, but had fallen into a satiated doze on her chest, and she was patting his back absentmindedly as she frowned. Analith, his expression turning unhappy, picked up the now limbless saber doll and threw it clumsily at his mother’s leg. It missed, bumping into the back of Mirae’s head as she lay on the blanket, groping a wooden ball. Placid child that she was, she merely shot Analith a look of disgust, before returning her attention to the toy.

Maaa” Analith repeated, pushing himself to his feet awkwardly and trundling over to her, half-collapsing onto her outstretched legs. Leafsong blinked, nearly losing her grip on Loredar as she woke from her reverie.

“Ooooh. Sorry, baby, I were miles away. What is it?”

He held up one of his father’s heavy tomes with effort, using both chubby hands.

“Ma, book.”

Leafsong stared at him, nonplussed, for a moment. Loredar opened his eyes blearily, and let out a small mew. She stroked the small white tuft of hair on his forehead, gnawing her lip as she returned her attention to her eldest son.

“You want me to read the book, Ani?”

The small boy nodded solemnly, with an inquisitive expression identical to his father’s. Leafsong sighed, nudging the toddler off her legs and clambering up awkwardly to place Loredar in the crate-crib, beside his sleeping sister. Analith followed her, still holding up the book, looking determined. Leafsong bent over to pick up the book gingerly, as if it were a live bomb. Sitting down beside Mirae, Analith crawling into her lap, she peered at the leatherbound cover.After several fruitless minutes of squinting  and mouthing curses, she finally managed to form the words of the title in a faltering tone.

The Dichotomy- of … Nations: I-Insights into a D-Desegregated- Microcosm of Society”.

She broke off, her jaw dropping as she looked at her son.

“Ani, do you really wan’to read this? Don’t you wanna read The Littlest Saber again? Or Moon Story?” She recited several more books which she had deliberately memorised , as to avoid the exact situation she was now foundering in. Analith shook his head stubbornly, mop of inky blue hair flying.

“No, ma. Read book!” A chubby finger was planted firmly in the centre of the Dichotomy. Leafsong raised her eyes to the ceiling and mouthed something distinctly un-child friendly, before turning the front cover. She was instantly confronted with her own brand of personal torture: densely packed pages of tiny, printed text. The words crawled before her eyes, flipping themselves upside-down, back-to-front; forming – what seemed to her – pure nonsense. After a moment, Analith thumped his fist on the floorboards, causing Mirae to jump.

“Ma, slow!”

She nodded in agreement, shutting the book decisively. “You want me to get the Littlest Saber?”

He shook his head, frowning. “An’da read.”

It was Leafsong’s turn to scowl, her jaw stiffening. “An’da ain’t here, Ani.”

Analith looked around the room, then directed his finger downstairs, challengingly. Leafsong, once more, shook her head.

“An’da ain’t there, neither.”

Analith’s face fell, and his sister (picking up on the new uncertainty that pervaded the room), looked up with an anxious expression. “Where an’da?”

Leafsong sniffed, fiddling with the laces on her shirt for a moment. “Dunno.”

“When an’da?” asked Analith indignantly, patting his mother’s knee with vigour.


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You’re awful brave,”

Leafsong remarked this archly, glancing around the dimly lit clearing with some trepidation. The last rays of evening sun flickered through the tightly-packed trunks, the sounds of distant Goldshire just barely audible. Giving the shadowed glade one last cursory inspection, she turned back to her husband as he divested the last of his clothing. At her comment he focused his impassive amber stare on her, one greying eyebrow rising.

I didn’t realise that the standards of bravery had lowered themselves to the point where merely taking a bath is heroic.”

No, I mean, for bathing out in the wild so near to the ‘uman city. People have been arrested for this.”

She shot him a scowl, trailing her tattered jumper along the grass behind as she came to sit on the riverbank, bringing her knees up to her chin. Keeping one eye on the trees surrounding them, she watched her mate as he waded waist-deep into the river with a grimace.

It’s f-cking freezing.”

Leafsong snickered at him, picking at a scab on her ankle. “Don’t swear in front of the bab- oh.” She interrupted herself with surprise, glancing around at the grassy slopes. “Ooh, it’s weird being without any of my children.” She frowned for a moment, her head reflexively swivelling in the direction of the city to where all four infants were soundly sleeping under the care of Shyla; an odd pang throbbing in her gut.

Pass me the soap, please.”

Reeling herself in from that distant crib, she tugged her satchel into her lap and began to rummage inside it. Pulling a face as her hand came into contact with something slimy, she emerged with two different waxy bars.

Peacebloom Bloomer and Golden Glow. The choice is yours!”

He shot her a look while wringing his hair, lined hands incongruous with muscular arms tautened through years of manipulating the bow.

“The peacebloom one.”

She nodded, hooking it through the air towards him. He caught it with a hand (at which she applauded, and he smiled reluctantly), and began to rub it briskly. For a moment her face twisted, caught in an internal struggle of epic proportion. Resist….resist. Be mature. You are a mother. Finally, helplessly, she gave in.

Husband. Husband. Don’t…drop the soap.”

He shot her a look of pure hatred as she honked with laughter, her shoulders quivering. “Every time,” he said, his voice tight. “Every time.”

She shrugged, widening her eyes and gesturing vaguely over her shoulder.

Well, Goldshire is just five minutes that way. You can’t be too careful!”

As she collapsed into immature cackles once more, there was a flicker of movement in the shadows, a momentary change in the light of the clearing. Even as her head swivelled towards the disturbance, her mate launched herself from the water and landed with a grunt on the bank, while simultaneously grabbing for his gun. He positioned himself, narrowing his eyes as he surveyed the trees, his breathing halted. Every muscle was prepared for action at a moment’s notice, the corner of his lip curled slightly. A jungle cat would not have had held itself with more icy readiness.

This impressive figure was slightly undermined by his wife attempting to secure one of the powder blue baby blankets around his waist. He swatted her hands away furiously, nostrils flaring.

Wench! What are you doing?!” came the outraged hiss from between the teeth.

She looked at him indignantly, the blanket dangling from her hands.

I’m protectin’ your modesty. You are a military commander, after all!”

His hands slackened around the gun, almost as if they were preparing to relocate themselves to around her neck. Luckily for Leafsong, at that moment a doe darted out from between the trees, frightened eyes rolling this way and that, before it crashed back into the bracken and out of sight. Leafsong pursed her lips, folding the blanket back over her arm.

Well, luckily for you, your dignity remains intac-”

She was cut off with a squeal as her husband took advantage of her rare non-pregnant state to physically tackle her.

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Protected: Mature story – pt. 2

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Mature Story – pt 1.

(( So it’s been over a year since I started writing this blog, and I thought that it was about time to try my hand at a…..!! MATURE!! story! I didn’t even know if I was a good enough writer yet to pull it off without sounding either laughable or desperately corny. I also thought that the lack of sex-related material in the Treehaus was a tad odd, seeing as how Leafsong and Aphel have four children, and we are also probably some of the most notorious ERPers on Moon Guard xD. So I decided to see whether my extensive  “experience” could translate into a half-decent sounding story. Or at least, one that didn’t sound like a cheap, sub-standard Mills & Boon. Since I want to avoid people accidentally reading it at work, and also any random kiddies who might stumble across it (I know that one Google search is more than enough to ruin your innocence on the internet, but I want to protect my own little corner of it!); I’m going to stick a password on the second part of the story (the bit with the ‘mature’ tag, or the part that most will probably skip to =P). To get the password, just message Aphel or myself in game, or send me a letter. I am on UK time, so I’m on at weird hours. Part one is below, part two is in the post above!))


Leafsong, wedged beneath her husband’s arm as they leant back against the headboard, obediently reached out to turn the page of the heavy tome propped upon her stomach. Aphel bowed his head and resumed his furious annotation, oblivious to the spots of ink splattering over the blanket. She rested her head against his shoulder, twisting a strand of hair around her finger and watching the tip turn red, then purple. Releasing the curl, she shifted sideways and spread her fingers over the bare chest of her husband, thoughtfully. He shot her a fleeting glance, then returned to the text. Leaning up on her elbow, she ran her finger over a pale, curving scar tracing from his collarbone to above his heart.

“What’s this from?”

He paused, underlining a sentence and adding a derisive comment in the margin, before following her finger.

“A gash from a Silithid talon, sustained during the second assault of the southern hive complex. It was a commander, third officer of General Vejax.”

His reply was abrupt; clearly he did not wish to recall the incident in more detail. Returning his eyes to the print, he nevertheless reached his hand up to cup the back of his wife’s head, pressing his thumb against the fragility of her skull. She retracted her fingers for a moment, then pushed them gently into the faint dent below his cheekbone; the remnant of an old injury healed through magic , rather than by physical means. He lowered the book, predicting her question.

“The same war. I was impaled through the side of my face; penetrating to the mouth cavity.”

She grimaced in sympathy, settling back down against his shoulder.

“Ergh. Like, right through t-to the teeth?”

He turned to her, smiling fully for the first time that evening.

“Right through. It was unpleasant.”

She pulled a face at him, as the hand cradling the back of her skull crept down to caress her neck, the stroking of his fingers light but persistent. The book lay on the blanket between them, half-resting against her hip, and he lifted it with a grunted protest at the weight.

“Seven hundred pages of mundane banality. What a waste of parchment, not to say my time.”

Before the arrival of the children he would have hurled the book to the floor, gleaning more satisfaction from the thud than he had from the text itself. Newly considerate of the four sleeping infants in the next room, he merely dangled it between his fingers contemptuously before lowering it to the threadbare rug. Turning his back on it, he felt an unwelcome twinge from his left knee as his body shifted. As usual, the pain was swiftly accompanied by the usual gloomy portents; the fact that his knee was unlikely to ever be the same, that he should expect more aches and pains as the years went by, and that he would now be classed even by his peers as a man past his prime. An old man, even.

These thoughts were familiar territory to him, and he exorcised them in the usual manner: by taking his young mate into his arms and embracing her, as if youth could be transferred through proximity. One of his arms encircled her back, quickly moving past the knobs of her spine and resting instead on the soft, fleshy mound of her hip. Although she complained bitterly that each pregnancy had added an extra inch to her waist; he enjoyed the new plumpness of her hips and rear, finding it a pleasant contrast to the gauntness of her arms and legs, remnants of a childhood dogged by malnutrition.

In addition, he felt an absurd sense of pride as his fingers slipped deftly beneath her (his, actually) cotton shirt, feeling the yielding curve of her back. It was a plumpness that had resulted from her carrying his children, not once, but three separate times in a space of two and a half years. It was the same selfish pride he felt when she had been swollen and irritable with pregnancy; and he had seen every stretchmark on her youthful flesh as a badge of his own virility. See, Ashamal Shalah’aman is not fading in his twilight years. He has fathered four healthy children in quick succession.

Shaking his head to banish these distracting thoughts, he smiled down at his mate with the tenderness he displayed only within the privacy of the home. Stroking a strand of stray hair away from her solemn face, the pale oval standing out against the navy blue pillows, he pressed his lips against her cheek. It had taken a long time for them to get to the point where they could embrace each other with affection, he noted wryly, and even longer for the residual suspicion to fade from her eyes. It was the Gladefall inheritance, this persistent mistrust; which served them well in business, but was not so conducive to developing a successful relationship.

Trying to force the thoughts from his head (difficult, for one who spent many of his free hours in contemplation); he lowered his face into the cloudy mass of green hair which lay in tangles against the pillow, and inhaled her distinctive scent of pungent chemical, herb, and cheap fragrance. It was the same nasty stuff as the Goldshire whores sprayed themselves liberally with, but for some reason she was perversely attracted to it; rejecting any other perfume. He felt her fingers combing through his hair, and momentarily thanked Elune that he had not begun to shed it, as many older men did. Raising his head, he kissed her softly on the mouth once more, and began to unbutton her shirt.

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Noo, rabbit.”

“Rabbit” said the human in the rabbit costume, in a surprisingly deep voice for a rabbit. Mirae stared at the ‘rabbit’ for a moment, then looked up at her mother for reassurance. Leafsong reached down and picked her up, hoisting the baby onto her hip and shrugging apologetically at the costumed man.

“Sorry. I thought perhaps – she learn new word. But no.” Leafsong mumbled in her heavily accented Common, turning away from the rabbit and his proffered flyers for Perrin’s Westfall Vegetables – Carrot Sale This Week! Mirae frowned up at her mother, clutching at the worn neck of Leafsong’s tunic.

Come on Mirae. Next thing on the list.”

Leafsong squinted at the crumpled shopping list, trying to decipher her mate’s erratic handwriting. “Does that say bullets? Ballast? …Bananas?” She snatched the paper from Mirae’s tiny, grasping fingers. “Let’s go for… bananas. Your an’da likes Tel’Abim bananas!”

As she wandered through the Trade District, weaving her way through the street stalls and fellow traders, she could not help noticing the eyes turning her way- the surreptitious peeks over a shoulder, the seemingly casual glances; although, she reasoned with herself, they were not directed at her so much, as they were the child in her arms. It was true that the year old baby shared the same characteristics as Leafsong herself; the fluff atop her head was the same ivory shade, and her eyes grey.

However, the baby’s features lacked the awkwardness of her mother’s; making her face appear almost a refined version of Leafsong’s own. The crooked teeth and long nose had been redressed by small, neat (and perfectly straight) replacements. Leafsong’s own tangled, wavy hair (now only displaying her natural shade at the roots) was the doormat to Mirae’s fine, silken rug. The grey pupils which appeared clouded and often sulky on Leafsong, were transformed into lustrous silver on her daughter. The combination proved effective; and Mirae, at a meagre one year, was already drawing glances.

Leafsong, who was thoroughly used to being passed over even before she began carrying around this attractive accessory, snorted to herself and ducked into a quieter alleyway. Sitting on the edge of an upturned barrel, Mirae on her lap, she pulled out a corn husk from her satchel and handed it to the baby. Mirae grasped it, and began to gnaw on a corner delicately. Leafsong rocked her back and forth while she ate, snickering immaturely.

“I don’t know where you got your good looks from, baby. Sure as anything, I ain’t beautiful. And your an’da weren’t a stunner even when ‘e was young.”

Mirae blinked up at her mother solemnly, clutching the rusk in her sticky fingers. Leafsong blew a kiss down to her, then cackled quietly to herself.

“Perhaps you got the looks, but no brain. That’d explain why you can’t speak yet. Ha!”

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She finished off the letter with a labourious signature, her letters as round and clumsy as a child’s first penmanship. Running a critical eye over the lopsided paragraphs, she let loose a dismissive huff and rolled up the parchment, ripping off a piece of ribbon with her teeth to tie around the scroll.

“Did you want to add a note to my pa?”

She scowled at her husband, scooping up Loredar with one arm and trotting across the shopfront with the letter in hand. Depositing the baby alongside his sister in the crate which still served as their crib, she squared up to her reflection in the mirror and began to fretfully rake fingers through her ponytail. Flora’s eyes slid sideways to goggle at her brother, and she let out a series of throaty gurgles. Loredar made no reply, blinking sleepily.

“Y’know, like a friendly greeting. How are you, father?”

Aphel frowned at her, peering over the top of the newly-mended reading spectacles which vanity only permitted him to wear indoors. She frowned back, her hair even more rumpled than before after the interference, standing up on top of her head in a series of peaks and whorls.

“How are you, father?” he queried, tapping the tip of the quill on the countertop. “The man is four thousand years younger than me. In addition, in the majority of situations where we are forced to interact, we detest one another.”

She scowled at him, then quickly smoothed her fingers over her forehead to erase any lines. “Pfff. Fine.”

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