Stuck

Leafsong stared without blinking at the sight before her eyes. Analith had somehow managed to defy all bounds of reason and get himself trapped inside one of Farmer Wollerton’s prize pumpkins. He sat there, cackling, his plump arms and legs sticking out of the hollowed out, sticky mass. Leafsong had realised too late that this was one of those ideas that she would come to severely regret later.

Glancing over her shoulder nervously, she tugged at Analith’s small arm.

“Come on Ani. Playtime over.”

“NooooOooo min’daa!” he roared, twisting his head away from her. “More play.”

She bared her teeth and growled at him. He snarled back. The stubborn amber glare was identical to his father’s. She moaned, recognising impending defeat.

“Losing a battle of wills to a two year old?” commented a voice acerbically from behind her. Leafsong jumped slightly, turning to see Elurina with the twins in her arms, Mirae clinging to her knee. As usual, the glamorous older Kaldorei trailed several admirers at a distance – two humans this week and, unusually, a Draenei.

Leafsong raised her eyebrow, reaching out to cuddle Mirae as the little girl toddled shakily to her mother’s side.

“A Draenei, grenmaw?”

Elurina shrugged elegantly, stooping to place both squirming twins on the blanket beside Leafsong.

“I know, odd fellow. I think he’s attracted to these more than anything – Draenei are always covetous of shiny objects.”

She tucked a strand of gleaming hair behind her ear to show off a single brilliant Highbourne earring, a waterfall of crystal and green glass beads. Leafsong looked at it, enviously. Elurina rolled her eyes.

“You know, young one, the contents of the ancestral chest are as much yours as mine. It’s not my fault that you don’t choose to wear them.”

Leafsong looked over at her beautiful grandmother, who was wearing iridescent yellow -pink robes with floating layers of gauze, adorned with tiny glass beads. She sighed inwardly, smoothing down the frayed hem of her plain cotton tunic.

“I dunno, grenmaw. Somehow I fink they’d look silly on me.”

Elurina raised an eyebrow. “If you will.” She sharpened her tone. “Analith Shalah’aman. OUT!”

Analith meekly extracted himself from the pumpkin and stood before his great-grandmother, head bowed. Leafsong goggled.

“Grenmaw, how-?!”

Elurina shot Leafsong a wicked smile. “I can keep ALL the Shalah’aman men in line.”

“Grenmaw!!”

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Camp

Leafsong’s feet pounded the cobbles as she raced through the streets of Stormwind, leaving indignant cries and muttered curses in her sharp-elbowed wake. One refined madam with a fur stole nearly took a plunge into the canal as Leafsong rudely barged past her. The dowager let loose a stream of unladylike blasphemy as Leafsong’s white curls flashed around a corner.

A few moments later, Leafsong arrived at the Royal Post Sorting Office, an expansive building in the Trade District. Charging breathlessly up to the counter, she gasped out her old address.

“GHE branch, The Park, Stormwind,” repeated the postmaster, bending beneath the counter to check in the stacks of undelivered mail. “Ah, yes, here we go- um- the Royal Post is not responsible for breakages…”

Leafsong ignored the crumpled package and instead snatched up the thin vellum envelope with her name on it. Ripping open the side, she poured over the contents of the letter with increasing dismay. After several minutes of comparison with a second letter she had taken from her pocket, she let out a howl of dismay.

—-

Later, in the house, Ashamal stalked the small living room, pacing around Analith and Mirae as they played with glass animals on the rug. Leafsong sat slumped in the armchair, the twins in her lap, looking mutinous.

“What on earth possessed you to sign up for this damned thing, anyway?” he snarled eventually, tossing the letter to the rug. Analith snatched it up and began to gnaw, hungrily.

“It were seven months ago!” wailed Leafsong pathetically, extracting a curl from Flora’s chubby fist. “I ‘ad just had the twins. I was feeling flabby!”

“But- this! A boot camp run by Sentinels?! What were you thinking, it’ll be a week of torture! You’ll never hack it.”

“I knooooow” she moaned, bowing her head. “I can’t pretend to be sick though, Sentinel Captain Dawnwing saw me carrying twenty eight pumpkins at once across the field yesterday.”

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Eggs

Leafsong knelt in the long grasses outside the cottage; her face suffused with concentration. Before her, carefully half-buried in an earthen pit, lay one of her mate’s metallic chestplates, gleaming blue-silver in the low afternoon sunlight. Ashaid, lying in the shade of the cottage wall, stared at her with a look of barely concealed hatred, whilst simultaneously keeping one golden eye on the fattest of his master’s young, who had just begun to crawl.

As Flora trundled off to explore a particularly interesting rock; her easygoing brother, who had not yet achieved mobilisation, sat up against his mother’s thigh and waved a handful of grasses, while Mirae sprinkled water from Ashaid’s drinking vial over his leg.

“Fowas” intoned Mirae, her delicate features solemn. Leafsong snorted, reaching out with a finger to touch the surface of the chestplate. After two hours in the unseasonably warm winter sun, it was hot to the touch.

“Flowers?” she replied to the little girl, wiping sweat from her forehead. “You won’t get no lick growing flowers off your brother. He is a BOY not a seed.”

Mirae looked confused for a moment. “See?”

Leafsong nodded, then yelped as her two and a half year old son ambushed her from behind with a twig.

“Ouch!! Analiff, you little beast!”

Analith let out a cackle, then spotted the objects in Leafsong’s basket. He looked perplexed.

“Eggs.”

“Yes, Ani.”

“Eggs….. Eat eggs?” he replied, hopefully, then looked crestfallen as she shook her head.

“No, not yet, anyway.”

Nudging Loredar out of the way, she reached for an egg, and broke it over her husband’s chestplate. It was quickly followed by the second one. She tossed the shells over her shoulder and they hit Ashaid in the muzzle. He imagined savaging her viciously.

After a few moments, the egg yolks began to sizzle dutifully, yellow liquid seeping into the ornate etched design. Leafsong crowed in triumph; Analith looked disapproving.

“Bad min’da,” he said eventually, giving her another reproachful smack with the twig. Flora, who had been exploring the property boundary, smelt food and shot back over as fast as her chubby hands and feet could carry her. Leafsong kept her grasping hands away from the hot metal.

“No, it ain’t cooked yet, and besides, you only eat mashed up veggies.”

Flora looked devastated. Mirae, peering around Leafsong’s crouched form, let out a happy cry.

“An’dagh!”

As Ashamal came around the side of the cottage, she toddled over to meet him. He strode over to Leafsong and, bending down to kiss her, noticed the cooking eggs. His jaw dropped.

“Is that the ceremonial armour I was awarded in Silithus?”

Leafsong looked shifty.

“I, um. Made dinner. Poached or scrambled?”

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Pumpkin theft

The stealing of the pumpkins took place weekly, and involved the whole family (barring Aphel, who wanted no part of it). Analith, clambering over the ploughed furrows of earth with some effort, kept an eye out for the possessive farmer. Mirae, plump and pretty, perched on top of a large pumpkin a few feet away; her delicate features sure to draw any eye away from her unprepossessing mother. The twins shared their cloth sling with several smaller squashes. Leafsong knew that morally it was dubious to steal food from the man who already let them their cottage at a generous rate; especially since they were not short of money. It was, however, a remnant of her upbringing in poverty – that she was physically unable to live on the edge of a field of ripe crops and not avail herself of it occasionally. Or, weekly.

Once she had gathered up three large pumpkins, she quickly swapped them for the twins. Flora and Loredar, blinking in mild confusion, were laid gently out in the tangle of unearthed roots. Sticking her fingers in her teeth, Leafsong let out a shrill whistle. Ashaid, Aphel’s most loyal saber – whose job it was to protect the family whilst Aphel was doing business- slunk a few feet closer, his amber eyes fixated on the children. He didn’t care much for the skinny mate that his master had chosen (she was weak, yet greedy); but he would give his life readily to protect his master’s young offspring.

Leafsong staggered back to the cottage, appearing heavily pregnant with the quantity of pilfered food held against her belly. With a last surreptitious glance over her shoulder, keeping an eye out for Wollerton, she shoved her hip against the front door to open it, slipping inside. Aphel, sitting at the desk, took off his glasses and turned around. As he saw a flash of orange underneath the frayed hem of his mate’s shirt, he groaned.

“Darling, we have a bountiful variety of food from the market. Why does it always have to be pumpkin?”

“Because – the pumpkin – is – FREE!” she snarled through gritted teeth, stamping across the room to release her load in the corner. A squash rolled across the wooden floorboards and came to rest beside Aphel’s foot. He resisted the urge to stamp on it.

“Pumpkin omelette yesterday morning,” he said, trying to control the rising volume of his voice. “Pumpkin soup with pumpkin chunks for lunch. Mashed pumpkin with pumpkin balls for dinner. Stewed pumpkin for breakfast this morning.”

She bristled, defiantly. “So? Pumpkin is a delicious and nutritious fruit.”

“Vegetable.”

“What?”

“It’s a vegetable, not a fruit.”

“But it’s got seeds,” she pointed out, reasonably. He paused for a moment, the creases in his brow deepening.

“So it does. Hm. I will have to think on this.”

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Nighttime

Leafsong woke with a start in the middle of the night. Reflexively she glanced around the small roomed cottage, performing the usual checks.

Door shut? It was.

Windows? The same.

Crib? Intact and with four softly snoring lumps.

Mate?

He was not present at her side, leaving a cold patch of bed in his wake.

Across the room, she spotted his silhouette hunched at the writing desk. Two candles guttered in metal holders, surrounded by piles of parchment and scattered texts. She propped herself up on her elbows, squinting across the gloom.

“Come back to bed,” she whispered plaintively, sliding a foot gingerly across the freezing half of the bed. “It’s bloody freezing.”

He started and looked over his shoulder at her, round spectacles perched on his nose. He only wore those spectacles when he was poring over the most cryptic and indecipherable of his considerable library of archaic texts.

“I’ll be one minute,” he murmured, turning back to the desk.

Ten minutes later, Leafsong (now fed up) clutched the sheet around her bare shoulders and climbed out of bed. Tugging the trailing blanket away from the dying embers in the grate, she padded across the floorboards. Pushing aside strands of his greying hair, she rested her chin on his shoulder.

“What are you looking at?” she asked, curiously, squinting through the gloom. It appeared to be a religious tome, hand-inked, with the text oddly running from top to bottom. There was a millennia-old depiction of Elune in the centre of the page, surrounded by etchings that looked more suited to a satyr monument than a holy Elunite text. There was a shadow across the goddess’ face, making her appear almost bestial.

He pulled her onto his lap, simultaneously closing the book.

“Nothing, darling.”

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Exercise

Winter’s Veil gifts received: six.
Winter’s Veil weight put on: sixteen pounds. Or the equivalent of two and a half bags of flour. Oh dear!

I think that I may start up my exercise regime again. I used to host a very popular aerobic routine class on the Cathedral steps. One time, a whole unit of guards joined in! I’ve never seen them so out of breath!

(Note from A.S: They did not join in; they were trying to arrest you for loitering and being a nuisance.)

Bah! I hate it when my lifemate steals my quill and vandalises my MEMOIRS. He’s such an oppressor. In the future, the value of this text will be severely damaged through his inane scribblings.

Anyway, as I was saying, I am thinking about starting up an exercise regime once more. There is a very convenient lake a few minutes walk away across the field; I may take this opportunity to improve my swimming. I will also practice vaulting over the Wollerton boundary fences.

It is ridiculous that my mate, a man of venerable years, is more athletic than me. He is lean, but muscled. I have about as much muscle on me as a scrawny pullet-hen. I need to increase my body mass. I want to be like those Sentinel warriors, with biceps the size of their heads!

Actually, maybe not. The size of a grapefruit would suffice

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Stargazing pt 1

The evening sky above Stormwind was the deep blue-black of scholar’s ink, stars scattered across its expanse; like tiny gems flung over a roll of dark velvet. The moon hung so low in the sky, indolent and bloated, as if the White Lady herself had indulged in the Winter’s Veil excesses. Despite it being midwinter, the temperature was relatively mild; Stormwind had enjoyed the warming breezes that had blown their way up from balmy Stranglethorn. It was not the season for southern winds, but the event commonly referred to as the Cataclysm had thrown the elements themselves into disarray. Snow was melting earlier than was usual, certain animals were waking up from hibernation and wandering the woods in confusion, looking for absent prey.

Just outside the city walls, sloping plains gave way to the cliffs that flanked the harbour. Farmers had given up on this tangled scrub-land, where the grass grew to knee-height and beyond unhindered. There were no guard patrols in this isolated woodland, no stone-marked pathways or wrought iron lamps. No light save for the lazy moon tinged the uniform darkness of the undulating plain. It was hard to believe that only ten minutes away lay one of the busiest and noisiest districts in Stormwind; any wanderer venturing beyond the safe yellow light of the lanterns would feel as if he had stumbled through some mage portal and ended up in the midst of the Highlands. It was also the perfect place for privacy; especially for a couple who shared a very small cottage with a belligerent grandmother and four squalling babies.

Ashamal was used to lying hidden amongst long grasses; though most times he was flat on his belly, rifle in hand relying on his hawk-like vision to gauge the aim as he prepared to take a shot. This time he was on his back on the flattened turf, the evening dew dampening his leathers, rifle within easy reach. He was murmuring lowly to his reclining mate, the quietness of his tone stealing the gruff bass from his voice. One arm was raised, a tapered finger tracing the shapes of the constellations.

“This is the most well-known star pattern, Elune’s Seat; which is also known as the Bear. It is only visible when the Blue Child is in the ascendency.”

Leafsong squinted up at the stars, her head resting against his shoulder. Her legs were bent, the knees covered in grass stains. She stared at the sky, closing an eye, following the line of his finger. After a moment of dubious squinting, she shook her head.

“Ain’t there.”

He swivelled his eyes to the top of her curly head, nonplussed.

“What?”

She looked up at him, her earnest gaze meeting his venerable one.

“It. Ain’t. There.”

“You mean to say, that a constellation studied by scholars for millenia, the focus of entire theories and books and studies, the subject of poems and song cycles, isn’t actually there?”

She nodded, stubbornly. He stroked the top of his hand over her head, snorting to himself as she muttered to herself, darkly.

“Alright then, my darling. What do you see then, when you look up at our Holy Mother’s home?”

Leafsong tapped her fingers against her lips, studying the vast heavens above with intense concentration, her brow furrowed. The long grasses around them shifted; Ashamal reached for his rifle instinctively, but it was merely the wind blowing through the rushes. After a few moments, Leafsong raised her own finger to trace out a shape in the sky.

“I see a demon.”

“What.”

She persisted, infuriatingly. “A demon. One of them.. ah, horned ones. Felguard.”

Ashamal hissed softly in her ear. “Are you mad? Why would Elune raise up a cursed demon to immortalise in the stars?”

She shrugged, already losing interest. “I don’t know. Maybe he were an hero of his people and She wanted to honour him?”

An hero,” he repeated, astounded. “You are..a most peculiar girl.”

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