Memoirs: Midnight

Stars shone in the clear midnight sky, lightly illuminating the ground below. The air was silent, undisturbed by wind or animal. A fox, sniffing through tree roots in search of a meal, suddenly froze and cocked an ear, sensing something. Branches whispered in the canopy above.

***

The horse walked slowly into the sleeping village. It was led by a slim, dark-haired woman robed in a black-edged purple dress. Draped across the horse’s saddle lay a man wrapped in a torn and bloody traveling cloak. He was obviously seriously injured, with a wide gash across his forehead, and was not moving.

The woman stopped outside the stables at the inn and tethered the horse before turning to check on the man. She then briefly disappeared inside before returning with a stable-hand, who lifted down the injured traveler and carried him into the inn. The woman made to follow but paused in the doorway, glancing left at the forest’s edge. She was certain something had moved in the corner of her eye, but the trees were still. She frowned and continued inside.

***

Overhead, a shadow shifted imperceptibly. But the fox could neither see nor hear anything. Growling dismissively, it continued its search.

Memoirs: Moving On

In which Veliaf leaves Northshire Valley for the wider world.

The freezing morning air numbed Veliaf’s fingers and shocked his lungs as he stepped out of the inn to face the new day. The sun had risen not long ago and a chill mist, not yet dispersed by wind or heat, still hung above the dew-covered grasses of Northshire Valley. The ground was hard and crisp underfoot, probably signifying the beginnings of a frost, and the moon was still faintly visible in the clear sky. Temperatures in the Valley had dropped dramatically with the recent transition into November, and many in the settlement were now preparing for the harsh winter months as autumn faded away.

Leaving the frosted windows of the inn behind him, Veliaf strode across the barren forecourt and out onto the road, turning south and heading for the trail which would lead down towards the hills and, eventually, the exit from the Valley. It was a shame – he liked the area, with its peaceful vineyards and its cosy community, but mercenaries generally could not afford the luxury of staying for too long in one place. Issues of  reputation aside, the absence of work meant that he would not be able to afford his keep for the winter, and so regrettably he would have to move on and try to find a job elsewhere. Pulling his leather gloves tighter onto his hands, he strode on.

He had been walking for maybe forty minutes, following the stream which had earlier flowed by the Abbey and now gushed alongside the path, when he spotted the guard post in the distance which signalled the boundary between Northshire Valley and the rest of Elwynn Forest. The air was still chillingly cold, and the two lone guards were seated around a small fire just off to one side of the path. As Veliaf, approached, they stood up, chain-mail clanking, and the near one spoke:

“Now then sir, leavin’ for the forest are we, eh? What’ll be your business there then, eh?” The guard’s young features twisted into a suspicious frown.

“Well right now I am headed for the nearest stable to purchase a horse. Either of you two gentlemen care to direct me?” Veliaf replied curtly, annoyed at the interruption.

“How’s about I tell you that when you tell me what your business really is, eh? It’s almost winter. Most people don’t like t’ travel in winter.”

“Well, I don’t have much choice. My business is private, thank you.”

“Is that so, eh?” The guard took a step forward, blocking the path, and shifted his hand towards the sword on his belt. Before he could move further, the other guard, older and weathered, put a hand on his companion’s shoulder and addressed them both:

“Alright, calm down, this is silly. Sir, the closest stable is in Goldshire, just follow the path down into the town. Forgive my colleague here for being overly cautious but some strange traffic passes us these days, and it’s our job to keep folks safe from danger.”

Veliaf nodded. “It’s fine. Thank you for the information; I’ll be on my way now.”

Stepping around the still-tense younger guard, he subtly relaxed his hand from its grip on his concealed dagger under his traveling cloak and wrapped the worn garment around himself once more to keep out the cold. Walking through the guard post – really little more than a walled cover over a small stone bridge – he continued along the path and into the forest.

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Memoirs: Bandits

In which we see Veliaf in action.

Veliaf rode quickly and quietly across the moonlit moorland, his borrowed steed moving effortlessly underneath him. It was a crisp, clear night, with the heavens unobscured by cloud, and the waxing moon shone brightly onto the grass and heather below. Coming across the remnants of an old fence, he glimpsed a torn scrap of a red woolen bandanna caught on a salient nail: Defias. Veliaf hated the word, but at least they gave him business.

The first work order in days had come in earlier that evening regarding a small homestead on the southern side of Northshire Valley. The elderly owners had been forced to flee the night before, abandoning both property and belongings, at the sight of approaching bandits on horseback, the telltale red bandannas revealing the intruders for who they were. The Defias Brotherhood was an organization of bandits and highwaymen which had sprung up several years before from the disgruntled Stonemasons, the guild which had rebuilt most of Stormwind City after the Second War. When the corrupt aristocracy in the House of Nobles had refused them payment, the workers had begun spreading disarray and unrest throughout the country, under the justification of taking what was rightfully theirs. Stealing, looting and pillaging wherever they went, they were becoming a real problem, and with the Stormwind Guard spread thin and powerless to do anything the people had begun to look to paid mercenaries to deal with the threat.

Now, as he pulled up under the tree line at the edge of a field overlooking the farm, Veliaf turned his mind towards the task at hand. He had been tasked to remove the bandits, who had apparently decided to use the buildings as a local base, although that could be a task easier said than done judging by the numbers of men below him. He counted three sitting around a campfire near the barn, and there were probably more inside. However, the lack of any perimeter guards presented an opportunity, and also gave him a key piece of information: there surely was no senior group leader, or the robbers would be better organised, and this would give him an advantage if he could surprise them.

Dismounting to tie his horse to a stout oak, Veliaf removed his sword from where it was loosely wrapped in cloth behind the saddle and attached it to his belt alongside his dagger. Leaving the mount to graze, he crept forward with one hand cautiously on his weapon to plan his attack. Thankfully the farm buildings were set out in a traditional layout that he was familiar with; the farmhouse lay to the left of a well ploughed field, the hay barn to the right, and in between were a small stone well, an outhouse and several pieces of machinery. Looking at the structures it was reasonable to assume that if the Defias needed to retreat they would head for the barn, since it was far easier to defend than the house, and therefore any surprise attack needed to come from the opposite direction to drive the men into a less defensible position. Helpfully, the light from the campfire threw dark shadows onto the barn doors, creating an ideal spot from which to ambush. Keeping an eye on the campfire, Veliaf began to descend down the slope to his right.

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Memoirs: Morning

In which we take a closer look at Veliaf.

Veliaf awoke slowly to the sound of twittering birds, blinking in the sunlight which was filtering through the inn’s slatted wooden shutters and across his pillow. Sitting upright against the headboard, he took a moment to remember where he was, and then glanced around the rented room.

The four poster bed he lay in was typical of those found in the Elwynn-style inns, with light drapes hanging from each side of the canopy and a woollen bedspread covering white sheets. Directly across from the foot of the bed was the door leading to the first floor of the inn, and next to it in the corner of the room stood a wooden wardrobe with a full-length mirror down one side. In another corner, underneath the silled window, was a small washbasin, but otherwise the room was bare save for the light overhead and a plain sheepskin rug over the floorboards.

Sliding out from underneath the covers, he stood upright on the rug, stretched with a yawn, and walked across to the basin, where he thoroughly scrubbed his face and neck with the icy water before straightening and catching sight of himself in the wardrobe’s mirror. He was of average build for a human, standing at about six feet with a toned muscular body from working long hours as a labourer, though his chest was crisscrossed with faint scars from the other side of his mercenary work. His straight, thick, brown hair hung down just below the level of his chin, which itself was covered by a neatly trimmed beard, and his intelligent brown eyes were partly obscured underneath ferocious eyebrows.

Turning away, he pulled on a light brown tunic, matching trousers and his usual leather boots. Grabbing his small hunting dagger from where it lay sheathed underneath his pillow and fixing it to his buckled belt, he pulled open the door and headed out onto the landing. After quickly giving the other doors a cursory glance, to the right was a narrow flight of stairs leading down to the ground floor, and it was these Veliaf took. Arriving out in the main area of the inn, the room appeared to be populated only by the bartender and a few other early risers.

“Ah good mornin’ to you squire! What’ll it be? A hearty breakfast? An ale to get you on your merry way?” The barman, a thickset chap in his late thirties who looked more like the local blacksmith than the chef, leant across the bar.

“Morning. I’ll take the fried breakfast thanks, but hold the ale.” Veliaf grimaced. He had never been a fan of excessive drinking, and any kind of drinking at this early hour was pretty excessive in his book.

“Certainly sir! I’ll have that ready for you in just a few moments.”

“Thanks. So, any new work in today?”

“‘Fraid not, least we haven’t had any new notices up. Haven’t had none fer days now.” He gestured over his shoulder towards an empty noticeboard hanging behind the bar pumps. “Though you could always check th’ signpost outside. Here’s yer breakfast anyhow.”

Veliaf accepted the steaming plate of food and carried it over to a table by the fireplace. He sighed. It was going to be another unpaid day.

Memoirs: Autumn

In which we set the scene and briefly introduce the main character of our story.

It was early October, and the leaves of Elwynn Forest were just beginning to change and fall from the trees, covering the usually green forest floor with a smattering of rich reds and earthy browns. The sun was beginning to dip in the clear sky, silhouetting the Northshire Abbey against a blazing orange sunset, and the air was warm, the cool breeze having faded away earlier in the day. In the distance to the north, the sheer backs of the Blackrock Mountains which formed part of the valley shone gold with the sun’s reflected light.

The Abbey itself was a cheerful white-brick building with red roof tiles, stained glass windows and a square bell tower, similar in its design to many other buildings dedicated to the teachings of the Light. It had been extended in the past to include a library, kitchen and crypt, but work had halted in recent years due to the lack of available manpower, and a variety of tools and building equipment now lay abandoned next to the small churchyard. Next to the Abbey, a small stream, which flowed down from the mountains and through the valley before entering the forest proper, provided water for the inhabitants of Northshire as well as irrigation for the vineyards that the area was famous for.

While there were some small farmhouses dotted around the landscape, most of the buildings in the area were grouped close to the Abbey both for ease of access and for protection, since this was where the local guards had their residences. War could touch anywhere, and even the inhabitants of Northshire Valley knew this well. The fight against the enemy Horde was taking its toll on the Kingdom of Stormwind, a name which rang somewhat hollow now that the King had been missing for so long. Leadership had instead fallen to his ten-year old son, the Prince Reagent Anduin Wrynn, who ruled with the help of his close advisors, army general Bolvar Fordragon and noblewoman Katrana Prestor. Yet the country struggled; most of the army had been drafted either overseas or to the far north of the continent, leaving the remnants spread thinly to watch over the Kingdom, and the strain was beginning to show. There were enemies both within and without.

On this sunny afternoon in Northshire however, the war was for once at the back of the community’s mind as it busied itself bringing in the harvest before winter set in. Buckets of grapes were stacked around the fields, ready to be inspected and crushed into wine for transportation to Stormwind City itself, where the finished product could be bottled and sold. The going price would be low, but it was a living. Men and women toiled even at this late hour, picking the fruits and carting buckets around, and the air was filled with the sounds of workers shouting, horses snorting and carts creaking.

In a field on the western side of the valley, one man straightened up and wiped his brow with a cloth. He was finished for the day – the light would soon fade and there was not much more that could be done before he hopefully would renew his temporary contract the next morning. Picking up his backpack, he walked steadily through the rows of vines to the farmhouse where he could collect his payment. Such was the life of a mercenary; a living had to be made, whether by fighting or by farming, and tomorrow he could be doing anything from hunting wolves to felling trees – whatever payed the most.

Approaching the building, the worker was raising his hand to knock at the thick oak door when it swung open, revealing a cosy interior and a large, round farmer standing in the doorway, who scowled as he rooted around in a small moneybag attached to his overalls.

“Come for yer payment then, eh, Mister Veliaf?”, drawled the farmer.

“As we agreed. Will there be work for me tomorrow?”

“Who knows? I could wake up tomorra and not have any work meself! Come an’ see me in the mornin’ and we’ll see.”

“Right.”

Veliaf accepted the small copper coins and put them into a pouch on his belt. Nodding at the farmer, he turned, hoisted his backpack over his shoulder, and strolled over to the field’s gate, which let out onto the path down towards the Abbey and, more importantly for Veliaf, the local inn.

Memoirs

This Tuesday, I’ll be publishing the first installment in what I hope will be a long-running fiction series, set around the life of my WoW character Veliaf.

The series will be based on both my experiences in the game (hence the name of the series, Memoirs) with a little bit of deviation here and there if it suits the plot, but I want to stick to the ‘true story’ theme as much as possible. Hopefully it’ll be a good read, and certainly it’s not something I’ve really done before, so if nothing else it’s a bit of an adventure for me. I’m planning the series to be LONG – after all, I started playing back in 2006! The plot will also be set as the game was at the time e.g. when I started playing, Varian Wrynn was still missing, so until the story catches up with the Wrath story line he won’t make an appearance. Things like that.

I can’t promise a regular schedule for the stories (though at least one a week would be nice), but when they do go up I’ll be happy to accept any and all feedback in the comments, whether it’s constructive criticism or suggestions for things I could include, etc.

Enjoy!

Vel.

P.S. If you’ve ever met me in the game, you’ll probably see yourself featured, so keep an eye out!

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