[ An RP transcript between myself and another player, stored here for posterity. ]

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She smelled of salt and leather and horses, dusty and sweat-streaked and tired from several days of travel. Fear and excitement warred in the pit of her stomach as she finally slid from the horse’s back, safe in her father’s custody – but not for much longer. The Abbey was an imposing building of sandstone, so much larger than her home, made bigger by the expectation which accompanied it.

The weight of his hand on her shoulder was like an anchor, and she reached, impulsive, to grip his fingers. She was nine years old, and on the verge of leaving home forever.

“I don’t want to go, dad – I miss mom, I don’t want to be a priest!”

Her father paused, looking down at his daughter. He smiled at her, teeth white against the steel bristles of his beard, and his hand tightened on her shoulder, eyes misty. “Don’t let your fear hold you back, Dolly. There’s never been a Keates with the aptitude before. This is your chance – make the most of it, girl!”

His voice was gruff, but still warm, full of love and admiration. She closed her eyes, swallowing hard past the fear that lodged in her throat, and let her hand slide from his to curl to a fist at her side.

It took a few moments before she was ready to keep walking. Opening her eyes, she looked toward the Abbey again, studying its walls anxiously for some sign, some -something- which would tell her this was the right thing to do.

Her father’s broad-tipped fingers squeezed her shoulder again, and he followed her gaze. “You’ll get the best training there is here. You’ll learn how to heal the sick; you’ll bring hope to the downtrodden. A priest is important, Dolly; maybe not as flashy as a soldier or a king, but without hope there is nothing.”

She nodded quietly, and squared her shoulders, lifting her hand to take the bridle of her pony. “Without hope, there is nothing.” She repeated the words stubbornly, and glanced up at him. “Alright.”

She was thirteen years old, and she no longer needed her father’s hand on her shoulder to protect her. They sat in a circle by candlelight, casting wary glances over their shoulders and smothering giggles with their hands.

“Truth or dare, Dolly!” The girl who asked was pale and blonde, her eyes a striking amber which seemed even prettier in the firelight. She smiled, and her her teeth were crooked, lending character to her thin features.

Dolores felt her face flush pink, and her heart beat a little faster, though she wasn’t sure why. “D-dare!” She sputtered, flashing her own easy smile in turn. The girl’s eyes widened in delight, and she squiggled closer to the fire, extending a hand over the candle’s flame.

“I dare you – to heal me! For real, this time!”

There was a gasp from the circle, and another girl hissed – “But you’re not even hurt, how can-”

“Listen, look – it’ll only hurt a little, but I want to see how it feels, you know? I want Dolly to do it.”

Her heart beat faster and Dolores shook her head quickly, but the protest turned to a squeal on her lips as Charlotte squinched her eyes closed and thrust her palm into the flame; the girl sitting next to her yanked her arm away, but too late. Already, the skin was red, a small, angry blister rising.

Dolores gasped. “Light, Lottie, why!” She seized Lottie’s hand, and it was warm and soft to the touch. Clenching her teeth, she closed her eyes tightly and bowed her head, hissing a prayer more fervent than any she’d uttered before, cupping Lottie’s hand with both of hers.

She heard the other girls gasp and opened one eye, a little surprised to see the intensity of the Light she’d called. But it was Lottie’s face which startled her most.

Lottie was smiling at her, and in the glow of her Light, Dolores was suddenly strike by how beautiful she was, crooked teeth and all. She was radiant, and she was smiling, right at Dolly. Her skin suddenly felt too warm, and abruptly, she let the other girl’s hand go.

The moment passed, and no one else seemed aware of it. They crowded around Lottie, begging to see.

The blister was gone, as if it had never been. But something still burned.

Charlotte and Dolores sat side by side on the dormitory floor, the blonde’s head resting atop her knees and her arms circled tightly about her legs. “I feel like I’m losing it, Dolly! When the Shadows come over me, I don’t feel like myself anymore, I – I don’t like it. It makes me afraid; afraid of who I am, of what I can do!”

Dolores let her hand linger on Lottie’s shoulder, shaking her head as she squeezed. “You’re scared ‘cause it’s all new to you, but it’s like Mother Anita said – there can’t be Light without Shadow. It’s just two sides of the same coin. Anything’s scary, first time you do it.”

They were seventeen, and Charlotte lifted her head from her knees long enough to shoot Dolly a watery smirk, eyes red and features blotchy from crying. “Some things aren’t.”

Dolores felt her face flush bright red, and leaned over to plant a kiss on Charlotte’s cheek to hide her embarassment. “That’s different and you know it. Be serious for a minute.”

She reached for Charlotte’s hands, and the other priestess allowed her arms to be drawn away from her legs, twining her fingers with Dolly’s.

“This – these shadows? They’re still part of you, whether you use ’em or not. You’re still you, and don’t let any magic convince you otherwise. It’s just different, and you’re not used to it. Don’t let being afraid hold you back; you’re the only one of us that’s got this power.”

Charlotte’s smirk faded, and she looked aside. “But I didn’t want it. Ever since I first met you, all I wanted was…”

Her voice seemed to catch, her gaze suddenly drawn to the floor boards of the dormitory. Dolly let the silence linger, patient, and studied their fingers, clasping together. Charlotte was so pale, her fingers long and thin. Her own hands were broader, the color of tea with cream. They looked right together, even if they were different.

“All I wanted was to be – with you. Around you, just near you. I wanted us to work together. I wanted to be able to tend the sick and the dying, right by your side, even before we ever – … But if I’m this – this shadow-caster… if I have this power, then they’re going to want me to use it. They’re going to take me away from you, and what’s going to happen then, Dolly?”

Dolores felt her heart sink, but kept her face quiet. She pulled a hand away from Charlotte’s, and carefully tucked a strand of pale hair behind her ear, leaning to press her forehead against the side of her lover’s head.

“Nothing’s going to happen to us, that’s what. Wherever you go, I’ll go too. I love you, Charlotte – and nothing’s gonna change that.”

The day Charlotte left the Abbey was grey and miserable. It came sooner rather than later, and Dolores barely even spoke her intention to follow Lottie before it was shut down.

“You haven’t an ounce of shadow magic in you, Dolores Keates. This is where you belong, and where you will stay – you will complete your training in a year’s time, and take your vows, and follow your assigned roles in the world. The Light of Creation calls us where it will; there is no place for you alongside Charlotte. Not now.”

She’d promised herself she wouldn’t cry; not while Lottie was looking. She promised herself she’d be strong enough for the both of them. Lottie’s life was the one changing, and the best she could do was support her, encourage her… and let her go.

Charlotte was destined to be something greater than all of them. She knew it in her heart, had known since the day Charlotte had unflinchingly burnt her hand. She was brave and she was good, and the shadows which had so frightened her all those months ago were far more powerful than any initiate priestess had ever wielded in Crestfall’s abbey.

So Dolly didn’t cry. The girl she loved more than anything in the world was going to embrace her power, was going to become much more than a priestess. The best thing she could do was to help her move forward, to encourage her to become the best she could be.

At first, Lottie tried to refuse, said she wouldn’t, couldn’t leave… but really, it wasn’t her choice. Dolores pointed out all the positives, painted glowing stories of her beautiful lover’s future, of all the ways she could help people – already, Charlotte had shown an aptitude for telepathy. She could change the world. She could save lives, and help heal those whose minds had shattered in battle.

And no matter how much she wanted to cry, Dolores wouldn’t let herself, just kept talking more and more about how wonderful things would be.

Charlotte didn’t like it. She wanted to live in the moment, but – the moments they had were so fleeting, so bittersweet, so overshadowed by the future that loomed before them.

When they finally took her away, Charlotte didn’t look back. It was a good thing, too. Dolly broke her promise. She couldn’t keep the tears from streaming down her face, as she watched the sails furl and the boat pull away from the dock. She felt her heart tremble, felt herself break down and sob.

Mother Anita’s hand moved to rest on her shoulder, heavy. There was little comfort to it.


She became aware of herself in bits, in pieces.

Recollection fluttered like a moth in a jar, beating itself against a barrier it could not comprehend. She had only the vaguest impression, a shape of what had once been her self; the smell of lavendar and rot, silk so so tattered that it was no more than stained cobwebs. The feel of her tongue touching the back of her teeth. A hand, warm, brushing hair from her forehead. Stone. A dog barking. A trigger against her finger. She felt power and powerlessness; she felt regret. Anger.

But it was the places in which she felt nothing that were the worst of all. There should have been — but there wasn’t.

It was different from forgetting. It was as if it had never been.


There was no resisting that command; there was no question of struggle. It simply was, and so she did.

Her eyes opened, and the world was grey. The things she saw she couldn’t understand, didn’t try to understand, it was too much work to make sense of it. She should have recognized these things, she knew she ought to know what they were, what they meant. But the connection couldn’t be made, was impossible to be made – if there was meaning to be seen, she could not see it.

Dimly, she felt herself close her eyes, felt her thoughts organize in such a way that she didn’t have to know what some part of her knew. She focused, instead, on the command she had been given; it felt good to obey. She knew that good was not something she felt often, though she didn’t know why.

It took a while before she realized that her tongue was moving, that her lips were cupped in such a way as to form words – one word, again and again. How strange a thing, yet once she noticed, she had no power to stop it. Some part of her knew that there should be a sound coming from her as she did so, but there was nothing, no vibration in her chest to indicate noise…

The silence was deafening.

Shouldn’t there be

It had felt good to obey. She focused on what she had been told to do. Awaken, she’d been told. Was she sleeping?

Her eyes were closed. She opened them so as to be sure. Her lips kept doing the same thing, again and again, like a metronome, like the tick-tick-ticking of a watch’s gears, like a heartbe

Something moved beside her. It took effort to shift her eyes, which seemed strange; hadn’t they always moved of their own accord before? Hadn’t they always tracked motion without conscious thought?

There was a length of dessicated green, and hands were trying to stitch something on to it – it looked like a spider, grey and sickly. With some effort, she moved the – arm, it was her arm, yes that was right, her arm

It was important. There shouldn’t be a hand on it, and she resisted the efforts to stitch one there. It didn’t belong. Why didn’t it belong?


No – the word! That was what she kept mouthing, but it was silent, it wouldn’t ‘say’. Why wouldn’t it say?

Focusing, she tried again, then again. The needle-wielding hands seized her arm, attempting to stitch the foreign fingers to her wrist


She had forgotten to breathe, of course.

…. wait.

Her father’s greenhouse was cool and bright, half sunken into the ground with stained glass windows reflecting brilliant color against the sand-colored stone. Medicinal plants grew in deep clay pots, the smell of leaves and blossoms mingling with cool wet earth and pungent herbs. It was here that her great uncle rested, and it was here where he would spend the last of his days.

It was strange to see him so thin and pale, his skin like well-worn leather pulled tight against the bones of his cheeks. He resembled nothing so much as a skeleton, animate only with labored breath. His was a cruel disease – not content to strip the old man of the rangy muscle that he’d worked for all his life, it had also taken his vitality and strength of will… what was left seemed little more than an echo of the man she’d known, recognizable only by moments. This emaciated elder seemed a stranger to her now, and she couldn’t help but mourn for the loss.

She reached to grip his bony fingers, her head bowing against the desert breeze that gently stirred the slender stalks of Angelica at the foot of his bed. His door was open; she’d left it so. Hakeem Sulayman had always been a man who enjoyed the wind and sand and unrelenting sun – as beautiful as her father’s estate was, there was something bitterly cruel, that he should die so far from the elements he’d called home. At least she could do this much – she could give him the wind, dulled and muted to barely a whisper. It was something.

He stirred, his rasping breath turning to a cough; his eyes suddenly snapped open, beetle-bright and fixing her with a hard stare. Reflexively, she dropped his hand, meeting his gaze squarely.

“I’m not dead yet, girl!” The words were rumbled with the force of his displeasure as he glowered at her fiercely. He looked more like himself than he had in months. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you better than to mourn the living? Your face is as long as an elf’s, looking at me like you’re going to start caterwauling – what, have you become a spoilt milksop in my absence? I trained you to be a knight, girl! Act it!”

His voice was like two stones grinding together, made weaker by sickness, yet his spirit seemed intact; Daniyah hid a smile as she bowed her head, letting his grouching and criticisms pass through her ears as if they were so much wind. “It’s good to see you awake, Sir.” She paused, lifting her gaze to regard him once more, memorizing the weary lines of his face again. “ – I had hoped you might recall what day it is?” Her tone was mild – but there was a touch of mischief, inaudible to a stranger’s ear, that Hakeem could no doubt hear.

With visible effort, he drew himself to sit up, sputtering indignantly and gripping her shoulder for support as he went. His weathered brow seemed to droop over his sunken eyes, heavy with age, but he managed a baleful stare as he eyed his once-pupil and scoffed. “Of course I know what day it is – do you know, pup?”

This time, she couldn’t quite subdue the grin that tugged her crooked features, and chose to hide it beneath instead by rubbing her scarred cheek with a weathered hand, as if thinking. “It is Ovank’a, the twelfth day of Morning Star – a day of devotion to Stendarr among our Alik’r friends. I had hoped you might pray with me – we could surely use his mercy for the year to come.”

It wasn’t so unusual for him to lose track of the days; he’d never been troubled by days or even years, but had insisted that Daniyah know each holiday that bore relevance to the Redguard. Even the strange desert folk of the Alik’r, whose culture tended to assimilate more from the outside than was considered ‘proper’, received their careful diligence in study. She had retained that knowledge in the time since. It had been rather more useful than she would have guessed as a surly youth in an old man’s tutelage.

It didn’t bother her to offer reverence to Stendarr; even as a child, her mother had worshipped the Imperial gods, while her father was more rigidly adherent to the traditional pantheon. Suitably, she found herself with favorites among both – she offered deference and prayer to HoonDing, Tava, Leki the Swordsaint… but Stendarr had no approximation in mythos of her people. His compassion for those less fortunate was a virtue largely ignored by Redguard culture, yet it was impossible to overlook the lessons he offered to a knight whose travels were guided by her principles.

The old man cleared his throat and eyed her with a withering stare, grimacing and smacking his gums in displeasure. “You come all this way to trouble me for a prayer? Dammit, girl! Don’t you know better than to bother your elders over such trifling things?”

It was good to hear him grumbling; the illness might be slowly stealing away most of what made him himself, but today he was more lucid than had become normal. “Please accept my apologies, sir. Perhaps you ought to take this deficiency in my teachings to them that taught me?”

Had he been stronger, the clout of his hand might have been enough to hurt; but her head was hard and his strength was sapped as he cursed her soundly. She knew better than to grin, and did her best to look contrite as he snarled and raved. Only a friend could see that he was plainly enjoying every moment of his complaints – it was visible in the brightness of his eyes, the very faint twitch of his lips, too subtle for a stranger to note.

“Deficiency in your teaching? More like deficiency in that thick skull of yours, full of rocks and sand and bits of fluff! Back in my day, pups knew better than to yap at their elders – I’d tan you black and blue, if I thought it’d make any difference! Too damn stubborn and then some – should’ve told Mahomet you were too much of a mule for me to make any difference in, coming to my bedside and begging me to pray for mercy! Ha! If anything, needs to be less mercy, keep from encouraging pups like you to be cheeky with their elders and betters!”

She let him keep going, enjoying the familiar sound of his cantankerous snarls. She busied herself with unnecessary fussing, tidying his things. Though it hardly needed doing, there was comfort in action, powerless as she was to make him well again. She poured a mug of cool water and offered it mutely to the man, before refolding the spare wool blanket that rested at the foot of his bed. He accepted the mug with an indignant flare of his nostrils, and allowed his tirade to be cut short by thirstily drinking. She took the opportunity to sit beside him, and interrupted the silence.

“Great-Uncle… things aren’t going well.” She spoke abruptly, voice quiet; the words seemed reluctant. Aware of his gaze, she could almost feel the levity draining from his features. She hazarded a glance his way, frowning and already regretting that she’d cut short their familiar banter.

“Yes, girl? I’m listening. Say your piece and be done with it.” He’d never had much patience for dawdling, and his eyes were sharp even as the last hints of a smile faded from his lips.

There was a lump in her throat as she finally voiced her worries. “There will be war soon; the borders have been drawn, the people are straining beneath the burden. We have refugees deserting their homes, bandits and slavers growing in strength to pick at those who are fleeing for safety. What I am doing… isn’t enough. What is one grain of sand against a tidal wave?”

She was acutely aware that this might be the last time she could seek his counsel, and reached for his hand, impulsive. His skin felt like paper, and she held it gently, smoothing her fingertips over his bony knuckles. He squeezed her hand, but there was so little of the strength she recalled, she could barely feel his grip against the scars and callouses on her own battle-worn palm.

He leaned back against the wall, his features sagging somewhat. “Child… I am too old to stand with you, now. We both know this – and what are two grains of sand, against what will come?” Letting out a sigh, he shook his head before continuing, weary. “Praying for Stendarr’s mercy won’t right these wrongs; the Gods can’t stop us from destroying ourselves, girl. Men, Mer, Betmer – we’re all bound and determined to tear one another apart, and Stendarr stands for all of us. How can he take sides-? Better to cry out for HoonDing’s guidance, than the Imperial gods whose ears are full of pleas to take this side and that – and each of them in opposition to the next!” His ancient features creased in a grimace, and he made a tsking sound.

“Better to hope for victory, than for peace… so that our armies can again clear the vermin within our borders, without worrying of threats beyond them. So that we might rise in dominance, rather than be broken and fragmented.”

Daniyah frowned very faintly and twined her fingers with his. Hers were rough and marked by combat, little nicks and pale white scars, seasoned by wind and sand and cold metal gauntlets… they looked small, but strong, against her uncle’s hand. His hand was bony, softer than it used to be – creased by wrinkles and ridged with veins, weathered beaten and scarred, but with a memory of strength. She felt small in the presence of the man who’d trained her, who’d spent his life studying the old texts and learning what little he could find of the Ansei.

Still frowning, she shook her head, turning her gaze back to Hakeem. “I believe that the Covenant will prevail; we all do.” There was no question of that. “We have the might and strategy of our people, the brutality and force of the Orsimer, and the cunning political devilry of High Rock… against all that, how can other alliances hope to stand-?

“But it won’t be an easy victory, and there will be many casualties among those who support the war indirectly. We will be weaker for it if our farmers, our traders, our craftsmen and children, are cut down by the buzzards who profit off of human suffering… you should listen to the politicians in their grand halls, Uncle! Listen to the generals, to the soldiers – everyone is ready for this war, ready to make the first move and slaughter enemies beyond our borders, while within them, those whose backs bend to support it are abandoned to their own resources. And just when resources are scarcer than ever? Oh, certainly there will be some protection – but too little, too scattered, with everyone’s eyes on the outside! And I am only one woman, one grain of sand against all the chaos of the ocean itself; what can I do? I feel so damned powerless to make them see!”

His gaunt features had shifted to a sly grin; she felt her lips tighten in irritation. Either he wasn’t taking her concerns seriously, or he’d conceived of something she wouldn’t like hearing. For all that she scowled at him, he looked entirely too serene.

“So don’t worry about teaching a blind man to see. Don’t be one – be many.” As if it was the simplest thing in the world.

He continued, uninterrupted. “Perhaps it will still be little, against all that follows… but you’re right, aren’t you? You have conviction and truth on your side. So go to them, knight, and protect those who have been left – vulnerable, as you say. Make friends. Bring allies. Let others focus outward, and you? You focus in. There are those who aren’t useful to the war effort, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful to you – find them. Bring them together. Help the ones that need help, and let others focus on winning back the Ruby Throne.”

Her eyes narrowed and she could feel heat rising to her cheeks. She freed her hand from his and looked aside, rising restlessly. “You’re being absurd. I travel alone – you taught me to be independent! I keep my own company, am beholden only to my own truths – the truths that you helped show me, and the truths I found for myself!”

“Things were different, for me. Times were different. The world changes, and I had the luxury of bearing no banners. Can you hold to your convictions, and still ride alone? I don’t think so. It is decided. You will make your own path, and it is not the same as mine.”

Her mouth opened, then closed. She eyed the old man warily, grasping for arguments, but finding none to combat the uncomfortable option set before her. Frustration ruled her, if only for a moment, and she blurted-

“So what, should I start my own Order-? Raise fancy silk pennants and have trumpets bray my coming, like a peacock in spring? That isn’t my way; I work best alone- I couldn’t even keep a squire alive to complete his training! How can you expect me to do this thing, to bear the burden of this task?”

Bitterness, uncharacteristic of the scarred woman, had crept into her voice and she realized she’d gone too far even before she’d finished speaking. Hakeem reached out and pinched her – hard, for all his feebleness. She flinched away, looking aside; she could feel the rising blush to the very tips of her ears.

“So what, you wanted me to offer you some easy solution, something to comfort you instead of hard work-? I didn’t teach you to wallow in pity and doubt, pup! Stand up and bear the mantle, or give in – get yourself killed out of stubbornness, trying to fight alone. I’m not your teacher anymore, it’s on your own head whatever you choose… but you’re my last student, and I damn well except better of you than to flee from duty! I’d be ashamed of any knight I trained, backing down just because a thing is difficult!” His voice was sharp as a whip-crack, but – the effort of so hard a speech seemed to take something out of the man. He began to cough, a horrible rasping sound, shrinking against the wall, eyes closing as he labored for breath.

Daniyah’s lips thinned. The prospect was ridiculous – wasn’t it? But it wasn’t her way, to discard her mentor’s wisdom without at least considering it from all angles. He had an insufferable habit of being right, in the end. Biting back impulse, she bowed her head respectfully, and, with a tone far more level than she felt, spoke.

“I will think on your words, sir. I think I’d better go. You… need your rest. I should not have troubled you with such things.”

Hakeem waved her off, breath ragged and pained. If he had a retort, it was lost in his struggle just to breathe; she could feel the sting of her conscience as she slipped out the door, and waited just out of sight.

It was many minutes before his breathing returned to normal, and it took longer still for him to settle back into his bed.

Lips thin and brow furrowed, she closed her eyes and offered a prayer to Stendarr –

Mercy, please. May his passage be gentle.

Don’t let him suffer.

[I may have quit WoW, but I can hardly quit writing! For anyone who might be interested, I can now be found at Cannibalfelf and Friends!

Follow the heart-warming tale of Vlyn, a Bosmer (wood elf) from the war-torn land of Tamriel, where she fights to place the Aldmeri Dominion’s young warrior-queen, Ayrenn, on the throne in the White Gold Tower! Along the way she’ll meet many people from many walks of life, and then kill and eat them to survive as she follows her more personal journey to obtain as much knowledge as she can to sate her burgeoning magical addiction!

In addition to Vlyn, you might meet Daniyah, a middle aged knight determined to maintain her humanity against every odd as she fights and kills alongside her comrades for the coming Age of Man!

Or you could follow the journeys of Kharza, a deeply unattractive hobo orc who just wants to make everyone well and healthy – a pacifist in a warrior society that is as disgusted with her over her unacceptable passivity as the rest of the world is over how unbearably ugly she is!

Last but not least, there’s Ofeig, a nordic stableboy with a heart of gold who just wishes the pretty blacksmith lass would look twice in his direction.

So consider checking out The Elder Scrolls Online, or better yet, join the fansite TESO-RP, and keep an eye on Cannibal Elf and Friends for content!

Thanks for reading. 🙂




Odynae Dawnhammer, worn by battle and made brittle from loss, lives out her days restless and roaming. She searches for her purpose, she fights to rid the world of an evil that slips ever further from her reach… those who are lost live on in her prayers, their names and their deeds stubbornly honored.











Marlbane Brightmoore quietly fades away from those very few she was once close to, reclusive and obsessed by her own mortality- by the demons that await her death. She spends her days hunting for a way to regain the part of her soul that is lost- or to find a way to outwit death. Even demon-hunting becomes of little interest in her obsessive search. Eventually, she does die – of her own accord, but is saved from the endless torment that awaits her, by the plague of undeath… which itself is a new form of torment. She eventually goes mad.



Ashtivar Whiteoak is forced to leave her farm in Surwich after her theft of goblin gold is discovered. She spends some time in hiding, before Gilneas calls her home for the last time. She fights to reclaim her homeland, and, after years of fighting, dies there.

Gifting on a budget

Stormwind Bank was crowded and busy, the low hum of conversation overpowered by rattling arms and clanking armor; hunter pets sat vigilant guard at their masters’ heels, attendants groaned beneath the weight of heavy chests, and bankers skillfully counted out gold, silver, and copper. The cold bite of winter lingered in the air, drawn in by the perpetually open doors and tracked across the carpet as mud and snow.

Dyna felt uneasy in the crowd, but, being more or less homeless, this was her best chance to keep her possessions safe and well preserved- anything she needed on a daily basis was kept in several heavy travel packs, loaded carefully on her wayward protodrake. Still, Newt was not well known for his common sense or intelligence. That which was irreplaceable, was not trusted to such treatment.

Waiting patiently in the press of folk, she let her mind wander, considering the gifts she’d purchased; for Vyysce, an enchanted lantern to dash away the dark that frightened him. For Diane, an ornate Wizard’s staff tipped with fire that always burned, but never consumed. Tristen McAllister’s gift was wrapped in solemn blue, held clutched in her hand- she could feel the faint Light that empowered it, felt its comfort; she hoped he might, too, considering Theramore and the more personal loss he’d sustained.  At least Mykhael only chose to leave, she thought quietly, at least he’s still alive somewhere with Thoran- not dead of the Horde’s avarice. And the little ones, too… Light, what a world.

Mahlar, however, had been—less than she had hoped for. She’d seen what she wanted to give the man; it was beautiful, in the tailor’s window, somber black stitched with silver. Elegant. Sure, the color wasn’t nearly so vivid as a man like Mahlar might enjoy, but- it might serve for more formal occasions, and it was enough to catch even Odynae’s eye. Trouble was, all the coin she had wasn’t enough to make that purchase- last year, she could’ve done so without blinking. Not this year, though; she was no longer in anyone’s employ, now. She’d managed well enough to stretch her savings over the long months, but- life required upkeep. Her various armor sets required maintenance, her weapons sharpened, her protodrake fed and herself clothed beneath the plate; random expenses kept seeming to creep up, but even so, she’d have enough for a month- if she was careful.

It was disconcerting. Money hadn’t been a problem for her- even before the Sigil’s generous pay bolstered her slim savings, she’d received a small stipend from the Abbey, with which she was meant to continue her training. That had stopped, of course, when she’d renounced herself- but going from one paying position to the next hadn’t been much trouble.

She’d never thought much of coin before, it had always simply been there when her modest needs required it. But the downside to being an independent woman pursuing her own ends, was that no one was compensating her to do so. She’d never been terribly business-minded, had never put much thought into these things- and it was beginning to show.

Now it meant she couldn’t buy Mahlar the set of robes she wanted to, for Winter’s Veil. It was disappointing, but not devastating; not yet, anyway. Instead, she’d decided to share a canister of her well-made and specially imbued burn cream- she and Audran had made an entire barrel of the stuff, way back when. It only seemed to grow more potent with age, but she’d gone through quite a lot of it herself, and in the aid of her allies. What remained was precious, and she knew that Mahlar would have just as much use for it as she did…

Still. Winter’s Veil gifts were meant to be frivolous and fanciful. This was neither.

With a terse shake of her head, she greeted the banker with what passed for a smile, cheeks lifting slightly, lips pulled in their stiff grimace beneath the mask. The expression didn’t quite reach her eyes, which remained wary and troubled- but then, that was hardly unusual for the battered paladin. A plate glove proffered the plain iron key, and the banker raised an eyebrow to study it a moment- then bowed and gestured that she should follow.

She padded in silence down the hall and considered, briefly, whether she ought to downgrade to a smaller vault, to suit her reduced finances. The heavy iron door swinging open outward revealed a cramped mess of armor, weaponry, and knick-knacks she’d acquired in her various travels and campaigns; she grimaced. Unless she rid herself of most of what she owned, she doubted she’d fit it in a small iron chest- and she had entirely too many sets of armor to fathom such a thing.

A mumbled thank-you to the banker, and she was alone amidst her things.

Here, the cloak the infamous (mad) pirate admiral Drominativic had sent her, after Fortress disbanded- a threat that he’d never made gone on printed in the red palm on the faded blue cloth. And there, her lovingly patched but extremely rickety Lordaeron armor, gifted to her by Sir Ghodrey when she’d joined his Order- it still reeked faintly of fel magic and was almost beyond repair; she never wore it these days. Really, she ought to get rid of it- it was far beyond practical use.

Here, she kept the scarlet dress she’d worn with Mayru on their ill-fated visit to Silvermoon- and beside it, the little orb of disguise she’d used to look like she’d belonged there. The dress was a scandalous, two-pieced affair- wide impractical sleeves and intricate golden embroidery, cleavage and midriff baring- she’d felt naked in it, but Mayru had insisted. It had been hard to talk her down about such things. She’d only ever worn it the one time…

There were any number of dresses, none of which she’d worn in recent months. She felt a pang of sadness that she sternly set aside; a Knight was made to protect and serve the people, not to flutter about like a butterfly. She could put them on again, if she wanted- but they’d never really suited her, even before Wrin had ruined her face. She’d look ridiculous, now- like a big battered warhorse parading about as a noblewoman’s mount.

Still. They were nice to look at.

There were so many bits and pieces of her life in here- yet she couldn’t quite bring herself to pull them out again, into the sunlight.

Shaking her head wearily, the paladin carefully stripped off her plated gloves, then her pauldrons, and wriggled in amidst her mire of memories, searching for her herbal goods. She’d last worked a garden a year past, carefully drying and storing the herbs she’d lovingly tended that summer; this year she’d been far too busy working at her Knighthood, trying her best to quietly, covertly deal with other aspects of her life. Still, she found what she was looking for in a heavy barrel, more filled with insulation than the air-tight glass jars of various herbs and spices she kept. Rifling through them, she couldn’t quite help the wistful, ever-crooked smile that crept up on her; the earthy scent as she unfastened various jars was calming. It brought her back to times when she’d been – content, if not wholly joyful.

She carefully selected the herbs she’d use for the blend she was making for Faeir- tea was a bit of a cop-out, really, but perhaps the stricken huntress might find it a comfort. Pausing, she peered at her stock- then appropriated a bit more for Esme. The little gnome had been so kind, after all; it seemed appropriate, though they didn’t know one another well.

The burn cream was more toward the front of the mess, and she waded through bits and pieces of armor- a moldy pinecone toppled from somewhere, striking her on the head, and she grimaced. Not every memory was a happy one. Bloody lunatic…

The thought hit her a bit late- she ought to find something for Jahgan, though what she might have that a druid of his standing would appreciate, she hadn’t the faintest. A wicked smile curved the unscarred half of her face. Birdseed.

Yes, definitely birdseed.

Content in her gifts, she carefully sealed the canister of burn cream, and stepped outside her vault into the cool, quiet hallway, careful to swing the door shut behind her.

It wasn’t much, but she was doing her best.