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Archive for December, 2012

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.

 

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Winter’s Veil

She moved with a heaviness of stride and spirit, head bowed and gaze held low- tracking cobblestones and kneecaps as she strode quickly through the poorly kempt streets of Old Town. Somewhere beneath the simple white mask, her lips were pulled in a thin frown, lost in her thoughts.

It had been a day, maybe two, since Tremaine had fled the Tram tunnels, his pocketwatch in a thousand pieces, irreparable. The city had engulfed him, leaving no trace behind- he was careful, methodical, obsessed; of course they couldn’t track him. It was all too easy for a man to disappear forever- this was a fact that Odynae Dawnhammer was intimately aware of.

But it wasn’t the prospect of never seeing him again that alarmed her. No- what hovered at the forefront of her mind was the prospect of having to face him in combat; or worse, that his compromised emotional state would result in him becoming a puppet of the enemy once more.

Ereleth Tremaine had started as an adversary, but that was before she’d understood- before she’d been inextricably mired in the situation. It had been easier, then; life had been simple. Help the Good, vanquish the Evil, defend the Innocent and admonish the Guilty. That had been before. It had been some time, now, since she’d seen the world in easy black and white; now, if Tremaine came after her with murderous intent, it wouldn’t be an easy thing. Detain and deliver to the authorities was the prudent answer. But there were layers to the situation.

Whatever the end, she’d do her best. She felt sympathy for his loss; the damn pocketwatch had been the only thing in the world that made him feel safe. It had been his eyes, his ears, his sword and shield- how naked he must feel.

How alone, how frightened.

Whether or not he would go mad was to be seen- his paranoia had always remained a hidden aspect, though she had cause to be aware of it. The fact that it had shown, if only briefly, was troubling.

She shook her head, as if it might dissuade her thoughts, and lifted her gaze. Her feet had brought her to the Pig and Whistle- as seedy a place as ever, though this particular evening saw no enthusiastic duels. Instead, her gaze was drawn by color and light- a Winter’s Veil tree stood in the corner, adorned with baubles. There was a sudden lump in her throat. Winter’s Veil…

She’d forgotten.

Last year she’d spent it with Myk and Thoran; it had only been month or two later, that Myk had vanished. They’d had a quiet holiday together…

No sense in dredging up the past, not now. She squinted hard, staring at the brightness of the tree and its adornments, head tilting. Her lips grew thin in concentration. Presents. She had to obtain presents; perhaps not for everyone she knew, but at the very least…

Vyysce- it would be Vyysce’s first Winter’s Veil, so far as she was aware. For all that he was enormous and lumbering, his mind made him a child- perhaps thick of skin, but with a gentle mind. And Diane, of course. She’d missed the mage’s birthday, the first since Ashthra had perished- or was it the second? At any rate, Diane Marviere had spent the day alone- a condition that made Dyna sick at her heart. She hadn’t known; birthdays seemed inconsequential to her, but of course it meant something to Diane.

Tia… didn’t seem to recognize her these days, whether it was an intentional ignorance or not was no longer a concern. Her work with Tremaine had strained things; how could she possibly explain that alliance? It was beyond explanation, beyond believability—simpler, then, to let Tia Lansing simply be, without her.

Edd had gone missing again, but then, his alcoholism and foul moods indicated had been constant since the Curse had come upon him. She never had found it in her to tell him about Mykhael- perhaps it was just as well, then, now that Myk was gone.

She should get something for Mahl, of course. Something pretty – and something for his daughter, too, though she’d never managed to meet the child. Maybe something for Faeir as well, though she was at a loss there, considering all that Faeir had lost in the past weeks.

With a jolt, the ragged paladin shook herself from her thoughts, still staring morosely at the tree. Her lips pulled in an unseen grimace, and, moving stiffly, she tromped out of the Pig and into the night’s cold rain.

Winter’s Veil was easier, with so many lost and dead.

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