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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

RP Archives: Meetings

This is the first archived RP I have “fictionized.” It takes place as much of our RP did, during the Wrath era – before the Lich King was defeated. It starts around the time of Ulduar. I hope it reads okay, due to the back-and-forth nature of RP most of these will be pretty dialogue heavy but I’ve tried to smooth them out with more in-between things when necessary. We occasionally used in-game friends as casually mentioned “extras” (i.e. mention of a rogue included an actual rogue) which some people might recognize but I’ve removed any such names because those people didn’t agree to be part of fiction we were writing.

Late afternoon sun streams in the windows of The Legerdemain Lounge in Dalaran. The low hum of conversation in many different languages carries through the open space. It’s not full to bursting with patrons, but a number of people occupy different scattered tables.

At one of these sits an aqua-skinned draenei woman. She is hunched forward with one elbow on the table, the sleeves of her violet robes are pushed past her forearms. Beside her is a small pile of books haphazardly stacked, a half empty cup of tea, and a plate with a few crumbs on it. The last book seems to have been set aside in some disgust, a keen observer might note, as it reached the other end of the table before sliding to a halt. No books open now, she idly watches the crowd. Her eyes stray now and again to the elf who is tending bar, as if she’s keeping an eye on him.

She notes with interest when a new customer enters the establishment, one of her own people, unusual for the fact that he is wearing heavy armour in stark contrast to the more casually dressed crowd. The woman watches as the other draenei strides noisily up to the bartender and orders an ale. He sits on a stool at the bar and she can almost hear its protest as it groans under the weight of a fully-armoured male draenei.

She purses her lips in a considering fashion. He looks familiar. Especially when he sits down and she sees the back of his head, she thinks that she might know this man. She glares at her discarded book for a moment, then goes to take a sip of her tea. Finding it stone cold, she takes the opportunity to walk up to the bar herself.

The male draenei has not noticed her, his attention inevitably drawn to a table of three orcs sitting not far away. As she reaches the bar he says something loudly in Orcish. Definitely loud enough for the three orcs to hear: they turn as one to glare at him menacingly. The draenei warrior stands up from the stool, hand going to his scabbard as he and the orcs stare at each other. After a moment, one of the orcs says something that sounds insulting and they all head towards the door.

The draenei woman nods pleasantly to the bartender, who takes her cup and hands her a fresh one wordlessly – as if they’ve performed this same exchange many times before, possibly many times today alone. Turning to the burly draenei who has resettled his alarming bulk onto the beleaguered stool, she says in Draenei, “Three to one? Not good odds, assuming you didn’t exactly invite them to enjoy their beverages and have a good afternoon. I never did get the hang of Orcish myself. Too guttural.” She gestures at her throat with a shrug.

He turns around quickly and then relaxes when he sees the dark-haired mage, recognition lighting in his eyes. “A minor disagreement, that’s all,” he assures her.

She inhales the steam from the freshly poured cup of tea and nods, sliding onto the stool next to him while carefully holding the cup, each movement deliberate and easy. Her lips quirk slightly in a half-smile, still speaking Draenei. “Ah, I see. As in…they exist, and you disagree?”

He lets out a hearty laugh, leaning back and grabbing his tankard. “Something like that, yes! It’s a pleasure to see you without the stench of battle all around. It’s, hmm…Millya, right?” Even as he speaks to her, his eyes roam the room, keeping an eye on the surroundings.

He gestures over at her books on the table. “I was going to mention that you shouldn’t leave your books unattended, but most of the patrons here would only take them in the hopes of finding them illustrated.”

The other draenei laughs, giving the books a dismissive glance as she drinks a bit of tea too quickly. “I wish them much joy of them! At this rate, they aren’t doing me any good.” She glances at him. “Vosskah, yes? Do you make threatening orcs a regular part of your daily outings or was that that just a happy coincidence?”

Vosskah smiles and sips his ale, nodding. “Well, insulting orcs makes your day feel fuller, no?” He looks over at her books again, significantly, clearly seeking a change of subject. “Let’s leave those smelly, fatherless thugs where they belong. What are you reading, if I may inquire?”

She raises her eyebrows, setting her tea cup down. She tries to sound carefully neutral in reply to his question, but it’s all over her face that she doesn’t expect him to understand one word in three. “What am I reading? ‘The Effect of Relative Distance and Multiplicative Spellcasting on Azeroth,’ ‘Arcane Adventures: A Dalaran Perspective,’ (don’t ask) and ‘A Treatise on Temporal Rifts.’ There’s something I’m trying to figure out, but I think it might best benefit from more practical application.”

Vosskah nods, seeming unphased. “It’s a pity that these Dalaran mages seem to have a passion for shoveling clouds in their treatises on magic. I wonder where you could find a more practical view of things. Perhaps Stormwind? In the Royal Library? But first I should ask, what are you trying to figure out?”

She furrows her brow. “Well, the long and short of it is that I’m trying to figure out the fastest way to apply a lethal blast of magic. It’s an efficiency thing, I suppose. There’s this smarmy little human who keeps stabbing things before my spells ever get there. Highly inefficient, such a waste. And so messy – her, that is.” She pauses and sips her tea again.

He chuckles. “I know the human you mean. I spend hours cleaning my armour after the messes she makes of things. For an expedient use of magic, I would definitely look into the human research. They are not the most patient people.”

Millya heaves a sigh. “You know, that’s a good point. Of course, I’ve studied many different branches of the arcane arts, but it seems when it comes to offensive magic that they’ve spent more time perfecting its application – despite what our relative lifespans might suggest.”

He shrugs massive armored shoulders. “Well, knowledge for its own sake is a luxury most of us don’t have, especially in times of war. Having such a short lifespan does add some urgency and motivation to accomplish things, don’t you think? They live but the blink of an eye and yet, look at them here. They’re spending those few moments they have fighting incredible odds and dying to them. Interesting people.”

She sips her tea thoughtfully and nods. “They make powerful allies. And powerful enemies.” After a moment, she adds, “You know…you don’t really sound like someone who gets hit in the head for a living.” The other draenei chuckles and takes a sip of his beer.

“None taken. You’re aware that we do have a great amount of padding in those helms, right?”

Millya taps her forehead lightly. “Faceplates aren’t exactly negligible protection either, though I’ll take your word for it about the padding. Sometimes I think it’s a wonder anyone can fight while weighed down with all of that.”

“It’s a question of habit and training. There is thought behind our actions as well. We need to really think about how to insult an enemy enough that he focuses on us and leaves you to burn his backside.”

Glancing meaningfully at the recently vacated table where the orcs had been sitting, she murmurs, “I’ll bet.”

Vosskah follows her gaze and grins broadly. “Some are easier and dumber than others.” He tips his head back and finishes the last of his ale. “Say, I must run but am loathe to end this lovely conversation. Would you be amenable to reading a book in this place tomorrow at the same time and I’ll walk in and insult some peons and I will buy you a drink…or a tea?”

She laughs. “If I haven’t set my books on fire by then…” Her face gives a lie to the words. She would never actually set fire to her books. “I tend to be here most free afternoons. I’ll polish up on my Orcish so I can better enjoy the show.” She looks down at her now empty tea and sighs, and then back at the books. “I should get back to it, anyway. Be well, Vosskah.”

He nods and sketches a short, soldierly bow in her direction. “And you, Millya. I am looking forward to stumbling upon your reading again.” He leaves some coins on the counter for the barkeep and leaves. Millya could swear as she resumes her seat at the table that she can hear the distant sounds of a scuffle somewhere outside – the clash of metal and indistinct shouts, but she shrugs it off. It’s probably just her imagination.

A Tale of Two Vids

Some of you might remember that I created Vidyala (the actual paladin character), around December 2009. She was created with a purpose; to be “the pugging pally,” and I created a blog of the same name. LFD was very new then and I wanted to see if you could level a character entirely using the dungeon finder. It was the first opportunity to level a purely healing character. Of course, this is nothing remarkable now and many people level characters using exclusively LFD or some combination of LFD, PvP, and questing. At the time it was somewhat noteworthy, though, and my blog gained a certain amount of notoriety as a result.

In 2009, we had recently joined Business Time on Moonrunner, leaving behind our RP server roots for a more progressed guild and a PvE server. It was something of a culture shock. I also really missed roleplaying. I started roleplaying again, mostly with Vosskah. Initially, we primarily played both of our main characters – for him, the warrior and his namesake, Vosskah, and me my fiery tempered mage, Millya. Some time in 2010, I began to flesh out Vidyala’s story as well and she also saw some RP. I was happy playing these characters that mostly had no connection to anything from the past, we started absolutely fresh with them. I wrote quite a bit of short fiction and we RPed a lot (primarily using IMs).

The other day I realized that because of the format of our RP, all of it is saved in my chat history. I like IM roleplay for a variety of reasons – it’s completely private so you can’t get anyone griefing you, you aren’t limited to emotes and /say, you can be in any location that you wish and have more control over the world around you. Of course, it has its downsides – you won’t meet any new people, you don’t have the world actually existing around you. But for the most part it was okay, and we’d done a lot of it though it had drastically dropped off to nothing during Cataclysm. I lost my connection to the story sometime during Cataclysm. But we had all of that RP from before, and I began the arduous task of compiling it into a single document, chronologically. I included any short fiction and interspersed it with the RP.

At the end of it, I have a document that is 430 pages, single-spaced. It’s 278,664 words. That’s about 5 NaNoWriMos! It’s a lot of words. Some of it is the story of Millya and Voss, with a bit of my night elf druid, Shae, mixed in. Some of it is the story of Vid and…well, this is the part where it gets complicated. Most of this writing was done between 2009 and 2011. At the end of 2011, I started collaborating on From Draenor With Love with my good friend, Rades. It started out as a gag type strip, primarily featuring our two characters, Vid and Rades. They were a natural choice (though neither of us raids with them in-game) because they were both engineers and we thought they could have met and become friends.

Not everyone liked our casual adoption of this plotline (“You’re breaking the lore!”) was probably my favourite comment from that time period. But it sort of didn’t matter because the strip WAS generally one-offs, we never delved very deeply into the actual story of Vid and Rades. But fast forward to 2013, when we decided to make a drastic change to the format. The strip gained continuity and an ongoing storyline that we have pretty well planned out. The dilemma for me is that the story of From Draenor With Love departs pretty drastically from the Vidyala I know (and continue to write about in my own stories).

I’ve had a few questions about this, because some people know parts of those stories. I wrote a very brief story here on Manalicious back in 2012 that makes the relationships of some of the characters very plain. Vosskah is Vid’s father. Millya is Vid’s stepmother. Vid is actually in a relationship as well. But here’s the thing: almost none of this is true in the FDWL continuity. In FDWL Vid doesn’t even know Millya. Much to the “real” Vosskah’s outrage, her father is dead. It’s creating some weird cognitive dissonance for me as I try to keep the two separate in my mind. Rades must have free reign to write the story of FDWL as he sees fit (and trust me, if I may be so bold, it’s a good one! At least I like it). But that other Vid didn’t cease to exist. When I write and RP now she’s still doing her thing. Actually her relationship with her father has been really important to her character. FDWL Vid doesn’t have that relationship at all.

There are other parallels between the stories that I won’t expand on in any depth (spoilers…). I know it’s confusing for readers as well, because while FDWL was a gag strip we used Vid and Millya interchangeably depending on the joke, never really explaining the connection between the characters or even if they had any. They were both shorthand for “me,” as in real-life me. Someone actually asked in a comment on FDWL recently when or whether Millya would show up. The answer is she probably won’t, because she has no place in Vid’s FDWL continuity. But you have to understand, I love Millya, and Vid, and all the characters and stories that are rattling around inside my head. You’ll notice that I’ve commissioned or exchanged more art of Millya than anyone else. Just because she wasn’t the best fit for sharing stories with Rades doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a story.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying, I might write and share more fiction here on Manalicious. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea so I will make sure to label it very clearly and if you don’t want to read that – by all means skip it and you won’t offend me at all. I’m probably going to start by trying to revamp, edit and rewrite some existing RP and stories so that they will read smoothly and hopefully be interesting. I’m kind of shy about posting fiction at all, but I’m trying not to worry about it because I think Manalicious has a pretty small audience these days anyway. This is also understandable because for a long time I wrote here very seldom. Now that I’m getting a handle on the WoW Insider thing as well as the time FDWL takes, I find myself with more of an urge to use this space for things that are a bit more personal.

I wanted to write this intro entry to the fiction, though, to make it absolutely clear that anything written here has NO bearing whatsoever on the story of From Draenor With Love. None of it is canonical as far as those characters or their adventures are concerned. Yes, Vid and Vid II are the same person and it overlaps in places but it’s like there is a split. This Vid exists (when I get to her stories) and that Vid exists, and never the twain shall meet. I’m not even sure if “my” universe Vid even met Rades. (I know, my previous fiction with Millya and Vid specifically states that she did). It’s all a bit confusing so there may be contradictions like that. I’ll do my best, though. I sometimes whine about missing being on an RP server (enough that my friends are probably sick of it) but I’m just not sure I have the time to devote myself to playing on a server other than my main one often enough to meet people and be a presence. This is something I can do on my own time though and so I’ll give it a shot here.

I should also mention that I owe a debt of gratitude to my husband, Voss, who agreed to let me share some of our stories with a wider audience. At least half of any given story is his and I’m going to edit them very respectfully to stay true to the spirit of his characters as well.

Tides of War (with spoilers galore!)

Technology has not been kind to me today. I waited patiently for the patch to deploy (these things take time) but some weird glitch prevented Vosskah’s install from patching correctly and so I spent a lot of time fretting about that. I wrote an entire blog entry that WordPress then ate. (This isn’t that post, that post is gone forever and you only get this post). I had just enough time to mess around with addons a bit before a guest arrived. I spent some precious moments with the target dummies after; long enough to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that FIRE MAGES ARE AWESOME. More about that later.

Meantime, the technology that worked most unfailingly for me today was my Kindle, as it happily delivered the new Christie Golden book, Tides of War, while I slept. I read it in bits and pieces throughout the day and then in one big gulp at the very end. What follows is part review, part synopsis, part reflection on the events in the book – and most importantly, it is chock full of spoilers.

Do not read any further if you don’t want spoilers for the new Tides of War book about Jaina Proudmoore.

I can’t say this more plainly.

Come back after you’ve read the book if you intend to, and you don’t want anything spoiled for you. If you are someone who is subscribed by e-mail, delete this e-mail before reading it!

If you 1) don’t care about spoilers or 2) have no intention of reading the book but want to know what happens in it anyway, then read on. I’ll put a big image here to keep people from seeing spoilers they may not want to see. If you scroll past the image and have things spoiled for you, I claim no responsibility.

Jaina Proudmoore art from the WoW TCG.

Okay. Are those folks gone? Now let’s talk about the book.

I’ve found the Warcraft books in general to be somewhat hit and miss. Arthas was a big miss with me (and I bought that one in hardcover). I like Rise of the Horde because it is the most information about draenei ever put in one place. This book continues more in the vein of the pre-Cataclysm book in that it’s closely tied with in-game events as well as published concurrently. The book itself opens about a week to a week and a half before the destruction of Theramore. The way it’s structured actually worked extremely well for me, lulling me into a false sense of security. In a way, even though I knew events would somehow lead to Theramore’s destruction, I was still deceived by the beginning parts of the book. Jaina is in Theramore, Jaina is generally happy, you get to meet Jaina’s new apprentice and all of her friends and staff in Theramore. They joke about conjuring cookies. I’m not even kidding.

So I started out really excited. This book is awesome! There are so many mages! They are my cookie-conjuring brethren.

Then things start to get real.

The initial conflict of the story begins with the blue dragonflight losing control of the Focusing Iris. You’ll remember it from such events as making it possible to use the surge needles in Northrend and channel the arcane power from the ley lines while under Malygos’ control. It also helped to animate Chromatus (in the Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects) book. This is an artifact of truly awesome power, and you’d think they’d keep a better eye on it. The Iris is stolen while the blue flight is attempting to relocate it – no word on how the Horde knew where and when to find it, incidentally. They were going to disguise and then hide it in the ocean but that didn’t pan out.

Things escalate from there, with Garrosh announcing plans to move against North Watch and subsequently Theramore and ultimately all of Kalimdor; he wants to use a victory against Kalimdor to isolate and eliminate all Alliance presence from it while helping himself to the resources and lands contained therein. Not everyone in the Horde is too happy about that, and it’s a subplot throughout the book that Garrosh’s methods and his Kor’krons grow increasingly violent. Orgrimmar is for all intents and purposes under martial law. Though this is understated, it’s understood that if someone isn’t cheering loudly enough for the warchief or if they dare to voice any discontent, they’re going to either quietly disappear or show up with a few more bruises than they had before. Baine and Vol’jin aren’t excepted from this, though Baine is the more outspoken of the two. Unfortunately for the trolls, their weaker position with the Horde makes it so that openly defying Garrosh is tantamount to suicide and Vol’jin’s hands are tied.

Baine is also victim to what happens here, because the Tauren need the Horde but Baine violently disagrees with Garrosh’s motives, methods and leadership. It’s made clear from the start that he feels ambivalent about what is happening but is caught up in events. Yet I think even Baine doesn’t immediately understand the depths to which Garrosh will sink.

This is actually worth mentioning here, before I forget, and it was Voss who asked me – do I think that Garrosh’s actions in ToW are out of character or forced? All along, people have been saying that Garrosh will need to do something truly horrific before it can be justified that he be the end-boss of an expansion. Heck, Rades and I did a comic about this very thing. Many people seemed to say “Yes, Garrosh is warlike, but he hasn’t really done much to warrant being especially targeted.” Well, the events in Tides of War sure change that in a shocking way.

Back to the actual synopsis of the book – so the blue dragonflight loses control of the Focusing Iris. It’s not known who has it, merely that it’s gone. Kalecgos is able to trace it somewhat but then his sense of it disappears. He’s lost and frantic about how the artifact could be used, and so he seeks aid which is how he winds up in Theramore and meets Jaina. (I believe this is the first time they meet). Jaina, Kalec and a crack force of mages try to discover how to uncover the artifact so that he can trace it. How they do so doesn’t really matter – the crux of it is that Kalecgos is eventually able to sense the Iris and it is zigzagging all over Kalimdor. This should have been their first hint that it’s somehow airborne, but this doesn’t seem to occur to anyone. It’s not being borne on a dragon’s back, so how is it doing that? Anyway, Kalec realizes he will just be exhausted chasing it all over the place so he goes back to Theramore.

Here’s where the romance part comes in. If you’ve read the interview WoW Insider did with Christie Golden, this romance is alluded to. I have some feelings about it. First, Jaina and Kalecgos as a pair isn’t too far-fetched, I suppose. He fell in love with Anveena, after all, and she was human(oid) and ended up being the Sunwell. So his romantic indiscretions with the ‘younger’ races are documented; he obviously doesn’t always have a thing for other dragons. It’s a joke in the book itself that Jaina isn’t exactly known for choosing the best romantic interests – Kael’thas (though they were barely involved, and Arthas…we all know how that one ended. Anyway, I don’t think Kalec is actually a bad choice for her. He’s a blue dragon so they have magic in common, and they’re both obviously powerful magic-users. In short, I like the romance but I think it was constrained quite a bit by the nature and length of the book. This is often my feeling about “one-book romances.” If you have a trilogy of books telling a story, you have time to do the more leisurely “maybe they’re starting to have feelings for each other” followed by the “something happens to keep them apart” that ultimately culminates with the satisfying “they’re finally together” feeling. In a book of this scope with this much story to tell, it’s tough to write a convincing romance but I think Golden did the best she could. You could also argue that in desperate times people will often turn to one another with feelings that are more quickly realized than would otherwise occur.

Personally, looking at him makes my heart go “pitter-patter” but maybe not for the same reasons. Mostly because: whoa big blue dragon teeth, scary.

Still, I tend to think of dragons as being less impulsive than regular people. They seem to love each other awfully quickly, which makes it less believable, but again – you work with what you have. So Kalecgos and Jaina are together by the end of the book, and throughout it he seems to flit back and forth a bit as he’s torn between his desire to recover the incredibly powerful artifact his people lost (whoops) and his twitterpated feelings towards Jaina. It’s rough, though. I feel for him. The guy only got to be a dragon Aspect for no time at all (to a dragon) and now he’s mortal again and his dragon buddies are all “Whelp, see you later” and he’s left holding the bag for having lost the Focusing Iris. So perhaps it’s natural that his attentions would turn strongly towards an engaging young woman – a powerful mage and extremely intelligent and powerful lady in her own right.

I feel like I’m dancing around the immediate facts of the book: the destruction of Theramore. It’s almost something I don’t want to put into words. I don’t want to talk about it, I’d rather talk about blue dragon courtship rituals. It was disgusting, and awful. Completely reprehensible and the opposite of honorable combat. This is how it happens: Jaina and Theramore have word of the coming attack thanks to Baine. North Watch falls easily as Thrall’s shaman harness the power of extremely dangerous molten giants (a power that could lead to another Cataclysm, according to the book). Theramore has time to prepare. Jaina calls upon the Kirin Tor, who send aid somewhat reluctantly and with the caveat that they will only defend and not be the aggressors. Stormwind sends a fleet of ships along with a number of great generals. One of them is a draenei! Rhonin is here too. Kalecgos himself comes to Theramore’s aid so that when the Horde come knocking, they’re ready for them. They’re able to repel the attack even though one of the Kirin Tor mages (a blood elf, naturally) is a traitor and was weakening the gates instead of strengthening them.

So it seems as if they’ve won at least the initial skirmish, although they’ve suffered losses – including all of their aerial defenses, down to the last gryphon. This is where the other shoe drops. Kalecgos suddenly becomes aware of the Focusing Iris again. It’s nearby, because it’s on a goblin ship. And underneath that ship is the biggest mana bomb anyone has ever seen. Kalecgos tries to detonate it in the air (where it won’t harm the city) but is repelled by the defenses on the zeppelin. In a last-ditch suicide effort, Rhonin draws the power of the bomb towards himself while sending Jaina through a portal to safety. The mana bomb explodes in Theramore, killing everyone in a really large radius. Jaina is teleported to one of the rocky islands surrounding Theramore, where she still feels a significant impact from the blast but isn’t killed.

I repeat: She’s not killed horrifically like every single other person, including Rhonin.

I’m afraid I can’t really do justice to the emotional impact of this part of the book, at least for me. Jaina’s sassy gnome apprentice, Kinndy, is killed. Everyone. It’s established earlier in the book that Kinndy is the only daughter of the gnome in Dalaran who lights the lights, Windle Sparkshine. I LOVE this gnome. I can’t remember how many times I have followed him around Dalaran, and gone out to help light the lights myself. Just giving this character a tie to an existing in-game character meant that when she was cruelly snuffed out I sobbed. I didn’t want Kinndy to die, or for her parents to lose their only daughter. I didn’t even want Rhonin to die, and goodness knows I’m no Rhonin fan. (Although now that he’s dead, maybe we can stop hearing about what a mage he is, a damn good one.) But for him to die like this, in such an atrocity, through such an act of treachery… it’s unconscionable. Going back into the wreckage afterwards drives Jaina to the brink of sanity, as I think it would for anyone. It’s not just that people died, it’s that they died in a way that is so fundamentally wrong. Grief-stricken, Jaina goes to touch Kinndy’s body and it dissipates into purple sand. The infusion of arcane magic fueled by the Focusing Iris has wrought awful changes on everyone it worked on. Bodies are floating, there are rips and tears in the sky itself.

Meantime, Garrosh is celebrating his flawless victory. It’s clear that he feels no remorse whatsoever for the manner of this massacre, and here incredulity and hatred for him begin to set in. Baine and other Horde-members with a conscience are sickened by what has been done. Whatever the Horde has become with this madman at its helm, they feel no connection to him or his further conquests. Without going into a tiresome conquest, the rest of the book plays out fairly predictably. Jaina takes the Focusing Iris with the intention of using it to level Orgrimmar in the ultimate act of vengeance. Anduin and Varian are both appalled by the change in her, and ultimately Kalecgos and Thrall manage to talk her out of making what would have been a mistake that would change her personally even as she achieved her revenge. There are a few other good moments – Anduin blessing the Alliance troops as they leave for Kalimdor, while reflecting on the necessity of war even when you love peace – and the fact that draenei were actually mentioned in this book a few times besides as “awe inducing shaman.” It seems the people of Azeroth have grown more used to draenei, or else the writers are sincerely trying to integrate them into the ongoing story. I would have only wished that one of the mages sent from the Kirin Tor had been a draenei (they had one of nearly every other race!) but we can’t have everything. Draenei are always shaman and paladins and that is just the way it is (brb, rerolling).

Tides of War was a good book. I appreciated as well the subtle integration of the in-game scenario, although I missed it at the time and had to go back looking for it. At some point, there is mention of “five people” helping Jaina and Rhonin. I can see where the scenario will fit, although I honestly have no idea how that’ll work for Horde players because it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for them to help Jaina or Rhonin at that part of the book. Even friendly Horde aren’t going to be very welcome in Theramore at that time.

I’m also regretful that today’s From Draenor With Love won’t necessarily make sense in the context of actual events, although it could happen during the initial assault on Theramore! Anyway, we conceived and created it at a time when we didn’t have all of the information. I think it’s still a useful reflection on the horrors of war in general, especially when you have mixed allegiances and your feelings don’t lie with factions but with people. For this reason, Baine is one of the most sympathetic characters in ToW for me. What an untenable position he’s in. Jaina is the more obvious and sympathetic character because she’s just been through truly horrific things. Baine also lost his father at the hand of the orc he’s now duty bound to serve as he leads the Horde to ruin. I’m glad that by the end of the book he basically says, look buddy, eff you and don’t come around to Mulgore either.

This all paints Pandaria in a completely different light for me. I am happy to explore the new land and to see the wonders it has to offer, but there’s a sombre feeling. Where will all these struggles end? What more harm can Garrosh do to our people (and his own) before he’s finally taken down?

Another thought: wouldn’t it be awesome if the Let’s Kill Garrosh raid was the only raid that you could accomplish cross-faction, with both Alliance and Horde in your party? It makes sense, doesn’t it? You guys will want him dead, we’ll want him dead, why can’t we work together to do it?

Randomly: nice touch that when the Earthen Ring heard about what had happened with Theramore, a draenei starts to cry and she’s comforted by her troll friend. I like any emphasis that our races don’t necessarily determine who or what we stand for, and the Earthen Ring is one of those truly neutral groups wherein faction divisions cease to matter. See, draenei can be friends with trolls and orcs, too.

So, that is my huge ramble about Tides of War. If you made it to the end, you deserve a conjured cookie. Please feel free to say all that you need to about the book or the events in it or whatever you want in the comments. This is a spoiler-rife zone, so you don’t have to hold back. Everyone was forewarned!

The Cataclysm Conundrum and Character Connection

It’s not going to come as a shocker to anyone that I am closely connected to my characters. Coming from a roleplaying background, who they are and why they do what they do is very important to me. To varying degrees of detail, all the characters have a story of their own. I find that the characters without a story are usually the ones who get left behind, deleted or otherwise neglected. Case-in-point – my shaman. She never really had much of an RP story or a personality. She’s languishing at level 80, not because the class isn’t interesting (I got her to 80, after all) but because after she was leveled during Wrath I just didn’t feel any connection to her.

Tzufit wrote a really interesting post about Dragon Soul as a raid this week and whether or not it’s a good raid and why. Ultimately I have to agree with her; without knowing the story behind something (or feeling that the story is disjointed) it’s hard to feel a strong investment in it. So I started thinking about this as it relates to Millya, Ms. Magepants, specifically.

I started playing just at the very end of Burning Crusade, so I don’t have any Vanilla cred, and also it explains why my main character is a draenei. (More old-school people often have humans, gnomes, etc!) I only had a vague idea of Millya’s story initially. She wasn’t born on Draenor, but she was just a baby when her father fled Argus along with the small contingent of eredar who would come to call themselves draenei. Important threads of her story defined themselves as she leveled and I crafted the story around her. She’s a jewelcrafter because her father was and he taught her the ‘family trade.’ Later, when precious metals and stones weren’t really feasible to find, she learned to sew out of necessity. She and her father had fled Farahlon to take refuge in Shattrath. She helped them and the other refugees make clothes. She was one of the ones who left Shattrath before its (mostly) destruction. Her father wasn’t. All of this happened before any of the events of the Burning Crusade itself, and provided a backdrop for the character to grow. Relatively alone on an alien world, I documented her struggle to learn Common and adapt to the culture as she forged a life for herself that would allow her to go back to Draenor and help those who hadn’t been lucky enough to escape.

The Burning Crusade makes it really clear from the beginning draenei starting zone that your overarching goal IS to return to Draenor and assist in the fight against the Burning Legion. It’s both alluded to and outright stated. So while she was “growing up,” that’s what Millya was aiming to do. She started out uncertainly, speaking broken Common (something that I was later derided for by other draenei players; I know some would prefer to imagine that especially old/smart people can just magically assimilate a language, I don’t believe you can really do that.) So it was fun that she learned as she went, and I made a conscious effort to vary her speech patterns until they were mostly ‘normal’ over a period of months. I had an interesting real-life parallel for this in the form of Vosskah, whose native language is French. When we first met he was obviously fluent in English, but he still occasionally makes mistakes in English that are unique to his linguistic background, and I find them fascinating and endearing. Likewise, Millya adjusted to cultural norms she wasn’t used to. Old Draenei (Argus-era) culture always seemed fairly ostentatious to me, so she also initially used to wear ALL the jewelry she’d managed to save. She did this because 1) easiest way to keep track of it, 2) significant personal meaning because of its connection to her father and 3) she didn’t realize that wearing it all at once was unusual and/or “tacky.” When she did realize, she stopped wearing it all.

So Millya “came of age” during this time. She leveled up in enough time to join a party of adventurers who ventured into Karazhan, and also to go to Zul’Aman, but that’s it. As far as her personal chronology goes, I don’t consider her a hero of the Sunwell or anything, because she simply wasn’t there. That time had already passed. Wrath of the Lich King was another story. She was one of the first to venture to the “new” continent. Eager to help the people of her adopted homeland, she saw a threat in the Scourge easily equal to the Burning Legion. She’d honed her skills in battle to the point where she knew her magic could prove useful, and she made sure to have her hooves on that boat. Wrath set the tone from the very beginning, too. The recruiters in Borean Tundra know that you’re not a green adventurer at that point and they say as much. “No waiting in line for you!” causing an outburst of complaints from the red shirts that DO have to wait in line. I liked that. It recognized that you were a “seasoned” adventurer. You hadn’t gone straight from Elwynn to Northrend, you had to earn your right to help in this dangerous and hostile land.

On my server, I was also one of the first people to make it to Dalaran (if you recall, mages could learn to teleport themselves there sooner than other classes could). An obscure battleground trick could allow you to “cheat” your friends there, too, but I remember going there when it was completely new and nearly empty. The only people there were mages; I fished in the fountain, I explored around, I was dazzled. An entire city of MAGES. Millya felt the same way, an extremely strong kinship with the mages of Dalaran. She had no memory of Argus or the cities there where magic was commonplace and even a part of the fabric of life itself. The Draenei had fallen a long way, inhabiting the broken wreck of a ship not of their own design. I felt the strongest connection to the events of Wrath, because I was mostly in the thick of them. (Disregard here for a moment that I did play a few different characters to raid during Wrath; the character’s story still holds). During Wrath was the time when Millya met Vosskah; a hardened warrior who’d never really stopped fighting from the time of Shattrath on. She met the group of adventurers that she would fight alongside for years. She truly established herself. Meantime, she lived in Dalaran in an apartment she finished and enchanted with all kinds of magical amenities, a respite from the battles that seemed never ending. She had a hand in helping to bring down the Lich King. This is always a sticky subject among RPers, by the way – I always imagine for the sake of reality that an ARMY of people killed the Lich King; not just ten, not just twenty-five, but maybe ten times that number, and she was there. I always try to tread a careful line. Obviously my character has some power, but she isn’t the greatest mage who ever lived, no magical glowing purple eyes or mysterious scars or anything. Basically, she’s a regular person who has sometimes been involved in extraordinary things, but at the end of the day she likes to curl up with a book and a cup of tea as much as any bookish introvert would. She has to keep the things she’s done and who she is somewhat separate, because they aren’t the same thing.

So, we come to Cataclysm. You can see (I hope) that up until this point I have a pretty good idea of where my character has been and what she’s been doing. Much of this was played out in “actual” RP, some written in short stories, etc. I didn’t anticipate how completely Cataclysm would floor my RP. Voss and I talked about it, you know, “What are our characters doing now?” And we honestly had very little idea. “Did they move to Stormwind? Everyone’s always in Stormwind, I guess maybe they did?” Except there are no draenei NPCs in Stormwind. There’s no district where you can imagine they live (we settled on the Mage district for obvious reasons, but even that felt a bit thin). Cataclysm left me scrambling a little bit, feeling like I had nothing to sink my teeth into. It sounds ridiculous, because after all, the entire world had changed. Draenei in particular have witnessed the shattering of a world – what would this mean to them to see the same happen to Azeroth? In the end, for us personally – I never really got into it. I can tell you where Millya was and what she was doing from pre-Burning Crusade all the way up until the end of Wrath, but if you ask me how she felt about the Cataclysm I can’t tell you. She went to Deepholm and [World Pillar something something]. She went to Uldum and [weird human adventurer artifacts Nazi paralells something else]. The only story that truly stands out for me is that of the Firelands, the revitalization of Hyjal, and the ongoing story with Tarecgosa. Except a lot of the stuff with the blue dragons happened in Coldarra/The Nexus – familiar territory for Millya and a story with meaning for her personally. She’d seen what Malygos’ madness had done, what happened when the Blue Flight tried to deny access to magic from the rest of the sentient races, and knew how important it was to ensure that they had a leader who wasn’t crazy. I’m not going to say much more because Tarecgosa spoilers, although it’s a bit after the fact now.

So it turns out that the only story of strong significance to me is one that’s connected to Wrath. I’m also uncertain about my character during the whole of this expansion. She raided every raid there was to do. But I’m not sure that she cared, and I’m not sure that I did either. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast raiding with my guild (as always), but the story of Cataclysm itself doesn’t seem to have any personal significance. I’m not sure if this is a personal failure of mine, or simply because we stopped RPing. But then, we weren’t RPing (or writing short stories, what have you) because it didn’t seem to matter. The only stories that came out of Cataclysm, for me, are not of earth-shattering importance. The stories of finding family you thought you’d lost, the story of understanding what family means outside of blood ties, and how to negotiate that when you have no choice but to get along. I suppose the backdrop of Cata itself mattered a lot less, which seems disappointing to me. Shouldn’t Millya have cared? Shouldn’t it have affected her?

I wonder if this isn’t due in some part to the lead-up event. As others have noted, we all pulled a “Rip Van Winkle” in the weeks leading up to the Cataclysm. It was like we went to sleep one night, and the next we woke up and BAM – the world was broken. The end result for me is that I feel as if Millya’s story has been suspended in something of a limbo, and I find it’s actually making me more excited for Mists. I can easily envision Millya journeying to a new continent on Azeroth, experiencing a strange and new isolated people and culture. The acquisition of knowledge and experience is a pretty strong motivator for her. I’m not even kidding about those waterfalls…Maybe I’ll take screenshots of them, too. So I’m excited for Mists because it seems to promise a continuation for the character I love, and an evolving story. It’s okay that there’s no “big bad.” Sometimes all the war in Warcraft gets a little tiring for a character any way. Voss and I have joked about when we someday “retire” and our characters can do the same, spending the rest of their days peaceably somewhere. Maybe Mists suggests that possibility, or at least something of a reprieve so that we can experience the world and then live to fight another day.

What do you think? Did you “connect” differently with the various expansions, or did any of them have particular meaning for your character or for you? Tzufit’s post really made me think about Millya’s story as it has continued throughout the expansions, and also caused me to realize that she hadn’t “done” much in Cataclysm. I don’t have any answers as to why that is, only observations about how each expansion has felt to me.

 

Unfamiliar Stars [Fiction]

This is a story for Big Bear Butt’s writing challenge! I have been behind on my blog reading and I very nearly missed it but hopefully I slipped in under the wire. The challenge was to write anything, making sure to include a few specific words. If you’re at all interested in a bit of fiction, you might enjoy the following, otherwise feel free to skip this one. Check BBB’s blog for a post with comments from all the participants.

I’ve never posted any of my fiction writings here, but in the spirit of taking part in the challenge I’m happy to do so.

A gentle hush fell over the city towards this hour. It was not quite fully night but the day had already surrendered, the sun slipping into the sea to reveal the twin moons of Azeroth. It was still strange to her, even after years of living here. She unconsciously scanned the night sky seeking one familiar star, and finding none. These were not the stars of her youth. The atmosphere of this adopted planet, new home to her people, lay far from their last home. She doubted they could find their way here a second time. She smiled to herself as she walked. Even if her people still had a functioning ship, there were few confident in their ability to pilot or steer it. How did that joke go? “Three draenei walk into a bar…no, literally…”

Millya wasn’t great at remembering Azerothian jokes, except that one. She made it a point to memorize relevant cultural markers, tidbits of information that could help her relate to the people of Azeroth. She knew the name of grape varieties grown in Elwynn, the chief exports of Dun Morogh, and the greeting rituals of the Kaldorei, but pop culture was usually outside her milieu. She enjoyed the quiet twilight as she walked, her hooves making a familiar sound on the cobbled streets. Everyone seemed to be taking the time to relax lately. The immediate threat to the world had been dealt with, for the time being, finally allowing reprieve for its citizens to pick up the pieces. The Cataclysm had taken its toll, there was no doubt of that. The streets weren’t crowded at this time as they might once have been – shops closed up and many of Stormwind’s inhabitants were at home enjoying an evening meal or already abed. She passed torch after torch, and they gave off a sort of friendly glow, keeping the paths from being too dark as evening fell. She appreciated that. Even partial light was better than none at all.

She paused as raucous noise came from up ahead. The door to an inn burst open, spilling light and noise into the street. The dark-haired mage frowned and squinted into the shadows as several figures emerged. Some of them shouted angrily, and it was hard to make out exactly what they said, but caught up along with them was another silhouette. Tall and slender, with a distinctive spread of horns. Millya groaned inwardly, thinking it couldn’t possibly be her, it couldn’t…

“You’re just mad,” a strident voice crowed triumphantly, “Because you know I could drink you under the table any day of the week and still kick your ass without breaking a sweat!” Millya briefly closed her eyes. There was no mistaking the voice.

The group of men and human women seemed to close in on the speaker. Millya thought she could hear the sound of some combat from within the tavern, more shouting amid the sound of colliding bodies and even the distinctive snap of breaking wood. She walked quickly closer, deciding in a moment that she had an obligation to intervene if there was any risk. As she drew closer, a pale-skinned draenei woman was revealed by the torch in front of the inn. Her would-be assailants seemed wary about pushing the matter, as she raised her fists and her lips pulled back from sharp incisors in a savage grin.

“C’mon then, what’s the matter?” the second draenei minced a few steps closer, half-swinging a taunting jab at one of the men. From the way he flinched back, he’d had some experience with that fist already.

“OY!” a voice roared from within the inn. A few more patrons scattered before some unseen threat before he crossed the threshold. A burly dwarf with a shock of astounding red hair emerged to stand framed in the doorway. His dirty apron revealed him as the proprietor of the tavern, but his authority was cemented by the gigantic crossbow he was pointing in their direction. He looked down the shaft of a thick quarrel with one eye, his stance menacing.

“I don’ suppose,” he said in a conversational tone, “Tha’ any of ye know what migh’ have caused summat kind of explosion just then?” He lifted his prominent shaggy brows in an inquiring manner, looking around at the group in a way that would have been comical if not for the accompanying crossbow and implied threat. Millya straightened and cleared her throat, causing the dwarf to look towards her.

“Well, Missy Hoofs?” he asked. “D’ye have some insight inta what manner of demon it was that caused me fire to belch purple an’ green, scaring me patrons half to death, spreading hither an’ yon, an’ causing at least one keg to explode halfway to Ironforge?”

She regarded him mildly with glowing eyes. “I’m certain, Master Dwarf, that any manner of an accident causing your fire to emit purple, green–” the mage was cut off as the taller draenei next to her interjected.

“And yellow,” she added helpfully.

Millya and the dwarf both turned to look at her, one in dawning horror and the other with eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“There was definitely yellow, it was a bit hard to notice due to the colour of the fire itself, but it was there.” The dwarf barked a sound that might have been a yell, a laugh, or something in-between.

“All of ye! Get out of ‘ere, an’ I don’t want to see the lot of ye again!” The dwarf’s face was slowly turning a colour to rival the brilliance of his hair. “Take your hooves, an’ yer tails, an’ yer explosions somepleace else an’ don’ ye ever come back!”

Millya stepped forward and took the other draenei by the elbow, turning her firmly even as she murmured reassuring words to the dwarf. The taller draenei initially resisted, trying in vain to turn back to the cluster of humans and dwarf. To what end, Millya wasn’t sure – to finish the fight? Offer to further demonstrate the fireworks? People scurried in all directions as the irate dwarf began waving the crossbow again, and by that time Millya had her charge halfway down the street. They stopped under a street lamp, the bedraggled draenei wrenching herself free. Millya looked up at her, dark eyebrows slamming down on a disapproving face.

“Vidyala,” Millya hissed between clenched teeth, all signs of the diplomatic peacekeeper gone, “What in Velen’s name was that all about?” Her frown deepened. “Are you hurt?”

Vid brushed brown hair out of her face, looking at Millya cheerfully. One of her eyes was slowly purpling and looked slightly swollen. A thin trickle of blue blood had congealed under her split lip, revealing that at least a few of the humans had landed some solid hits. “They got the worst of it!” She assured the other draenei. “There was no need to rush me out of there, you know, I was doing fine.” She dusted herself off as she spoke, looking down in sudden dismay at the goggles around her neck. “Shit,” she said in a muffled tone, her chin pressed almost to her chest. I think they broke ‘em.” Millya noted her knuckles were dirty and similarly bruised.

“Anyway, those Darkmoon fireworks worked just as I expected! I bet that human ten gold that he couldn’t snatch them out of the fire quick enough if I threw them in, HE said he could, and that some troll had taught him to firewalk…Guess that only works if it’s your feet and not your hands!”

A look of sudden dismay crossed her face. “Hey, he didn’t pay me, I’ve got to go back there!” Millya’s face stopped her mid-stride and she amended quickly, “Well, it was only ten gold.” The abrupt turn seemed to set her swaying. It took a fair amount of alcohol to affect draenei with their larger sizes and constitutions than humans, but clearly imbibing had played a part in Vid’s evening. “Say, I don’t feel so great…” Vid lurched past Millya, almost landing in a neat row of shrubbery. She bent over double and abruptly vomited into the bushes, an event that was uncomfortably juicy and lasted for several minutes.

Millya sighed heavily, murmuring an incantation and wordlessly handing Vidyala a canteen of conjured water when she was finished. She guided her towards a nearby bench and they both sat down – Millya with her hooves crossed at the ankle, Vid with her legs sprawling nearly into the street. Vid swigged the water, Millya imagining her complexion to be faintly green. They sat in silence for a long moment, expressions hidden in the dim light.

“What am I supposed to tell your father?” Millya asked finally.

Vid snorted. “Tell him what you want! Tell him I invented a new kind of firework,” she brightened, “Actually that’s not strictly true, but it will be sometime. You know, there’s something about the mix of powder that you put inside of them that really makes the difference.”

The older draenei heaved a sigh, tapping a finger against her chin. She ignored Vid’s chatter, as she usually did, and said finally, “And should I tell him at the same time that you’ve been seen consorting with an orc?”

This time she had Vid’s attention; and she actually turned to face her. She sat up straighter and her tone was chilly. “How would you know anything about my friends, orc or otherwise?”

Millya shook her curly hair in disbelief. “People have seen you with him, Vidyala. People talk. Dalaran is full of people who talk, and mages are some of the worst! What are you thinking? What would your father say?”

Vid stood abruptly, unfolding long limbs from the bench to tower over Millya. She crossed her arms. The effect was only slightly spoiled when she appeared to sway slightly, unsteadily on her hooves. “People talk,” she agreed in a sardonic tone, “Entirely too much. So I have a friend who happens to be an orc, so what? He wasn’t even born on Draenor, he happens to be a fellow engineer, and we’re colleagues, because unlike some people, I don’t judge others based on whether or not they have hooves or a tail.”

The mage drew breath to respond, but the younger draenei forestalled her with a wave of her hand. “I know what you’re going to say!” Her voice took on the pedantic, slightly mocking tone of someone who was repeating phrases often heard. “It’s important for us to integrate. We shouldn’t forget our past. We aren’t like the other people here, and they don’t trust us. Well, you know what? I am integrating, and I’m sure as fel not forgetting the past. I lived it too, remember? But you have to start by trusting someone. How will they ever trust us if we don’t trust them first?”

“And I suppose that brawling in the taverns like a common ruffian is helping the cause?”

Vid met her stepmother glare for glare. “Yeah,” she spat back. “It is, because respect starts somewhere, and nobody gets to hit me without expecting a fist back in the face. We may be taught to turn the other cheek but that doesn’t mean we can’t land a second punch.” She brushed away imaginary dust from her tunic and spun on her hoof with calculated dramatic effect. Her stomach rumbled audibly, which she chose to stiffly ignore, although her cheeks each had a high spot of blue colour.

“So, go ahead and tell my father. Tell him I’m friends with a hundred orcs, and some gnomes, worgen and humans, too. And if he wants to talk about it, I’m going to find another tavern.”

She left the aqua-skinned draenei behind, rubbing her temples wearily. The night’s peaceful calm had been shattered for her, and she sat a long time in the semi-darkness, before resuming her walk back towards the part of the city where its few draenei inhabitants lived. Some time later, when she lay down to sleep beside her partner, he questioned her quietly.

“You seem preoccupied. Is something wrong?”

“No, nothing,” she lied. Satisfied, he fell asleep, but her luminous eyes cast a gentle glow over the room for some hours afterwards.

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