Several days later, another package arrives at the door of Miss Fallowtide complete with a handwritten note. This time, the note was not in the fine stationery of Frostmana, but still bore the same stamp. The contents appear to have come from Dalaran, with exception of the note. Inside were some fresh apples, a bottle of Apple juice from Applebough the Living Tree (in Dalaran), and some balm for aching joints. The letter continues from where the last one left off...
Urilla sits in her chair within the personal study of the Duchess, musing over a letter to write to her friend. She had not seen her in a week's time since going on her sojourn to Silvermoon. Sighing, she thinks aloud. "Good thing the elves saw no reason to behead me. I'm surprised they did not scream a human with some short elf ears walks around their city."
Peering at the letter once more, she gives it a go to read it aloud.
How I miss your frame sitting upon the benches in Dalaran. Yours was always unmistakable. Funny how those of no importance can spot other like minded spirits. I still owe you that vacation in the woods, perhaps Eversong? The views are stunning, there is an eternal afternoon in those lands that I have not seen anywhere else. Oh, Or Winterspring! Those snow-capped hills and mountains are dreamy, a shame it is so frigid!
Artisania Stillwater-Ell’Karan wrote furiously.
She had taken a day to think it over. In part, she had done so to allow the initial wave of intense curiosity to pass, so as not to be caught in any vague net of obsession cast forth by the thing. But she had also let the time pass in order to structure her thoughts, her presentation, her angle of attack. After all, it wasn’t every day one felt the need to convince another that what appeared to be a simple umbrella was actually a high-powered rifle, locked and loaded and ready to kill.
Or, more accurately, that a book was a pocket.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell’Karan hurried across the bluffs, a piece of paper in her hand.
For some time, she had been getting her mail delivered to the University of Kalimdor library on Spirit Rise. It just seemed, well, safer that way. Bluffwatchers were always posted outside and if a bomb went off there it wouldn’t ruin her own rugs or expensive pottery collection, or her favorite throw-pillow. Granted, it could ruin a great many priceless books, instead. But most dangerous items were directly addressed to the University anyway, so those books probably knew their fate when they signed up.
It had seemed to be the way of the University all these years, after all. The letter in her hand only proved that further.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell’Karan breathed a sigh of relief.
The breath, a sudden cold fog in the Winterspring air, dissipated quickly, revealing once again the comforting sight of the little cottage nestled by the hillside. The goblins had said the place had escaped any cataclysmic harm, but Artisania had insisted on seeing for herself before putting down any gold on the annual holiday rental. She smiled, visions of warm tea and snowy mornings floating through her mind. At least some things hadn’t changed.
Stormwind Harbor, usually placid, washed and heaved.
Echo looked out from the quarterdeck of the houseboat, narrowing her eyes as a hot wind seethed over her face. Under the black night sky the horizon glowed strangely orange.
She had a feeling no elementals would invade tonight.
Part Six: Northrend - Epilogue
Let no one ever say, “We could have never imagined.” Let no one ever say, “We had no warning.” Let no one ever say the worst catastrophe could not have been foreseen.
We have our testing ground, our hypotheses proven, in a crescent of land at the top of our world. Northrend was once a pure land, a staging ground for the Titan’s creation of our world. It remains a place where wilderness remains untouched, where tall peaks tower capped with snow; where the engines of the makers still grind slowly, echoing the distant past. It is the aerie of the Aspects and the graveyard of our world, a promise of life and a promise of death.
And Northrend is broken, corrupted, and forever changed, much as our own lands could be.
Two years of war, separation, fear, foreboding.
Two years of quiet simplicity amid whirling chaos.
These threads between us intertwine, and two years becomes forever,
or near enough, for mortals like us.
May your delicate hands never falter,
for they hold my heart, as they always have.
My anchor, my dearest, Teledriath Ell'Karan.
"You have to understand, that it's not one of Them, dig? But it's there, it waits man, it waits and it listens, because it belongs to...to Her, All For Her, always and ever and you just...you can't get away, you can't EVER get out of it! No matter how hard you try...
I guess that's why I'm leaving you this. I've fucked up, Rukkle. I've fucked up big time. We all did. We should never have listened to Bill when he talked about one more job. Heh...but wasn't that how it always went?
In a cozy little cottage, a haven of warmth and comfort in the blistering cold of Winterspring, Oneska and Tywyll tell Aestan about that afternoon, the slaughter of Tor’Watha. Together, they guide him through his memories, start to explore his dreams, and find something they didn't expect.
(larger image after break)
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'Karan was getting tired of packing.
Not long ago she had been busy packing up their apartment in Dalaran, all of its comforts and fineries. It still stung a bit, the loss of that slice of normalcy in their lives, and she did indeed believe she could have lived that way for quite some time. The libraries in Dalaran were extensive after all, and there really was no better place in the world for a mage to study.
Study, perhaps, but not discover and learn.
She ripped one page from her book - because it would be just enough - and wrote out what she needed to write. The page was torn in four pieces.
She lays on her stomach in front of the hearth. Curtains of dark hair border her face, downturned, eyes on the paper between her hands. An inkpot sits at one elbow. The nib of her pen scratches the silence.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'Karan had amassed a quantity of collections.
She had a great love for Tauren baskets and pottery, from little stoneware containers perfect for holding bits of jewelry to the large woven-reed bowl that cupped the fruit on the dining table. There was not a village from which she hadn't bought at least one sample, and in the North she had begun to collect from the Taunka, as they had a way with blue and green dye that simply couldn't be matched by their southern cousins.
She wrapped the baskets and pottery quite carefully in linen and brown paper, sadly appreciating piece after piece before packing it away.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'Karan noted that the fabric frayed from the center – not from the edges, as fabric is wont to do.
Of course, it wasn't her robe she was inspecting; that heavy garment of layered cloth hung neatly from the hilt of Dria's sword, over on the beach. The sword itself, piercing the sand, could have stood as quite an impressive monument if it hadn't been turned to the use of coat-rack; Artisania's gloves and leggings decorated it as well, boots lying misshapen at the bottom near the neat pile of platemail in the sand. Quality accouterments, they rarely required inspection; no, of none of their own possessions was the fabric she explored.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'Karan had ordered a cake.
She picked it up from the little wagon in Dalaran at the appointed time, mid-morning, while the icing was still fresh and setting up in little swirls and tufts around the rim of the confection. Very tempting indeed, but she carried it carefully in its little paper box back to the apartment without even peeking once, though she did lick her fingers after setting it out on the table.
Amid cast off ribbons and paper, token gifts carefully set aside only to be jostled and jumbled, a few empty bottles, saucers covered with crumbs, empty tea cups, voluminous rumpled bedclothes and a plethora of pillows, two elves in rather disheveled matching silk pajamas lay in a restful embrace.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'Karan had a feeling something was not quite right.
She looked to her palette, where the tip of her brush hovered between shiny lumps of pthalo green and pthalo blue. Her eyes moved to the little canvas on the little easel before her, narrowing a bit to blur the shapes into pure color, then looked beyond at the leafy foliage she was trying to capture. Blue, or green? Everything in the dragonshrine seemed inundated with green. Certainly green. She dipped her brush into the paint, dabbed a bit off the tip, then applied it to the canvas cautiously. She wrinkled her nose. Something was not quite right. Something was not quite right at all.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'Karan had a lot on her mind.
First of all, Teng Darkheart needed to make better arrangements with lecturers, or communicate better with the publicity department.
If Teng Darkheart was still alive, of course. That was always in question.
And speaking of being alive, was the lady Althea - who came to the lecture that ended up not happening anyway - alive? Was she alive or was she dead? So hard to tell these days.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'Karan contemplated the tulips.
Tulips are not delicate flowers. Like goblin rockets they drive themselves up through the cold soils of spring, piercing rainsoaked earth reach skyward, trailing thick stems and heavy leaves. When at last waxy petals open, they do not reveal any delicate plumage within, but rather only the essentials: pollen-tipped stamen arching forward to spread life and beneath, beyond a ring of brightness like the treasured sun, a blackness so keen as to reflect the blue sky above.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'Karan returned to bed.
She knew the path to the privy and back by heart and by feel, and really didn't need to open her eyes one way or the other, even in the middle of the night. For a few moments she breathed chill air, felt the grassy earth beneath her feet, heard the slow turning of the Bluff's windmills and the sigh of a passing guard, then it was back into the woodsy warmth of the longhouse, hearing the slow squeak as the loft door closing before returning to the warm embrace of her bed.
But this night, she paused.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'Karan was glad to be home.
It wasn't just the familiar mug of tea in her hands, nor the lilting melody of Teledriath's singing wafting through the doorway from the loft. It wasn't just the view from the balcony of their Thunder Bluff home nor the certain scent of pines and plains in the air. Nor was it just the rested relaxation from a night spent in their most favored bed, though that had certainly helped.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'Karan was in need of a hat.
Not simply because her ears were cold. She expected them to be cold, and took one in a hand whenever possible to warm it up. She doubted a hat would help anyway, what with the bite to the wind. Mostly, she wanted a hat because adventurers needed hats, and Light forbid her hair remain such a mess.
The new cut did help, she admitted that.
Wish I were with you but I couldn't stay
Every direction leads me away
Pray for tomorrow, but for today
All I want is to be home
"SPEAK! Where is my brother?!"
Baroness Anastari's corporeal form was rent asunder as two axes, one guided by the wind, the other burning, struck home. Bolts of arcane slammed into the banshee, while the Light burned her from within. In the end, nothing remained, save her bracelets, and a single, scorched finger.
"Nothing! She refused to talk.." The orcish shaman growled, hands gripping the haft of his Wicked Edge of the Planes.
"Perhaps he's inside there.", suggested Teledriath, a shining beacon of light in the burning city of the dead. Artisania, clad in robes becoming a magi of her skill, nodded in agreement.
From the journal of Heidel Duskember Sunrunner:
It is an ill sky that broods above. A fittingly inauspicious omen for the insidious new invasion that has begun. My plans of announcing my wedding to Andrade are now impossible; a private ceremony will have to do for now, because anything larger would be sure to suffer an attack. Any large gathering sees an outbreak of this mysterious plague, so we will have to arrange a more fitting celebration of our shared joy when and if the emergency passes. For now, I will invite only a few close friends. For my part, I believe Teledriath and Artisania will be my guests. Perhaps Tylien as well, and Hallan and Alynesse. It will be quiet, and short, but hopefully full of joy.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'Karan fell into the kitchen chair. No tea was necessary.
Artisania Stillwater-Ell'karan knew there was more than one reason.
Not that she could put her finger on them, exactly. Everything seemed to wrap her up in a feeling of rightness and comfort, however: the cool breeze through the Eversong trees; the way the sunlight slanted across the tall grass; the perfect nuances of her tea across her tongue as she stood looking out the kitchen window, one hand upon the stone sill.
One hand upon the stone sill of Stillwater House, as tumbledown and abandoned as it was, as quiet, reclusive, and tucked away from everything else as she needed it to be.
There was certainly more than one reason to be here.